Choose It and Lose It

by Charles Platkin, PhD

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people recommend Twizzlers as a better candy when it comes to making “healthier” choices. And at first glance, Twizzlers appear to be the winner over M&M’s. After all, everyone knows Twizzlers are low in fat, but did you know one Twizzlers stick contains between 23 and 24 calories, 0.1g fat, 5.4g carbs (unless you have the movie version which is 30 calories)? Interestingly enough, each M&M contains about 4.5 calories, 0.2g fat, 0.6g carbs. If you compare one Twizzlers stick to five M&M’s (about 22.5 calories), calorically, the M&M’s are the better deal. However, if you compare package to package — because who doesn’t eat the entire package — it’s a toss up in terms of calories, but the Twizzlers win because they have almost no fat.

  • M&Ms (1.69 oz): 240 calories, 10g fat, 34g carbs
  • Twizzlers (2.5 oz): 230 calories, 1g fat, 54g carbs

I know they both sound great, but if you had to choose one, which would it be? I thought the shake would be the bargain here. Boy was I wrong! The shake is consistently higher in calories, fat, and carbs — who would have thought?

  • Dairy Queen Chocolate Shake (medium): 760 calories, 20g fat, 129g carbs
  • Dairy Queen Chocolate Sundae (medium): 400 calories, 10g fat, 71g carbs


  • McDonald’s Chocolate Triple Thick Shake (12 oz): 430 calories, 12g fat, 70g carbs
  • McDonald’s Hot Fudge Sundae (6.3 oz): 340 calories, 12g fat, 52g carbs

Are you tired of egg white omelets and want to indulge a little without blowing your whole diet? French toast and Belgian waffles are both high-calorie, high-fat breakfast choices, but a Belgian waffle wins by a landslide. One serving of Denny’s French toast will cost you 1146 calories, 71g fat, 104g carbs, BEFORE adding any syrup or butter. In contrast, ONE Belgian waffle at Denny’s without toppings contains 619 calories, 45g fat, 28g carbs.

No, I’m not going to tell you that fried chicken is a healthy choice — relax. But when it comes to fried chicken or grilled BBQ ribs, don’t let the “grilled” fool you. The grilled baby back ribs at Chili’s (with sauce) have 905 calories, 53g fat, 31g carbs! And that’s not counting the fries and cinnamon apples that are served with the ribs, which bring the total to 1574 calories, 82g fat, 125 carbs. Wow! You can have an extra crispy chicken breast AND a drumstick from KFC for a whole lot less than that: 620 calories, 38g fat, 24g carbs.

Okay, this was a surprise. You’d think a diet shake (even if it’s labeled as a meal replacement) would have fewer calories, but it doesn’t. The winner calorie-wise is the Yoo-hoo drink, with 150 calories, 1g fat, 33g carbs for nine ounces. Yoo-hoo Lite, with only 70 calories, 1g fat, 15g carbs for 9 ounces, is a real bargain. A can of Dark Chocolate Fudge Slim-Fast (about 11 ounces) comes in higher at 220 calories, 3g fat, 42g carbs. (In a package-to-package comparison, if you’re buying your Yoo-hoo at a convenience store, then Slim-Fast is a better deal because Yoo-hoo is sold as a single serving in 15.5-ounce bottles.)

In defense of Slim-Fast, which is supposed to be an entire meal, Yoo-hoo Lite has only two grams of protein (per 9 ounces), compared to Slim-Fast’s 10 grams (per 11 ounces). Plus Slim-Fast is infused with more vitamins and minerals (which you may or may not need). So if you’re trying to keep off the pounds and you’re in the mood for a cool, refreshing drink, go with Yoo-hoo. But if you’re skipping a meal and need something more nutritious, Slim-Fast could be a better bet — or call me crazy, but you could actually eat a meal.

You can’t assume that just because something is marked as “healthy” or “lean” that it’s lower in calories and better for you — the bottom line is, you always have to look at the Nutrition Facts panel on the food label. Take a look at Healthy Choice Mixed Grills Chicken with Teriyaki Dipping Sauce. Sounds great — hey, it’s chicken and it’s grilled — but it has 470 calories, 9g fat, 66g carbs (which, by the way, is not bad). But when you compare it to the heavy-sounding Stouffer’s Lasagna with Meat and Sauce, you’ll be surprised to find that the “healthier” option actually comes in 100 calories higher and almost double the carbs. The lasagna is only 370 calories, 13g fat, 38g carbs. However, the Healthy Choice entrée does have 5 fewer grams of saturated fat than the Stouffer’s. And look at the regular Banquet Turkey Meal — it has only 290 calories, 13g fat, 28g carbs. That’s not even a special “lean” or “light” option!

If you have any comparisons you would like analyzed in future columns, please send them to

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