You know what you should choose when the choice is between a burger and grilled fish, or salad versus french fries. But some nutritional choices are a little harder to make.
Turkey burgers vs. veggie burgers
The winner: Veggie burgers.
When made with ground breast meat, turkey burgers can be a lean source of protein. The reality? Premade patties are usually a blend of white and dark meat, so they can have five times the fat and up to 20 times more cholesterol than meat-free versions. “Veggie burgers also have about 4 grams of fiber and half the calories – around 100,” says Lori Lieberman, R.D., a dietitian in South Weymouth, Mass. They can be high in sodium, however, so choose a brand with 300 milligrams or fewer.
Instant oatmeal vs. steel-cut oats
The winner: Steel-cut oats.
While both types of oats are good sources of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber, “the instant kind are rolled out and steamed before being packaged to make them cook faster,” says Julie Kaye, R.D., a dietitian in New York City. Steel-cut oats are less processed. That means they take more time to digest, which means they keep your blood sugar steady and help you feel full for up to three hours – twice as long as instant oats do.
Brown rice vs. quinoa
The winner: Quinoa.
All whole grains have fiber, but quinoa is also loaded with 8 grams of protein per cup, says Julie McGinnis, R.D., a dietitian in Boulder, Colo. What’s more, the protein is the complete kind – typically found in animal sources like meat and eggs – meaning that it contains all nine of the essential amino acids your body needs to repair cells and make new ones. And quinoa takes just 20 minutes to cook, compared with up to 50 for brown rice.
Potatoes vs. sweet potatoes
The winner: Sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes have about the same amount of fiber (4 grams) as potatoes but 60 less calories. Where they really shine is in the vitamin department: One sweet potato delivers 438 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, while a single spud serves up none. And sweet potatoes also provide about a third more vitamin C per serving.
Frozen yogurt vs. soft-serve ice cream
The winner: Frozen yogurt.
“Most frozen yogurt contains probiotics, the good-for-your-gut bacteria found in regular yogurt that help keep your digestive system in check,” Kaye says. (To be sure, look for the words “live and active cultures” on the package, menu or website.) Surprisingly, both desserts have around 18 grams of sugar, but soft-serve has about 11 grams of fat and nearly 200 calories per half cup, whereas frozen yogurt packs about 115 calories and is often fat-free. To keep yourself from going overboard at self-serve fro-yo chains, hold the dispenser handle down for no more than five seconds.
Hummus vs. guacamole
The winner: Guacamole.
The main ingredients in these dips – chickpeas and avocado – both contain fiber, but avocados are also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and potassium. Just stick to a 2-tablespoon serving of guac and pair it with baby carrots or bell pepper strips instead of chips to keep the calorie count in check.