Making Sense of Passing Food Fads

If you think you’re too clever to fall for the latest food fad, you’ve already been duped! The introduction of unfamiliar foods into our diets started thousands of years ago as people traveled from one region to another and had to barter for food along the way. Since the foods being offered were unfamiliar, the sellers often embellished their value to make a good exchange. Each time a traveler told the tale of the special properties of the food he obtained on his journey, a fad was born.

We now know this willingness to try new foods and share our locally sourced foods with others contributed not only to the survival of our species, but to our fascination with new foods. It has also made us easy targets for food fads.

What is a food fad?

A food fad starts when a food is promoted with claims that sound too good to be true. “Fights cancer,” “Erases wrinkles,” and “Melts belly fat” are just a few examples that lure us in. As more and more people hear about the food and start buying it without questioning the “benefits,” the claims become accepted as common knowledge because everyone is talking about them as if they were true. The facts, or truth, about the food are not relevant. It is the shared belief in the claims that make it a fad.

Thanks to our hyper-connectedness on social media today, we become aware of food fads more quickly than ever before. Marketing campaigns can target us with messages that align so closely with our pre-existing beliefs and values that we rarely question whether they’re true or not. Then when we start seeing the latest dairy-free milk, or plant-based burger, or gluten-free pasta in grocery stores and on restaurant menus it’s easy to believe the claims about them are true.

Are all food fads bad?

One of the good things about food fads is they can get us to try something new. If you’ve ever added kale to your smoothie, or blended mushrooms into your hamburger, or shaken hot sauce on your eggs instead of salt you have reaped health benefits from those choices even if the fad didn’t live up to the hype that first drew you to it.  But you can suffer potential harm when you get caught up in fads that make you give up otherwise nutritious foods you were eating. For example, some people stop eating foods containing gluten because they believe the claim that gluten can make them fat. It can’t. Others stop buying conventionally grown produce and will only eat organic because they believe it’s more nutritious. It’s not. And then there are those who won’t eat anything containing GMOs based on the false claim they’re bad for the environment. These and many other food fads are not good for your health or your budget. Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell the good fads from the bad without doing a little research.

cheeseburger and French fries

What you eat and drink with your burger is as important as what the burger is made from.

Finding a fad worth sticking with

If you haven’t tried one of the new meatless burgers showing up on fast food menus across the country, doing your own investigation to see if the claims about them are true would be a good place to start. Anyone caught up in that fad says these “plant-based” burgers are better for you and the environment than beef burgers, but consider this. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that we eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day for optimal health, yet most Americans consume less than half that amount. Doesn’t it make more sense to work on meeting that goal since eating one of these “plant-based” burgers doesn’t even count as a serving of vegetables? I think so and I sure hope that’s a fad that catches on soon!

Disclaimer:

This blog was supported by the New York Beef Council but all of the content is my own.

Your diabetes meal plan doesn't change when you eat out

Dining Out with Diabetes

This blog was originally posted on CalorieControl.org 

Eating out now has a permanent place in our busy lives. The restaurant industry reports 20% of Americans eat out at least once a week, while 45% of us eat out multiple times each week. It’s convenient, offers more choices than what we might have at home, and is a great way to relax and socialize with family and friends without having to clean up afterwards.

But this can be a challenge if you’re one of the more than 100 million adults in the U.S. living with diabetes or prediabetes. You may be wondering, “How can I eat out if I’m following a special diet as part of my diabetes care plan?”

Well, the answer is simple. Just as you must make good choices when deciding what and how much to eat at home, you must also do that when eating out. Menu options may be different, but your personal meal plan remains the same. Since you are the expert about what should or shouldn’t be on your plate, it’s your job to help the person taking your order understand exactly what you want.

As you’ve probably experienced already, restaurants vary greatly in how well they can meet your needs. Those with standardized menus, like fast-food eateries, can’t make many changes since most of their food is portioned and partially prepared in advance. Others places make it clear right on the menu whether they allow substitutions and what special diet options are available, such as low-carb, gluten-free, or vegan.

Since most people living with diabetes need to control the carbohydrates in their meals, two of the most effective ways to do that are to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and limit servings of bread, pasta, potatoes and other high-carb foods. Ordering a diet drink or adding a low-calorie sweetener to your unsweetened beverage is possible everywhere. Reducing the carb count of your meal can be done by making requests such as:

  • No croutons on your salad
  • Two vegetable sides instead of one ‘starchy’ side dish and one vegetable
  • No bread basket, corn chips or fried noodles on the table
  • Toast OR home fries with your eggs, but not both
  • Half-portion of pasta, or an appetizer portion, as an entrée

You can find other options by reading the menu thoroughly in order to see everything available in the kitchen. Don’t be afraid to ask for sautéed mushrooms instead of gravy on your chicken or broiled cod in your fish tacos instead of breaded and fried. Chefs are used to getting special requests today and are ready to do what they can to accommodate you. It’s also good for their business if it makes you into a regular customer.

Here are some menu terms that can also help you find better portion sizes and lower prices without even asking.

A la carte – all menu items are priced separately, salads and side dishes are not typically included with the entrées

Blue-plate Special – a low-priced meal that typically changes daily and is not on the regular menu

Combination Meal or Combo Meal – typically includes specified food items and a beverage at a lower price if ordered as a “combo” than if ordered separately; sometimes called Value Meal

Early Bird Special – a reduced-priced dinner menu offered during a specified time in late afternoon /early evening

Entrée or Main Course – the most substantial course or dish in a meal (in U.S. and Canada), typically containing the meat, fish or other protein source

Family Style –courses are served on large serving platters to be shared by everyone at the table

Happy Hour – period of time when alcoholic drinks are available at discounted prices with free or reduced-priced appetizers

Prix Fixe or Table d’Hote – a set menu at a fixed price that typically includes an appetizer, entrée with two side dishes and dessert

Small Plates or Tapas – small dishes similar to appetizers ordered a la carte and often shared

Tasting Menu – a chef-selected meal that offers a variety of dishes served in small portions

RESOURCES

Evert AB, et.al (13). Nutrition Therapy for Adults with Diabetes or Prediabetes: A Consensus Report. Diabetes Care. 2019;42(5):73-754  https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/42/5/731

Restaurant Success in 2019. Toast Industry Report. https://d2w1ef2ao9.8r9.cloudfront.net/resource-downloads/2019-Restaurant-Success-Report.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf

Food industry is misleading the public about GMOs ion food

Letter to the Food Industry from a Frustrated Registered Dietitian

Using fear to sell food isn’t right and it may hurt you more than your customers in the long run

Dear food industry,

We have been working together for years – decades actually – and I have not felt the need to write to you until now. Even though our relationship hasn’t always been easy, I think we both realize we get the best results when we work together. That has generally meant I educate the public about food and nutrition for good health and you provide food choices to meet their needs. Deliberately misleading consumers was never part of the arrangement. So my question is this: Why are you using non-GMO claims as a marketing ploy?

We both know that GMO, or genetically modified organism for those who don’t, refers to crops developed through genetic engineering. Farmers think of it as another form of plant breeding, and that’s what I tell consumers it is. I also tell them it helps farmers get the best yields on the smallest amount of land using the fewest inputs (fertilizer, weed and pest control, water, etc.) so they can grow enough food to feed us all. And since we’re relying on just 2% of the entire U.S. population to grow all of our food, it makes sense to let those hard working farmers use all of the tools in their tool shed.

Farmers need to use every tool in their tool shed

Farmers have always relied on plant breeding to improve their crops

We both also know genetic engineering is a safe, thoroughly tested technology that has been used in food crops for over 20 years, but did you know it was used to make drugs before it was used for food? Genetically modified bacteria first produced insulin in 1976 and has been saving lives ever since. The first genetically modified foods didn’t come on the market in the U.S. until 1995.

What I can’t understand is why you would want to make GMOs look like something that should be avoided when you proudly sell so many other wholesome foods that are made with GMO crops?  It sends a mixed message to consumers when they see foods with GMO-free claims on their grocery store shelves right next to other foods without those claims. Even worse is when you pay to put a Non-GMO Project Verified seal on foods that couldn’t contain GMOs in the first place since they aren’t made with any of the eight GMO plants that humans eat (apples, canola, corn, papaya, potatoes, soybeans, squash and sugar beets). That means putting GMO-free claims on foods like canned tomatoes, wheat pasta, and olive oil is simply deceptive since all tomatoes, wheat and olive oil are GMO-free. And putting the claim on products that don’t even have genetic material, like salt and water, is absurd.

I hope you can see how this makes my job more difficult.

Fortunately, it looks like the Food and Drug Administration is going to take a closer look at the misuse of these claims. If they take action that will stop you from falsely suggesting that products with a GMO-free claim are safer, more nutritious, or are otherwise better than comparable products without the claim, and it will certainly ease my burden.  Plus it will save consumers all the money they now pay for the inflated prices you charge for these products.

There are no GMO oranges even though some brands of orange juice say they are GMO-free

Oranges are being wiped out by a bacterial disease that could be controlled by genetic engineering

There is one more reason why you may want to rethink your misuse of these claims. Food manufacturers might actually need GMO crops one day to continue making some of their bestselling brands. Isn’t it short-sighted to sabotage that possibility? I’m sure you’re familiar with the crisis Florida orange growers are facing due to a widespread bacterial disease that causes Citrus Greening. The use of biotechnology could save the orange juice industry, but that will present a problem for the companies with non-GMO claims all over their OJ (even though GMO oranges do not exist). If the only option available for them to stay in business is to use disease-resistant oranges made from genetically modified trees, they will have to drop the non-GMO claims on their juice. I can only imagine how confused their loyal customers will be when that happens.

Now that I’ve brought this issue to your attention I hope you will make amends so we can resume the cooperative working relationship we’ve had for so long. We certainly wouldn’t want to have to modify that.

 

science communications

Talking Science with Alan Alda to Feed the World

Many of us who grew up watching network television in the 1970s regularly tuned to the hit series, M*A*S*H. It was a witty, romantic “comedy-drama” set in a US Army Mobile Surgical Hospital in South Korea during the Korean War. Since we had no way to record the weekly episodes, we had to build our lives around watching it when it aired so we wouldn’t miss a zany moment in the lives of the beloved characters the show brought into our lives. One of them was Surgeon “Hawkeye” Pierce played by actor Alan Alda in all 256 episodes that spanned 11 seasons. You’d think you‘d really get to know a guy after spending that much time together for so many years, but what I didn’t know until last week is that Alan Alda’s television surgeon was actually a science nerd in real life.

On July 31, 2019, I attended a program sponsored by the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) about agriculture and food security issues around the world. The event was titled, “Justice, Evidence, Urgency: GMOs in a Changing World” and Alan Alda gave the opening remarks. While the topic was certainly of interest to me, hearing what Hawkeye had to say was also an incentive to attend.

Alda told us that after M*A*S*H ended he went on to host the PBS series Scientific American Frontiers, where he got to interview some of the most interesting scientists in the world. In that format, he said scientists spoke about their work the same way a novelist writes a great story. They would describe a protagonist and antagonist in their work or a hero and some obstacles, and that’s what made the show so engaging. That is also when he realized the reason most people don’t love science the way he does is because most people don’t understand what scientists are talking about. The solution, he decided, was to make scientists better communicators. So he established the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science in 2009.

The Alda Center “empowers scientists and health professionals to communicate complex topics in clear, vivid, and engaging ways; leading to improved understanding by the public, media, patients, elected officials, and others outside their own discipline.”  Located at Stony Brook University on Long Island, the workshops offered at the Center have trained thousands of scientists and doctors in improvisational techniques, known as The Alda Method®, with the goal of helping trainees connect with their audiences in a more personal way. Sound too good to be true? There’s more.

science communications

Justice. Evidence. Urgency. Inspiring a Climate for Change

A similar and equally innovative program developed at CALS is the Alliance for Science – a global initiative for science-based communications.  Started with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the objective of the Alliance is to change the conversation around crop biotechnology. One way they do that is through their Global Leadership Fellows program. It offers 12 weeks of intensive training to international “fellows” on the Cornell University Ithaca campus to empower them with the tools and skills they need to defend science and improve access to scientific innovation in their home countries.

The director of the Alliance for Science, Dr. Sarah Evanega, started the story-telling portion of the evening by sharing what inspired her to leave the lab at Cornell where she was conducting research for her doctorate in plant biology, and lead the fellows program. Like Alda, she said she felt what she was doing didn’t matter to most people because they couldn’t understand the science. Working on science communications became her passion.

International science fellows talk science

Alliance for Science international global leadership fellows

Evanega then introduced the three guest speakers on the program, all from Africa and recipients of   science communications training at Cornell. Each told her very personal and impassioned story about how their farms, their livelihoods, and their families have been impacted by problems that good science can solve. Whether it is drought, lack of pesticides, poor soil, or plant disease, low yields leave them without enough food to feed their children or make enough money to send them to school. All they want, each said, is social justice for smallholder farmers in the developing world and access to innovations that can bring them food security.

Their stories were very powerful and very effectively explained the science that stood between them and their prosperity. I can only hope they will be heard loud and clear beyond the confines of that room.

 

Addressing the Fiber Gap

This post originally appeared in fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

Choose higher fiber versions of the foods you now eat to help close the fiber gap

More fiber rich foods can be added to your meals and snacks to help close the fiber gap.

WHY IS SO MUCH FIBER MISSING FROM U.S. DIETS?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), first published in 1980 and revised every five years since, have each contained recommendations that provide ample sources of dietary fiber to meet every American’s needs.   If all Americans ate the recommended daily servings of whole grains; beans, peas and lentils; nuts and seeds; vegetables; and fruits there would be no “fiber gap,” or shortfall between our consumption of fiber and our requirements.  But Americans are not eating the recommended servings each day, or most days, of the foods rich in this indigestible carbohydrate that provides numerous health benefits (1).

The reasons Americans don’t consume enough dietary fiber are as diverse as the population itself. For some, it is simply a matter of taste preferences. Many who are “finicky eaters” in childhood grow up to be adults who still won’t eat broccoli.  For others, the reason is time constraints. Their schedules are so full they don’t believe they have the extra 20 minutes it takes to cook brown rice instead of white or slice a tomato for their sandwich.  Other reasons include perceived higher cost of high fiber foods, limited cooking skills to prepare them, lack of awareness about their options, and concern over digestive issues to name a few.

Whatever the reason for not eating enough fiber, the first step to closing the gap requires a change in one’s dietary pattern.

THE CHALLENGE OF DIETARY PATTERNS
The 2015-2020 DGA acknowledge that no individual food or nutrient is more important to our health than our overall dietary pattern (2). That is because dietary patterns reflect the amounts, variety and combinations of the different foods and drinks we regularly consume. Dietary patterns can also provide insight into where and when we eat, with whom, and how our food was prepared. (3). They are the key to knowing what our usual caloric and nutrient intake is over time.

If adequate amounts of fiber-rich foods are not part of someone’s dietary pattern, their habitual way of eating will have to be modified to incorporate them. This requires changes in long-established eating behaviors.

USING NUDGES FOR BEHAVIOR CHANGE
There is no one best way to help individuals, let alone entire populations, change their dietary patterns, but one method that has broad appeal is the use of “nudging” (4).  Nudge theory was popularized in the 2008 book, Nudge, co-authored by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, and helped Richard Thaler win a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2017 (5).Simply stated, nudge theory encourages people to make decisions that are in their own best self-interest by making it easier for them to do so.

The current recommendations for fiber intake are 14 grams for every 1000 calories or a total of 25 – 38 grams a day for adults. These are difficult goals for most people to comprehend, let alone calculate. But if we nudge someone to eat just one more serving a day of a good source of fiber from choices that are already part of their dietary pattern, they have a goal that is both doable and sustainable.

ADDING ONE MORE SERVING                                                                                                                                For example, if someone eats lunch in their school or workplace cafeteria every Monday through Friday and makes a salad from the salad bar, we can encourage them to add one more serving of a fiber-rich food to their bowl. This could be 6 cherry tomatoes, ½ cup chickpeas or barley salad, or 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds or dried cranberries. They don’t have to know how many grams of fiber they added or go out of their way to find these options. They just have to add one more serving of a vegetable, bean, grain, seed or fruit that they like and is right in front of them.

The next nudge to add one more serving could be to put an extra can of kidney beans in their homemade chili or mix a cup of frozen lima beans into a can of minestrone soup or blend some chopped walnuts with the bread crumbs they’re using to coat chicken cutlets. Little by little these nudges can help people increase their fiber intake by using foods that fit within the framework of their existing dietary pattern.

There are endless ways to “nudge” more sources of fiber into a dietary pattern by using higher fiber options in place of, or in addition to, the foods already being eaten, including the use of foods containing added fiber. The chart below provides examples of some ways to get started.

WAYS TO INCREASE FIBER IN THE DIET*
By replacing a Current Choice with the New Choice illustrated below, fiber intake can be nudged higher with each selection.

GRAINS

Current Choice Portion Size Fiber (gm) New Choice Portion size Fiber     (gm)
Bagel, pumpernickel 3.5” diameter 3 Bagel, whole wheat 3.5” diameter 8
Bread, whole wheat 1 ounce slice 3 Bread, whole wheat with added fiber 1 ounce slice 7
Pasta, white 2 ounces dry 1 Pasta,  with added fiber 2 ounces dry 6
Corn Flakes 1 ounce 1 Bran Flakes 1 ounce 5
Tortilla, flour 1 ounce 0 Tortilla, whole wheat 1 ounce 2

VEGETABLES

Yam, cubed without skin ½ cup 2 Yam, cubed with skin ½ cup 4
Spinach ½ cup 2 Collard Greens ½ cup 4
Hearts of Palm, canned 3 pieces 2 Artichoke Hearts, canned 3 pieces 3
Tomato Juice 1 cup 1 Vegetable Juice 1 cup 2
Zucchini Squash 1 cup 2 Acorn Squash 1 cup 6
Lima Beans ½ cup 4 Edamame, shelled ½ cup 9

FRUITS

Strawberry Milkshake 8 ounces < 1 Strawberry Smoothie 8 ounces 3
Peach medium 2 Pear medium 5
Pineapple 1 cup 2 Kiwi 1 cup 5
Fruit Leather 1 ounce 0 Apricots, dried 1 ounce 2
Grapes 1 cup 1 Raspberries 1 cup 8
Jam, concord grape 1 tablespoon 0 Jam, concord grape with added fiber 1 tablespoon 3

BEANS, NUTS & SEEDS

Tofu, firm ½ cup 3 Split peas, cooked ½ cup 8
Peanuts 1 ounce 2 Almonds 1 ounce 4
Black-eyed peas ½  cup 5 Navy beans ½ cup 9
Sesame seeds 1 tablespoon 1 Chia Seeds, dried 1 tablespoon 4
Sunflower Seeds 1 ounce 3 Pumpkin Seeds 1 ounce 5
Butter, salted 2 tablespoons 0 Peanut Butter, creamy 2 tablespoons 2

* Values are averages for similar items and rounded to nearest whole number


TIPS FOR DIETITIANS AND OTHER HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS 

  • Discuss the changes in bowel frequency and possible flatulence up front to avoid unexpected problems that could derail someone’s commitment.
  • Show respect for individual food preferences by basing recommendations on what clients like rather than the foods highest in fiber, many of which they may not like.
  • Avoid leading with the message that it is “easy” or “simple” to change one’s dietary pattern when it isn’t, but it can be done when the change is not too disruptive to one’s established routines.
  • Always include lower cost options in messaging, such as using canned, frozen and dried fruits and vegetables, to reinforce the fact all forms contribute needed fiber and other nutrients.
  • Make it clear the fiber in foods is not destroyed by preparation methods, such as chopping and pureeing or by temperature changes, such as boiling and freezing.
  • Suggest foods containing added fiber(s), such as granola bars, yogurts, and pasta, to replace lower fiber choices they may now be consuming.
  • Remind them that the claim “Made with Whole Grains” does not mean the food is a significant source of fiber so they must use the fiber information on the Nutrition Facts Panel to compare these foods to other products.
  • Look for the claims “High in Fiber” or “Good Source of Fiber” on product labels to easily find higher fiber foods.
  • Recommend fiber from a variety of food sources that contain different types of fiber since they have different benefits.
  • Encourage the use of QR scans and websites to find fiber information for foods that don’t have labels, like fresh fruits and vegetables and bulk grains and seeds.

REFERENCES:

  1. Hoy MK, Goldman JD. Fiber intake of the U.S. population What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010. Food Surveys Research Group Dietary Data Brief No. 12. September 2014.
  2. S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015 https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf
  3. Tucker KL. Dietary patterns, approaches, and multicultural perspective. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2010;35(2):211-218 doi: 10.1139/H10-010.
  4. Arno A, Thomas S. The efficacy of nudge theory strategies in influencing adult dietary behaviour: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2016;16:676. doi:10.1186/s12889-016-3272-x.
  5. Thaler RH, Sunstein CS. Nudge. Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. 2009, Penguin Books, London.

 

Items of Interest

Blending More Fiber into Meals

This post originally appeared in fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

It's easy to blend more fiber into meals with these helpful tips

Blending more fiber into meals is easier than you think

We’ve all seen the child who refuses to take even one bite of the steamed carrots on his or her plate, yet gobbles up the macaroni and cheese right next to it made with mashed carrots in the sauce. For many parents, this may feel like a nutrition success story, but is it really?  When children will only eat vegetables if they are hidden in something they like, they are missing an important lesson about the foods that make up a balanced diet. That is why I’ve always recommended “blending” instead of hiding foods to help children recognize and appreciate the contributions made by every food group to their health.  This lesson applies to teens and adults, as well.

Blending more vegetables (or other nutrient-dense food) into a recipe isn’t just a good way to enhance the nutritional value of a meal, it’s also a great way to extend the yield or lower the cost without significantly changing the look, texture or taste of the dish. It is also a valuable way to reduce food waste, like blending the heels of white and whole wheat bread to make bread crumbs for a meatloaf.

Another big benefit of blending is the way it can help close the gap in our intake of dietary fiber since many higher fiber foods blend well with the foods people regularly eat, such as smoothies, hamburgers and brownies. And since eating habits are so hard to change, blending a new food into an existing dietary pattern is a practical way to get more fiber into meals and snacks without having to give up the foods you already enjoy.

REVISE THE RATIO
A simple way to use blending to add more fiber to your diet is to increase the amount of one or more of the high fiber ingredients called for in a recipe while using a little less of something else that is lower in fiber. For example, you can “revise the ratio” by adding:

  • 1 ½ cups of raspberries to a smoothie and just ½ cup of melon cubes instead of one cup of each,
  • Swap another cup of beans in the chili to replace a cup of ground meat
  • Extra chia seeds on your yogurt and less granola
  • Add more cucumber and tomato slices into your salad and less lettuce

BLEND TO EXTEND
Blending is a great way to stretch or extend a recipe so you get a few more servings while increasing the fiber content. One way is to add a 15 ounce can of rinsed navy beans to a 28 ounce can of baked beans. There’s enough sauce in the baked beans to flavor the additional beans, but you’ll end up with ten half-cup servings instead of six, and each will all have more fiber and less sodium and added sugars than the original can of baked beans. Similarly, a cup of canned mixed vegetables can be blended into a can of vegetable soup to extend the servings from two to four while increasing the fiber content in them all.  And any recipe that starts with simmering diced vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and celery will taste even better and be higher in fiber if you extend the amounts of the vegetables called for. You can even add a cup or two of complementary frozen vegetables to a stew or soup simmering in a slow cooker during the last hour to extend the fresh ones added in the beginning.

BLEND TO ENHANCE
Ground meat, poultry or fish mixtures used to make things like meatballs, croquettes and fish cakes are an ideal place to blend in high fiber whole grain crumbs to “enhance” the fiber content. Crushed whole grain cereal or cracker crumbs can also be used or oatmeal. Stuffing mixtures made with white rice to fill peppers, acorn squash, and other hollowed vegetables can be blended with whole grains, such as brown rice, bulgur or barley to easily enhance the fiber content. And when making quick breads and muffins, part or all of the all-purpose flour called for can be blended with whole wheat or white whole wheat flour to boost the fiber content.

BLEND TO SWEETEN
Sweet potatoes are true to their name and the purple ones are even sweeter than the orange. When peeled, cooked and mashed they can be used to make much more than pie. Look for recipes that blend sweet potatoes into the batter for brownies, donuts, cookies and other sweet treats to replace some or all of the sugar and flour while increasing the fiber.  Sweetness and fiber are also available by blending pureed dates into recipes for granola bars, pudding, fudge and more. Don’t overlook the many ways to sweeten a smoothie without sugar and increase the fiber by using naturally sweet and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples and mangoes.

BLEND TO BULK UP
Beans, peas and lentils are true superfoods due to the many vitamins and minerals they contain, the plant-based protein they provide and the great source of fiber they add to any diet. Even more important to their superfood status, they are inexpensive and available everywhere all year long. To bulk up the nutrition and fiber profile of any meal, all you have to do is blend in some beans. Try using pureed beans or lentils to thicken a soup or make a sauce. You can bulk up your Bolognese with kidney beans or your guacamole with green peas. Pureed beans can also be added to cake batter for a more moist and dense dessert. Popular recipes include black beans in brownies, cannellini beans in coconut cake and baked beans in spice cake. The options are endless!

In every example I’ve provided, and those you come up with on your ownit is important to remember that the goal is to celebrate the benefits of blending more high fiber foods into your meals, not to hide or disguise them.

RESOURCES

Get More Fiber in Your Diet

High Fiber Chef: Cooking Tips to Prepare High Fiber Foods Like a Pro

Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

 

Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

This post originally appeared on fiberfacts.org and can be read here.

Food shopping today is very different from just 50 years ago when shoppers pushed a cart up and down the six to eight parallel aisles of a grocery store that only sold food.  Supermarkets now cover over 45,000 square feet and offer everything from the food we eat to the fuel we put in our cars to get it home. And if that’s too much trouble, consumers can simply place an order online and have their groceries delivered to their front door.

The food choices available today have changed, too. Shoppers can now buy every ingredient they need to prepare exciting new recipes or purchase meals kits that contain all of the pre-cut ingredients they need to make dinner for two in 20 minutes, or select a different complete meal for every member of the family from the prepared food department.

All of these changes in the food shopping experience mean the messages wellness professionals share with consumers about how to make the best food choices when shopping must change, too. This is especially true when guiding the public to all of the fiber-rich foods in the grocery store since so many Americans do not meet the recommended daily intake for dietary fiber.

One of the best ways to help consumers find fiber rich foods is to remind them they can be found throughout the store, not just in the fresh produce section or the cereal aisle. Encourage them to seek higher fiber options for the foods they already buy by comparing the fiber content on the Nutrition Facts labels and to take advantage of the many products that are a good, or better, source of fiber because they contain added fibers. Filling their carts (or online orders) with more fiber is easier when consumers realize the entire store offers them choices that they may not have taken advantage of before.

Suggestions for Finding Fiber in the Grocery Store

Serve Yourself Food Bars

  • Salad Bars with assorted leafy greens and pre-cut vegetables and fruits can be used to make customized salads or get the vegetables needed for a recipe
  • In-store buffets offer ready-to-eat vegetable, grain, and bean side dishes, and many high fiber plant-based ethnic entrees
  • ‘Mediterranean’ bars feature different types of hummus, roasted vegetables, tabbouleh, and stuffed grape leaves
  • Soup bars contain assorted varieties with vegetables, beans, peas, lentils and grains and chili with beans

Prepared Foods Department

  • Family-sized heat-and-serve side dishes with different types of prepared vegetables, potatoes, and grain mixtures can complement any entrée

Produce Department

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole and sectioned, including international varieties and seasonal selections
  • Peeled, diced, sliced, shredded, riced and spiralized fruits and vegetables that are recipe-ready
  • Bulk and bagged onions, potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes available all year round
  • Ready-to-serve Vegetable platters and fruit trays for entertaining

International Food Section

  • Greater assortment of bagged and canned beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds
  • Baby corn, assorted salsas, falafel mix, and other specialty vegetables and grain mixtures
  • Soba, ramen, udon and other whole grain Japanese noodles

Freezer Cases

  • Vegetables in single varieties or medleys, including edamame and other beans and peas, and vegetable mixtures combined with whole grains
  • Fruits and berries in single varieties or medleys and mixtures pre-cut for smoothies
  • Whole wheat and multigrain waffles, pancakes, French toast, pizza dough, and bake-and-serve dinner rolls
  • Vegan and vegetarian frozen meals, including meals-in-a-bowl, featuring beans, peas, and lentils and whole grains
  • Veggie burgers, veggie crumbles and other meat substitutes
  • High fiber ice creams containing added fibers

‘Center Store’ Packaged Food Aisles

  • Canned and jarred vegetables, including diced and stewed tomatoes and pureed pumpkin
  • Canned and jarred fruits in household and single serving sizes
  • Soups in cans, pouches and heat-and-eat single servings featuring vegetables, beans, lentils, peas and grains
  • Canned beans, peas and lentils and baked beans
  • Bagged dried beans, peas, lentils
  • Barley, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, sorghum, wild rice, brown rice and other whole grains
  • Assorted whole grain and high fiber breakfast cereals, including whole bran and cereals some with added fibers
  • Breakfast bars, cereal bars, and snack bars including some with added fiber
  • Whole wheat panko and bread crumbs, croutons and stuffing mixes
  • High fiber pasta and whole wheat couscous
  • Whole wheat and buckwheat pancake mix
  • Assorted whole grain flours and corn meal for cooking and baking
  • Whole grain quick bread and muffin mixes
  • Prune juice and some vegetable juices with added fiber

Condiments Section

  • Jars of roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, caponata and other marinated and pickled vegetables
  • Dry pack and oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes

‘Natural Foods’ Department

  • Bulk bin dried fruits, nuts, and seeds
  • Assorted nut butters in jars or freshly ground
  • Meal replacement bars, high protein bars, granola bars, and high fiber bars, some made with added fibers

Fresh Bakery Department

  • Artisanal multi-grain breads and rolls, many with seeds on top
  • Bran muffins, whole wheat croissants, multigrain crostini and seeded bread sticks

Deli and Packaged Bread Departments

  • Coleslaw, broccoli slaw, carrot salad, pickled beets, 3-bean salad, salads, vegetable fritters and other prepared vegetable grains and beans salads
  • Assorted whole grain and high fiber breads, rolls, English muffins, wraps, tortillas, flatbreads, pita, naan and other specialty breads
  • Ready-to-assemble whole wheat pizza crusts

Dairy Department

  • High fiber yogurts containing added fibers
  • High fiber cottage cheese containing added fiber

Refrigerated

  • Sauerkraut in bags and pouches
  • Guacamole and hummus in a variety of flavors and container sizes
  • Sectioned citrus and other fruits in jars, fresh salsa, and fresh bruschetta

Snack Food Aisles

  • Whole grain crackers, chips, pretzels, and popcorn
  • Single-pack nuts, seeds, and trail mix
  • High fiber brownies, cookies and cakes made with added fiber
  • Dry roasted peas, garbanzo beans and soybeans

Health and Beauty Department

  • Fiber supplements in capsules, tablets, gummies, and powdered mixes

REFERENCES

Dietary Fiber on the Food Label

Closing the Fiber Gap

Finding More Fiber-Rich Foods When Eating Out

This post was originally published on fiberfacts.org and can be read here.  

 

Research on the eating habits of Americans shows that our consumption of “foods away from home”* has been steadily rising since 1987. The amount of household food budgets spent on foods away from home surpassed the amount spent for “food at home” in 2010 when it reached 50.2 percent. (1) It has held that lead ever since.

Sources for the meals, snacks and beverages Americans eat away from home include quick-service, fast-casual and full-service restaurants; cafeterias, canteens and concessions; convenience stores, mobile food vendors and vending machines; and delis, bakeries, and drinking places. While a wide range of menu options are available in these outlets, the nutrient quality of the foods selected when eating in them traditionally has been higher in calories, fat, sodium and sugar than food from home. (1)

More recently, the quality of foods eaten away from home has become more similar to that of foods eaten at home due, in part, to the greater availability of healthy options on menus and the declining quality of the choices being served at home. (1)  Unfortunately, our intake of dietary fiber, an “underconsumed” nutrient according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020, is still not at recommended levels in either setting. (2)

Wellness professionals can help their clients close this gap by guiding them to fiber rich options when eating away from home in addition to those they can readily find in the grocery store for meals prepared at home.

One way to add more fiber-rich foods away from home is by making Smart Swaps and Substitutions. For example, rather than ordering the most popular “combos” on the menu, consumers can swap out something in those combos for one more serving of  fruit, vegetable, whole grains, beans, nuts or seeds as illustrated in the chart. If they don’t see the swap they want on the menu, they should be encouraged to ask for it since the more requests a restaurant receives for an item the more likely it will be to provide it in the future. The establishment may also suggest an alternative. Additionally, consumers may find higher fiber options by looking for the “healthier choice” icon featured on many menus today.

SMART SWAPS AND SUBSTITUTIONS TO INCREASE FIBER WHEN EATING AWAY FROM HOME

SUBSTITUTE THIS FOR THIS
For Breakfast  
Fruit cup or sliced tomato Home fried potatoes or hash browns
Half grapefruit or citrus sections Orange juice or grapefruit juice
Whole wheat toast or seeded rye toast White bread toast, English muffin or biscuit
Oatmeal with fruit or quinoa porridge Cream of wheat or grits
Pancakes or waffles with berries or bananas Pancakes or waffles with syrup or whipped cream
Bran muffin or corn muffin Donut or pastry
Vegetable omelet or burrito Ham or sausage omelet or burrito
Fruit and yogurt parfait with granola Fruit smoothie
Avocado on toast or bagel Cream cheese on toast or bagel
Huevos Rancheros (eggs, beans, salsa, tortilla) Eggs Benedict
For Lunch or Dinner: 
Cole slaw or apple slices French fries or potato chips
Whole wheat bread, roll or wrap White bread, roll or wrap
Black bean, lentil, or split pea soup Chicken noodle, chicken rice or matzo ball soup
Minestrone or mushroom barley soup Cream of potato, broccoli or mushroom soup
Salad topped with nuts, beans or seeds Salad topped with croutons, bacon bits or cheese
Extra lettuce, tomato, onions or peppers on a burger or sandwich Extra cheese or meat on a burger or sandwich
Brown rice with Chinese food or in sushi White rice with Chinese food or in sushi
Salsa or guacamole with corn chips Queso dip or nacho cheese with corn chips
Double vegetables with entree White rice or mashed potato with entree
Baked potato topped with salsa or chili Mashed potatoes with gravy
Peppers, onions or broccoli on pizza Sausage, pepperoni or meatballs on pizza
Roasted asparagus or Brussel sprouts appetizer Fried zucchini or onion blossom appetizer
Corn on the cob or baked beans side order Fried onion rings or macaroni and cheese
Meatless bean or veggie burger Beef or turkey burger
Beans and rice side dish Biscuits and gravy side dish
Snacks:
Popcorn, trail mix, or nut and seed packs Potato chips, cheese crackers, or pretzels
Granola bar or fig-filled cookies Candy bar or sandwich cookies
Freeze-dried fruits or dried fruit Fruit roll-up or gummy fruit
Hummus or guacamole with vegetables Cheese dip or spread with crackers
Fiber One® bars, brownies, or snack cakes Regular cookies, brownies, or snack cakes
Whole fruit  or non-browning apple slices Fruit cups or applesauce

Another way people can find more fiber when eating away from home is by patronizing ethnic restaurants featuring more plant-based cuisines.  This is also a good way to sample different fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, grains, nuts and seeds when they are properly prepared and seasoned. Once new dishes are tried away from home and enjoyed, it may increase the likelihood of their being purchased for home consumption when seen in the grocery store.

While everything on the menus in these restaurants is not high in fiber, there are many more plant-based choices than found on standard American menus and the chefs are often more willing to accommodate special requests. The key is to ask!

ETHNIC CUISINES WITH MORE PLANT-BASED CHOICES ON THE MENU

  • Chinese
  • Ethiopian
  • Indian
  • Indonesian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Middle Eastern (Lebanese, Israeli Syrian)
  • Thai
  • Vegetarian or Vegan
  • Vietnamese

*“Foods away from home” can include foods prepared and purchased away from home but eaten at home and “foods at home” can include foods prepared at home but eaten elsewhere.

 REFERENCES

1.Saksena MJ, Okrent AM, Anekwe TD, et al (17). America’s Eating Habits: Food Away From Home, EIB-196, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2018.

https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/publications/90228/eib-196.pdf?v=1045.6

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015

https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

artificial sweeteners and cancer

Nonnutritive Sweeteners and Cancer: Evaluating the Evidence

This article was written for the dietetic practice group of Nutrition Education for the Public and published in the 2017 summer issue of their newsletter, Networking News. You can read the original post here.

Research to find a cure for cancer is matched only by the efforts to find the cause. Studies have shown that the types and amounts of food eaten over time, or our dietary pattern, can both increase the risk of certain types of cancer and decrease the risk for others. If individual foods or additives are suspected of causing cancer, they are removed from the food supply when evidence confirms their carcinogenicity. And other factors, such as genetic predisposition and environmental exposures, can influence whether someone will develop cancer regardless of diet.

Establishing the safety of any food, additive,or even drinking water must consider exposure and risk. Dietary Reference Intakes(DRI) and Acceptable Daily Intakes(ADI) . provide safety thresholds for nutrients and food additives, respectively,by determining the risk associated with their consumption over a lifetime. These are valuable references for registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) who want to provide evidence-based answers to questions,such as how much Vitamin A or aspartame can be safely consumed.

Where does the public get answers to their questions about artificial sweeteners? If someone asks, “Do artificial sweeteners cause cancer?”, they will get over three million search engine results. The first one in my Google search was from the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s principle agency for cancer research. The second was from the site of Dr. Mercola, whose mission statement says, in part, to expose government hype that diverts you away from what is truly best for your health. The answers offered by these two sources could not be more opposed. Other articles in my search included one with quotes from“actress and health expert” Suzanne Somers to those embedded among the recipes on Delish.com.

Is it any wonder the public is confused about the safety of low- and no-calorie sweeteners (LNCS)? Even people who never search for nutrition information online are being influenced by the extreme results found there, and this is a challenge for RDNs and health professionals. According to the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food & Health Survey, consumers feel personal healthcare professionals are more trustworthy than looking online about what to eat or not eat, but they turn to family and friends more often to guide their food choices.

What does the science say about low- and no-calorie sweeteners?

Consumers may be confused about the safety of LNCS, but there is no reason for RDNs to be. Our education in a science-based curriculum prepares us to understand the merits of different types of study design and the interpretation and application of their results. We know we can rely on the findings reported in systematic reviews and meta-analyses to assess whether the amount and quality of evidence on a subject is sufficient to guide client decisions. And as members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), we can also access the Evidence Analysis Library to find practice guidelines drawn from completed systematic reviews that answer specific questions based on the quality and extent of the evidence. Our training and these resources allow us to provide the public with consistent, accurate and ethical information within our scope of practice.

So when asked if LNCS cause cancer, one of the first sources we can check is the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER) of the NCI. It collects, analyzes, interprets and disseminates data on cancer prevalence. Here we can see if the incidence of any type of cancer can be attributed to the worldwide increase in the use of LNCS over the past several decades or to any one of them as an individual sweetener. To date, there is no data to support either query.

The next source is, “Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention” from the American Cancer Society (ACS) and published in CA: A Journal for Clinicians. It states:

Current evidence does not show a link between these compounds [nonnutritive sweeteners and sugar substitutes] and increased cancer risk. Aspartame,saccharin and sucralose are a few of the nonnutritive, synthetic sweeteners approved for use by the FDA. Current evidence does not demonstrate a link between ingestion of these compounds and increased cancer risk.”

These Guidelines reflect the scientific consensus on cancer prevention from the ACS and are comparable to the Position Paper: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. They are also supported by the National Cancer Institute, Food and Drug Administration, European Food  Food Safety Authority, and many other food safety authorities around the world.

Why all the controversy over low-and no-calorie sweeteners and cancer risk?

Despite the approval of LNCS for use by populations in more than 100 countries, questions about possible cancer risks are still raised. I have two explanations to help you address this with your clients and consumers.

The early history of saccharin and cyclamate, the first two artificial sweeteners widely used in the U.S., is riddled with cancer claims, warning labels, bans, moratoriums and research reversals. When new research proved they posed no cancer threat for humans, only saccharin was reapproved in the U.S. by the FDA, while cyclamate remained banned. It is, however, approved in 130 other countries. Ever since, suspicions have remained that use of any LNCS might increase cancer risk. This is the result of what I call the“Satan Effect.”

Like the “Health Halo” that imbues foods of questionable nutritional value with a more righteous reputation because of the company they keep, the “Satan Effect” does the opposite. It disparages an otherwise safe food because it is associated with a negative trait and cannot shake the bad reputation, even if undeserved. In the case of LNCS, the effect is reinforced by news outlets that continually exploit any study that finds tumors in lab animals exposed to huge quantities of LNCS, even when the findings cannot be extrapolated to humans, or studies that report associations based on methodology that cannot demonstrate causality. This leads to the second explanation for all the controversy.

All low- and no-calorie sweeteners are not the same

One thing all LNCS sweeteners have in common is their intense sweetening power compared to sugar, but that is where their similarities end. Nine LNCS have been approved for use in the U.S. by the FDA or meet the standards for Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) exemptions. They are acesulfame potassium, advantame, allulose*, aspartame, monk fruit extract (GRAS), neotame, saccharin, stevia (GRAS), and sucralose.

As reported in the Special Article, “Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners” published in Nutrition Reviews in 2016, LNCS do not have the same structures and chemical compositions, are not derived from the same sources, and do not have the same metabolic outcomes or excretion pathways once ingested. Some are digested and indistinguishable from amino acids consumed in any other protein source. Some are not metabolized by humans and excreted unchanged in feces. Others are partially absorbed into the systemic circulation before being excreted in the urine.

These unique features of LNCS are critical, yet are often overlooked in the headlines and tweets that proclaim “artificial sweeteners cause cancer” (or any other disease). As translators of science for the public, our job is to read the studies, or consult with colleagues who have,to get the story right.We need to confirm which LNCS were used, or the product containing them, and not rely on headlines regarding the findings. We must also compare the study design and results to the existing body of research in order to evaluate the impact of new evidence.

A final point worth noting is level of exposure, as discussed earlier in this article. The available LNCS are 200 to 20,000 times sweeter than sugar,which greatly limits the amount found in any product. They are also regularly used in combination with one another, further minimizing the amount of any one likely to be consumed over a lifetime. At present,the Estimated Daily Intakes for LNCS fall below 10 percent of the Acceptable Daily Intakes, as explained in my article, “It’s the Dose that Matters.”With market reports showing a steady increase in the number of new LNCS expected to become available over the next 20 years, there is little reason for anyone to be concerned about over exposure to LNCS in the food supply.

Doing what we do best

Knowing that RDNs are one of the most trusted sources of nutrition information in the eyes of the public gives us a valuable opportunity to redirect the conversations surrounding LNCS from those steeped in opinions and inaccuracies to ones based in facts and truth. This effort is greatly enhanced when we are all sharing the same evidence-based information. I hope this article will strengthen your resolve to do just that.

*A low calorie sugar

References

World Health Organization. International Agency for Research on Cancer. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.iarc.fr/en/about/index.php

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). Accessed June 26, 2017. https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx

European Union Food Information Council. Acceptable Daily Intakes (ADIs) Q&A. Posted December 1, 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017. http://www.eufic.org/en/understanding-science/article/qas-on-acceptable-daily-in takes-adis

National Cancer Institute. Artificial Sweeteners and Cancer. Reviewed August 5, 2009. Accessed June 22, 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/artificial-sweeteners-fact-sheet

Mercola.com. Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/03/30/artificial-sweetenerscause-cancer.aspx

Newsmax.com/health.Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Cancer? Ask Suzanne Somers http://www.newsmax.com/Health/Headline/Somers-artificial-sweeteners-cancer/2 011/12/22/id/477953/

Delish.com. The Truth About Splenda Causing Cancer http://www.delish.com/food-news/a46349/is-splenda-really-linked-to-leukemia/

International Food Information Council. 2017 Food & Health Survey Executive Summary on Food Confusion. Accessed June 21, 2017. http://www.foodinsight.org/sites/default/files/2017-ExSum-FoodConfusion.pdf

Tappenden KA. A Unifying Vision for Scientific Decision Making: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Scientific Integrity Principles, JAcadNutriDiet. 2015;115(9):1486-1490. https://www.andeal.org/vault/2440/web/files/EAL/Tappenden_et_%20al_%20201 6_SIP.pdf

Handu D, Moloney L., et.al (4). Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Methodology for Conducting Systematic Reviews for the Evidence Analysis Library JAcad Nutri Diet. 2016;116(2):311-318 http://jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(15)01705-0/pdf

Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer statistics, 2016. CA:Cancer J Clin. 2016;66(1):7-30 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21332/full

Kushi LH, Doyle C. et. al (8) Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention. CA: Cancer J Clin. 2012;62:30-77. https://sinaitemple.org/pdf/STMC/ACSGuidelines.pdf

Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012;112(5):739-758 http://jandonline.org/article/0002-8223(93)91762-F/pdf

National Institutes of Health. National Cancer Institute. Common Cancer Myths and Misconceptions. Posted February 3, 2014. Accessed June 26, 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths

European Food Safety Authority. Sweeteners. Accessed June 20, 2017. https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/sweeteners

U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Additional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States. Last updated 05/26/15. Accessed June 23, 2017. https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/foodadditivesingredients /ucm397725.htm

National Research Council (US) Committee on Comparative Toxicity of Naturally Occurring Carcinogens. Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens in the Human Diet: A Comparison of Naturally Occurring and Synthetic Substances. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1996. 4, Methods for Evaluating Potential Carcinogens and Anticarcinogens. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK232624/

Calorie Control Council. Worldwide Approval Status of Cyclamate. Posted September 29, 2009. Accessed June 23, 2017. http://www.cyclamate.org/pdf/Cyclamate_worldwidestatus.pdf

Magnuson BA, Carakostas MC, Moore NH, Poulos SP, Renwick AG. Biological fate of low-calorie sweeteners. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(11):670-689 Accessed June 22, 2017 http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/nutritionreviews/74/11/670.full.pdf

Marinovitch M, Galli CL, et. al (3). Aspartame, low-calorie sweeteners and disease: regulatory safety and epidemiological issues. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013;60:109-115 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23891579

Flipse R. It’s the Dose that Matters. CalorieControl.org. Posted June 14, 2016. Accessed June 23, 2017. http://caloriecontrol.org/its-the-dose-that-matters/

Green M. Sweeteners Round-up. PreapredFoods.com. March 23, 2017. Accessed June 21, 2017 http://www.preparedfoods.com/articles/119583-sweeteners-round-up?

Satisfy your sweet tooth while reducing added sugars

No Need to Give Up Sweets, Just Get Them Naturally

Improve the quality of your diet and satisfy your sweet tooth by replacing foods high in added sugars with those that contain naturally occurring sugars

I admit it, I have a sweet tooth. I’ve had it all of my life.  I never thought much about it when I was a child because everyone I knew had one too. Or a full set! My crowd simply liked sweet tasting foods more than salty, savory, sour or bitter ones. It surprised us when someone said they didn’t like sweets. But that didn’t mean we ate cake, cookies and candy all day long. Far from it. It simply meant we enjoyed naturally sweet fruits and vegetables as part of every meal and snack. And I still do today.

Imagine if no one had ever told you that Tootsie Rolls were candy and dates were not. You could easily get them confused. Same for the choice between a Popsicle or some frozen seedless grapes as a treat. And if you’ve ever had sweet potatoes mashed with some orange zest and butter you know they taste like you’re having dessert for dinner.

The point is, our eyes know the difference between a piece of chocolate fudge and a ripe banana, but our bodies cannot tell the difference between the sugars they contain since they are virtually the same. That is where the similarities end. The sugar in the fudge is delivered with saturated fats that can lead to heart disease while the naturally occurring sugars in the banana come packaged with fiber, vitamins and minerals that help prevent heart disease. Eating a banana every day, or any other serving of fruit, in place of something sweet made with added sugars is how I’ve maintained a balanced diet all my life without giving up the sweet taste I love.

So if you’re worried that you or your children eat too many added sugars, consider changing the delivery system to get your sweet fix.  The major sources of added sugars in American diets today are grain-based desserts, dairy desserts and soft drinks. If you’re relying on them to satisfy your sweet tooth you’re being cheated out of the nutrients your body needs in two ways. First, because those sugary foods and drinks supply very few vitamins and minerals along with all the sugar they contain, and second, they displace the foods we could be eating that provide plenty of essential nutrients.

This is where fruits and vegetables come into the picture. Instead of going on some bizarre “sugar detox” diet where you eliminate everything that tastes sweet in an attempt to “control your craving” for sweets, you can just use naturally sweet foods in their place and avoid all the drama. This approach is easier than you think when you realize all forms of fruits and vegetables are an option – frozen, canned, dried and 100% juices – not just the fresh varieties that have reached their peak of sweetness. And no matter what the form, including conventionally grown or organic, they all deliver important nutrients and fiber along with their natural sweetness.

Try some of these ways to satisfy your sweet tooth using fruits and vegetables at your meals and snacks . You may be surprised at how sweet life can be without all the added sugars!

  • Freeze a can of pears in natural juices and then scoop contents into the food processor and whirl for sweet sorbet
  • Mix golden raisins into homemade trail mix instead of candies
  • Add crispy freeze-dried fruits to unsweetened breakfast cereals for their intensely sweet taste
  • Make a tropical pilaf by adding crushed pineapple and toasted coconut to your favorite cooked whole grain
  • Reduce full-strength juices, like grape and apple, to replace sugary meat glazes and sauces
  • Stir chopped apple, vanilla and some apple pie seasoning into hot oatmeal
  • Roast parsnips and carrot strips together until caramelized for some sweet vegetable fries
  • Warm applesauce in the microwave oven before eating to heighten the sweet taste
  • Make watermelon pops with the juice and diced pieces from a cut watermelon
  • Add sliced strawberries to a peanut butter sandwich in place of strawberry jam

BONUS TIP: Keep a container of dried fruit like apricots, figs and prunes in the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. They’re easy to eat, have no peels or pits to remove, they don’t bruise or spoil and are available all year round.

Related blogs:

10 Fun Ways to Eat Enough Fruit This Summer

Cutting Back on Too Much Added Sugar: Your Heart Will Say Thank You!