The Sneaky Way Cooking Spray Can Add Extra Calories To Your Meal

Cooking spray is a popular substitute for other cooking oils, particularly for people who are trying to be mindful of their diets. According to Taste of Home, it has fewer calories and fat than either olive oil or butter, so cooking spray is often used as a healthier alternative for those who are trying to watch their weight. It's also tough to beat the convenience of a spray, which takes just a few seconds to cover a whole pan, rather than going through the time-consuming process of buttering a pan if you are in a rush. 

However, while cooking spray can be a lifesaver for some, many people don't realize that the nutrition label on cooking sprays is surprisingly misleading. In fact, many cooking sprays claim on the label that they have zero calories — but there is one big catch (via Cooking Light). That zero calories only applies if you spray the cooking oil for just one-fourth of a second, which would add up to a total of less than five calories, an amount that is low enough to be omitted from the nutritional label, according to the Daily Meal.

The serving size of cooking spray is misleadingly small

However, one-fourth of a second is much shorter than it would normally take to spray a pan when cooking, and most people spray for much longer, thus unintentionally loading calories onto their meal without even realizing it. "There is no perception of the serving size of a cooking spray in people's minds. In reality, one serving size of cooking spray is 1/4 of a second. If you spray for just one second, you are taking four servings. A normal spray lasts for 6 seconds and provides 50-60 calories," Marham nutritionist Hiba Batool explained to HuffPost. This isn't particularly good news for people who deliberately choose the cooking oil because of its low-calorie nature.

However, the good news is, on average, cooking oil does still contain fewer calories than its butter or oil counterparts, which boast over 100 calories per tablespoon serving, even when factoring in a more realistic spray time, according to Taste of Home. It is still a good cooking alternative, but if you are watching your calories, it is important to take into account the true serving size you are using in each meal. Counting out the length of your spray time or measuring out serving sizes of the oil are great ways to ensure you are not accidentally going over your desired calorie intake.