For many years, we have learned that plain butter is not conducive to good health. That being true, what are the best alternatives?

But before we get to the spreads, we must consider which breads to choose before selecting a spread. Whether as a mealtime mainstay (think sandwiches, toast) or a quick, easy snack, bread is a regular part of many people’s diets. Your choice of the bread you use can make a big difference to your health and your waistline. So breads that are 100 percent whole grain are the best option. Whole grains should contribute at least half of the 5 to 6 ounces of grains you should eat every day, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. If you already eat plenty of whole grains—like farro, oatmeal, and quinoa—it doesn’t matter as much if you prefer a crusty baguette or another kind of white bread (which is made with less nutritious refined grains). But many people skimp on whole grains, and eating whole-wheat or whole grain rye bread such as pumpernickel is a convenient way to get those whole grains.

When it comes to picking a bread spread, taste preferences matter, of course. But instead of always reaching for the same spread, consider mixing things up to get a variety of health benefits and to minimize the downside of some spreads. Here’s the low-down on several choices:


1 Tbsp.
Calories. 102
Sat. fat 7.3 g

With 22 grams of saturated fat the daily limit for someone eating 2,000 calories, the 7 grams in butter is “a big hit,” so use it as a treat, but don’t use it as your main spread.


1 Tbsp.
Cal. 50
Sat. fat 3.5 g

Added water makes these lower in saturated fat. Some are made with oils (like olive and canola) high in poly- and mono- unsaturated fats (PUFAs and MUFAs), which lower saturated fat even more.


1 Tbsp.
Cal. 80-100
Sat. fat 3.5-5 g

These dairy-free spreads (which are essentially margarine) are made with a combo of oils. Some of them, such as palm and coconut oil, are high in saturated fat, so, in general, are best avoided.


1 Tbsp.
Cal. 35-100
Sat. fat 1-5 g

Because of added water, tub margarines have about half the calories and saturated fat of butter and double the PUFAs.


1 Tbsp.
Cal. 120
Sat. fat 2 g

With its healthy MUFAs, low saturated fat, and ample anti-inflammatory plant nutrients, olive oil is great to brush on bread or use as a dip. You can flavor it with herbs or garlic. Therefore, it’s one of my favorites!


2 Tbsp.
Cal. 196-210
Sat. fat 1.3-4 g

Peanut, almond, and cashew butters are mostly high in healthy MUFAs, and they provide some protein and fiber. People with peanut or tree-nut allergies might try sunflower seed butter instead.


1 Tbsp.
Cal. 51
Sat. fat 2.9 g

Most of the fat in cream cheese is saturated, so don’t smear it on too thickly, and limit it to a once-in-a-while treat paired with a slice of whole-grain bread.


2 Tbsp.
Cal. 40
Sat. fat 0 g

Hummus contains plant protein and fiber (from chickpeas), and it has nutrients that butter and butter-like spreads don’t have. So place it high on your list.


2 Tbsp
Cal. 120
Sat. fat 1.6 g

Sliced or spread, avocado is a good source of fiber and is high in healthy MUFAs, loaded with potassium, and rich in folate, vitamin B6, and magnesium, features that place it high on one’s priority list.

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