Comparing Common Food Duos to Eat Healthier


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Choosing what to eat when you aim to consume a nutritious diet can be daunting. After all, there are so many choices and differing opinions it can be challenging to decipher the best option. It's important to know that the foods you choose to eat do not always have to be the most nutritious.

There are many reasons you may choose a food, including superior taste, craving satisfaction, celebratory foods, cultural foods, and more. There is room for any food in moderation as part of a nutritious and balanced diet.

When choosing nutritious foods to add to your diet, there are often several varieties that you can pick from. How you make your choice can depend on your goals and preferences. If the nutrient density is important to you, there may be a clear winner, but other times, texture or taste might be more influential. You can have the best of both worlds much of the time, and of course, it all comes down to personal preference.

Below are some common comparable foods and a breakdown of how they measure up.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

Rice is a popular carbohydrate grain staple around the world. Naturally, rice is starchy and calorie-rich while being filling, fat-free, and affordable, making it an excellent choice to fill out meals containing protein and healthy fats. It's also naturally gluten-free.

Brown rice is often considered a more nutrient-rich choice since it's less processed than white rice. Brown rice retains more fiber, vitamins, and nutrients and contains more protein and fatty acids.

A 100-gram serving of cooked white rice has 129 calories, 28 grams of carbs, 2.7 grams of protein, and 0.4 grams of fiber.

Brown rice contains about 122 calories per 100 grams cooked, 25 grams of carbs, 2.7 grams of protein, and 1.6 grams of fiber.Brown rice is much higher in magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, along with other nutrients.

White Potato vs. Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes and white potatoes are both carbohydrate-rich sources of fiber and micronutrients. You cannot go wrong with either choice, but they offer unique benefits.

Both these potatoes contain a fair amount of fiber. They also pack in several vitamins (like vitamin C) and minerals (such as potassium).Sweet potatoes are more flavorful and sweet and contain more nutrients, but white potatoes are still an excellent choice.

Sweet potatoes have a few more vitamins and minerals than white potatoes. A large baked sweet potato (182 grams) contains 162 calories, 37 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of fiber. They boast a nutrient profile of vitamin C (35.3mg), iron (1.2mg), potassium (855mg), magnesium (48.6mg), and are an extremely rich source of vitamin A (1729.8mcg) at 192% of your daily value based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

A medium baked white potato (173 grams) contains 159 calories, 37 grams of carbs, and 3.6 grams of fiber. They provide vitamin C (16.6mg), iron (1.9mg), potassium (925.6mg), magnesium (48.4mg), and vitamin K (3.5mcg). Unlike sweet potatoes, they do not contain vitamin A, which is generally found in foods of a bright orange color.

Almond Milk vs. Skim Milk

There are a wide variety of milk options on the market these days. Unsweetened almond milk is a non-dairy option that is low-calorie but still nutritious. Skim milk is a fat-free version of cow's milk and is a good choice for those who are not plant-based.Almond milk contains 15 calories per 100g, while the same serving of skim milk contains 34 calories.

Which milk you choose depends on what's most important to you. If you're watching your sugar, unsweetened almond milk has less than 1 gram in a 100 gram serving, while skim milk has 5 grams from naturally occurring sugar lactose. You get 3.4 grams of protein from a cup of skim milk and only 0.5 grams from almond milk.

If you experience gastrointestinal issues from lactose, go for almond milk over skim. But if calcium is a concern, skim milk is best. Skim milk is likely more satisfying since it contains more protein and calories. Almond milk is a great choice if you want something lighter such as when making a smoothie. Almond milk does contain additives such as carrageenan, so check labels if this is a concern for you.

Turkey Burgers vs. Beef Burgers

Ordering a burger at a restaurant may feel daunting if you are trying to choose a nutritious option. Although ground turkey is generally lower in fat and calories than beef, a turkey burger isn’t necessarily lower in calories than a beef burger. Restaurants tend to use high-fat turkey since the leaner kind can dry out quickly.

Your best bet is to make your own burgers at home. At the grocery store, reach for lean ground turkey (7% fat) which has around 170 calories and 9.4 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving. Micronutrients that are most available through meat like beef and turkey include iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Extra-lean ground beef contains about twice as much iron per serving as turkey with 2.5mg in beef and 1.2mg in turkey. The same is true for zinc with beef containing 5.9mg and turkey providing 2.2mg and vitamin B12 with beef providing 2.55mcg and turkey offering 1mcg.

If you prefer beef, pick up extra-lean ground beef (3% fat), which clocks in with about 137 calories and 3.4 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving. You may find extra-lean turkey to be dry, while extra-lean beef is usually juicy and may taste better, depending on your preferences.

Butter vs. Margarine

You may think that margarine is a smart alternative, but it is essential to be sure the margarine you choose is free of trans fats. Butter contains less harmful trans fat than most margarine. Both contain a similar number of calories: about 100 calories per tablespoon.

If calories are a concern with this fat-dense food, opt for light whipped butter which has 69 calories per tablespoon.When it comes to nutrition, neither butter nor margarine provides a substantial amount of micronutrients. However, there's a small amount of vitamin A in butter amounting to 97 micrograms per tablespoon, which is 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for women and 11% for men.

Butter is high in saturated fat, which is something to watch if you are concerned about heart health. However, saturated fats are still considered superior to trans fats which are not recommended to be consumed in any amount. If you consume a plant-based diet, consider using margarine that is trans-fat-free.

Old-Fashioned Oats vs. Steel-Cut Oats

You're in good hands with either of these nutrient-dense oats. The main difference between the two is how they're made: steel-cut oats are chopped, while old-fashioned are rolled. Conversely, instant oats, are processed, typically sugar-laden, and have a higher glycemic index,

Each has about 150 calories per 40 gram serving with 4 grams of fiber each. Oats are packed with complex carbohydrates; each choice has 27 grams. Steel-cut oats tend to be chewier, while old-fashioned are somewhat smoother when cooked. Steel-cut oats also tend to take longer to cook. They are filling, high volume, and satisfying. Choose whichever option you prefer.

A Word From Verywell

Making decisions about what to eat does not always have to be based on which food is most nutritious. Whichever foods you choose should be based on a variety of factors, including taste, personal preference, nutrition, and cultural significance. What some may believe is a "better" or "healthier" choice isn't always necessarily true. There's no one "better" food and there is a place for almost every food, in moderation.

13 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USDA FoodData Central . White, rice, cooked, no added fat. October 30, 2020.

  2. USDA FoodData Central. Brown rice, cooked, no added fat. October 30, 2020.

  3. USDA. Sweet potato, cooked, baked in skin, flesh, without salt. April 1, 2019.

  4. USDA. Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, baked. April 1, 2019.

  5. USDA FoodData Central. Almond milk, unsweetened, plain, shelf stable. October 28, 2021.

  6. USDA FoodData Central. Milk, nonfat, fluid, with added vitamin A and vitamin D (fat free or skim). December 16, 2019.

  7. USDA. Turkey, ground, 93% lean, 7% fat, raw. April 1, 2019.

  8. USDA. Beef, ground, 97% lean meat / 3% fat, raw. April 1, 2019

  9. USDA FoodData Central. Margarine, regular, hard, soybean (hydrogenated). April 1, 2019.

  10. USDA FoodData Central. Butter, without salt. April 1, 2019.

  11. USDA FoodData Central. Butter, whipped, with salt. April 1, 2019.

  12. USDA. Steel cut oats. March 19, 2021.

  13. USDA. Old fashioned oats. March 19, 2021.

By Lisa Lillien
Lisa Lillien is a New York Times bestselling author and the creator of Hungry Girl, where she shares healthy recipes and realistic tips and tricks.