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!

 

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:

 

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

 

 

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.

Dietary pattersn determine ehalth more than single foods and beverages

Soda Taxes vs Dietary Guidelines: Which Can Best Improve Our Diets?

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food & Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

Are you one of the millions of people who eagerly awaited the release of each new Harry Potter book over the past 20 years and snatched up a copy to read as soon as it came out? That sort of describes how registered dietitian nutritionists, like me, feel about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). A new edition is published every five years to provide health professionals and policy makers with the latest nutrition science to guide our eating advice for the nation.

I know that probably doesn’t sound as exciting as a day at Hogwarts Academy, but it supplies me with many of the tricks of the trade I need to do my job!

The most recent edition of the DGA was published this year, so it’s still fresh on my mind. A key message throughout the 200+ page document is the importance of dietary patterns over single foods or nutrients in determining diet quality.  The DGA define dietary patterns as:

“…the quantities, proportions, variety or combinations of different foods and beverages in diets, and the frequency with which they are habitually consumed.”

It goes on to say that a healthy eating pattern should include everything from vegetables and fruits to grains, dairy, protein and even oils. It also says our eating patterns should limit excess saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium.

“As you can see, there’s much more we need to include in our diets than exclude to be healthy.”


This all came to mind as I followed the news of soda taxes being proposed in several cities across the country this year. It made me wonder how taxing sugar-sweetened beverages was going to help Americans achieve the goals outlined in the DGA? Reducing added sugars is important, but it shouldn’t overshadow all of the other ways Americans can improve their diets – or worse yet – lead them to think reducing added sugars is the only thing that matters.  And sadly, there may be some evidence of just that.

Soda consumption in the U.S. has been declining for the past 30 years while obesity and unhealthy diets persist. Maybe it’s time for legislators to propose bills that will help Americans achieve better dietary patterns instead of focusing so much on sugars since the DGA also clearly state, “…the eating pattern may be more predictive of overall health status and disease risk than individual foods or nutrients.”

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.

 

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

Menopause does not automatically lead to weight gain

Is Weight Gain Inevitable After Menopause?

WEIGHT GAIN WITH MENOPAUSE ISN’T A GIVEN AS YOU AGE. THESE SIMPLE STEPS CAN HELP YOU AVOID UNWANTED WEIGHT GAIN OR EVEN SHED POUNDS.

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

The gradual changes in hormones and metabolism that occur in a woman’s body during the menopausal transition can result in weight gain if she is not prepared to deal with them.  Adjustments can be made on both the food and activity side of the ledger to keep those unwanted pounds at bay. These steps can also lower the risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes that accompany menopause.

Make a Substitution: Because your metabolic rate slows down with age, you can begin gaining weight without eating more calories. To offset this, look for something you eat or drink every day and find a substitution that has 50-100 fewer calories. You can get that by switching from cream to low-fat milk in your coffee or eating a 4 ounce chicken cutlet at dinner instead of 6 ounces.

Add an Activity:  As all the running around you once did with the kids begins to wind down, you need a new activity to keep you moving.  This is a perfect time to sign up for dance lessons, volunteer to usher at a theater, or do some digging in a community garden.

Take a Stand: Every new appliance and technological gadget you’ve got in your home and job increase the time you spend sitting, and that expands the area you sit on. Take a stand and find reasons to get up off your butt. You can stand when letting your freshly painted nails dry, waiting for your hair color to set, talking or texting on your smart phone, flipping through a magazine in a doctor’s office, waiting for a prescription to be filled.

Do-It-Yourself: It’s tempting to use your extra income to outsource household chores, but that just denies you the chance to be more active.  Washing the windows, mowing the lawn, vacuuming the floors, polishing the car, painting the bathroom, and weeding the garden are all great ways to stay in shape!

Change the China: The amount of food we eat and beverages we drink is directly related to the size of the plates, bowls and glasses we use. By switching to smaller ones we can scale down our portions without even noticing the change. Measure the diameter of your plates and the volume of your bowls, glasses, and mugs and look for a 25% reduction in the size of the replacements.

Spread Out the Protein: Muscle mass diminishes as we age, and the less muscle we have the slower our metabolism becomes, which makes it easier to gain weight. The best ways to preserve muscles are to use them in resistance exercises and feed them plenty of protein. Including at least 20 grams of protein at each meal will do a better job than consuming most of your protein in just one meal.

Weigh Yourself Weekly: You may have never reached your personal goal weight, but by this point in your life you should know what your best weight is. Give yourself a reasonable fluctuation range of 3 pounds around that number, then step on the scale on a weekly basis and be ready to take action if you go beyond that.

Seek expert advice about food and nutrition

Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

This post was written as a guest blog for Americans for Food and Beverage Choice. You can read the original post here.

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

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.

 

Dieary patterns are more important to health than fad diets

The Hottest New Diet Isn’t a Diet at All

Meet the dietary pattern, a style of eating with a proven record of success.

This post was originally written as a guest blog for Health.USNews.com

Diets are out; dietary patterns are in – at least, that’s what the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans seems to say.

That’s big news for those of us who like to incorporate the report’s nutrition advice into our personal eating habits when it comes out every five years. This time, the government suggests we abandon diets that glorify or shun single foods and nutrients (think butter, eggs, fat and fiber – past years’ targets) and shift our attention to overall eating patterns, or the sum total of what, how often and how much we eat, as well as what we eat it with.

Why the move away from “good food/bad food” diets? For one, nutrition science is continually evolving and we are learning from our mistakes. Back in the 1980s, for instance, the guidelines told us to cut back on “bad fats” to lower our risk of heart disease – the No. 1 cause of death for Americans. But people who followed that recommendation filled the void on their plates with simple carbohydrates, such as pasta, bagels and fat-free cookies. In time, we learned those foods weren’t any better for our hearts (or waistlines) than the high-fat fare they replaced.

So in 2000, we tried again. The guidelines issued that year redeemed fats – as long as they were “good fats.” This recommendation was based on newer research linking populations that regularly ate olive oil, avocados and almonds with a lower incidence of heart disease. We followed suit, dipping our bread in olive oil, adding sliced avocado to our burgers and making almonds our go-to snack. But so far, the only thing that has improved is sales of those foods. Our single-minded pursuit of the perfect food (or fat) to fight heart disease has kept us from seeing everything else that contributes to its lower rates in people with different dietary patterns.

Now, after spending more than two decades rationing just three eggs into our weekly menus, we’re being told cholesterol isn’t as bad for us as we once thought. Does that mean it’s time to order the broiled lobster tail with drawn butter to celebrate?

Not so fast.

What it means is precisely what the latest Dietary Guidelines concluded: When it comes to diet, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Put another way, when you eat foods together, their health benefits are greater than a single food could produce on its own. For example, eating eggs every day can lower your risk of heart disease if you are also eating plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, whole grains, fish and olive oil. On the other hand, eating eggs every day along with regular servings of fatty meats, refined grains and excess sodium from highly-processed foods can increase that risk. That’s because the connection to heart disease isn’t just about the eggs – it’s also about everything else we consume with them.

Another advantage of adopting a healthy dietary pattern is that the benefits are cumulative, like compounded interest. So, people who have been eating a Mediterranean-style pattern all their lives, for instance, get an immediate return on investment by meeting their nutritional needs early in life to support optimal growth and development. Later, they receive a long-term dividend by preventing, or greatly reducing, their risk of suffering from the noncommunicable diseases of adulthood, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, macular degeneration and the ubiquitous heart disease. But this payoff requires making consistent contributions to your healthy eating plan, just like building retirement wealth depends on making consistent contributions to your 401K. Both are more effective the sooner you get started.

Choosing a healthy dietary pattern over a diet also leaves more room for the occasional holiday food exemption. (Sorry, but weekends don’t count as “occasional.”) That approach is different from the can-eat-can’t-eat diet style, in which we’re open to every loophole that might give us a free pass. Have you ever rushed off to work without eating breakfast so you feel entitled to partake in the office pastries? How about arriving home from work too tired to chop vegetables, so you eat pizza (without a salad) for dinner? What about the Sunday you finally get the whole family together for brunch and end up eating eggs benedict and a Belgian waffle to celebrate? You get the picture: Food choices can change with the seasons, but a dietary pattern remains the same.

Convinced yet? If so, the highly regarded Mediterranean and DASH  plans are a great place  to start. Those patterns offer the best of what is known about the food-health connection when put together right, so you won’t have to upgrade to something new in another five years. You also won’t have to worry about getting caught up in the next fad diet that promises to solve all your health and weight issues because history has shown us they don’t work in the long term. Think gluten-free, low-glycemic index, high-protein, low-carb, antioxidant-rich, paleo and probiotic diets, to name a few. It’s time to move on something more sustainable.

You can start transitioning to a healthier pattern by following some of these simple tips. The goal is to make the right choice a habit so it becomes your default option.

  • Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily.
  • Order “whole wheat” as your bread choice for sandwiches, toast and pizza crust.
  • Choose fish over meat or poultry for an entree at least once a week.
  • Drink one full glass of water with each meal.
  • Add a layer of fresh or grilled vegetables to every sandwich.
  • Use nuts or seeds instead of croutons on salad.
  • Make chili with more beans and less (or no) meat.
  • Have brown rice with all Chinese takeout.
  • Include some vegetables whenever you grill.
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in cooking and baking.
  • Make your meat portions no larger than the palm of your hand.
  • Choose vegetables to top pizza, fill an omelet, stuff a potato or stretch a soup.
  • Keep hummus, salsa and sliced vegetables on hand as your go-to snack.
  • Be more inclusive of fruits and vegetables by including fresh, frozen, canned and dried varieties in your repertoire.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cultural anthropologist who has spent her 30-plus year career counseling, teaching and writing about food, nutrition and health. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food choices possible in their everyday lives. You can read her blog at www.EverydayRD.com and follow her on Twitter at@EverydayRD.

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.