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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Cooking Spray Conundrum


photo by xgot_rice64x

Cooking spray, also know as Pam, is pure, marketing genius! It's promoted as a fat-free alternative to those darn oils that keep food from sticking to the pan and, well, are just plain tasty. Let's have a little closer look at what's in the can.

A quick look at the Nutrition Facts label shows that it has 0g of fat and 0 calories. It's perfect! What is this magical product made of? Let's see the ingredient label says the first ingredient is...that can't be right...CANOLA OIL?! I'm holding a full can of Pam in my hot little hands and it is mostly canola oil. Yet it is somehow fat-free and calorie-free. Unless Con Agra has magical elves removing calories and fat from canola oil, something is rotten in Denmark, or in this case, Omaha, Nebraska. By the way, if you believe the magical elf theory, STOP READING "THE SECRET"! I just love beating up on that book.

Obviously, magical elves are not involved in the process, but something is amiss. The "secret" to cooking spray's fat-free, calorie-free status is in its serving size. Why don't you grab a can and see what the serving size really is? Take your time. I'll wait.

It's all there if you just read the labels

The serving size is a 1/3 second spray. Is that even possible to only spray for 1/3 of a second? Why 1/3 of a second? Because the amount dispensed in that time comes in just under the guidelines for being fat-free and calorie-free. The FDA allows a product to contain less that 0.5g of something and still claim that it contains 0g of that something. In this case, that something is the fat from canola oil. So do you still think that soaking those pans with cooking spray is really giving you something for free?

Actually, cooking spray isn't so bad because it allows you to control how much oil you use, but don't be fooled into thinking that you are getting a low calorie product if you spray 10 seconds worth of it into a pan. If you do that, why not save some money and just use regular oil? A better, less expensive alternative is to fill a pump aerosol sprayer with olive oil and use that to dispense a smaller amount of oil than you would normally use...same thing, but no chemical propellants and less expensive.

Do you use only the recommended amount of cooking spray? Or are you guilty of the infamous "10 second" spray?

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Joey said...

I knew the key was in the serving size, but I didn't know it was a third of a second spray. I will have to time myself the next time I use it.

Thanks for the info.

Kristen said...

Such a good point! Sometimes we are so gullible when there are big pretty words that say "fat free", or 50% less fat, or anything that makes it appear healthier.
Great post!

S William said...

I have never used cooking spray. The "rounding" factor is quite common in foods, and calories, et al, can be deceiving.

Fit Club Scott said...

I do use it occasionally, but for the most part, I stick with olive oil. I just use a little and figure I'm eating the "healthier" choice even though I may be eating a few more calories.