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Published on December 07, 2017

veggies and dip

Making Good Decisions Given Bad Choices

We all want to make good eating choices, but sometimes it seems like there’s no good choice to make. So what do you do?

We posed some scenarios to Avera Heart Hospital Registered Dietitian Lauren Cornay, RD, LN, and asked her to help us out with a food-focused round of “Would You Rather … ?”

In these cases, we are asking her to give us advice on picking the better of two not-so-great choices.


Skip it altogether … or have a fast-food breakfast?

Lauren’s answer: Have the fast food breakfast.

Keep it small by ordering something like an egg and cheese English muffin, a fruit and yogurt parfait or an egg and cheese breakfast burrito.

“No need for sides or super-sized orders though – skip those,” she said. “It’s best to order wisely and give your body some nutrition so it can start working at full speed right away.”

Enjoy some bacon … or add lots of syrup to pancakes?

Lauren’s answer: Enjoy the bacon.

There’s newer research that shows simple sugars, like those in syrup, are causing significant harm to our health, especially when they are a regular part of the diet.

“Naturally, you should not have too much bacon or apply this to your daily breakfast,” Lauren added.


Indulge in a sundae … or eat a few fun-sized candy bars?

Lauren’s answer: Fun-sized candy, but only one or two.

One small soft-serve hot fudge sundae packs the same calories as FOUR fun-size candy bars! While the ice cream might offer some calcium and some fun-size candy bars may offer the heart-healthy fat from nuts; both are indulgences

“I’d say just pick the one you prefer, but don’t get into a habit of it,” she said.

Dip veggies in a sauce … or have baked potato chips?

Lauren’s answer: Veggies and dip – hands down!

Yes, the dip adds some fat, but at least you are getting the benefits of fresh vegetables. Baked potato chips still have fat and are essentially void of beneficial nutrients.


Have a burger with cheese … or two slices of pizza?

Lauren’s answer: Pick the burger with cheese.

Both are fatty, but the burger would likely be a bit better for you. Typical burgers have an appropriate amount of carbohydrate and protein. Pizza packs too many carbohydrates, plus the same amount, if not more, fat.

“In this situation, the trick is easy: skip the side,” Lauren said. “Or pick a salad to go with that burger. Don’t order the fries!”

Enjoy ranch on salad … or add shredded cheddar to the same?

Lauren’s answer: Live on the wild side and have both!

Adding just ⅛ cup of cheddar cheese and two tablespoons of regular ranch dressing provides you some fat and protein to improve the “satisfying power” of salad, especially if it is serving as your entrée.

“If your salad already has meat or nuts, I would stick with just the dressing and forego the cheese,” she said.


Enjoy a beer or glass of wine … or order a bigger steak?

Lauren’s answer: Enjoy the beer or wine.

One 12-ounce beer or a 4-ounce glass of wine, in moderation, can actually have health benefits. “That would be my choice,” Lauren said. “If you are out to eat and ordering steak, more often than not you are already getting a huge portion – it’s more than enough protein.”

Eat a meal after 8 p.m. … or eat earlier and have a slice of cheesecake?

Lauren’s answer: Have the late meal.

Lauren said that for many people, the issue with eating late is indigestion or acid reflux.

“If you are eating a balanced, well-portioned meal, most of us would have it fairly well digested by 10 or 11 p.m., so you can head to bed without feeling guilty,” Lauren said. “But if you struggle with acid reflux, it is more important to eat earlier or stay up and keep your body moving after you eat. Cheesecake is so fatty that it’s likely to cause heartburn, and you might still be digesting it at bedtime even if you ate it at 6 p.m.”

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