Food & Recipes

Does Cooking Spray Really Have Zero Calories?

Whether you’re trying to eat healthier or simply enjoy the convenience of using cooking sprays, you may be surprised to see that most of those canisters claim to have zero calories. Unlike diet sodas or snacks that rely on substituting sugar for lower calorie sweeteners, these sprays still list regular olive, canola, and other fatty oils as their main ingredients. So, how can they be calorie-free?

The short answer is… they aren’t. If you take a closer look at the nutritional facts on those cooking sprays, you’ll notice the serving size for those zero calories is a miniscule 1/3 or 1/4 of a second worth of spritzing. We don’t usually time ourselves when we’re coating a pan or oiling up some food before it cooks, but we’d definitely guess it takes at least a few seconds of spraying. 

Even if we had superhero speed and could get away with that tiny burst of spritzing, it would still not technically be zero calories. The Kitchn points out that sneaky companies are legally able to claim anything under five calories as completely calorie-free. One full second of spraying will probably get you about seven or eight calories of products like PAM Original Cooking Spray (Buy at Walmart, $3.44) or Bertolli 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray (Buy at Walmart, $2.98). 

The editors at Cooking Light tested how many seconds it would take to spray a few different pans commonly found in most kitchens, including a 13×9-inch glass pan, 9-inch square glass pan, and 9-inch metal cake pan. Each one took between three or four seconds, which then adds up to roughly 30 calories worth of oil per pan. 

Of course, that’s still way fewer calories than you’d find in a tablespoon of olive oil poured straight from a bottle, which is usually about 119 calories (plus around 14 grams of fat). The huge difference is likely due to the spray making it easier to disperse smaller amounts of oil over a larger area, meaning we end up using a lot less.

The bottom line: Using a cooking spray — or even just adding your own favorite type of oil to a spray bottle (Buy at Walmart, $9.79) — is still a healthy choice, even if it’s not technically calorie-free.

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