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.

 

Lack of sleep can contribute to overeating and weight gain

The Sleep-Weight Connection

This blog was first published on Aspartame.org on November 28, 2016

If you’ve been gaining weight and not getting enough sleep lately, some new research suggests the problems are very likely connected. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that people who didn’t get enough sleep consumed an extra 385 calories the following day. A 2.5 ounce bag of potato chips or a banana nut muffin can provide that many calories.

That’s enough extra calories to gain one pound every 9 days! While sleep deprivation has its own health consequences, the potential weight gain from consistently not sleeping enough is also a concern.

How Are Food Choices Affected by Lack of Sleep?

In this study, the researchers reviewed 11 other studies made up of 172 participants and compared people who didn’t get enough sleep (3.5 – 5 hours/night) to people who got adequate sleep (7 – 12 hours/night) and what the subjects in each group ate afterwards. What they found was that the sleep deprived people didn’t necessarily eat more, but they did choose foods higher in fat and lower in protein, with about the same amount of carbohydrate. The additional calories in the food choices of the sleep deprived people resulted in weight gain since they weren’t using those calories with increased physical activity.

The studies in this review were not designed to explain why people change their food choices following sleep deprivation, but the answer may lie in the reward center of the brain. The results of another study of sleep deprived adults showed greater activation in areas of the brain associated with reward when subjects were exposed to food. This suggests they would be more motivated to seek food when sleep deprived. Another study found higher levels of a lipid in the bloodstream known as endocannabinoid, a naturally produced compound that binds to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana. Activating this part of the brain has been shown to make eating more pleasurable and result in a greater desire for palatable food.

How is Appetite Affected by Lack of Sleep?

 Another proposed reason for the change in food choices by sleep-deprived people is a disruption in their hormones that control appetite, or the desire to eat. The natural circadian rhythms, or biological clock, of the body regulate our sleep-wake-feeding cycles to 24 hour periods. When those cycles are thrown out of sync by external influences, such as staying awake too long, other biological functions of the body are affected. Studies on sleep deprived people have shown they have reduced levels of leptin, a hormone that produces satiety, and increased levels of ghrelin, the hormone that regulates hunger. The change in these hormones in sleep deprived people supports their reports of having an increased appetite, even though they shouldn’t be hungry.

 How Does Food Affect Sleep?

There’s one more twist to the sleep-weight gain story worth mentioning. When certain foods or beverages are eaten at night, they can interfere with the ability to fall asleep, or stay asleep. That can leave you feeling tired the next day. When you feel tired during your waking hours, you may turn to foods and beverages that will help you stay awake, such as those containing caffeine or high amounts of added sugars. This eating and drinking is not in response to hunger, but a way to temporarily become more alert. It not only introduces unneeded calories, but can create a vicious cycle of being overstimulated during the day, and unable to sleep well at night.

While there are still a number of unanswered questions, the evidence is growing that sleep and weight gain are connected. Fortunately, the solution for many people may be as simple as pulling down the shades, powering off all screens and turning out the light for a good night’s sleep so you can wake up ready to start the day with your appetite under control.

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.

Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in Aspartame.org 

Even if the weather doesn’t vary much where you live, you can use the seasonal changes on the calendar to reboot your diet for better health. All it takes is expanding the colors on your plate to feature whatever is being harvested. I mark the arrival of autumn in the produce section of my grocery store by the orange-hued butternut squash, navel oranges and Fuyu persimmons that suddenly appear alongside all those huge bins of pumpkins. It’s a sure sign that summer is over!

According to the American Heart Association, eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of the essential nutrients you need to lower your risk for preventable diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. To reach the goals outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume 1-2 cups of fruits per day and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day, based on your age and energy requirements. Reaching those goals is easier if you remember you can include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.

Thanks to rapid transportation, you can find fresh seasonal produce no matter where you live. In the fall, that includes the parsnips grown in Oregon and the Key limes from Florida. Even the internationally tagged Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and Asian pears are all grown in the U.S. and are being brought to market now, so be sure to look for them in your store. For complete lists of what’s in season throughout the entire year, check Fruits and Vegetables More Matters What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season?

Let the Holidays Lead the Way to More Produce in Your Diet

Incorporating more fall produce in your diet is easy if you think about the most popular dishes on your Thanksgiving menu. Do sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and apple pie come to mind? There’s no reason to reserve them just for special occasions, and no reason to prepare them with all of the added sugars typically called for in indulgent holiday recipes. Many of your family favorites can be made using a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, to replace some of the sugar. You can find tried-and-true recipes on the websites for your favorite brand of low-calorie sweetener or experiment on your own.  The results should look and taste the same as the originals but will be lower in added sugars and calories, which is good for the whole family.

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

 Of course, pumpkin isn’t just for pie. I like to stock up on canned pumpkin puree this time of year so I can make these moist and delicious Raisin-Pumpkin Muffins in the winter months ahead. When you eat them for breakfast you can feel good about including your first serving of vegetables for the day in your first meal of the day! Other great uses for canned pumpkin are in smoothies, soups and chili. I also load my freezer with bags of fresh cranberries every fall so I can add them to quick breads when they are no longer in season and to this Cranberry Salad. It adds color and crunch to the plate thanks to the celery and walnuts. And if you haven’t tried pomegranate arils, the seed pod inside a whole pomegranate, this is the time to buy them. They also freeze well and can add some sparkle and extra vitamin C to any salad you serve.

When you go apple picking or buy a bushel of apples at a farmer’s market, making a big batch of this Baked Cinnamon Applesauce is a great way to enjoy them well into spring. Just freeze the applesauce in one-quart zip-top freezer bags and then thaw it to serve whenever you want it. Another great way to use up those apples and add more vegetables to your meals (cabbage, carrots and bell peppers) is with this Tangy Apple Slaw. In my house, a grilled cheese sandwich is the preferred side dish to  on a chilly autumn afternoon.

The leaves on the trees aren’t the only thing that change color in the fall. The fruits and vegetables on your plate should be changing color, too. Here’s to another flavorful season!

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.

 

Tips top pack healthy lower sugar lunches for kids

Back to School: Packing a Healthy Lunch

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

If you’ve stepped into an air-conditioned store to get out of the August heat, then you know retailers are all stocked up to help us get our children ready to go back to school. Everything from highlighters to hand sanitizer is on the shelves to satisfy the “must have” list for kids in every grade. I recall one of the biggest back-to-school decisions my sons made each year was finding just the right lunch box they could carry with pride into the cafeteria. Having their favorite superhero on the outside was all that mattered to them!

What goes inside all those carefully selected lunch boxes has taken on greater significance over the last 16 years since September was first declared National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. It was launched to focus attention on the need for kids across the country to lead healthier lives and prevent the early onset of obesity. Providing our children with a balanced and nutritious midday meal is an important way we can do just that.

Feeding Kids Right for Success in School and Life

Children need to be properly nourished to reach both their physical and intellectual potential. Even when they look fit and appear to be thriving, an inadequate diet can set the stage for future health problems. Eating well-planned meals and snacks each day is one of the best ways to ensure that all of the essential nutrients children need for growth and development are being consumed.

The routines of the school day provide an ideal way to help children form good eating habits that can last a lifetime. Starting with breakfast – either at home or in school – kids need to refuel their bodies in the morning after the overnight fast and get key nutrients that will make them ready to learn. A mid-morning snack also may be needed by younger children, or a breakfast split into two parts, to carry them over until their next meal.

When the lunch bell rings at school it’s time for kids of all ages to eat something nourishing, socialize with friends and, hopefully, get some physical activity. Sitting behind a desk all day is not good for children or adults, so taking advantage of this, and every other opportunity to get up and move around is perfect practice for a healthy lifestyle.

By the time the school day ends, most children are hungry and thirsty. That’s a good time to offer them nutrient-rich foods and beverages to replace any they may not have eaten at breakfast or lunch rather than letting them fill up on less nutritious snacks. Some popular options include cut-up vegetables and hummus, whole wheat crackers and cheese or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt. The goal is to reenergize and rehydrate them for their afternoon activities without letting them get too full to eat their dinner.

Making time to eat with your children each evening can provide one of the biggest boosts to their well-being, regardless of what is served. Research reported in the Family Dinner Project indicates children who eat with their family have higher self-confidence, better grades in school and lower rates of obesity among other benefits. Getting them involved in meal planning and preparation adds to their success by teaching them skills they will need the rest of their lives.

What About Weight Gain in Children?

Preventing unwanted weight gain in children requires that they get enough calories to support normal rates of growth and physical activity, but not much more than that. It is a delicate balance that must be adjusted to meet their changing needs, such as when their activity level slows down after their regular sport season ends.

Replacing some of the added sugars in your child’s diet with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, is one way to reduce unneeded calories and make many of the foods and beverages you want them to eat and drink more enjoyable. Lower calorie, reduced fat and/or sugar-free products can also be substituted for their regular counterparts to help create more balanced menus. (See examples in the chart below.)

Making Healthy Meals and Snacks Part of Your Back-to-School Plan

While plenty of attention goes into making sure the first packed lunch of the year a good one, it’s important that every lunch is as good as the first. One way to do that is to create an idea board—like a Pinterest board—to use as a template for packing lunches. Start by drawing a grid similar to the one illustrated, and then let your child list items under each food group heading that he or she likes, will eat in school and can be easily assembled each day. Remind your children they don’t have to limit themselves to “traditional” lunch foods as long as the items belong in the designated group.

You can see sample foods found in each group on ChooseMyPlate.gov along with the recommended daily servings for children of different ages and the suggested portion sizes. Following the My Plate Daily Checklist will allow you to see how many calories your child needs each day and how to be sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need in their meals and snacks, without exceeding their recommended caloric allowance.

Once the chart is completed lunches can be packed using any combination of foods from each list as long as your child will eat them. All you have to do is make sure the items on the chart are on hand at the start of each week!

Sample School Lunch Planning Chart with Lower Sugar Options

low sugar menus

All foods and drugs need to be eaten in the right amount to be beneficial

It’s the Dose that Matters

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

There are many things in life that are safe, fun or even good for us when we follow the rules. Observing the speed limit while driving is certainly one of these rules.  How about enjoying an occasional ice cream cone or reading the dosage information on a bottle of cough syrup before giving it to a child?  Learning where the line is that separates “enough” from “too much” is what makes a happy, healthy life possible.

As someone who has been providing food and nutrition advice for over 40 years, I know everything we eat involves a sensible balance of the risks versus the benefits since no food or beverage can be deemed completely safe. We must always consider how much is consumed, how often it is consumed and what else is in the usual diet.

That is why dietary guidance is based on recommended servings per day of the foods in each food group and suggested portion sizes are provided for each food. There is no category for “eat all you want” of this. Even water has daily intake guidelines! The same is true for dietary supplements, like vitamins and minerals, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications we use. These products are approved and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Taking them in the recommended dose at the recommended frequency is based on the best scientific evidence available to get the desired benefit. Taking more or less may not be as beneficial and may even be harmful.

What is the Acceptable Daily Intake?

No- and low-calorie sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, are classified as food additives, and they are also approved and regulated by the FDA.  An Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) has been established for each one, and it represents the amount of that additive a person can safely consume every day over a lifetime without risk. It is measured in milligrams (mg) of substance per kilogram (kg) body weight (BW) per day, but that does not mean when this level is reached it could be harmful. The calculations used to determine ADIs are very conservative estimates that include a hundred-fold safety margin, which means when the additive was tested in the lab, even an amount 100 times the ADI produced no observable toxic effects.

For example, the ADI for aspartame is 50mg/kg BW. A 150 pound person weighs 68 kg, so when their weight in kg is multiplied by the ADI of 50mg/kg, you get 3400mg/day as the ADI for that person. The amount of aspartame in a single “blue” packet is about 34mg, which means a 150 pound person would need to consume 100 packets to reach their ADI.  And there are about 16mg of aspartame per ounce in a diet beverage, so a 150 pound person would need to drink 213 ounces, or 26 ½ cups of a diet soda, to reach their ADI.

It’s hard to imagine anyone consuming that many sweetener packets or diet soft drinks in one day let alone every day over a lifetime! But if you’re wondering how much aspartame or any other FDA approved no- and low-calorie sweetener Americans could consume, there is a value for that, too.

What is the Estimated Daily Intake? 

The Estimated Daily Intake (EDI) is determined by calculating how much of a single sweetener a person might consume if they used it as an exclusive replacement for sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners based on typical food consumption patterns in the United States. It is also expressed in mg/kg BW, so can easily be compared to the ADI.

For aspartame the EDI is 0.2 – 4.1mg/kg BW, which is well below the ADI for aspartame of 50mg/kg BW. This means if someone replaced all sugar and other nonnutritive sweeteners with aspartame every day, they would be consuming less than 8 per cent of the ADI for aspartame. This is due, in part to the fact aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, therefore only very minute amounts are needed to replace its sweetening power in foods and drinks.

Like all additives, no- and low-calorie sweeteners remain under continuous evaluation while in the food supply and are reassessed to keep up with changing conditions of use and new scientific methodologies that can measure their impact on our health. Since the EDI for no- and low-calorie sweeteners is very low compared to the ADI for each, as shown in the chart below, I think it’s fair to say we have more to worry about when it comes to limiting the amount of added sugars we consume than any of these safe and effective calorie sweeteners.

ADI.2

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.

Dozens of different sugar substitutes are used to sweeten our food

A Sweetener by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

The ingredients we use to sweeten our foods and beverages come from a wide variety of sources and have many different features and names.  In some cases, the only thing they have in common is that they all taste sweet! Some are ingredients found on our pantry shelves while others are already in the food and drinks we consume. Some have names we cannot easily pronounce while others are words we use in our everyday speech. And the list goes on.

There are so many terms used to describe the sweeteners available to us that it’s easy to become misled into believing some are better than others. We have all these terms because the ones used by the scientists who study sweeteners are different from those used by the food safety agencies that approve and regulate their use. And the terms used by health professionals who counsel people about the role of sweeteners in the diet differ from the ones used by the companies that sell them to us.

Given the heightened awareness of “added sugars” in our diets with the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the expected appearance of “added sugars” on the revised Nutrition Facts label due later this year, it seems like a good time to review just what we mean when talking about the sweeteners we consume.

Calories Not Nutrients

The main way all sweeteners can be classified is by whether or not they contain calories. The scientific terms used to describe this distinction are “nutritive” sweeteners, which contain calories, and “non-nutritive” sweeteners, which do not.

Terms for Non-nutritive Sweeteners

This list includes the terms permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approved food additives and ingredients, as well as those that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This list also includes other terms that have crept into common usage but are not clearly defined by any official source.

  • Alternate or Alternative sweetener – any sweetener used to replace sugar, like aspartame; may include nutritive sweeteners, such as honey and corn syrup
  • Artificial sweetener – derived from plant-based sources or manmade, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, sucralose
  • High-intensity sweetener – hundreds of time sweeter than sugar and therefore used in very small amounts, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo), neotame, saccharin, stevia (rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Intense sweetener – same as high-intensity sweetener
  • Low-calorie sweetener –used in such small amounts the caloric value is minimal, such as allulose and aspartame; can be used to describe a no-calorie sweetener combined with a bulking agent that has calories
  • Natural sweetener –any sweetener derived from plant-based sources; non-nutritive options include  stevia (Rebaudioside A), monk fruit extract (luo han guo), and the polyol erythritol
  • No-calorie sweetener –is not metabolized by the body and passes through it unchanged, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo) , neotame, saccharin, stevia (Rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Noncaloric sweetener – same a no-calorie sweetener
  • Polyol –carbohydrates that are not sugars, but have the taste and texture of sugar with less than half the calories, such as D-Tagatose, erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, trehalose, xylitol
  • Reduced-calorie sweetener –contain less than 4 calories per gram, like polyols, or products that are a combination of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohol – same as polyol
  • Sugar replacer – same as alternate sweeteners, artificial sweetener and sugar substitute
  • Sugar substitute – same as alternate sweetener, artificial sweetener and sugar replacer; commonly refers to non-nutritive sweeteners in table-top packets
  • Synthetic sweetener –not derived from plant-based sources, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin
  • Zero calorie sweetener – same as no-calorie sweetener

Terms for Nutritive Sweeteners or “Added Sugars”

The terms in bold type are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as ingredient names. The others also sweeten our foods and beverages and appear on food labels, but are not recognized by the FDA as ingredient names for “added sugars.”

  • Agave nectar
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Evaporated corn sweetener
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Liquid fructose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars (e.g. peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice sugar or syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Turbinado
  • White granulated sugar

You may want to print out this list and keep it in a handy place so you won’t be confused the next time you’re reading a food label.

 

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.

 

Low calorie sweeteners are an aid to weight loss, not weight gain

What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

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.

  

Aspartame has been help part of healthy diets for 35 years

The Most Studied Low Calorie Sweetener Turns 35 This Year

This blog was originally written for Aspartame.org. You can read that  post here.

The global population is aging at a faster rate than ever before in human history. Right now the number of people throughout the world over the age of 65 makes up 8.5 percent of the total population, or 671 million people according to International Population Reports.  That number is projected to jump to 1,566 million people by the 2050, making 16.7 percent of the world’s population over 65 years of age!

If you’re wondering what this has to do with aspartame and other no- and low-calorie sweeteners, there is a connection. Knowing you may live well into your 80s or 90s can provide the motivation for living better now to extend the quality of your life as you get older. That’s where aspartame can help.

 Benefits of Aspartame

Aspartame has been an approved food additive for over 35 years. Since its introduction into the food supply in the 1980s as an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar a growing body of research has demonstrated its role in a healthy lifestyle. The benefits most frequently reported are that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can aid in:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduction in the risks associated with obesity
  • Diet satisfaction with less added sugars and fewer calories
  • Eating a greater variety of healthy foods
  • Management of diabetes

Knowing low-calorie sweeteners can support weight management is significant because, along with getting older, the World Health Organization reports we are also getting heavier. In fact, obesity has more than doubled in the global population since 1980. Today overweight and obesity are the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers and are now linked to more deaths worldwide than being underweight.

If you want to prevent the chronic diseases that can strip away independence as you age, achieving a healthy body weight is one of the most important steps you can take. Using aspartame in place of sugar can help by providing a sweet taste to foods and beverages with few or no calories.  And it can be used by the entire family, not just those trying to lose weight, although any unintended weight loss should always be brought to the attention of your physician.

Aspartame is not a drug and, therefore, cannot produce weight loss without making other behavior changes, but it can be a valuable tool in maintaining a balanced and satisfying diet — and that can add more healthy and happy years to your life.

 Safety of Aspartame

The safety of aspartame has been rigorously monitored by food safety experts since it was first approved for use as a food additive more than three decades ago. New research from human and animal studies is regularly evaluated along with the existing body of evidence to determine any potential risk to the population at current levels of exposure or Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The experts report aspartame does not cause damage to the genes or induce cancer, does not harm the brain or nervous system, and does not affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults. They also have found no risk to the developing fetus from its use during pregnancy at the current ADI levels (except in women suffering from PKU).

Regulatory agencies representing more than 90 countries have conducted their own reviews of the scientific literature on aspartame and approved its use for their populations. This list includes the United States, Canada, the member countries of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), France, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In 2013 the EFSA re-issued a Scientific Opinion on the safety of aspartame as a food additive and again concluded it was not a safety concern based on current exposure estimates and there was no reason to revise the ADI of 40mg/kg body weight per day.

It is reassuring to know there is a consensus among so many experts about the safety of aspartame, especially when conflicting reports from single studies hit the news. Living well into our nineties is a big enough challenge without having to worry about that!

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.

Sugar substitutes can help reduce added sugars in the diet

Halloween, Diabetes & Sweet Indulgences – How to Make the Right Choices

This post was written as a guest blog for Aspartame.org. You can read the original post here.

It’s that time of year when our homes and offices become filled with an assortment of chocolatey, chewy and crunchy candies as we approach Halloween and its aftermath. I know I can’t resist grabbing a few fun-sized bags of my favorite M&Ms from the trick-or-treat bowl when I see them. But what does this sugar-laden holiday mean for the 30 million American children and adults who have diabetes? And how much added sugar can the rest of us enjoy without putting our health at risk?

According to a new survey from the National Confectioner’s Association (NCA), Halloween is the top candy-giving holiday of the year with retail sales expected to reach $2.6 billion in 2015! Fortunately, most people understand candy is a treat to be enjoyed in moderation and nearly 80 percent of parents report they have a plan in place to help children make smart choices after bringing home their Halloween haul. Some parents limit the number of pieces their child is allowed per day while others limit the stash to a certain amount and then get rid of the rest. I like to swap out some candy for sugar-free gum since chewing it can help prevent cavities at the same time it eliminates a food that can cause them.

Limiting the added sugar in the diet

Since Halloween isn’t the only time of year when we eat candy it helps to know how much added sugar we can include in our diets to make room for it when we do. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we limit added sugar to less than 10 percent of our total calories.  This is equivalent to around 50 grams of sugar (12 teaspoons) a day for someone consuming 2000 calories. The WHO suggests further reductions in added sugar to less than five percent of total calories for additional health benefits.

The NCA reported candy contributes about 50 calories a day to the average American diet, which can mean 4-12 grams of sugar (1-3 teaspoons) depending on the type of candy. That would get you approximately 2 chocolate kisses or 2 hard candies, so if your habit is greater than that you may want to satisfy your sweet tooth with the sugar-free varieties.

Carbohydrates, Candy and Diabetes

The good news for people with diabetes is that the day after Halloween is the start of American Diabetes Month. November 1st is a perfect time to refocus on the goals for good diabetes management, including eating a healthy and balanced diet. Added sugars can be a part of it, but the amount is based on individual carbohydrate allowances at each meal and snack. Since many foods that provide essential nutrients are also a source of carbohydrate, such as fruit, grains and vegetables, it is important for people with diabetes to use their available carbohydrate count for those choices first.

Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, provide a way to sweeten foods and beverages without unwanted sugar, carbohydrates and calories. For example, a packet of Equal® can replace 2 teaspoons of sugar in a cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal or dish of yogurt. Another option is to make your own sweet treats like these Double Chocolate Brownies and Fruit Kabobs with Coconut Cream Dipping Sauce. They do have calories and carbohydrates from other ingredients, but less than the original versions and still taste great.

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.

 

Reducing added sugar by changing your coffee habit

How Sweet is Your Coffee? Let Me Count the Ways…

This post was written as a guest blog for Aspartame.org. You can read the original post here.

It seems every food and drink is celebrated with its own day on the calendar and coffee is no exception. September 29th is designated National Coffee Day and there are sure to be plenty of people raising a mug to honor the occasion since 83 percent of American adults claim they drink coffee – and it’s not just one cup – a according to the National Coffee Association. American coffee drinkers average three 8-ounce cups per day adding up to a total of 146 billion cups per year making the United States the biggest consumer of coffee in the world!

For regular coffee drinkers, placing an order or fixing a cup at home or work is typically done on “auto pilot” thanks to well-worn habits. These are behaviors that help us get through the day without having to make conscious decisions about everything we do. We develop habits after repeating a behavior so many times it becomes an automatic response to a situation.  Whether a habit is a good one or bad one, it’s going to be pretty consistent.

If you like your coffee sweet, that can mean you’re consuming a lot more sugar than you realize. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination found sweetened coffee and tea beverages contribute 7 percent of the added sugars consumed by Americans adults. A woman adding just one teaspoon of sugar to her three cups of coffee each day would be getting half of the 6 teaspoons of sugar per day recommended by the American Heart Association. Sugar isn’t the only way we sweeten our coffee. The average “pump” of flavored coffee syrup is equivalent to 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar, and most specialty drinks have three or four pumps.

Non-dairy creamers can also be a source of added sugars along with milk substitutes, such as almond, coconut and soymilk. Check the ingredient list on the products you use to see if they contain sugar, corn syrup or other caloric sweeteners. You may be surprised to find your favorite “creamer” is not only whitening your brew, but is sweetening it, too.

Adopting some new habits for how you order or fix your coffee can lead to big reductions in both added sugar and unwanted calories. If you start on National Coffee Day by replacing 3 teaspoons of sugar with a sugar substitute every day you’ll have eliminated 1,092 teaspoons of sugar by this time next year or nearly 10 pounds of sugar and over 15,400 calories! The more changes you make the more calories and added sugar you can eliminate.

Here are six healthy habits that will help get you started cutting down on added sugar while still enjoying your coffee sweet every day of the year.

  1. Use a low-calorie sweetener like Equal® in place of sugar to get the sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar with just 4 calories compared to 32 calories in 2 teaspoons of sugar
  2. Switch from syrup to spices like nutmeg, cinnamon or cocoa powder to add flavor without sugar or calories
  3. Request sugar-free syrup with zero calories per pump instead of sugar-sweetened syrup with 20 calories per pump
  4. Order a smaller size drink since the bigger the drink the more sugar, syrup and creamer you use
  5. Try a sugar-free non-dairy creamer to save 20 calories and 5 grams sugar per tablespoon
  6. Ask for just a spoonful of whipped cream rather than the full cap that traditionally covers the cup.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist 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.