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.

 

Tips for eating holiday lefotvers

What’s Your Plan For A Stuffed Refrigerator?

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

Anyone hosting a Thanksgiving dinner has to have a game plan to make sure all of the food needed for a successful meal is purchased, prepared and properly served. But what about the days after Thanksgiving when your refrigerator is stuffed with assorted leftovers? Do you have a plan for that food so it doesn’t go to waste or end up around your waist?

No need to worry, help is on the way! Just use these tips to turn those leftovers into completely new menu options that will let you enjoy the tastes of the day, but with a healthy new twist.

Smoothies – Use leftover undressed garden salad, fruit salad, crudité vegetables and cooked leafy greens to make a smoothie to fuel you through your Black Friday shopping. Add any slightly bruised apples that didn’t make it into the pie and the remains in that jug of apple cider to sweeten. 

Crumbs & Croutons – Leftover yeast breads and rolls can be cubed, placed in a baking pan and baked until toasted on all sides for use as croutons. (Be sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them crisp.) Unused stuffing mix, cornbread, crackers, chips and nuts can be turned into crumbs and frozen for future use. Just store each of them in separate labeled bags for easy identification.

 Soup – Mashed white or sweet potatoes (without marshmallows) and roasted root vegetables are all you need to make a hearty soup. Add them to a pot with leftover turkey stock (or a little gravy and water) then use an immersion blender to puree. Punch up the flavor with curry seasoning or sriracha sauce, bring it to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add croutons made from your leftover bread for a lunch that will satisfy with far fewer calories than a reheated plate of leftovers.

 Dips & Spreads – Put marinated vegetables from an antipasti tray, such as mushrooms, artichoke hearts or asparagus, in the blender with drained canned white beans to make a tasty vegetable hummus — or mix the pureed vegetables with any leftover hummus. Enjoy with cut up celery stalks not used in the stuffing. Combine roasted red peppers and caramelized onions in the blender with assorted olives for a flavorful tapenade to spread on a turkey wrap. Give leftover peas and pearl onions a whirl in the blender with the remains of the guacamole for a lighter version of this classic dip.

 Omelets & Frittatas – Shred and combine leftover pieces of different hard cheeses to add to egg dishes along with diced baked potatoes, broccoli, green beans and other vegetables. A simple veggie omelet is an ideal high-protein low-carb dinner for the day after the feast.

 Second Chance Desserts – Treats that are out of sight are out of mind, so cut leftover pies and cakes into individual portions, wrap each in plastic wrap, then label, date and freeze them to enjoy at a time when you can afford those extra calories.

 Help the Hungry – Don’t forget to donate any extra nonperishable foods, such as canned pumpkin, boxed pasta, bagged stuffing and bottled juices to your local food pantry to help feed those with no leftovers. It’s a great way to celebrate the true meaning of Thanks-giving!

 

There's no rpoof diet drinks causes weight gain

DO YOGA PANTS AND DIET DRINKS MAKE YOU FAT?

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

Have you noticed how many more people are wearing sweatpants, yoga pants or leggings instead of jeans these days? If you have, or are among those who have made the switch, it is a growing trend. According to one market report, jean sales have been declining for the last three years while sales of “active pants” have been on the rise.

What you also may have noticed is that not everyone wearing athletic attire looks like they spend a lot of time in the gym. Do you suspect that their trendy new attire has made them gain weight?

Probably not.

My guess is that while it’s nice to be in fashion, the elastic waist bands and stretchy fabrics are very forgiving for anyone who has put on a few pounds and doesn’t want to buy bigger clothes.

This observation reminded me of another common misperception that isn’t as easily debunked. Many people believe that diet drinks can lead to weight gain because so many of the people who regularly drink them are overweight. But what we really should be asking is, which came first — the excess weight or the diet drink?

While there may be an association between wearing yoga pants or drinking diet beverages and being overweight, the behavior didn’t cause the problem. Overweight people may simply be more comfortable wearing yoga pants and may drink diet beverages to help them reduce their caloric intake.

There is no evidence of cause and effect here.

That’s an important point to keep in mind whenever you see headlines that proclaim an association, correlation, relationship or link between a population and a particular behavior or food choice. So if you happen to drink diet soda or wear sweatpants, you’ve got nothing to worry about. And if that active wear makes it easier to get more exercise, that’s even better!

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.`

 

 

Start the holiday party season with a plan to control excess calories

Simple Solutions to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

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

I know it can seem impossible to control what you eat during the holidays due to all of the parties and special occasions that occur, but weight gain is not inevitable! Instead of worrying about weight loss during such an overwhelming time, focus on maintaining your current weight and adding in exercise when possible- a game of touch football while Christmas dinner is in the oven or a walk with family before dessert. Below I’ve put together five simple substitutions for a happy and healthy holiday season.

BE SELECTIVE

Whether you have 3 social engagements in the same day or 3 in the same week, you can’t walk into each one and eat and drink as if it’s the only party of the year. Instead, you need to be selective about where your calories are going to come from so you can stay within your personal calorie “budget.” A good place to start is with the beverages. A no calorie diet soda or glass of seltzer with a twist of lime can save 150 to 300 calories compared to a glass of wine or fancy mixed drink. And choosing a non-alcoholic drink will also help you make the rest of your food decisions with a clear head.

MAKE TRADE-OFFS

When it comes to weight control, every calorie counts! That means you need ways to offset the added calories you’re likely to eat when the tins of homemade cookies and boxes of assorted chocolates are passed around. It’s possible by making lower calorie substitutions throughout the day. For example, order a Skinny Latte made with a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, and nonfat milk instead of your usual mocha coffee drink. Or you can swap out your mid-morning muffin for a reduced-calorie, high fiber granola bar. How about passing on the croutons at the salad bar and taking an extra scoop of crunchy cauliflower for another calorie-saving trade-off? By saving calories throughout the day, you can enjoy a few more later on.

BE PREPARED

We can’t add more hours to the day to get all those extra errands done we have this time of year, but keeping plenty of better-for-you foods on hand can help fuel us while doing them. The best choices provide protein and fiber so we’ll feel satisfied longer. Try a container of light yogurt with chopped walnuts sprinkled on top, a cheese round or wedge with a few whole wheat crackers, or a small container of hummus with some baked soy chips for great grab-and-go snacks that can curb your hunger until your next meal.

PLAN TO EAT

Even if it feels like your “to-do” list gets longer every day, skipping meals is not a good way to catch up. Eating on a regular schedule keeps your energy levels on track so you can get to the bottom of that list! It will also help prevent the impulsive eating that can occur when you get too hungry and face a food court full of temptation. You can make your meals as simple as a healthy frozen dinner heated up in the microwave or a soup and sandwich combo from the nearest deli. The key is to take the time to stop and eat a planned meal instead of over eating an unplanned one.

DON’T LET STRESS GET THE BEST OF YOU

The holidays are meant to be enjoyed, so make sure you keep your sights focused on the fun, not just the work. Delegate, improvise and take shortcuts to reduce some of the demands on your time and the stress eating that can go with it. Wouldn’t a massage, a facial or long soak in the tub make you feel more relaxed? Making time to pamper yourself is often all it takes to put things back into perspective.

WISHING YOU ALL A HAPPY, HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON!

Why Do We Have Low-Calorie Sweeteners?

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

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many low-calorie sweeteners to choose from, it helps to first know a little bit about the history of the caloric sweeteners they can be used to replace. It all begins with our innate preference for a sweet taste. This evolutionary trait is linked to the natural sweetness of breast milk, which must fuel our rapid growth during the first year of life.

SWEET HISTORY

The only way our earliest ancestors got to taste something sweet once they were weaned was if they happened to find a plant while foraging with sweet leaves, stem, bark, roots or fruit. Since those parts could also be toxic, the pursuit of something sweet required a fast learning curve. The same can be said for stealing honey from a bee hive to satisfy a sweet tooth! People living in New Guinea over 8,000 years ago are credited with being the first to chew wild sugar cane for its sweet taste. It was later discovered that sweet syrup could be made by boiling the canes, and this turned into a sweet powder when dried. The rest, as they say, is history. The trading of sugar quickly expanded across Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe, finally making its way to the New World in 1493 when Christopher Columbus arrived with sugar cane seeds.

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES, THE EARLY YEARS

The growing global demand for sugar in the 20th Century combined with the high cost to produce and transport it motivated food scientists to look for something that could be used in its place. Several compounds were discovered that were many times sweeter than sugar so they weren’t readily accepted as a substitute. It wasn’t until sugar was rationed during both World Wars that sales of these alternative sweeteners took off to satisfy our craving for something sweet when no sugar could be had.

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES, THE MODERN ERA

The unprecedented expansion in food production in the United States following World War II gave us an abundant and affordable food supply that contributed to the first signs of excess weight gain among Americans in the 1950s. This, in turn, helped launch the popular Weight Watchers® program in 1960s and increase the demand for more no- and low-calorie sweeteners by people trying to manage their weight.

WHAT’S AVAILABLE

LCS table

The no- and low-calorie sweeteners currently approved for use in U.S. foods and beverages can be found in the table above. Dozens more are in development to help meet the growing desire for alternatives to sugar that have fewer calories and are safe for everyone in the family — and that pretty much sums up why we have low-calorie sweeteners!

Have any questions? Ask them in the comments!

Notes:

1. Sweet compounds were isolated
2. Approved as a dietary supplement in 1995, then available as a food ingredient in 2008
3. Approved as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS), so does not require FDA approval as a food additive
4. Discovery of the sweet component in the fruit

Weight management is about moderation, not elimination

THE REDEMPTION DIET

This post was written as a guest blog for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org on May 23, 2014. You can read the original post here.

The last thing we need in this world is another fad diet, but I must confess I did coin “The Redemption Diet.” To be perfectly clear, I did not invent this diet, I just named it after seeing it practiced by so many people and not knowing what else to call it.

What is The Redemption Diet?

A person wants to lose weight or improve their health, but isn’t ready to make all of the changes needed to establish better eating habits. Instead, they decide to eliminate a single food, beverage or ingredient from their diet as a sign of their commitment to self-improvement. To be worthy of redemption, they must first decide that something they now eat is evil or bad for them – maybe chocolate, French fries or diet soda. By avoiding the temptation of that food, they rationalize they will be “saved.” That’s the basic premise behind The Redemption Diet.

If this sounds familiar, then you know how the story ends.

Giving up something you love is hard to do, so most people don’t last very long on The Redemption Diet. More importantly, if that something is a food or drink that is perfectly safe, readily available, and highly enjoyable, why bother? This is especially true for diet soda, which has no calories, making it even harder to imagine why anyone would think giving it up will help them lose weight.

I have seen numerous accounts of people who have waged a personal battle with diet soda in the belief they would be a better person if they stopped drinking it. They tweet and blog about their struggle living without their favorite diet drink and count the number of days they’ve been “abstinent” with misplaced pride.

I am always left thinking they were looking for a way to punish themselves by taking away something they really enjoy in life. If I’m right, then The Redemption Diet is a sign of another problem. I also can’t help but wonder how much they were drinking in the first place, because if they felt they were drinking too much, that is more easily dealt with by moving toward moderation, not elimination. In fact, if you want to know how much low calorie sweetener is in your diet soda and how much is right for you, just can check here.

Bottom line on The Redemption Diet?

Fad diets and food elimination don’t work as a weight management strategy. Learning to balance the calories in all of your food and beverage choices with enough physical activity do.

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her other posts here.

Dr. Oz continues to make unsupported claims about sugar substitutes

Misinformation About Sugar Substitutes Continues on The Dr. Oz Show

You can see and hear my interview with The Skinny On Low Cal about the recent Dr. Oz Show that continued his misguided attack on low calorie sweeteners here: Myth-busting the Recent Dr. Oz segment on Low Calorie Sweeteners . Don’t be fooled by all his circus tricks. The published and peer-reviewed science says these sweeteners are safe and an effective tool for weight management when used as part of a balanced diet along with regular exercise. That is also the opinion of international food regulatory agencies and trusted health organizations including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

 

Disclosure: I am a consultant to the Calorie Control Council, but all statements are my own.

Making simple substitutions can reduce sugar, fat and calories in favorite dessert recipes

3 Tips For The Perfect Pumpkin Pie

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

I know, I know, you’ve heard enough already about how to make your holiday pumpkin pie a little healthier. But if I can have your attention for just a few minutes longer I want to wrap up all of the great advice about how to shave some calories, trim the fat, and knock down the added sugar in this seasonal dessert in just three – yes that’s 1-2-3 – simple tips.

Are you ready? Here goes!

#1. CUT THE CRUST

The standard pastry dough lining a 9 inch pie plate is made from 1 ¼ cups of flour, half a stick or butter (or other fat), plus a little water. It delivers a whopping 975 calories and 46 grams of fat to that pie before you put anything into it! That’s works out to more than 120 crust calories per slice and nearly 6 grams of fat if you get eight equal servings out of it.

You can put a big dent in those numbers by using a spring form pan and replacing the pastry crust with a crumb crust made with crushed low fat graham crackers, a sugar substitute, and a little heart-healthy oil and yogurt to replace the butter, lard or shortening.

For a 10” spring form pan you’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon canola, peanut or walnut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon each cinnamon and ginger (optional)
  • 1 ¼ cups low fat graham cracker crumbs (about 8 full sheets)
  • your favorite sugar substitute equal to 2 tablespoons sugar

 

#2. FIX THE FILLING

Pumpkin pie filling is nothing more than a pumpkin custard. It sets up so well you don’t really need a crust because it will conform to the shape of the pan you bake it in. But since I’ve already dealt with the crust, I want to focus on how to make the filling less filling.

By making smart substitutions for the sugar, milk, and eggs you add to the pureed pumpkin, you can drop the fat, sugar and caloric content without changing the flavor or texture one bit. Here’s all you need to do for a recipe that calls for 2 cups of pumpkin (or a 15 ounce can of pure pumpkin puree).

Mix pumpkin puree with:

  • 12 ounce can fat free evaporated milk (undiluted)
  • 2 whole large eggs (or ½ cup refrigerated egg product like Eggbeaters®)
  • your favorite sugar substitute equivalent to ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ¼ teaspoon ginger, and ¼ teaspoon nutmeg OR 1 ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract

Stir everything together until thoroughly combined, pour into prepared crust and bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes or until the center is set.

Savings per pie: 820 calories, 6 grams fat, 150 grams sugar

#3. LIGHTEN THE HEAVY CREAM

There’s no need to forgo the traditional dollop of whipped topping on that slice of pumpkin pie, but you do have options on how heavy the cream must be to make it. While there are plenty of fat free versions already whipped up for us in the store, if you choose to make your own, here are some tips to help you lighten your load.

Instead of 1 cup of heavy whipping cream use:

  • ¾ cup canned evaporated 2% milk, chilled
  • ¼ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
  • your favorite sugar substitute equal to 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • nutmeg for garnish (optional)

Chill the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes before mixing. Combine all ingredients except nutmeg in the chilled bowl and beat with an electric hand or standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment starting at low speed and gradually progressing to high as soft peaks start to form. Continue beating until peaks hold their shape when beaters are lifted from bowl, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately as it will lose volume at room temperature, or you can make dollops on a waxed paper lined tray and store them in freezer until needed. Garnish with nutmeg.

Savings per batch (about 2 cups): 470 calories, 63 grams fat

Wishing you all a happy, healthy holiday!

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her other posts here.

Marsala Chai fills kitchen with scent of holiday spices

Simmer Some Holiday Spices in Masala Chai

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

The biggest competition on Thanksgiving Day doesn’t happen on a football field for me. Instead it’s a battle between the spices taking over my kitchen. The heady bouquet of sage and thyme takes an early lead in the day, but the intoxicating aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg always wins when it’s over.

Now I’ve discovered a way to surround myself with that scent all year long by making Masala Chai!

“Chai” is Hindi word for tea and “masala” chai is simply spiced tea. Traditional recipes for this ancient Indian brew are made by a process called decoction. It involves gently simmering loose black tea, assorted whole spices and a sweetening agent in a mixture of milk and water, then straining it before serving.

Popular versions available today include pre-seasoned tea bags that can be steeped in hot water so you can add the milk and a sweetener of your choice. Chai can also be purchased as a dry instant mix or liquid concentrate to prepare as iced tea or a shake. And when you’re in your favorite coffee shop you can even find chai latte made with steamed milk.

If you’re ready to try making Masala Chia at home there are endless ways to create your own signature version. The type of tea and spices you use will deliver that inviting fragrance and zesty flavor (especially if using pepper and ginger), while your choice of sweetener and milk will enhance the flavor and control the calories.

TEA – loose or bagged: black, green, white, oolong or pu-erh tea from Camellia sinensis plant; flavored tea such as Earl Grey or jasmine; herbal infusion teas such as rooibos or chamomile

SPICES – whole or ground: allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, ginger (dried or fresh), peppercorns, star anise

MILK – whole, reduced-fat, low-fat or fat-free: fresh cow’s milk, powdered milk, canned evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk (replaces milk and sweetener), soymilk, almond milk

SWEETENERS – powdered, granulated or syrup: white or brown sugar, honey, molasses, date sugar, palm sugar, coconut sugar, agave syrup, no- and low-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame, stevia, sucralose

MASALA CHAI

Serving Size- 2 cups

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water
1 cup fat-free milk
2 teaspoons loose tea leaves or 1 tea bag
1-2 teaspoons spices: ¼ tsp. cinnamon + ¼ tsp. clove + ¼ tsp. nutmeg + 2 black peppercorns + 1 thin slice fresh ginger
1 packet low calorie sweetener, equal to 2 teaspoons sugar

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine water, milk, spices and sweetener in a pot and heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until just below a boil. Be careful not to boil the milk.
2. Turn off heat, cover and let simmer 2 minutes.
3. Pour through strainer into individual tea cups or teapot to serve.

TIPS: Stainless steel or nonstick pots work best for even heating. Keep heat at medium-high so milk doesn’t burn. A combination of fresh and dried spices can be used. Strain immediately for best flavor. Refrigerate unused portion.

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD

Use a low calorie sweetener in place of sugar to make cranberry relish

Cranberry Relish Without All the Calories

This blog was written as a guest post for The Skinny on Low Cal site. You can access the original post here.

What ingredient on your holiday menu grows in sandy bogs and marshes, was once used as a medicine to draw the poison out of arrow wounds and helped sailors prevent scurvy on long sea voyages? If you’re serving cranberry sauce with your Thanksgiving turkey look no further for the answer. Whether you prefer jellied or whole berry sauce, there is little doubt some version of this bright red fruit was part of the very first Thanksgiving meal, and the tradition has continued ever since.

Native Americans had many uses for cranberries when the Pilgrims arrived (besides the poultice that removed arrow poison). They made dyes for their rugs and blankets from them and a type of “jerky” using mashed cranberries that preserved deer meat. In return, the Pilgrims were the first to sweeten the tart berries to make pies, puddings and the ever popular cranberry sauce!

If you’ve ever popped a fresh cranberry into your mouth without knowing its tart little secret, you’ll never forget it — cranberries make you pucker! That’s why they’re always combined with other fruits, juices and sweeteners in recipes to make them more palatable. The only problem is it takes a lot of sugar to reduce their pucker power, and that adds calories. Using a combination of fruit and a low calorie sweetener with cranberries provides a calorie-smart solution.

Since I don’t happen to like sweet condiments on my savory food, I never have cranberry sauce with my turkey or catsup on my burgers, but I love the Cranberry-Orange Relish we always serve at Thanksgiving. So I started using this low calorie cranberry relish recipe and eat it all year long on toasted baguettes smeared with soft goat cheese, mixed into my fat-free Greek yogurt, or stuffed into a baked apple.

I hope you’ll try it and discover ways you, too, can enjoy cranberries on many more occasions than the annual harvest meal!

Registered dietitian and nutrition expert Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN has more than 30 years of experience counseling patients and teaching at the university level. She is also the author of two books on nutrition. Follow her on Twitter @EverydayRD