This or That: Challenge Your Assumptions About What Is Healthy

UPDATED: May 23, 2024
PUBLISHED: August 10, 2018

If you think of foods as “good” or “bad” and use labels to restrict your intake of them, you might feel deprived, unsatisfied or even guilty when reaching for french fries, buttery bread or other so-called bad foods.

Related: 7 Healthier Versions of Your Cheat Day Favorites

Although it’s prudent to consider the nutritional profile of foods, polarizing certain things can contribute to unhealthy eating practices. And you might be surprised to learn that some foods you thought were bad are actually better than their counterparts.

We put some common snack foods to the test to challenge your preconceived notions.

1. Nutella vs Peanut Butter

[ two tablespoons ]


  • 200 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • 11 grams fat
    (4 grams sat. fat)
  • 1 gram fiber
  • 21 grams sugar
  • 15 milligrams sodium

Peanut butter [ smooth ]

  • 191 calories
  • 7 grams protein
  • 16 grams fat
    (3.3 grams sat. fat)
  • 1.6 grams fiber
  • 3.4 grams sugar
  • 136 milligrams sodium

The verdict: Although Nutella offers 25 percent less total fat and far less sodium than peanut butter, it also has more than six times the sugar, making it more of a dessert. Peanut butter is a better choice overall, providing more than three times the protein, less saturated fat and more fiber than Nutella. When buying peanut butter, look for options that offer even less added sugar.

2. Pretzels vs Oven-Baked Potato Chips

[ two ounces ]

 Pretzels [ 24 ]

  • 218 calories
  • 5.7 grams protein
  • 1.7 grams fat
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 1.3 grams sugar
  • 704 milligrams sodium

Oven-Baked Potato Chips [ 24 ]

  • 240 calories
  • 4 grams protein
  • 7 grams fat
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 4 grams sugar
  • 320 milligrams sodium

The verdict: Neither option is a nutritional powerhouse, but each provides protein (pretzels have about 40 percent more than potato chips) and some fiber. Pretzels also have 25 percent less fat and far less sugar than potato chips. But they also have more than double the sodium. Unless you have high blood pressure or another condition for which you should limit sodium intake, pretzels are the better bet.

3. Guacamole vs Hummus

[ four tablespoons ]


  • 120 calories
  • 2 grams protein
  • 10 grams fat
    (2 grams sat. fat)
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 210 milligrams sodium


  • 160 calories
  • 4 grams protein
  • 14 grams fat
    (2 grams sat. fat)
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 200 milligrams sodium

The verdict: It’s a draw. Although both provide ample healthy fats and are low in saturated fat, guacamole boasts fewer calories and twice the fiber of hummus. If calories aren’t a concern and you want double the protein, choose hummus and add back the fiber by pairing it with crackers or bread.

Related: 7 Superfoods You Need for a Longer, Healthier Life


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of SUCCESS magazine.

Elisa Zied

Elisa Zied is an award-winning New York State certified dietitian nutritionist and the author of Younger Next Week (Harlequin Nonfiction) and three other consumer titles. A past spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, she received a bachelor's in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's in clinical nutrition from New York University. For more than two decades, she has garnered millions of media impressions through her TV appearances, articles and blogs. Having recently discovered her passion for reading and writing fiction, she is currently working on her first novel. She lives in New York City with her husband of 24 years and her two sons. When she’s not reading, she enjoys long walks and hikes, hula hooping, seeing Broadway shows and movies, attending book signings and festivals, and interviewing her favorite authors for her Food, Fitness & Fiction blog.