When pictured next to each other, it's obvious which one of these two menus is the healthy meal plan and which is the junk food diet.

But can you tell how many calories are in each dish from just a picture?

While we might assume that the healthy foods contain less than a diet comprised of a ready meal, biscuits and a chocolate cereal, the truth is more surprising than you may think.

One meal plan is noticeably healthier looking, but you'll be surprised at how many calories each plan contains. Photo / GoCompare.com
One meal plan is noticeably healthier looking, but you'll be surprised at how many calories each plan contains. Photo / GoCompare.com

In fact, both meal plans contain exactly the same number of calories: 2,031 - roughly the recommended daily calorie intake for a woman.


The shocking comparison was put together by nutritionist Nichola Whitehead for Gocompare.com, to demonstrate that not all calories are created equal.

"While calories are important when it comes to losing, maintaining or gaining weight, they are not the sole element that we should be focusing on when it comes to improving our health, " says Nichola.

"In addition to being calorie aware, we need to focus on the types of food that we are (and aren't) eating."

The healthy diet may contain the same number of calories as the unhealthy meal plan but it is much better for you in terms of nutrition.

Nichola explains that the healthy diet contains: plenty of sugar-free fluids in the form of water, as well as green tea to ensure optimal hydration; an adequate amount of the recommended macronutrients, fats and carbohydrates; and is within the recommended daily intake of saturated fat and sugar (including free sugars).

Salt is also kept to a minimum as the meals are made from scratch and fibre levels are kept high thanks to the wide variety of fresh, wholesome ingredients.

Meanwhile the junk food diet is devoid of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, meaning that it provides little in the way of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fibre.

Most of the carbohydrates featured - chocolate cereal and white bread - provide quick-releasing, short-acting energy which doesn't keep energy up, nor hunger levels at bay.

While it provides an adequate amount of carbohydrates, protein and fats, it's high in saturated fat, which isn't the preferred type for long-term heart health, according to Nichola, with unsaturated fat being the optimum type of fat we should be consuming.

The meal plan also contains high volumes of sugar, most of which comes from the free sugars in the chocolate cereal, cola, chocolate, biscuits and ice-cream as opposed to natural sugars found in milk and dairy.

Sugary drinks have also been linked to both dental cavities and obesity.

"A healthy diet is a balanced diet, containing foods from all of the five food groups," explains Nichola. "That's fruits and vegetables for nutrients, whole grain starchy carbohydrates for energy and fibre, protein for growth and repair, dairy for calcium as well as healthy fats for many vital bodily functions including heart and brain health.

"While the two daily diets provide exactly the same number of calories, only one of them will leave you feeling more energised and provide you with what your body needs to stay strong and healthy in the long term.

"And that's vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre as well as slow-release carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats."

The 'healthy' meal plan: 2031 calories

The 'junk food' meal plan: 2031 calories