Low fat or low carb? Butter or margarine? Sugar or Sweetener? There are plenty of conflicting stories that make it even harder for us to make the best choices when it comes to our diet. Which option is best for us? We've enlisted the help of a number of health and nutrition experts to put the record straight.
When it comes to food, health and lifestyle, you want to be sure you are making the right decisions, and with the following information, making healthy eating decisions should be a little easier.
Dr Sally Norton, UK Health Expert says: “It seems that older people and women are more likely to eat healthily – making it even more important that women address the unhealthy food choices of our children… otherwise, the future looks incredibly bleak for them.
“What can we do? Well, we need to ensure that we are replacing unhealthy food choices with healthier ones – not simply thinking that eating a couple of pieces of fruit cancels out the packet of crisps and can of coke. Just taking a bit of time to choose a slightly healthier version of everything we, and our children, eat and drink is enough to make a difference to our health without causing a rebellion in the family. It isn’t always easy to pick out the healthier options, however, as many so-called healthier products are not actually that healthy at all.”
So follow this guide of what’s the better option of the two:
Canned or frozen food?
Michela Vagnini, Nutritionist at Nature’s Plus (www.naturesplus.co.uk) explains that frozen is the better option over canned when there is no option for fresh food. Canned food can sometimes contain heavy metals, which is particularly dangerous in canned tomatoes or fish.
Frozen foods can sometimes be the better option over fresh as well when fresh food can sometimes spend weeks to get from the producers to the retailers and then when you finally buy it.
Steam frozen vegetables to retain key nutrients when you're looking for a quick option.
Skimmed or whole milk?
Katy Mason, Nutritionist at NutriCentre explains that we've always been told to avoid full-fat milk because of the higher fat content. But in reality, this isn't really the case, as this fat makes it easier to absorb vitamins that can be found in milk.
And contrary to what we might have been told, eating fat won't make you fat. Consuming the right types of fat helps to keep us fuller for longer.
Coffee or Tea?
Nature’s Best nutritional expert Dr Sam Christie says it's a pretty close competition. But Green or Black tea, made without milk, can really help when it comes to health protection.
Whole fruit or fruit juice?
Dr Sam Christie reveals this is a pretty easy decision, and every time it should be whole fruit. Mainly because when we juice fruits they typically lose the protective fibrous, which has a huge benefit to our health.
Even though a 150ml of juice will count towards one of your five-a-day, drinking anymore isn't recommended because of the fructose levels.
When you eat whole fruits fructose is released, but thanks to the fibre, it's release much slower so it's healthier for the body.
Margarine or Butter?
Nutritionist Dr Marilyn Glenville recommends using butter over margarine, just in moderation. The reason being you're likely to find hydrogenated vegetable oil in most kinds of margarine. When fat is hydrogenated it is turned from essential fats to trans fatty acids which aren't really good for the body and can increase the risk of heart attacks among other things.
Tinned or fresh fish?
Dr Sam Christie says tinned or fresh fish is always a good option, provided you're getting two or three portions each week. But you should choose fresh tuna over tinned because the omega 3 fats that we really need don't survive when the fish is canned. However, sardines or mackerel omega 3s will survive the canning process.
If you don't eat enough oil-rich fish, you might want to consider a supplement.
Sweetener or sugar?
Dr Glenville says sugar not only makes you gain weight, creates hormone imbalances, increases your cravings for it, and is empty calories with no nutritional value. Sounds great, doesn't it?!
But while you might think the best option is to switch to sweeteners, Dr Glenville says you shouldn't. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to mood swings and depression. Plus they've been found to increase your weight because they increase your appetite and slow down your digestion.
Dr Christie says you should look for natural sugars instead, look for sucrose because artificial sweeteners will leave a bitter aftertaste.
Probiotic yoghurt or supplement?
Adrienne Benjamin, Nutritional Therapist at ProVen Probiotics explains that everyone has a mix of both good and bad bacteria in our bodies, with a ratio expected of 85% good and 15% bad. Probiotics are used to help maintain these figures and keep our body balanced.
Eating fermented foods are natural ways to get probiotics, but you can also take probiotic supplements which are designed to specifically support your health.
Low fat or low carb?
Shona Wilkinson, Head Nutritionist at NutriCentre explains that it's not necessarily about being low carb, just choosing the right ones. Refined carbohydrates, like white pasta and bread, have little nutritional value, they're low in fibre and are broken down into glucose in the body, which has a similar effect to eating sugar. Eating too much sugar is linked to obesity and diabetes, plus it's really addictive.
Sharon Morey, a nutritionist at Quest Vitamins explains that low-fat foods created by companies are usually replaced with additives and sweeteners to boost the taste when the fat is removed. Even though it's low in fat, it doesn't necessarily mean it's any healthier.
Breakfast vs. brunch
Cassandra Barns, Nutritionist at NutriCentre makes the case for breakfast as opposed to brunch. She explains that not eating for six to nine hours in the day would leave you feeling extremely hungry, and that's exactly what you're doing.
Although our bodies benefit from the rest sleeping gives our digestion system, if you delay food much longer when you wake up, you're likely to overeat later on because you're in need of an energy boost.
Research shows that people who eat breakfast are more likely to maintain a healthy weight, compared with those who skip it.
Plus, you're brain works better when it's energised, so try to eat a healthy and balanced breakfast every morning.
Multivitamin vs. individual vitamins
Michela Vagnini, Nutritionist at Nature’s Plus says that multivitamins are excellent for overall health, energy and wellbeing, but if you have a specific deficiency a vitamin that targets that specifically is obviously the better option. A blood test and a discussion with your doctor or nutritionist might be the best port of call because some supplements, unless you're deficient in them, can actually cause harm, like iron.