When it comes to food and beverage choices, we think we’re making the right decisions when we choose low fat over full fat options or “diet” options compared to the full product. But does it really make a difference? Let’s look at some common food and beverages.

Coke vs Diet Coke

The obvious answer here is neither, water should always be your first choice of fluid and use natural fruit if you wish to improve the flavour. However, everyone wants to know which the lesser of two evils is. The questions should really be: What’s it going to be? A soft drink loaded with sugars OR the chemicals in a diet drink?

To answer the question of the lesser of two evils, let’s start with the basics of the ingredients list and nutrition information of the two:

Ingredients list for Diet Coke:

Carbonated purified water, flavour, colour (caramel 150d), food acid (338, 330), sweeteners (951, 950)*, preservative 221, caffeine

*sweetener 951 is the artificial sweetener Aspartame

*sweetener 950 is the artificial sweetener acesulphame potassium

Ingredients list for Coke:

Carbonated purified water, cane sugar, colour (caramel 150d), food acid 338, flavour, caffeine

Note: Preservative 211 is sodium benzoate which is commonly used to extend the shelf-life of soft drinks, cordials and fruit drinks. It is needed in both sugar-free diet drinks but NOT in the regular Coke as the sugar does the job of preserving the drink without refrigeration.

Nutrition information:

Component Diet Coke

Per 100mL


Per 100mL

Diet Coke

Per 375mL can


Per 375mL can

Energy  (kJ)










Protein, g 0.05 0  0.19 0
 Total Fat, g 0 0  0 0
Saturated fat, g 0 0  0 0
Carbohydrate, g 0.1 10.6 0.38 39.8
Sugars, g 0 10  0 39.8
Dietary Fibre, g 0 0  0 0
Sodium, mg 15 11  56.3 38
Caffeine, mg 12.8 9.7


The pros of regular Coca Cola:

  • If you’re trying to avoid artificial sugar/sweetener substitutes, you won’t find them in regular Coca Cola.

The cons of regular Coca Cola:

  • It’s loaded with added sugars, which when consumed regularly and in high quantities is linked to increased risk of chronic health conditions such as overweight and obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, some cancers.
  • Contains phosphoric acid (food acid 338), which may contribute to the leaching of calcium from the bones and increase your risk of osteopaenia and osteoporosis.
  • The sugars and phosphoric acid are harmful to your teeth (erodes tooth enamel).

The pros of Diet Coke:

  • A modest saving in sugar intake and kilojoules (calories) compared to regular Coca Cola whilst still retaining the Coke taste.
  • Better suited to people who need to be cautious with their sugar intake for health reasons e.g. type two diabetes, insulin resistance, polycystic ovarian syndrome, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance
  • If you’re trying to lose weight and/or you’re calorie counting, the zero calories in Diet Coke won’t contribute to your daily intake.

The cons of Diet Coke:

  • Contains a higher content of caffeine than regular Coke, which if consumed in high quantities may increase levels of anxiety, blood pressure and altered gut function.
  • Contains the artificial sweetener, aspartame, which even though has been approved safe for consumption by Australia’s food regulatory body, studies have shown that large and regular consumption of the sweetener may be carcinogenic and increase risk of neurological disorders.
  • Contains phosphoric acid (food acid 338), which may contribute to the leaching of calcium from the bones and increase your risk of osteopaenia and osteoporosis.
  • Although the artificial sweeteners may not affect your blood sugar response, emerging research shows that the brain may not recognise the difference between that and sugar. As a result, with long-term use, your body may physiologically respond the same way as it would you consumed actual sugar.

The verdict?

Had artificial sweeteners been found 100% safe, without any side effects, the answer would be Diet Coke. But, that’s not the case.  It’s hard to say whether diet or regular Coke is better than the other. They both have pros and cons, and they both contain zero nutrition.

If you have to lose weight or want to avoid spikes of sugar (especially important in people with type two diabetes, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance), Diet Coke is better than standard Coca Cola, which contains 675kJ and 39.8g of sugar in a 375mL can (that equivalent to 8 teaspoons of sugar!!). But like all things, consume them only occasionally or when out in place of alcohol.

However, if you’re within healthy weight and you engage in regular physical activity and are concerned about ingesting artificial sweeteners that may cause potential harm to your health in the long-term then you may be better off choosing the regular Coke.


Full fat milk vs Skim milk

There’s a lot of confusing information out there about whether the fat in full cream milk is good for you or the sugar is bad for us. For decades health experts have told us to go lean and ditch the cream and many of us have taken their advice. But could they be wrong? Let’s look at both type of milks in greater detail:

Dairy Milk

Firstly, when it comes to dairy milks, your choice of milk really depends on your personal preference and mouth feel, as well as desire to consume full-cream or low-fat foods in your diet in general.

Important Nutrients in Milk

Regardless of whether you choose skim, low-fat or full cream milk, you’ll reap nutritional benefits from all. They are all rich in vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorous, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin B-12. All milks are also a great source of high quality protein.

Full-cream Milk

Full cream milk or full-fat milk is cow’s milk that contains on average 3.4% fat.
A glass/cup (250mls) of full-cream milk contains almost 10g of fat, which isn’t too much of a concern if your intake is low, but two to three glasses a day or in your coffee can equate to as much as 20-30g of extra fat.

Per 250ml serve

738kJ (178cal), 8.8g protein, 8.8g fat, 15.8g carbs, 15.8g sugar, 270mg calcium


  • It’s the least processed type of cow’s milk.
  • The fat allows for greater absorption of fat soluble vitamins found in milk such as vitamin D, A and E.
  • Can make you feel more satisfied and satiated compared to the skim option, which means you don’t need as much per serving.
  • Lower in lactose content due to the exclusion of milk solids, which means it is tolerated better in people with a lactose intolerance. Most people who are lactose intolerant can still drink half to one cup of milk without symptoms.


  • Highest in calories of all cow’s milk, which may not be beneficial if you’re goal is to lose weight.
  • Highest in fat and saturated fat of all cow’s milk. However, while the fat in whole milk is primarily saturated fat, which has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, studies have found that saturated fat from dairy foods doesn’t appear to affect heart disease risks like other types of saturated fat.
  • Some claim full cream milk creates extra mucus and can lead to asthma in children. However, many studies have shown that this may not be the case.
  • Often thought of as being high in sugars. However, keep in mind that much of the sugar found in milk is coming from lactose as opposed to added or refined sugars.                

Skim milk

Skim milk is a reduced fat cow’s milk that has had all of the cream removed and by law must contain less than 0.15% fat.One of the most common misconceptions about skim milk is that it contains added sugars in processing, which is not the case – it actually contains less sugars in total (most of which come from lactose) than full-cream milk.

Per 250ml serve

375kJ (90cal), 9g protein, 0.3g fat, 12.5g carbs, 12.5g sugar, 300mg calcium

In general, low-fat milks will contain more nutrients, including calcium, and have a richer mouth feel than skim milk.


  • Contains the least amount of calories of all cow’s milks. This is beneficial for those wanting to keep their calorie intake low but who also want the benefits of dairy in their diet.
  • Contains the least amount of fat and saturated fat of all cow’s milks. As fat contains the highest amount of calories of all macronutrients, this option may benefit those wanting to lose weight.
  • The removal of fat means that skim milk is slightly higher in protein and calcium than full cream milk.


  • You absorb less of the nutrients in milk without the fat, particularly the fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D, A and E.
  • It doesn’t leave you fully satisfied after consumption. This may lead to people eating more, less healthy “non-fat” foods or more food in general.
  • Slightly higher in lactose content, compared to full cream milk which means it’s not as well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
  • Highest in fat and saturated fat of all cow’s milk. However, while the fat in whole milk is primarily saturated fat, which has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease, studies have found that saturated fat from dairy foods doesn’t appear to affect heart disease risks like other types

The verdict                 

Both skim and full cream milk provide you with significant health benefits as well as being a good source of calcium and protein. Skim milk is lower in fat and calories, however, higher-fat milk does not increase your risk for obesity based on research findings.

As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t consume a lot of milk in your diet, full-cream is a good option but if you consume two to three glasses a day as well as other dairy foods such as yoghurts and cheese, skim milk will help to keep your calories and fat intake in check.

It’s important to note that full cream milk is the best choice of milk for children aged up to the age of two years (starting from 12 months of age).


Dark chocolate vs roasted nuts

Dark Chocolate


  • Most of the positive press on dark chocolate comes from the antioxidants found in raw cocoa beans. They are rich in in a group of (plant) antioxidants including flavenols, polyphenols and catechines, which are also found in tea and red wine. Research shows these antioxidants may promote blood to the brain, reduce inflammation, reduce blood pressure and prevent cholesterol from being oxidised.
  • Protect your skin from sun damage – some studies have shown that the flavonols from cocoa can improve blood flow to the skin and may protect against sun-induced damage. However, do not replace for sun cream!
  • Good source of nutrients – Dark chocolate contains good levels of nutrients including fibre, copper, magnesium, iron, manganese, potassium and phosphorous, all important for good health.
  • Brain/mental health – dark chocolate may ease emotional stress by reducing the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.


  • Contains a lot of calories – these come particularly from fat and sugar. Therefore, if you can’t stop at two squares the calories add up and can contribute to weight gain.
  • High in fat and sugar – chocolate, whether it’s dark, milk or white is a very concentrated food with it roughly being one third fat and half sugar. The average 50g bar of dark chocolate contains 15g fat
  • Higher content of caffeine compared to milk and white chocolate. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, consuming large amounts of dark chocolate may increase heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, irritability, nervousness and cause diarrhoea.

Roasted nuts


  • Contain good amounts of the healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.
  • Contain moderate amounts of plant-based protein so it’s a great snack, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
  • Good source of dietary fibre to improve gut health.
  • Contain antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and resveratrol, which are associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Provide a wide range of nutrients including B vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium copper and manganese all important for good health.
  • Naturally low in sodium (if you buy unsalted nuts).
  • Little difference in nutrient profile compared to raw nuts.


  • Although nuts contain healthy fats, it’s still fat and therefore high in calories. Therefore, regular and high consumption of nuts can increase your daily calorie intake and place you at risk of weight gain.
  • Roasting process reduces the water content of nuts, concentrating the nutrients. This means that some B vitamins are lost as they are not heat stable.

The verdict

Although both dark chocolate both contain high levels of fat, nuts contain more of the health unsaturated fats that are good for heart health minus the sugar that dark chocolate has. Dark chocolate may have slightly higher levels of antioxidants but it does not share the same extended nutrient profile and the all-important fibre content as roasted nuts.

It’s important to note that both foods should be seen as a snack and consumed in small quantities due to their calorie content. If you like your dark chocolate and can stop at two squares, then by all means indulge in moderation, but the winner out of the two is the roasted nuts, which should be unsalted.

Fries vs Cheese Burger

The below is based on takeaway or fast food choices rather than homemade options, which are a much healthier alternative.



Sadly, there aren’t too many to add here, however, there are a few positives:

  • Fries are made from potato, which is a great source of fibre. Fibre is important for good gut health and keeping you regular.
  • Potatoes are a good source of potassium.
  • Potatoes are a good source of Vitamin B6


  • Fries are usually deep fried making them very high in fat, which also makes them high in calories. This places you at risk of becoming overweight.
  • Fries are particularly high in starchy carbohydrates and should therefore be consumed in moderation. Excessive consumption of carbohydrates in conjunction with a sedentary lifestyle significantly increases your risk of becoming overweight, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
  • Fries are typically drenched in salt, which adds significantly to your daily sodium intake. High diet high in salt is associated with an increased risk in high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.

Cheese burger


  • Source of protein and other nutrients – The meat patty is a good source of complete protein, vitamin B12, zinc and iron, which are all important for growth and development, muscle health, energy and immunity. The cheese is a good source of calcium, important for bone and teeth health.


  • Very high in fat and saturated fat – depending on the leanness of the meat patty used in the cheeseburger, they can be very high in fat and saturated fat. With the addition of cheese (usually full fat variety), this increases that fat content of the meal. High intakes of saturated fat has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • High in sugar – if the burger is not made from fresh bread buns, they usually have added sugar to them to maximise flavour and mouthfeel. High sugar intake increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • High in calories – due to cheeseburgers being high in fat, saturated fat and added sugar, this makes them a very energy dense meal, which if consumed regularly can lead to overweight and obesity.

The verdict

These two foods are difficult to compare to each other as one is considered to be consumed as a meal and the other, a snack or supplement to the meal. However, if you were to compare the nutrient profiles to each other, a cheeseburger is much higher in fat, saturated fat and sugars but contains higher amounts of protein compared to the fries. Assuming you would have a smaller portion of fries compared to a whole cheeseburger you are probably better off consuming the fries. Having said this, you can definitely make healthy burgers at home using fresh, lean ingredients and lower fat alternatives, which would then probably be a better option than the fries.