Is It Really Healthier?

Truth or hype? We take a closer look to determine whether or not these supposedly healthy foods provide real nutritional benefits.

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Food packaging makes a lot of promises. All Natural. Reduced Fat. Multigrain. But it’s the nutrition and ingredient labels on the back that are the truth-tellers. Just because a food is low or reduced in one nutrient doesn’t always mean it is healthier than its original counterpart. And the same goes for foods with added functional ingredients meant to make them more attractive. Here are 10 matchups with some surprise winners, losers ... and a couple of draws.

Egg Whites or Whole Eggs?

When egg yolks were unfairly shunned for being high in cholesterol, egg whites reigned. Now that we know it’s saturated fat — and not dietary cholesterol — that is linked to heart disease, it's time to welcome back whole eggs. Sure, egg whites have fewer calories and fat, and slightly more protein, but yolks are full of healthy nutrients too, like lutein, which is good for eyesight, not to mention folate and vitamin D. Bottom line: give whole eggs a break.

Skim or Whole Milk?

Since milk is so important in a child’s diet, this a contentious debate with experts on both sides. There are those who think skim milk is the right choice since it’s lower in calories and fat. Others believes that a diet low in dairy fat can lead to increased consumption of sugars from carbohydrates, which brings its own health problems. Bottom line: for the undecided, go for 1 or 2-percent and feel good about it.

Reduced-Fat or Natural Peanut Butter?

This match-up is almost comical: 2 tablespoons of either kind of peanut butter has about 200 calories. And while reduced-fat may have slightly less fat it, also has more sodium and sugar to make up for what’s missing in flavor. Bottom line: go for the full-fat version, which is mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat--just make sure there’s no added oil.

Nonfat or Whole Milk Yogurt?

More often than not, when fat is removed from a food, there is something added to make-up for the flavor lost. Nonfat yogurt is the perfect example. It tends to have more sugar and artificial flavors and less protein and calcium than regular yogurt. Bottom line: if you're looking to cut back on calories and fat without sacrificing too many nutrients then low-fat yogurt is the perfect compromise.

Brown or White Rice?

White rice may be enriched with B vitamins and iron but the unrefined version, or brown rice, has way more fiber and minerals. Bottom line: Opt for brown and don’t let the longer cooking time deter you — you can cook, cool and freeze large batches. You might even find cooked and frozen brown rice at your super market.

Turkey or Pork Bacon?

Yes, 2 cooked slices of pork bacon do have more calories and fat than their poultry counterpart... but not by much. The pork variety has 87 calories and 7 grams of fat compared to turkey’s 70 calories and 5 grams of fat. Plus, turkey bacon is higher in sodium, while pork packs more protein — and it tastes better — which may make you less likely to binge elsewhere. Bottom line: don’t feel guilty for eating the original.

Whole Wheat or Regular Pasta?

As long as the package says 100-percent whole wheat or whole grain, then skip the regular stuff. One cup of cooked whole wheat pasta packs 23 percent of your daily fiber and it’s more satiating than the white kind, which has been stripped of most of its protein and fiber. But, if you’re a pasta purist and whole wheat seems like sacrilege, then just watch portion sizes and find fiber elsewhere. Bottom line: fiber is your friend, go for whole wheat.

Low-Fat or Full-Fat Cheese?

While low-fat cheese has 3 or fewer grams of fat per serving, in most cases, it also has more sodium than full-fat cheese. And it may not taste as good. Bottom line: when you need a large quantity of cheese — like in a casserole — use low-fat or a mix of low and full-fat. Save full-fat for when you really want to enjoy cheese with bread or just by itself.

Multi-Grain or White Bread?

Sure, there are grains in multi-grain bread, but whole grains are not guaranteed. So don’t be deceived. If the label doesn’t say 100-percent whole wheat or whole grain, then assume it’s just as processed as white bread. And the same goes for wheat bread, which gets its "healthy" looking color from added molasses. Bottom line: skip multi-grain and go for whole grains.

Sweet or White Potatoes?

On the merits of more vitamins A and C, sweet potatoes are the slightly superior spud. Plus, their jackets have lots of added fiber. But don’t feel bad if you go for white, which have more potassium — they’re actually a great and inexpensive source of the mineral. Bottom line: eat the orange tubers when you can but don’t completely cut the white varieties.