Comparing Similar Foods for Eating Healthier

brown and white rice

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Ever wonder about the difference between two seemingly similar foods? Is one option really that much better than the other? Let's put several of those duos in a head-to-head face-off.

Brown Rice vs. White Rice

When brown rice first became popular, it was touted as the “healthier” option. But is there any truth to the claim?

The reason brown rice is usually considered healthier is that it's less processed than white rice. The brown rice retains more fiber, vitamins, and nutrients. Brown rice contains more protein and fatty acids, but it also has more carbs.

A cup of medium-grain cooked white rice has about 53 grams of carbs vs. the 45 grams in brown rice. Brown rice contains about 220 calories per cup, while the same amount of white rice has about 240 calories. When it comes to calories, there is not a significant difference. However, some people avoid brown rice due to an anti-nutrient called phytates, which may aggravate the stomach in some people.

My personal preference? Limit rice consumption to sushi, for the most part, and use cauliflower rice at home. Cauliflower rice only has 20 calories and 4 grams of carbs per cup.

White Potato vs. Sweet Potato

I’m all about incorporating fiber into my diet, and luckily, both these potatoes contain a fair amount. They also pack in several vitamins (like vitamin C) and minerals (such as potassium).

However, sweet potatoes have more vitamins and minerals than plain white potatoes, although white potatoes are slightly lower in calories: 130 per spud, which is 14 fewer calories than the same size sweet potato.

I say, go for the sweet potato; it's more flavorful, and there are more nutrients.

Almond Milk vs. Skim Milk

Your head may spin from all the milk options on the market these days. My personal favorite is unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a non-dairy pick with only about 35 calories per cup. A cup of skim milk contains closer to 90 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, while skim milk has 12.5 grams from naturally occurring sugar, lactose. But you get 8 grams of protein from a cup of skim milk and only 1 gram from almond.

If you experience gastrointestinal issues from lactose, go for almond milk over skim. But if calcium is a concern, skim milk is for you.

Turkey Burgers vs. Beef Burgers

Don’t be fooled; 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 percent fat or less) which has around 160 calories and 7.5 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving.

If you prefer beef, pick up extra-lean ground beef (4 percent fat or less), which clocks in with about 145 calories and 5 grams of fat per 4-ounce serving. Unlike extra-lean turkey, extra-lean beef is juicy and delicious, perfect for diet-friendly burgers.

Butter vs. Margarine

You may think that margarine is a smart alternative, but butter is the real nutritional winner since it contains less harmful trans fat than margarine. However, both contain a similar number of calories: about 100 calories per tablespoon.

My advice? Opt for light whipped butter or light buttery spread, which has only around 45 calories per tablespoon—making it a major calorie saver.

Old-Fashioned Oats vs. Steel-Cut Oats

Unlike instant oats, which are processed and have a higher glycemic index, you're in good hands with either of these nutrient-dense oats. The main difference between the two is the way they're made: steel-cut oats are chopped, while old-fashioned are rolled. Each has about 160 calories per serving. I prefer old-fashioned oats, especially since they work perfectly in my growing oatmeal.

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