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!

 

Reducing food waste starts at home

Reducing Food Waste with Common Kitchen Utensils

I grew up with parents and grandparents who lived through The Great Depression, so I learned some valuable lessons about frugality by the way they lived their lives. Lessons like saving for the things you want rather than buying on credit, following a household budget so you can pay your bills on time, and never wasting anything, including the electricity to power a light left on in a room after you’ve left, the cold air in the refrigerator that escapes when the door is left open too long, and the crumbs in the bottom of a box of corn flakes that can be used in the meatloaf. The lessons about not wasting edible, usable food have had the most lasting impression on me.

When I was a college student on a very limited budget, my frugal food skills helped fill many gaps in my diet, like freezing the milk in my fridge in ice cube trays before leaving for extended breaks so I could thaw it and use it in cooking when I returned. Then once I graduated, got a job and had a full pantry and bank account, I still couldn’t bear to toss out a mangled crust of bread. Instead, I’d freeze it with other random pieces to be turned into crumbs the next time I need some. And I can’t stop myself from checking the misshapen fruits and vegetables in the discounted bin at the grocery store. If more of us would buy them it would go a long way to reducing the 36 million tons of edible food that get tossed out every year in the United States.

If it shocks you as much as it does me that so much food in this country is wasted while so many people do not have enough to eat, you do not have to wait for new government regulations to make a difference. There is plenty each of us can do right in our own homes to make sure we always use what we have and only buy what we need to avoid wasting food.  This Infographic from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells the whole story and you can visit eatright.org for more information on healthful eating or to find a registered dietitian nutritionist.

To help get you started, here are my top tips for getting every last bit of goodness out of the food I buy using some common household utensils.

Rubber Spatulas – They come in assorted sizes, shapes and handle lengths to make it easy to scrape the insides of jars, cans, bottles and other food containers. Without one you could be throwing out 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise in every quart jar and a teaspoon of tomato paste in every 6 ounce can.

Ice Cube Trays – This is the perfect way to save and freeze any extra stock, sauce, or gravy you have, or the milk before going on vacation. Just pop the cubes out once frozen and store in a labeled zip-top bag. Trays with lids help prevent spills and the transfer of odors from other foods. Ice cube trays can also be used to freeze fresh herbs that have been cleaned, trimmed and chopped and fruit juices, pulp or puree that can be used in smoothies.

Salad Spinner – You may not have to toss that limp looking lettuce, just give it a rinse in cold water and a spin to bring it back to life.  If it doesn’t revive enough for salad, chop it and add to a soup or smoothie. Spinning washed salad greens, herbs, and berries before storing in the refrigerator also helps to keep them fresh longer by removing excess water.

Sharp Paring Knife – By cutting away the blemished part of many types of produce (potato, bell pepper, carrot, apple, pear, winter squash) you can eat or cook  the remaining portion without risk. Removing all around the moldy edge on a piece of hard cheese or hard salami is also a way to save the rest.

Citrus Zester or Microplane There’s plenty of flavor to be salvaged from those lemon, lime and orange rinds, so be sure to wash and rinse them and collect what you want before cutting the fruit for other uses.  You can put grated zest, strips or strings in a labeled jar or zip-top bag in the freezer to have on hand when a recipe calls for it.

BONUS TIPS:

Add water, vinegar or wine to near-empty mustard and catsup containers, close cap tightly, shake, and then add to soups, sauces, or dressings.

Add milk to near-empty containers of peanut butter, honey, molasses, jam, jelly, preserves, chocolate syrup, pancake syrup, or maple syrup,  close cap tightly, shake and drink or add to a smoothie.

Read more in Reducing Food Waste from Farm to Fork.

A balanced diet is just one part of a balanced lifestyleons

How Healthy Eating Habits, Exercise and Emotional Well-Being Are Connected

This blog was originally published on SplendaLiving.com.

As a registered dietitian I am always talking and writing about food and nutrition. I want to be sure everyone knows that a balanced diet is essential to good health. But your diet is not the only thing that must be balanced. Eating right is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Regular exercise and emotional well-being are equally important parts of a healthy lifestyle, and they must all be balanced for you to feel your very best.

What Does It Mean to Be Healthy?

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” I think most people would agree they don’t think they’re healthy just because they don’t have malaria or some other illness. We want to feel well physically, mentally and socially, and to achieve that state of health we must recognize the connections between eating, exercise and our emotions.

Healthy eating provides the nutrients we need for a strong immune system that can help to defend us against certain illnesses and lower our risk of developing other diseases. It also provides the fuel we need to be as active as we want to be and enhances our sense of well-being when we have enough to eat and can enjoy food with others. Regular physical activity helps to keep our muscles strong and increases our stamina so we can do the things we want to do. It also helps burn off the calories in the food we eat and it improves circulation so that oxygen and vital nutrients can be delivered to every cell of the body. Good emotional health comes from having supportive relationships with others, a positive outlook on life and a meaningful spiritual connection. If one arm of this triad is weakened, the others will bend, too.

Connecting the Parts of a Healthy Lifestyle

Consider this simple example of the way the parts of a healthy lifestyle are connected. You rush to the gym after work committed to getting 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 15 minutes of strength conditioning. You feel sluggish after just 15 minutes on the treadmill because you didn’t eat or drink anything for several hours before exercising. You stop exercising and feel bad for not being able to complete your workout. By the time you get home you are so hungry and demotivated that you wolf down an entire bag of potato chips instead of making the dinner you had planned.

Sound familiar? Now consider what the chances are that you’ll get a good night’s sleep and wake up early to get to the gym after a light breakfast? As you can see, the links between eating, exercise and emotions are strong, and if one breaks down your healthy lifestyle can be thrown out of balance.

In that first example, not eating before exercising puts a negative chain reaction in motion. Another trigger might be when you feel very so anxious about something – maybe an incomplete project at work or larger than expected credit card bill – that you skip going to the gym just when you need the stress relief that exercise can provide the most. Research has shown that exercise can increase the chemicals in our brains that contribute to feelings of happiness and improve our focus and memory so we perform better at tasks. Without these benefits of exercise, we are more likely to continue feeling stressed, make poor food choices and have difficulty sleeping, which compound our problems.

Healthy Eating Habits for All the Right Reasons

One thing that does not contribute to a healthy lifestyle is the feeling you must do everything perfectly, especially when it comes to your diet. I can’t think of anything that could be more stressful! The balance we are seeking allows for some ups and downs, so strive to do your best and be forgiving if you can’t always live up to your own expectations for healthy eating habits.

Here are my top three healthy eating tips to add to your healthy lifestyle.

  1. Have a plan. Knowing where, when and what you intend to eat each day leaves less room for error. Be realistic when making your eating plan and be ready to adjust it whenever needed, keeping in mind that every choice you make does count.
  2. Avoid extremes. There’s no reason to eliminate any food from your diet (unless medically required), but it’s also not wise to over-consume any food, either. Moderation is the goal. For example, if you want to reduce the amount of added sugars you consume, consider replacing some of them with a low calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, so you can continue to enjoy sweet tasting foods and drinks, but with fewer calories.
  3. Take your time. You have to eat every day for the rest of your life, so don’t try to make too many changes too quickly. Ease into what fits your current means and routines while leaving the door open to explore other options when time allows. And to get the most of your meals, be mindful of each mouthful.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

For more information about adopting healthy eating habits, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
References:

 

apple bread pudding made with Splenda

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

This blog was originally posted on SplendaLiving.com.

Most people have heard of the main foods groups that make up a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. They are represented on the five sections of the MyPlate icon to help us plan balanced meals, and they made up the levels of the Food Guide Pyramid that preceded it. There are also some food components we need to eat less of in order to have a healthy diet. These include added sugars, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, alcohol and caffeine.

Since February is American Heart Month, it’s the perfect time to talk about how we can make better choices when using our “discretionary calories” for improved heart healthy eating.

What Are Discretionary Calories?

If you’ve ever planned a budget you know some things on it are essential (buying food), while others are optional (eating out). The same is true for the calories we consume, or more specifically, where our calories come from. The calories found in foods that deliver essential nutrients are more important than the calories found in foods that provide few or no nutrients. Once we eat the foods (and calories) that deliver all of the nutrients we need each day, any calories left in our budget are considered “discretionary” calories. They can be used for a little more of the foods in the main food groups, a form of a food that is higher in fat or added sugars or the addition of some ingredients during preparation that are higher fat or sugar. They can even be used occasionally to eat or drink things like cake or regular soda that are mostly fat and sugar. (The American Heart Association provides more information about discretionary calories here.)

Managing the Solid Fats and Added Sugars in Your Heart Healthy Diet

Solid fats are found in foods such as well-marbled cuts of meat and higher fat ground meats, bacon and other processed meats, many cheeses, and baked goods made with butter, stick margarine, cream and/or shortening. We can reduce the amount of solid fat in our diets by not eating the foods containing them as often and taking a smaller serving when we do. We can also select leaner cuts of meat, reduced fat cheeses and lower fat snacks and desserts to avoid some solid fats and prepare our meals using less of them. You can find plenty of other tips and techniques on how to do that in Simple Cooking with Heart® from the American Heart Association.

Added sugars are found in most prepared foods and beverages that taste sweet, including the baked goods mentioned above that are also high in solid fats and in products like spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. They can also be an ingredient in foods that do not taste sweet, like spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. Taking inventory of how many sweetened foods and drinks you consume every day is a good way to see how common they are in your diet and decide which ones you can eliminate, reduce or replace with something else.

Recipes That Deliver on Sweet Taste

Recommendations from the American Heart Association for the amount of added sugar we should not exceed each day are 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. Their helpful infographic, Life is Sweet, illustrates many ways you can reach those goals, such as by using a no-calorie sweetener like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener instead of sugar in your hot and cold drinks. And finding recipes that use less sugar is as easy as opening this link at Splenda.com. Here you will find SPLENDA® recipes categorized so you can quickly find something to prepare for any course on your menu and recipes for different health needs like Diabetes Friendly* and Heart Healthy**.

I’ve selected a few of my favorite recipes to help you get started. I’m sure some may be surprised to hear that each can be part of a heart healthy lifestyle when you serve them.

Lemon glazed jumbo shrimp salad

Lemon Glazed Jumbo Shrimp Salad 
Aromatic salad greens and succulent shrimp drizzled with a zesty-sweet dressing make a refreshing salad.

Servings Per Recipe: 4; Serving Size: 2 jumbo shrimp, ¾ cup salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper – trimmed, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced mango
  • 1 pinch black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over high heat; add shrimp and cook for 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through. Using tongs, transfer shrimp to a plate. Add vinegar, SPLENDA®Sweetener, crushed red pepper, and jalapeno. Bring to a boil and cook for 4-5 minutes or until reduced by half, then remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Place arugula, red pepper, and mango in a large bowl. Toss gently with some of the dressing and season to taste.
  3. Divide arugula mixture among 4 serving plates; top each salad with two shrimp and drizzle evenly with the warm vinegar mixture. Season with black pepper to taste.                        Nutrition Info

 

Dessert can still be sweet with less added sugars

Make delicious desserts with less added sugars using Splenda

Apple Bread Pudding 
Whole grain bread, apples and cinnamon make a sweet dessert. This recipe was created with the American Heart Association as part of the Simple Cooking with Heart®Program to help families learn how to make great nutritious meals at home.

Servings Per Recipe: 6; Serving Size: 3”x4” piece

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 whole egg and 1 egg white
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons SPLENDA®Brown Sugar Blend
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves or allspice
  • 6 slices light style whole-grain or multi grain bread cut in to cubes
  • 3 medium apples, cored and cut in to 1/2 inch cubes

Optional: 1/4 cup of any one of the following: raisins, dried cranberries, fresh or dried blueberries, chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds.#

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Spray 9×9 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl, whisk together egg, egg white, milk, SPLENDA®Sweetener , vanilla, cinnamon, and cloves.
  4. Add bread and apple cubes. Add additional fruit or nuts if desired. Mix well.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.
  6. Serve warm and enjoy with a glass of skim or low-fat milk!

# Note: Optional ingredients are not included in the nutrition analysis.                                         Nutrition Info
 

Citrus Mint Tea
A refreshing drink to keep on hand for the family and a favorite of thirsty guests.

Servings Per Recipe: 10; Serving Size:8-fl. oz.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 5 regular-size tea bags
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • Garnish: lemon slices, orange slices, fresh mint sprigs

Directions:

  1. Pour boiling water over tea bags and mint leaves; cover and steep 5 minutes.
  2. Remove tea bags and mint, squeezing gently.
  3. Stir in SPLENDA®Sweetener and remaining ingredients.
  4. Serve over ice. Garnish with lemon slices, orange slices and fresh mint sprigs.              Nutrition Info

* SPLENDA® ”diabetes friendly” recipes contain < 35% of total calories from fat, < 10% of total calories form saturated fat, and no more than 45 grams of carbohydrate per serving.

** SPLENDA® ”heart healthy” recipes contain < 6.5 grams of total fat, < 10% of total calories form saturated fat, <= 240 mg of sodium and at least 10% of the Daily Value of one of these nutrients (vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, protein or dietary fiber). While many factors affect heart disease, diets low in saturated fat may reduce the risk of this disease.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

To learn more recipe tips for cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
 

Book review of GMO food

What’s So Controversial About Genetically Modified Foods?

First published on the “FoodAnthropology” blog of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition.

Editor’s Note: This is the second of two reviews of this book, with a rather different perspective. For the first review by Ellen Messer, link here

What’s So Controversial about Genetically-Modified Foods? John Lang. Reaktion Publishers. 2016

If you want to write a book about a controversy, putting the words “genetically modified food“ in the title should help sell it. Genetic modification of food involves altering the genes of a seed to improve the traits in the plant. It is a difficult technology for most people to understand, and even harder for them to accept when used on what they eat.  A recent Pew Research survey on the risks and benefits of organic and genetically modified (GM) foods found 75% of those who are deeply concerned about GM foods say they are worse for one’s health than other foods, and 79% do not trust information about GM foods from food industry leaders. Is reading What’s So Controversial About Genetically Modified Food? going to allay their fears? Maybe not, but the book does fill a gap in the literature by providing entry to a discussion of how GM foods are just one part of a complex and consolidated food system that has made the global food supply more nutritious, affordable and plentiful than at any other time in history.

Author John T. Lang states his goal in this work was to move towards a more productive model of agriculture based on better policy and investment choices. He effectively uses the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO) as a proxy for the failures of the current food system. The handful of companies that make GM seeds and agrochemicals serve as a more tangible target than the elusive international policies and trade agreements that have restricted land ownership and blocked investment in infrastructure, warehouses, distribution facilities, centralized markets, and other farm supports needed for local food production to succeed in many parts of the world.  Instead, readers are given an unfolding narrative of how the interconnectedness of the global food system created the need for the consolidation of agribusiness companies so they could operate more efficiently, standardize their products and meet the food safety requirements of their trade partners. These multinational companies were then able to use their vast resources to invest in the research to develop the GM crops that are now being blamed for a breakdown in the religious, social, cultural and ethical meanings of food.

Astute readers will find it difficult to accept this tradeoff. The more important message about this technology they will gain is that it is simply another tool for farmers, like the plough or tractor, both of which were controversial when first introduced.  Readers will come to appreciate that farming is a business, whether done by conventional or organic methods, and it faces the same problems of scale as any other business that tries to expand.  And like any other tool, GMOs can be replaced by ones that do a better job at solving a problem, so working with the companies that develop new technologies is the best way to have an impact on the design of the new tools. A poignant example of this is concept is found in this critique of sustainable agriculture by Tamar Haspel for The Washington Post.

Lang’s focus on GMOs as a surrogate for a broken food system also provides an expedient way to illustrate how central trust is to our relationship with food today. As Lang explains, fewer and fewer companies control every aspect of our food from “gene to supermarket shelf,” and the path our food travels is a “maddening, impenetrable maze.”  He says the food system has become so complex and entwined that it’s “almost impossible to ascertain the true origins of any given foodstuff.”  Is it any wonder the public finds it difficult to trust all of the players in the food chain, especially when they view companies, regulators, and policy makers as having their own vested interests?  This “trust factor” is further compounded by the indeterminate nature of scientific knowledge and the uncertainly and unintended consequences that go with it. Can we really say GM foods are safe? Can we say any food is safe? It has become easier for people to trust complete strangers to be their Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts than to trust government institutions and big corporations to protect the food supply.

The book provides a broad view of the issues that must be considered when discussing GM foods and the global food system and an opportunity to expand research into several key concepts introduced, such as risk-tolerance, the precautionary principle, and how the “technology treadmill” impacts industries trying to grow and compete. Intellectual property rights and patent laws are also briefly covered, but could be explored further as they apply equally to GM, non-GM and organic seeds and to all of the research conducted at public and private universities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and international agencies,  not just private industry.

The discussion on labeling of GM foods in Chapter 3 opens up multiple channels for continuing research and debate. Questions to consider in a classroom setting include, Is GMO labeling about inalienable rights of consumers or personal preferences? Are GM foods different in any measurable way? Can we verify the use of GM seeds in the foods we eat? At what thresholds can GMOs be detected? Who will monitor adherence to labeling requirements and at what cost? Should we have international standards for labeling? Do laws requiring the labeling of GM foods mean we agree we should sell GM food?

Chapter 4 moves beyond the symbolic battle over GM food to expose the complicated way people actually make decisions about what they eat. Compelling classroom discussions could be generated by asking students why people say they are concerned about putting GMOs into their bodies, yet there is a global epidemic of obesity and its co-morbidities due to the poor food choices people make every day. Why do people say they do not believe the scientific evidence demonstrating the safety of GM foods that has been reviewed by international food safety authorities, yet accept the conclusions of those same authorities about the nutrient content of foods, absence of bacterial contamination and truth in labeling of ingredients? Why don’t people want to change their own eating habits to reduce food waste, eat less animal protein and consume fewer processed foods, but want the way food is grown and marketed to change?

Lang says these contradictions will not be resolved by providing people with more information on how GM foods are made since they view GMOs as tampering with nature, but that misperception needs to be addressed.  A discussion of the 2015 PEW Institute study that exposed the problematic disconnects between the public and the scientific community regarding the safety of GM foods would have been instructive here. Resistance to new technology is a well-documented human response, as chronicled in Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies (Oxford University Press, 2016), so Lang’s suggestion of “stronger safeguards and regulations” is not necessarily the answer.

My interest in the book stems from my work as a registered dietitian nutritionist and consultant to Monsanto, as well as my work as a cultural anthropologist focused on hunger and food waste. Its classroom effectiveness depends on how it is introduced and what additional readings are assigned, but it should be an effective tool to prompt discussion in undergraduate courses in agribusiness, anthropology, biotechnology, dietetics, ecology, environmental science, food science, horticulture, investigative journalism, nutrition, public health, and sociology. This book is also recommended for any casual reader with questions about the role of science and technology in producing our food.

CITED REFERENCES

Funk, Cary, and Brian Kennedy. 2016. “The New Food Fights: U.S. Public Divides Over Food Science.” Pew Research Center website, December 1. Accessed January 3, 2017. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

Haspel, Tamar. 2016. “We need to feed a growing planet. Vegetables aren’t the answer.” The Washington Post website, December 15. Accessed January 3, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/we-need-to-feed-a-growing-planet-vegetables-arent-the-answer/2016/12/15/f0ffeb3e-c177-11e6-8422-eac61c0ef74d_story.html?utm_term=.1a4263e3eb3f

Funk, Cary, and Lee Rainie. 2015. “Public and Scientists’ Views on Science and Society.” Pew Research Center website, January 29. Accessed January 3, 2017. http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/12/01/the-new-food-fights/

Juma, Calestous. 2016. Innovation and Its Enemies: Why People Resist New Technologies.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

No one diet is right for everyone

Can You Count on Popular Diet Programs to Lose Weight?

Originally posted on SplendaLiving.com

I once had a client say to me that she wanted to lose weight, but she just hadn’t found the right diet yet. She went on to explain that she had tried many popular diet programs over the years, but none of them ever worked for her. When I probed further to find out what she did and didn’t like about the diets she tried, I discovered she had successfully adopted several new eating behaviors from each one. What she didn’t realize was that she was customizing her approach to healthier eating habits with each change she made, and creating a plan that would work for her for over the long run.

If you’re hoping to start the New Year off by making a resolution to lose weight, there are many things you can learn from all of the popular diet programs out there. While you may not be able to adhere to all of the recommendations, all of the time, any change you make that improves what and how much you eat – and that you can stick to – is a win for you!

Over the years I have had clients tell me they started to eat breakfast regularly after being on a popular diet, even though they dropped the rest of the plan. Others have said they started using a no-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA® Brand, instead of sugar as part of a diet program and continued using it long after giving up on the rest of the plan. And then there are those who formed the habit of eating a salad before dinner each night, or bringing a piece of fruit to work to snack on in the afternoon every day, even though they skipped the rest of the “rules”. These are all success stories in my book.

Read on to see how you can take what you need from the most popular weight loss diets while leaving behind what you don’t.

What are the Best Diet Programs or the Best Weight Loss Diet?

Numerous well-controlled studies designed to compare the effectiveness of different weight loss diets with different compositions of fat, protein and carbohydrates, have found they all result in weight loss if you stick to them. Initial rates of weight loss vary from one plan to another, but over time they even out to about the same number of lost pounds as long as you keep following the rules. Of course, once you stop following the rules, some or all of the weight is regained.

Some of the riskiest diet plans are those that promise quick weight loss. Tempting as they may sound, they do not result in weight loss that lasts. And they often have more extreme food restrictions that can lead to nutritional imbalances. This is not a solution even for the short term.

To avoid diet lapses and weight gain you need to establish some new eating habits that are compatible with your way of life, yet make it possible to maintain a healthier weight. The best way to figure out what approach will work for you is to consult with a registered dietitian/nutritionist or other qualified health professional. If that is not an option, use the steps below to rate the popular weight loss diet plans.

3 Steps to Evaluate if a Popular Weight Loss Diet is Right for You

  1. The first thing you should do to evaluate any weight loss program is check out the food or meal replacement products you’re expected to eat. If you don’t like, can’t easily buy, don’t know how to prepare or can’t afford most of the recommended foods, then don’t even consider starting the diet. If, however, there are foods you have tried and liked but don’t regularly eat, like beans or fish, you may have to up your game to include them more often. If the plan is based on buying special foods or meal replacement products, ask yourself if that’s a sustainable option for you.
  2. The next thing to do once you’re satisfied with the foods you’re allowed or expected to eat is to see if there are any “forbidden” foods. Now ask yourself: could you live without them for the rest of your life? If entire food groups are omitted, such as grains or dairy, it may be best to keep looking for a more balanced plan.
  3. After you find a plan that is a good match for your food preferences, look at the recommended eating schedule to see if it fits in well with your daily routine. There is no point in starting a plan that expects you to eat every two hours or have your main meal at midday or stop eating by 6pm if that’s not possible for you. You will also want to know what other activities you’ll have to fit into your life, like exercising, attending meetings or completing records, and make sure those requirements are realistic for you.

There is no one weight loss diet that is right for everyone, so make it your goal to adopt healthier eating habits that are right for you and can last a lifetime.

 

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 
Reference:
Sacks FM, Bray GA. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med 2009; 360:859-873; DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa0804748

 

 

Eating low energy density foods can keep you satisfied longer

Strategies to Ward Off Hunger While Trying to Lose Weight

This post originally appeared on SplendaLiving.com.

If you’re looking ahead to the New Year and dreading the thought of starting another weight loss resolution that will leave you feeling hungry all the time, you may want to check out the concept of “Volumetrics”. It’s all about feeling full while trying to lose weight. Imagine being satisfied at the end of each meal, and between meals, with no hunger pangs to derail your commitment. Now that’s a diet you can stick to for life!

Volumetrics was developed by Barbara Rolls, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. Based on her research on meal plans made up of different types and amounts of foods, she found that eating more foods with “low energy density,” rather than ones with a “high energy density,” can help you lose weight without feeling hungry.

What is Energy Density?

The energy density of a food is the number of calories (“energy”) in a certain amount of that food. Foods with a high energy density have more calories by weight than foods with a low energy density. Since we tend to eat the same amount of food each day, Dr. Rolls proved that by choosing foods with a lower energy density we could eat the same volume of food and lose weight without feeling deprived.

The biggest difference between the foods with high energy density compared to those with low energy density is their water content. Water has no calories, but does add weight to foods, so foods that are mostly water, like fruits and vegetables, have relatively low energy density. For example, 16 ounces of carrots have roughly the same number of calories as one ounce of peanuts; however, eating 4 large carrots weighing one pound is more filling than eating 28 peanuts that weight one ounce.

Another way to see how water content affects energy density is by comparing fresh fruit to dried fruit. If you have a dish with 20 fresh seedless grapes in it, they will weigh about 100 grams and contain 70 calories. When the water is removed from those grapes to make raisins they will shrink in weight to just 8 grams, and fill less than one tablespoon, but still contain 70 calories.

Adding more fruits and vegetables or liquids to recipes for soups, stews and casseroles is a way to make those dishes have a lower energy density, along with reducing the amount of fat they contain. When you do that, if you eat the same portion you are used to having, it will provide fewer calories yet leave you feeling satisfied.

High Energy Dense Foods

Foods high in fat tend to be the most energy dense, regardless of whether the fat is naturally occurring – as it is in certain cuts of meat, nuts and regular cheeses – or is added during preparation. I always like to remind my clients that one slice of bread with a tablespoon of butter has about the same number of calories as two slices of the bread without the butter. The question they have to answer is, “Which one will fill you up more?”

The key to including these higher fat/high energy dense foods in your Volumetrics diet is to combine smaller portions of them with low energy dense foods. Good examples are blending chopped mushrooms into your ground beef for burgers, sprinkling toasted nuts on a salad rather than eating them out of hand, and pairing an ounce of cheddar cheese with an apple instead of a stack of crackers.

What about Beverages?

Most beverages are more than 90 percent water so they have low energy density, even if they are relatively high in calories. However, Dr. Rolls’ research found that drinking more beverages, even plain water, does not provide the same satiety as eating low energy dense foods. The main reason to include plenty of water and low calorie beverages in your plan, like those sweetened with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, is to satisfy your thirst so you don’t confuse it with hunger. And it’s a valuable way to avoid adding unwanted calories from higher caloric drinks.

Here’s wishing you a very healthy and happy 2017!

 I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well. 

References:

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger

U.S. News and World Report Best Diets Ranking 2016. Volumetrics Diet

 

Tips to prevent holiday weight gain

Sensible Ways to Fight the Holiday Weight Gain Battle

This post originally appeared on SplendaLiving.com.

Avoiding weight gain between November and January is all about changing what you’ve been doing year after year that has contributed to the inevitable extra pounds you see on the scale on New Year’s Day. If you’re ready to do something different, I’ve got some suggestions to help you get started!

Reflect on Past Patterns

When you look back on how you’ve celebrated the year-end holidays in the past, what patterns of behavior do you see? Are you making several late night trips to the mall to do your shopping, spending every weekend decorating the house and socializing more frequently with friends after work? Does that leave you with less time to prepare and eat meals at home, keep up with your regular workouts, and take the dog for a walk?

Here are some ways you can change those patterns:

  • Start your shopping and decorating earlier.
  • Invite friends over for pot luck meals instead of eating out.
  • Plan fun activities you can do with family and friends, like ice skating, walking for a cause, biking through the neighborhood to see the holiday decorations.
  • Give yourself a curfew on week nights so you’re home and in bed on time to get a good night’s sleep.

Consider Your Mindset

What you are thinking as the holidays approach can also influence how you will behave. If you have the attitude “anything goes” because holiday foods are only available once a year, you can end up eating and drinking more than you can possibly enjoy. By changing your mindset to focus on the meaning of all those special foods, you can put the brakes on overeating and savor the memories.

Try these more mindful approaches at your next holiday meal:

  • Ask everyone attending to complete this statement: “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving/Christmas/Hanukkah/etc. without ____________ (insert name of food or drink) because ____________.”
  • Get built-in portion control at holiday meals by swapping out your large festive plates and bowls for smaller ones, as covered in this earlier blog.
  • Have everyone around the table share a memory of when they first tasted their favorite dish including how old they were, who prepared it, and where they were.
  • Make a video of a parent or grandparent preparing a special recipe to share with the rest of the family.

Reorder Your Priorities

Ask yourself what really matters the most to you as you anticipate each holiday, and then make sure you manage your time and resources so you can participate in those events instead of spending so much time at unfulfilling obligations carried over from year to year. Sometimes all it takes is letting go of a few items lower down on your “to-do” list so you can add something new on top. And remember that having healthy holidays is one of the best ways to have happy holidays.

Consider these options to help you have the kind of holiday experience you really want:

  • Prepare a lower sugar version of a few favorite holiday recipes by swapping out sugar for SPLENDA® Sweetener Products (as described in this blog) to balance out your menu without giving up the sweetness of the things you love.
  • Make an appointment now to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, visit a house-bound neighbor, pack gifts to send to soldiers overseas, or wrap gifts for needy children.
  • Donate the cookies from your annual cookie swap to a nursing home so you won’t have to give up the fun of baking them, but can avoid the temptation of eating them.
  • Move up your annual New Year’s Resolution to lose weight by one month and make a December 1st No Weight Gain Resolutionso you can ring in the New Year without those extra pounds.

I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

 

Pack the right travel foods for a healthy journey

Healthy Eating Tips for the Holiday Travel Season

This blog was originally posted on Aspartame.org.

One of the best things about the holidays is the chance to spend time with the people we don’t get to see as often as we’d like throughout the year. But getting together with far-flung family and friends means we have to spend some time traveling. Packing the right clothes for your final destination may be top of mind, but it’s important to consider the foods you’re going to pack for the trip so you can have a healthy journey.

Traveling by Plane

Anything you bring to the airport to eat or drink on the plane must pass through the X-ray machine at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint. Liquid and gel foods larger than 3.4 ounces are not allowed in carry-on luggage, just like the restriction on other liquids. Hummus and yogurt fall into this category so consider packing them in smaller portions or substituting with solid foods if you are hoping to eat them on board.

The TSA Liquid Rule also applies to any food gifts you may have packed in your carry-on bag, even if wrapped. Keep that in mind and pack these products in checked luggage or mail them in advance so precious gifts are not thrown away.

Food items taken through security must be either whole, natural foods, like a piece of fruit, or foods in a container (salad) or wrapped (sandwich). No open food is allowed, such as an unwrapped donut or slice of pizza, since they can contaminate the security equipment.

Consider purchasing additional foods and beverages after you have cleared security checkpoints. There are no restrictions on foods and beverages purchased in the terminal or Duty-Free stores after you have passed through security.  Given the close quarters in airplanes, however, it does make sense to select items that are easy to eat and without strong odors. Individually wrapped granola bars are a good choice. A tray of sushi is not. Additionally, be sure to bring and refill your own water bottle and take advantage of any free in flight beverage service to stay properly hydrated in the air.

Even on flights under two hours, you will probably get hungry before reaching your destination if you consider your travel time to the airport and waiting at the gate. I count on a small bag of mixed nuts to hold me over since I can pack them or buy them at kiosks at most airports.  Eating my snack with a complementary can of diet soda on the plane means I am less tempted to order something from the in-flight menu.

Traveling by Car

Whether traveling by plane or automobile, you’re going to spend a lot of time sitting so you won’t be expending much energy in transit. This means you won’t need high caloric foods to sustain you along the way. While there are more places to buy food on the road than in the air, you’ll have to resist all the tempting fare lining the shelves and select the healthy, low-calorie options. One way around that is to plan your pit stops so you know where the better roadside eateries are on your route and what’s on the menu.

Another option is to BYOCF (bring your own car food).  I recommend eating a meal before you leave and packing a small cooler with individual “road food” bags for each person, similar to packing lunches for school or work. Sandwiches can be made to order, choice of fruit can be packed whole or peeled and sectioned, and preferred vegetables can be combined with a favorite dip in containers. Pre-frozen non-carbonated diet drinks and single pack light yogurts can be used to help keep things cool. And if you want to include chips and other snacks, it’s best to get the small individual bags or pre-portion them at home to help with portion control.

Don’t forget to include plenty of ways to keep little ones entertained so they don’t resort to mindless eating just to pass the time.

By starting out with the appropriate foods and beverages needed by each person in the car for the duration of your trip, you can avoid the temptation of buying something every time you stop to stretch your legs and use the restroom. You’ll save money this way, too. I do suggest reserving the option to buy one “treat” on the road to make the journey more fun, especially for children. Everything from sugarless gum to beef jerky is available, plus, this allows the driver to get a cup of coffee without denying the kids a little something extra.

For most of us, the best part of our holiday celebrations is the special meals we get to share with the people we love. Don’t spoil it by overeating while traveling.  With a little planning, you can arrive with an appetite, enjoy the celebration, and maybe even play together to release some of the energy you had to contain during your travels!

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.