Eating low energy density foods can keep you satisfied longer

Strategies to Ward Off Hunger While Trying to Lose Weight

This post originally appeared on SplendaLiving.com.

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

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

What is Energy Density?

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

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

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

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

High Energy Dense Foods

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

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

What about Beverages?

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

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

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

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

References:

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

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

 

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.

Artificial sweeteners are not all the same

What Are Artificial Sweeteners? The Go-To Guide

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in SplendaLiving.com.

Like anyone else, I have favorite foods I can eat over and over again and never grow tired of them. Chunky peanut butter is on top of that list for me. But I also like to try unfamiliar foods and am always ready for the next new eating experience that will awaken my taste buds. Many of those experiences have been the result of seasoning combinations that transformed the taste of a familiar food into something original and unexpected, like the first time I had chicken mole. The sauce is made with chocolate, cinnamon and at least three types of peppers, and after one bite that chicken went from ordinary to extraordinary!

Given the limitless ways herbs and spices can be combined to create flavors, I think it’s fair to say our enjoyment of food is greatly enhanced by them all. I know I would not want to have to limit the number of spices on my shelf to just three or four of my favorites.

The availability of different spices to season our food provides a useful analogy to help answer the question, “What are artificial sweeteners?”, since just as all spices are not the same, all artificial sweeteners are not the same, either. Artificial sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners, or high intensity sweeteners) come from different sources, have different sweetening powers compared to sugar and have different properties depending on what foods or beverages they are added to. Recognizing the different features of these sweeteners makes it much easier to understand what they are and how you can use them, which is also true for peppermint and paprika!

In the Go-To Guide below you will find four artificial sweeteners, which are approved for use in the U.S. and available to consumers. Information is provided on their popular brand names, their sweetness intensity compared to sugar, how each sweetener is made, the types of products they’re most often found in, and some of the most popular foods and beverages in which you can find them. When reading the ingredient list on food labels you may notice that more than one artificial sweetener is used in your favorite no- and low-calorie foods and beverages. That is because just like spices, using them in combination with one another provides some foods with the best taste profile.

Another feature artificial sweeteners share with most spices is that a little bit goes a long way. Due to their intense sweetening power (compared to sugar), the amounts needed to achieve the same sweetness you would get if using sugar is very, very small. And since they have few or no calories and don’t raise blood glucose levels or insulin requirements, they can be a helpful tool for anyone trying to manage their weight or diabetes.

Artificial sweeteners reference chart

Go-To Guide on Artificial Sweeteners

You may also consult the Comparison Chart in one of my earlier blogs for more information about some of these sweeteners.

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

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

 References:

U.S. Food and Drug AdministrationAdditional Information about High-Intensity Sweeteners Permitted for use in Food in the United States

 

Calorie Control Council. Sugar Substitutes.

 

Tips for talking to teens about body weight and food choices

Weight Loss Tips for Teens to Lose Weight and Feel Great

This post originally appeared in SplendaLiving.com.

Whenever I see old television clips from American Bandstand, a popular television show in the 1950-80’s that featured teenagers dancing to the latest hit songs, I can’t help but think that all that dancing really helped to keep those kids in shape.

Do you ever wonder what people will think about the youth of today when they look at archived YouTube videos 50 years from now?

Sadly, what they will see is that about one-third of American children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese, as reported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The only thing sadder than that statistic is the one that predicts 80% of these teens will become overweight or obese adults. The single most important step we can take to reverse this trend is to prevent excess weight gain right from the start in childhood. And if excess weight gain begins in adolescence, the next step is to stop or slow down the rate of weight gain during the teen years. Tackling that problem is important for health, much more so than body image, and is the focus of this blog.

How to Get the Conversation Started

Research indicates that over-consumption of added sugars, from foods like full-calorie sodas and sweet treats, can increase the risk of becoming overweight in teens. The American Heart Association notes, “Although added sugars most likely can be safely consumed in low amounts as part of a healthy diet, few children achieve such levels, making this an important public health target.” Not having an abundance of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages in the house is the best way to help everyone in the family limit their intake of added sugars. It’s also important to talk to your teen about the need to eat all of the other foods that make up a balanced diet for good health, and to be a good role model for them to follow. The focus of these discussions with your teen should always be on achieving a healthy lifestyle, not a certain body weight.

Here are some straight up sensible weight loss tips to help you and your teen get started.

Tips to Help Your Teen with Sensible Weight Loss

  • Sugar swaps:  Your teen can enjoy the taste of something sweet without unnecessary added calories by swapping out some sugar for a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA®No Calorie Sweetener. Use it in favorite hot and cold drinks, sprinkle some on plain yogurt layered with fruit and a crushed graham cracker for a parfait, or get creative in the kitchen making other lower-calorie dishes. Here are a few fun ones that your teen can prepare and share with the whole family – just remember to observe the yield and serving size for each recipe and make your selections with that in mind: Sweet and Spicy Snack MixBanana Mini-Chip Muffins and Harvest Pumpkin-Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.
  • Revamp snacks:Making sure your teen eats regular meals and snacks during the day can be a helpful way to keep them from getting so hungry they overeat, or eat impulsively. And when you have foods on hand that your teen likes and can assemble quickly – like whole grain cereal and lowfat milk, lowfat cheese and crackers or hummus and carrots – it makes it easier for them to choose healthier snacks.
  • Modify fast food menus:  Have your teen download the menus from some of their favorite fast food restaurant chains and, together, highlight the healthier food choices available so you’ll both know what to order the next time either of you eat there. You can also look at the menus from other restaurants in your area to see if they offer options your teen would like to try the next time you are dining out together.
  • Reduce added sugars and calories in drinks: Most teens have no idea how much sugar and calories they drink in a typical day. Here’s a great printable chartfrom the National Institutes of Health “We Can!” program. You can also encourage your teen to drink water with and between meals.

 Fitness Tips

  • Take a stand:  Being active doesn’t mean that you or your teen has to spend hours in the gym. Even standing instead of just sitting can help burn calories, such as when texting, talking on the phone or face-timing. The goal is to sit less, and then move a little more while standing – maybe rocking in place or pacing the room. Taking a walk together is always a great way to get moving, and if you can convince your teen to leave the phone behind you might have a great conversation along the way!
  • Move Together:  Encourage every member of the family to think of ways you can do things together away from the computers and TV screens to be more active as a family. You can include household chores like raking leaves or biking to the library to return some DVDs. Just be careful you don’t talk about exercise as a punishment. You want your teen to know being active is fun and feels good.
  • Go with the flow:Yoga is still “in” right now, and it’s hard to believe that it has been practiced for over 5000 years. Encourage your teen to try it with you, or download an app that shows some poses to start stretching and breathing for relaxation while improving fitness.

If you’re interested in more healthy lifestyle tips for teens, be sure to check out my other blogs on the topic: Healthy Eating Choices for Children and Teens and Winning Kids Over from Sugary Drinks to Ones with Less Added Sugar or Sugar-Free Drinks.

 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.

 

You can avoid vacation weight gain before your vacation begins

How to Lose Weight after Vacation… and Even Avoid Vacation Weight Gain

This blog was originally published on SplendaLiving.com

One of the best things about going on vacation is the chance to interrupt the monotony of our weekly routines. Whether we use our time off to sleep in and eat a picnic lunch in the park or fly to another time zone where we have breakfast in the middle of the night, the change of scenery and scheduling helps us to recharge our batteries.

Another way we switch over to vacation mode is to adopt the mindset that “anything goes.” I know I have a tendency to stay up later, spend more money and splurge at meals to get the most out of my time off. And there are endless ways to splurge! From big breakfast buffets to lavish lunches and multi-course dinners, the calories do add up. Even when traveling with children and dining in family-friendly restaurants, the large portions and irresistible side-of-fries that seem to come with every meal can dismantle our best intentions.

If you’ve ever experienced vacation weight gain, then you know what I’m talking about. It may only be a few pounds, but if you don’t make a conscious effort to lose them after vacation they can lead to “creeping obesity.”

What is Creeping Obesity?

 Researchers at the University of Georgia who studied vacation weight gain used the term “creeping obesity” to describe what happens when the weight gained while on vacation is not lost from one year to the next, and over time, results in obesity. Gaining just two pounds a year packs on an extra 20 pounds after ten years, and that can be enough to make the difference.

The study involved 122 adults who went on vacations lasting from one to three weeks. Sixty-one percent of the participants gained weight while away, and their average weight gain was .7 pounds. The researchers found that consuming more calories than usual, especially from alcoholic beverages, was a significant factor contributing to the vacation weight gain, and the excess weight was still present six weeks after the subjects returned home.

While I don’t want to put a damper on your vacation fun, I do think it’s important to halt creeping obesity in its tracks so you can go back for more fun year after year and not need a new wardrobe every time. And one of the best ways to do that is to start before you leave home!

Since most of the study subjects gained less than one pound on vacation, why not try losing a pound before you even get the luggage out of the attic for your trip? An easy place to start cutting calories is how you sweeten the hot and cold beverages you drink every day. Instead of adding sugar you can swap it out for a low-calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener. That one change can eliminate 32 calories for every two teaspoons of sugar you replace. And depending on how many sweetened drinks you have each day and how sweet you like them those calories can really add up!. You can also continue this swap during your vacation to cut calories without having to give up sweetness in your favorite beverages.

As I wrote in my blog Controlling Food Portions to Help Curb Holiday Weight Gain, you need a game plan to get what you want out of your vacation (or holiday meals), without gaining weight. You can find some helpful hints in Weight Loss Success: Lessons Learned From Successful Losers and in the checklist below, which I suggest you copy and pack in your carry-on bag, just as a reminder.

 Checklist for Avoiding Vacation Weight Gain

  • Plan a fun new physical activity into each day, such as kayaking, rock climbing or Flamenco lessons.
  • Select fresh seasonal fruit options for dessert.
  • Take walking tours to see the sights and explore old neighborhoods.
  • Order a diet or zero calorie drink instead of tropical fruit drinks.
  • Move to the music whether listening to a full orchestra, mariachi band or street corner musician.
  • Let one meal a day be “special,” but not all three.
  • Wear comfortable shoes so you’re ready for every opportunity to scramble up the stairs, frolic in the park, or track down the best bargains in the marketplace.
  • Enjoy sampling the local fare without overindulging.
  • Save cab fare and use a walking app to get to your next stop.
  • Share small plates to taste the many flavors of the local cuisine.

I hope you return from your vacations well-rested, and at the same weight you were when you left, or a few pounds less if that was part of your vacation plan!

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:
Cooper JA, Tokar T. A prospective study on vacation weight gain in adultsPhysiology & Behavior.2016;156:43-47

 

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

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.

  

Let low calorie sweeteners take the place of added sugars in your diet

What’s New in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

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

If you don’t like mathematics or tracking what you eat, you may find it difficult to follow the recommendation to reduce the added sugars in your diet found in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines). Even if you do like math and record-keeping, you’re probably not going to be happy with how many of your favorite foods and beverages taste once the new limit on added sugars is applied. (Spoiler Alert: Keep reading for my advice on how to have a lower sugar diet that still tastes sweet!)

The new guidelines encourage us to limit our daily added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of our total calories as part of a healthy eating pattern. To figure out what your daily limit for added sugars is, you first need to know what your daily calorie requirements are. You can use this table in the Guidelines for an estimate of your daily calorie needs based on age, gender and physical activity level.

Once you know how many calories per day you should eat, take 10 percent of that number to know how many calories you can devote to added sugars. Now you must divide that number by 4 to determine the number of grams of added sugars you should try to stay under each day. Another option is to divide the sugar calories by 16 to calculate the daily number of teaspoons that shouldn’t be exceeded in your diet.

Tracking Added Sugars in Foods and Beverages

To stay within your allotted budget for added sugars you should keep track of the grams and/or teaspoons of added sugars consumed each day, along with your total daily calories. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges with this step is that added sugars are not labeled on the nutrition facts panel of food products.

There are, however, a few ways to use the food label to find foods and beverages with less added sugar as noted in my previous blog, “Lowering Added Sugar in Your Meals.” Try these tips:

  1. Ingredients are listed by weight with the one used in the greatest amount coming first, so if an added sugar is at the end of a long ingredients list on a nutrition panel it is most likely not present in a significant amount.
  2. Foods and drinks made with no- and low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA®Sweetener Products, typically have less added sugar than their full sugar counterparts.
  3. The more types of sugar there are in the ingredient list, the more likely their combined weight would appear higher on the list.

Strategies to Reduce Added Sugars in the Dietary Guidelines

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report also provides a few strategies to help us reduce added sugars from our foods and beverages:

  • omit the sugar
  • choose unsweetened drinks or ones containing less sugar
  • have sweetened drinks less often
  • have sweetened drinks in smaller portions
  • limit or decrease the portion size, or choose unsweetened or no-sugar added versions of grain-based desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries) and dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, and custard).

Let SPLENDA® Sweeteners Help You Reach Your Goal!

An easy-to-incorporate strategy I recommend is to replace some of the added sugars in your food and beverages with high-intensity sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes or low-calorie sweeteners) like sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products) to retain the sweet taste that is such an important part of our eating experience.

Here’s what the new Guidelines say on the subject of low-calorie sweeteners: “High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.”

Replacing some added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners is a smart way to reduce added sugars in the diet while providing the sweet taste we want. For example, instead of the typical sweet tea with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you could try this Hot Spiced Tea and spread some No-Sugar Needed Triple Berry Jam on your sandwich.

Using SPLENDA® Sweeteners or other high-intensity sweeteners instead of added sugars is a strategy that can produce big results at the end of the day without doing all the math. For example, just by substituting one can of diet soda for a can of regular soda automatically eliminates 10 teaspoons of added sugars from your day no matter what other changes you may make. Adding a SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener packet instead of 2 teaspoons of sugar to three cups of coffee a day removes six teaspoons of sugar from your tally. And preparing this Berry-Cherry Pie with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated replaces one cup of sugar in the traditional recipe (or 6 teaspoons per serving).

There are probably a number of other changes you will need to make to limit the added sugars in your daily diet. But being able to continue enjoying a little sweetness in your meals, with less added sugars, should help make those changes a lot easier to achieve.

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

To learn more about Sugar Substitutes, visit the Sugar Substitutes 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. 

 

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.

Vacation weight gain can lead to creeping obesity

The Spring Break Souvenir Nobody Wants

This post was originally written for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org.

When college students return to campus after their winter break most of them can’t tell you exactly when they’ll be taking their final exams, but they all know the dates for spring break. Reservations are booked long before anyone cracks open a book at the start of the semester. Escaping to someplace tropical for fun in the sun is standard fare, but for many there is a souvenir that can linger long after the tan marks have faded. It’s called creeping obesity.

Just like holiday weight gain that isn’t lost from one year to the next, weight gained while on vacation can contribute to creeping obesity – or gradual weight gain over time – if those extra pounds aren’t lost when you get home.  A recent study found the average weight gain for vacations of one to three weeks was .7 pounds, with some subjects gaining as much as 7 pounds.

Another finding in that study was that weight was gained despite the slight increase in physical activity reported during vacations. Apparently snorkeling and beach volleyball aren’t enough to offset the increased caloric intake, especially from alcoholic drinks which tended to double while on vacation!

Gaining a small amount of weight may seem like no big deal, but as I said in my book Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, if you don’t deal with the ounces they’ll turn into pounds by the time you graduate.  And since it’s much easier to lose one or two pounds than five or ten, why not make it part of your vacation plans to drop those unwanted pounds as quickly as you gained them?   Here’s how to do it.

Ways to Spring Back From a Spring Break!

  1. Know Your Number– Before you go on vacation use a customized program, like SuperTracker, to determine the number of calories you consume each day to maintain your present weight with your usual amount of physical activity. This is number your baseline calorie allowance.
  2. Step on the Scale– Weigh yourself before you leave for vacation and again on the morning after you return to see if you’ve gained weight and how much you need to lose to get back to your pre-vacation weight. Weigh yourself daily while following the steps below until you reach your goal.
  3. Keep a Record– Start recording everything you eat and drink, and the amounts, so you can tally your daily caloric intake. Keep it 200 calories below your maintenance number, calculated in #1. One way to drop 200 calories a day is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with diet drinks and to use no- and low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar.
  4. Up Your Activity– Increase your usual time spent in physical activity by at least one hour per week by adding a single 60-minute workout or an additional 15 minutes to four regular workouts.
  5. Monitor Your Maintenance– You can stop the calorie counting and extra hour of exercise once you return to your pre-vacation weight, but continue to weigh yourself weekly. Resume the food records and added exercise time if you see your weight going up before your next vacation.

Robyn Flipse. Fighting the Freshman Fifteen. Three Rivers Press, 2002.

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.