A balanced diet is just one part of a balanced lifestyleons

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

This blog was originally published on SplendaLiving.com.

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

What Does It Mean to Be Healthy?

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

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

Connecting the Parts of a Healthy Lifestyle

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

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

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

Healthy Eating Habits for All the Right Reasons

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

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

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

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

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

 

apple bread pudding made with Splenda

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

This blog was originally posted on SplendaLiving.com.

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

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

What Are Discretionary Calories?

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

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

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

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

Recipes That Deliver on Sweet Taste

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

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

Lemon glazed jumbo shrimp salad

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

 

Dessert can still be sweet with less added sugars

Make delicious desserts with less added sugars using Splenda

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

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

Ingredients:

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

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tips to prevent holiday weight gain

Sensible Ways to Fight the Holiday Weight Gain Battle

This post originally appeared on SplendaLiving.com.

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

Reflect on Past Patterns

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

Here are some ways you can change those patterns:

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

Consider Your Mindset

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

Try these more mindful approaches at your next holiday meal:

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

Reorder Your Priorities

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

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

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

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

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

 

Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

It’s the Dose that Matters

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

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

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

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

What is the Acceptable Daily Intake?

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

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

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

What is the Estimated Daily Intake? 

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

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

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

ADI.2

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