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.

 

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.

Aspartame has been help part of healthy diets for 35 years

The Most Studied Low Calorie Sweetener Turns 35 This Year

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

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

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

 Benefits of Aspartame

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

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

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

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

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

 Safety of Aspartame

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

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

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

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

Sugar substitutes can help reduce added sugars in the diet

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

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

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

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

Limiting the added sugar in the diet

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

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

Carbohydrates, Candy and Diabetes

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

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

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

 

Frozen desserts made with aspartame

Sweet Frozen Treats

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

Those of us who live where there are four seasons throughout the year associate certain foods with certain seasons. A perfect example is eating frozen desserts, like ice cream, in the hot days of summer. But even if the temperature never gets too high where you live, frozen sweet treats are enjoyed any time of year all around the world.

What Makes Frozen Desserts Taste So Good?

Whether licked off a cone or spoon, the creamy consistency of frozen desserts makes them special. Their creaminess can come from dairy ingredients, like milk and cream, or from dairy substitutes, like soy, rice and coconut milks. Those without milk products may rely on bananas, fruit purees or avocado to give them a smooth texture. To prevent the formation of large ice crystals during the freezing process you may see plant-based stabilizers, such as guar gum, locust bean gum and carrageenan on the ingredient list.

The endless flavor combinations of frozen desserts means there’s one to satisfy every taste preference. Vanilla holds first place as the preferred flavor in the U.S., while Whiskey Prune ice cream is popular in Australia. If you need more choices there is a shop in Venezuela that holds the Guinness Book of Records standard for the largest selection of ice cream flavors in the world, including Spaghetti and Meatballs ice cream!

The one ingredient that all frozen desserts contain is some type of sweetener. Cane or beet sugar is the most common, but honey and agave syrup are also used. Many frozen treats also are made with sugar substitutes for consumers looking for a dessert with less added sugar, fewer calories, lower carbohydrate content or all three of those features.

It is important to keep in mind that when you see the claims “no added sugar,” “without added sugar,” and “no sugar added’ on a frozen dessert that does not mean there is no sugar in it. It means no sugar was added as a sweetener, but other ingredients may be a source of naturally occurring sugars, such as the lactose in milk and the fructose in strawberries. Sweet frozen treats with these claims often contain aspartame, sorbitol or other sugar substitutes to provide the desired sweetness.

Right next to the tubs of ice cream and sherbet in your grocer’s freezer are the frozen novelties. They are individually packaged, single serving frozen desserts, such as ice cream sandwiches, ice pops and filled cones. I still think of them as the items sold from the ice cream trucks that roamed my neighborhood on summer nights when I was a child. Just like the frozen desserts sold in family-sized containers, there are frozen novelties made with sugar substitutes.

If you want to make your own sweet frozen treats you’ll be happy to know you don’t need an ice cream machine for many recipes. These Cold and Creamy Fruit Cups are filled with the fruits of summer so a perfect way to celebrate National Ice Cream Month in July.

Frozen desserts made with aspartame

Cold and Creamy Fruit Cups

Cold and Creamy Fruit Cups

Ingredients

1 package (8 ounces) fat-free cream cheese
1 cup fat-free sour cream
1/3 cup aspartame (8 packets Equal®)
2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or canned and drained peaches
1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened blueberries
1 cup fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries or quartered strawberries
1 cup cubed fresh or canned drained pineapple
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin orange segments, drained
12 pecan halves (optional)

Preparation

  1. Beat cream cheese, sour cream, aspartame and lemon juice in mixing bowl on medium speed of mixer until smooth and well combined.
  2. Fold in all of the fruit using a spoon.
  3. Spoon the mixture into 12 paper-lined muffin cups.
  4. Garnish each with a pecan halve
  5. Freeze 6 to 8 hours or until firm
  6. Let stand 10 to 15 minutes or until slightly softened before serving.

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.

 

OPTIONAL RECIPES
Pineapple Peach Sorbet
Blueberry Melon Freeze
Peachy Cream Gelatin Dessert (could use sugar free gelatin and sugar free ice cream)
Cantaloupe Sherbet
Frozen bananas

REFERENCES
International Dairy Foods Association: Ice Cream
Coromoto Ice Cream Shop
Stabilizers in Ice Cream

Low calorie sweeteners all taste sweet, but are not the same

Are Some Sugar Substitutes Better than Others?

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

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, 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.

Most people know that carrots are a healthier choice than candy, but what about carrots versus kale? If you compare the nutrient content of each you will find a half cup portion of cooked carrots provides more vitamin A than an equal portion of cooked kale, but the kale has more vitamin C.

Since we need both vitamin A and vitamin C for good health, the best choice might be to eat both carrots and kale!

A harder question to answer, but one I’m asked all the time is, “What is the best sugar substitute?” Since so many people do not understand the unique features of the available no-calorie sweeteners, I like to refer them to my blog, “Sucralose, Stevia, Aspartame, What’s the Difference?” to find the information needed to compare them.

Maybe you’ve heard stevia is a healthier sugar substitute than sucralose, the sweetener in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, because it is a “natural” sweetener compared to sucralose. This is, however, really a myth. I also covered that question in a previous blog, “What Does Natural Mean?”

There is also no official definition for the term “natural” for ingredients used in prepared foods. If you really want to compare stevia vs sucralose, here are the facts you need to see how they stack up.

Stevia vs Sucralose

sucralose chart

Finding the healthiest foods is not easy since we need so many different nutrients for good health and no one food can provide them all. Deciding which sugar substitute is best for you is much easier – just choose the one that tastes best to you!

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: Global Stevia Institute http://globalsteviainstitute.com/stevia-facts/

For more information about sugar substitutes, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.

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Switching to diet drinks is not enough to produce weight loss

Aspartame: Weight Loss Friend or Foe?

This blog was written as a guest post for Yahoo!Shine. You can read the original post here.

In the wake of today’s growing obesity epidemic, beverages made with low-and no-calorie sweeteners are a valuable tool. They help people to enjoy sweet tasting foods and beverages without too many calories and help manage weight. Since obesity is caused, in part, by excess calories, using these sweeteners just makes sense. Unfortunately, not everyone advocates for their use.

Despite all evidence in favor of sugar substitutes, there have been repeated challenges regarding their safety, which leave many people wondering if they’re a healthy option. Recent coverage of an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) study prematurely portrayed aspartame as harmful, and is a perfect example of media raising unnecessary alarm. As a registered dietitian and specialist in weight management, I’d like to lay these concerns to rest.

First, the facts: Aspartame was approved for use as a table-top sweetener by the Food and Drug Administration more than three decades ago. It then received approval for use in carbonated beverages and other food categories. It has also been approved as a food ingredient by regulatory agencies in more than 100 other countries and used by millions of people living with diabetes or simply trying to control their weight.

The recent AJCN aspartame study tried to link the sweetener to cancer, but like so many other studies, failed to find a connection. After promoting the study, the researchers retracted their findings and noted the results were so inconsistent they may have simply been due to chance. That is not what the media initially reported, however, causing alarm and confusion for many.

This time the reaction to the misinformation was swift. In less than 24 hours, Harvard and the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, where the study was conducted, apologized for promoting this flawed research. Other scientists also took a stand, such as Dr. Steven Nissen at the Cleveland Clinic, who asserted, “Promoting a study that its own authors agree is not definite, not conclusive and not useful for the public is not in the best interests of public health.”

After 30 years of widespread use, we know that aspartame is safe. It is one of the most thoroughly investigated ingredients in the world with more than 200 scientific studies conducted in both laboratory animals and in humans confirming its safety. It’s time to focus our attention on how low calorie sweeteners can help people control their weight instead of repeatedly raising fear about their use.

The best way to protect your health and maintain a healthy weight is the same now as it ever was – eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise. And if you’re doing that, then there’s no reason not to enjoy a beverage with sugar substitutes, too.

Robyn Flipse is a registered dietitian and cultural anthropologist who consults for food and beverage companies, including Coca-Cola, McNeil Nutritionals, and General Mills.