When you scan the menu at your favorite restaurant, you'll probably think about making some swaps to score some health points. Some changes—water over soft drink, a salad before your meal—are no-brainers.
Another switch that feels like a win? Sacrificing your side of French fries for something that feels more like a proper serving of vegetables: sweet potato fries.
“In the great debate of white potatoes versus sweet potatoes, many people prefer the taste of white over sweet, but believe that sweet is much healthier,” says Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., C.D.N.
But are sweet potato fries really any better for you than regular French fries? Or is that just the product of a misleading nutrition myth? We asked a few experts to weigh in.
The Nutrition Breakdown: Sweet Potato Fries VS. French Fries
“Many people believe that by ordering sweet potato fries over regular they are doing a great service for their health,” says Moskovitz. “The truth is you're not really doing much.”
Round 1: Macronutrients
In terms of raw nutritional value, the difference between sweet potatoes and white potatoes is miniscule. “Both potatoes clock in around the same calories (100 to 120 calories) and carbs (25 to 30 grams) for a small to medium potato,” says Moskovitz. “Both contain around 4g of fibre and contain less than 1g of fat before any butter or oil is added.”
As for protein? Both serve under 4g, but white potatoes tend to score a bit higher, says Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., creator of the 5-Minute Mindful Eating Exercise.
Round 2: Nutritional Perks
Here’s where they differ. White potatoes contain more iron, potassium, and vitamin C. They also have less natural sugar, says Rumsey.
“Sweet potatoes, meanwhile, are higher in fibre, calcium, and vitamin A,” she says. In fact, just one whole baked sweet potato will serve you more than a day's worth of vitamin A, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Round 3: Prep
It all comes down to how your potatoes are being prepared. If sweet potatoes are deep-fried in oil like french fries, they aren’t any better than what you’d get at the drive-thru. Both of them will typically weigh in at more than 300 calories per serving after they're fried.
Baked fries—no matter your spud of choice—are the winner.
That's why there is a sliver of truth to the hype surrounding sweet potatoes. “While most fries made from regular potatoes are deep fried in oil, sweet potato fries often can be found as a baked version,” says Rumsey. Before you make the swap, ask your server how each version is prepared and always opt for the baked variety.
Eat them both to get the best nutritional bang for your buck. Just be mindful of how much you're eating in one go. “Keep portions to no more than half a cup at a time” to keep your calories in check, says Moskovitz. "Ideally, you should prepare your potato at home from scratch, not a freezer bag.”
Either way, take this as your excuse to make some fries this week. No guilt necessary.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.