Half hamburger, half plant-based meat burger on a plate

You know the basics of good nutrition: Eat the rainbow, and choose more whole foods than processed ones. But there are times when you’re trying to pick between two options and want to go with the one that will give you a nutritional edge—or at least do the least amount of dietary damage.

We asked nutrition experts to weigh in on common meal and snack choices. Consider these tips as guidelines, not rules. You don’t have to pick the most nutritious option 100 percent of the time, says Lisa Young, PhD, an adjunct professor in the department of nutrition and food studies at New York University. “If you prefer the less nutritious choice,” she says, “have it once in a while, but watch your portion size.”

Egg Omelet vs. Egg White Omelet

It has been drilled into us for years that to be heart-healthy, we need to cut back on eggs because they’re high in cholesterol (about 200 mg per egg). But that’s outdated advice, says Amy Keating, RD, a CR dietitian. Research has shown that saturated fat affects blood cholesterol levels more than dietary cholesterol does.

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Most of the fat in eggs is unsaturated. Plus, the yolk has all kinds of nutritional perks. “If you eat only egg whites, you’re getting protein but throwing out a lot of nutrients, some of which may actually protect your heart,” Keating says. Yolks supply vitamin D, folate, selenium, and lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help control inflammation and are important for healthy vision. Yolks are also one of the top sources of choline, a nutrient linked to brain health and a lower risk of dementia.

“It appears that for most people, one whole egg a day is fine,” Keating says. “Whether you can have more than that depends on how healthy the rest of your diet is. Someone who eats plenty of whole grains and produce, and little red meat and processed food, probably doesn’t need to be concerned about overdoing it on eggs.” But if you have very high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes, your doctor may suggest eating egg yolks only a few times a week.

In either case, what you eat with your eggs or add to them also determines how healthy they are. Go with a simple omelet made with antioxidant-rich vegetables and healthy fats such as avocado, and have fruit on the side instead of bacon.

Champagne vs. Cocktails

No contest here: Bubbly is the better pick. It’s lower in calories (about 90 in 4 ounces) and has little or no sugar. Most cocktails—from old standards like margaritas to trendy concoctions like appletinis—are high in calories and sugars. For example, margarita mixes have about 100 calories and 25 grams of added sugars—and that’s without the tequila.

Still, there are ways to make cocktails fit into a healthy lifestyle. Swap sugary mixers for club soda. Or consider a Bloody Mary with low-sodium V8, a favorite choice of Young’s. “The tomato juice supplies antioxidant vitamin C and lycopene,” she says.

Almonds vs. Walnuts

Don’t agonize over this choice. “As long as they aren’t coated in sugar or doused in salt, all nuts are healthy,” Keating says. Research suggests that nuts help your heart. In a large study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, people who ate tree nuts (such as almonds and walnuts) at least twice a week had a 23 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who almost never ate nuts.

There are a few differences between those two types, though. Almonds have more magnesium—involved in blood sugar and blood pressure regulation—than walnuts do, and they’re the only nut with a decent amount of calcium. Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. But both supply protein, fiber, and potassium. To keep calories reasonable, stick with a 1-ounce serving, about the size of a golf ball, Young says.

Brown Rice vs. Farro

When choosing between the ancient grain farro and that old dinner standby, brown rice, you have two healthy options. But farro, a type of wheat, is a better bang for your buck nutrition-wise, supplying about twice as much protein and fiber.

Another factor to consider: Some types of rice contain concerning levels of arsenic, which is absorbed from soil and water. Brown rice generally has more than white rice of the same type, according to CR’s research. “It’s not a problem if you’re eating brown rice a few times a week,” Young says, “but if you’re eating it once a day, it can be.”

Dairy Milk vs. Plant Milk

With people snapping up almond and oat milk, you might assume that milk from a plant is healthier than from a cow. Not so fast. An 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk supplies 8 grams of protein and about 25 percent of your daily calcium. (Both dairy and some plant milks have added vitamin D.) Plus, milk is a rich source of potassium, which helps balance blood pressure. Even whole milk might not need to be limited, Keating says. Accumulating research suggests that the saturated fat in full-fat dairy might not contribute to heart disease the way other saturated fats do.

“Plant milks have less protein, and some are sweetened with added sugars,” Keating says. “And in order to make them match dairy milk nutritionally, some manufacturers add nutrients. Vitamins and minerals naturally present in foods are better.”

Ground Beef vs. Plant-Based Meat

Sure, plant-based burgers sound like a good bet. But the problem with the Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger is that they’re highly processed. The Beyond Burger is made of proteins from peas, mung beans, and rice, and the Impossible Burger is made from processed soy. And they’re both high in sodium.

So are you better off with the beef patty? It’s a toss-up. Opt for 90 percent lean ground beef, Keating says, and consider grass-fed, which has more omega-3 fats.

Granola vs. Oatmeal

Oats, nuts, dried fruit—with ingredients like those, granola sounds like a healthy option. “And it would be if it didn’t have so much added sugars and calories,” Keating says. For instance, ⅔ cup of Honey Bunches of Oats Granola has 300 calories and 16 grams of added sugars—or 4 teaspoons. “There are lower-sugar options, but you have to read labels carefully,” she says. “Or make it yourself using just a little sugar, maple syrup, or honey.”

Stick with oatmeal, and choose the old-fashioned or steel-cut kind. (Instant flavored oatmeals are brimming with added sugars.) Young likes to microwave some apple and blueberries to top her bowl of oats. “It tastes like apple pie,” she says.

Energy Bar vs. Dark Chocolate Bar

It depends. “Many energy bars are junk food in disguise,” Young says. The ones with long ingredients lists (often starting with soy protein isolate and rice syrup, another name for sugar) are highly processed. In those cases, chocolate wins. If you choose a bar with at least 70 percent cacao, you’re getting antioxidants called flavanols. “Have a few squares, along with some dried fruit, like apricots,” Keating says. That said, some energy bars are okay. Look for few ingredients, low added sugars (6 grams or less), and at least 3 grams of fiber from nuts, fruit, and oats.