Nutrition education is taught at home, not through soda taxes

Sweet Childhood Memories

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

While refilling the sugar bowl after a weekend visit from a friend, who likes her coffee sweet, I found myself wondering how this ingredient found in nearly every pantry in the world has become so vilified. That wasn’t always the case.

Sugar was a big part of my diet when I was growing up. My mother took pride in her homemade pies, beautifully decorated birthday cakes, and the 30 different varieties of Christmas cookies she baked every year for family and friends. In the summer she made delicious jars of jams and preserves that my sisters and I spread on her freshly baked bread as an after school snack. And every night after dinner we had dessert, even if it was just a dish of pudding. All that cooking and baking used a lot of sugar!

If I tell someone these memories of my childhood diet they often remark how lucky I was. Looking back I have to agree— there was no guilt or shame in enjoying all the sweet treats my mother prepared. But that’s not the only thing that was different.

My friends and I were much more active than children are today. We walked or rode our bikes to school every day and any place we wanted to go when not in school. We also had far less screen time with just one TV in the house and only 5 channels to watch. And our nutrition education started early, at home, by eating our meals together and learning to how to cook.  .

Heaping all of the blame for our rising rates of obesity on added sugar consumption just doesn’t make sense. Many other changes in our way of life over the past 50 years have also contributed to the problem, so taxing and restricting access to sweetened drinks is not a solution. I can’t even imagine how my mother would have reacted if a law was passed limiting the amount of sugar she could buy!  It’s time to start taking personal responsibility for our health, starting with making better food choices and being more active. Thankfully, we don’t need any new laws to do that.

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.

 

Blends made with sucralose p and sugar make baking easy

Sugar Substitutes for Baking: SPLENDA® Sugar Blends

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.

Even though I am a big proponent of low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to lower the calories from sugar in my diet, that doesn’t mean I’m anti-sugar. Far from it! I am reminded of this whenever I’m preparing those less-added-sugar desserts that just wouldn’t turn out right if they didn’t have some sugar in them.

Thankfully, there is a way to get the unique cooking properties of sugar with fewer calories and still get the results you’d expect from full sugar.

Less Added Sugar vs No Sugar

SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and Brown Sugar Blend can help in preparing lower added sugar versions of your favorite recipes. Each is a mix of sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweeteners) and pure sugar – either white or brown sugar. Baked goods made with them achieve the volume, moistness and browning you want, but with less sugar.

Since SPLENDA® Sugar Blends get half their sweetness from sucralose, you don’t have to use as much to get the sweet taste you want. That’s how they help you cut sugar calories. For most recipes, you simply replace the full amount of sugar called for with half as much SPLENDA® Sugar Blend orSPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend. Every cup of sugar replaced with half a cup of SPLENDA® Sugar Blend saves you 387 calories and 100 grams of carbohydrate!

This product is different from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated, which offers even more calorie savings. SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener works best in recipes where sugar is used for sweetness rather than functionality, and can be used in many baked goods with no, or only minor, modifications. A big advantage to using SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated is that you can make one-to-one measurements of it to replace the sugar in a recipe. A cup of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated has the same sweetening power as a cup of sugar, but with 678 fewer calories.

You can find recipes like these Choco-Chip Cookies that combine SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated with brown sugar.

When Every Calorie Counts

It’s great to know we can cook and bake with sugar substitutes and still enjoy the foods we love, but with fewer calories from sugar. It’s also important to know that the calories we save using sugar substitutes like SPLENDA® Sweeteners have nothing to do with all of the other ingredients in our recipes. That means the calories in the flour, butter, eggs and chocolate chips in my favorite cookie recipe don’t disappear when I use SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend in place of brown sugar – but I do appreciate the reduction. You can read more about that in my earlier blog, Where is the Hidden Sugar in Your Meals? How to Identify Hidden Calorie Culprits.

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.

For more information about cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.

 

Learn new ways to prepare favorite foods without gluten and sugar

Gluten Free and Lower Sugar Baking Tips

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.

Would it still be a Caesar salad without the garlic croutons, or still be a strawberry shortcake without the buttermilk biscuit? If you have been diagnosed as being sensitive to gluten, you are likely to face many recipe challenges. And the task is even harder if you want to lower your added sugar intake, too. But just like learning to make new recipes using ingredients and preparation methods that you haven’t tried before takes practice, you can master the art of gluten free and lower-added sugar cooking and baking to keep your meals real.

Wheat Functions & Features

The main value of the gluten in wheat flour, besides being a source of protein, is that it stretches when heated so dough and batters can rise to make light, airy breads, cakes and pastry. Higher protein wheat flour is typically used in yeast breads to give them structure, while lower protein flour, such as cake flour, provides a more tender crumb and texture for cakes and pastry. Without gluten, you’ll need other ways to get volume in your baked goods and create the desired texture.

Flavor is also provided by the type of flour used in a recipe, so when making substitutions for wheat flour you must consider how this will affect the taste of the finished product.

For best results when doing your gluten free cooking and baking, keep these Wheat Substitution Tips in mind.

Wheat Substitution Tips

  1. Follow measuring instructions carefully, such as to sift before measuring
  2. Use a combination of flour substitutes or a ready-made mix to get the benefits of several different ingredients
  3. Trust the recipe; it will have different ratios of liquid and dry ingredients than wheat-based recipes, and more leavening
  4. Don’t measure other ingredients over your mixing bowl, especially leavening, since spillage can affect results
  5. Mix for the time suggested and at the right speed; under or over mixing can affect results
  6. Avoid over filling the pan so batter can rise evenly and won’t collapse before fully baked
  7. Bake in the right type of pan (metal or glass) of the recommended size and at the right temperature
  8. Use a digital or “instant read” thermometer to check the internal temperature of breads to avoid over-baking
  9. Stock your pantry with gluten-free baking products, such as xanthan gum and guar gum, to get volume, and dough enhancers to help prevent items from going stale quickly
  10. You’ll be happy to know that SPLENDA® Sweetener Products have no gluten-containing ingredients.

Sugar Functions & Features

Granulated white sugar, powdered confectioner’s sugar and brown sugar are the sweeteners of choice in most recipes for desserts, candies, jellies and preserves, but they do much more than just sweeten the recipe.

Sugar also provides color, flavor, volume, texture, consistency and/or structure, depending on the recipe you’re making, so when it’s not used other steps must be taken to produce the desired results. You can get some tips on what to do in my blog “Cooking & Baking With Low Calorie Sweeteners” or one from Sue Taylor on “Baking with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products.”

Another great way to sweeten a dish is to substitute a fruit puree (such as unsweetened apple sauce) for some of the oil or other liquids called for. This may require making adjustments in the dry ingredients, too, but the benefits are worth it. You can also add dried fruit bits to enhance the sweetness or a little more of the spice(s) called for, such as cinnamon or nutmeg, or a dash more vanilla or other flavored extract.

Bonus Tip: If you have some failures in your early attempts at making gluten-free and/or lower-sugar recipes, put them in the food processor and turn them into sweet and savory “crumbs” to use as coatings, toppings and extenders for other dishes.

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.

replacing sugar with low calorie sweeteners, like Splenda, can help control weight

How Small Swaps, Choosing Foods with Less Added Sugar, Can Have Lifelong Benefits

This post was written as a guest blog for Splenda Living and published on April 1, 2014. You can read the original blog 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.

The history of weight loss is filled with outlandish diets and bizarre gimmicks that promise to “melt fat away” while you sleep. If only that were possible! But as I like to remind my clients, if any one of those crazy schemes really worked, there would be no need for the next one. Yet quicker than you can say chocolate cream pie, another miracle diet comes along filling people with hope that it might be the one to do the trick for them.

While there is no magic bullet that can produce instant weight loss, there is a way to reach your goal weight without one. Just live each day as if you’re already there. This approach really makes sense since even if you could miraculously wake up at your goal weight, you’d still need a plan to help you maintain it.

By doing the things now that you would do if you had already reached your goal, you can make steady progress towards a lower weight while reinforcing the behaviors that will help you stay there once you get there.

Trading in Old Habits for New

A healthy lifestyle is created by reinforcing a series of good habits to govern our food choices, activity level, sleep routine and other personal care. Once we have the right habits in place we no longer have to think about making the right choices, they just happen automatically.

By taking a closer look at our food habits we can find ways to reduce our caloric intake without resorting to extreme diets. For example, most of us don’t have to think about how we like our coffee or what dressing we want on our salad. Those “decisions” have become automatic over time.

If we substitute a packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in our coffee to replace two teaspoons of sugar we can eliminate 28 calories per cup. For someone who drinks 3 cups of coffee a day that will add up to a potential savings of 84 calories! And just by using two tablespoons of fat-free ranch dressing in our salad instead of regular creamy ranch we can remove another 100 calories easily.

Here are 7 Simple Swaps with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener or sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweetener Products) that can save you even more calories without giving up the good taste of the foods and drinks you love. The trick is to make it a habit to choose the lower calorie or sugar-free option as part your healthy lifestyle.

 

7 Simple Calorie-Saving (and Sugar Reducing) Swaps


Note: Calorie savings are approximate, based on standard serving sizes and an average of similar products. In some cases they are not only the result of the sucralose substitution for sugar (sucralose is the sweetening ingredient found in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products); other ingredients may provide calorie savings as well.

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.

When low calorie sweeteners are used in cooking and baking other adjustments may be needed in recipes.

Cooking & Baking with Low Calorie Sweeteners

This blog was written as a guest post for SPLENDA LIVING™ site. You can access 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.

If, like me, you enjoy cooking and baking, then you know there are many ways to sweeten a recipe. Some popular caloric sweeteners I always have on hand include granulated sugar, powdered sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses and maple syrup. Even if you don’t spend much time in front of the mixing bowls, you’re probably familiar with these ingredients. They don’t all look the same, come from the same source or produce the same results when incorporated into a recipe, but they all taste sweet.

The same can be said for low calorie sweeteners. Each one is a different product from a different source with different applications, but they all taste sweet.

Understanding the unique features of low calorie sweeteners is the best way to let them fill the sweet spot in your diet.

Matching Sweetness to Sugar

An important difference between caloric and low cal sweeteners is how much is needed to reach a desired level of sweetness. Due to the intense sweetening power of no cal sweeteners over that of sugar, only a very small amount of them is needed to match the sweetness of sugar. For example, the sucralose in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products is 600 times sweeter than sucrose.

What some people may not realize when using tabletop low calorie sweeteners is that many, on a per packet basis, have the equivalent sweetness of 2 teaspoons of sugar, as SPLENDA® Sweetener does. In comparison a packet of sugar contains slightly less than a teaspoon. And since low cal sweeteners dissolve so quickly, your drink may seem sweeter than expected compared to using sugar.

Low Calorie Sweeteners in the Kitchen

Your recipes may require some adjustments. Low cal sweeteners do not provide all of the functionality of sugar in cooking and baking. Since sugar can do more than just sweeten, other adjustments may be needed to replace the other functions sugar performs, such as browning and adding volume and moistness.

My personal preference is to save the trial and error that occurs when I do the experimenting myself, and use the recipes that have been developed in the test kitchens for my favorite sweetener. I have had great success with those from SPLENDA® Sweetener, whether cooking for holidays or everyday meals.

Packets versus Bulk Form

If you want to use packets to replace the sugar in a recipe, you must calculate how many to use by counting each packet as 2 teaspoons of sugar sweetness. Some people may prefer to use products developed for cooking and baking, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated, which can replace the sugar called for in your recipes cup-for-cup. Other options are SPLENDA® Sugar Blend and SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend, both great for baking since they contain some sugar and can provide the volume, texture, moistness and browning with only half the calories.

All SPLENDA® Sweetener Recipes from the SPLENDA® Sweetener kitchen have been developed and tested to make sure each one is a sweet success, when prepared as directed. If you don’t find a recipe you’re looking for in their library, read and follow the easy guidelines listed below (under “More Info”) before you begin adapting your own recipes. And please share your sweet successes here at SplendaLiving.com or on the SPLENDA® Facebook page!

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 again.

 

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.

All chocolate does not have the same health benefits

Is Chocolate Really a Health Food?

The health benefits of chocolate depend on more than just its color.

With Halloween sneaking up on us, it seems a good time to say a few words about the health benefits of chocolate. First a disclaimer: I love dark chocolate and eat it regularly. But I am not going to defend my habit by making up facts. The science stands on its own: Chocolate has many health benefits!

But like any other plant food rich in nutrients, the health benefits are only there if the food is grown and prepared properly. And that’s what’s missing from all the stories about the health benefits of chocolate. How is the chocolate made?

Here’s a little primer.

Chocolate comes from seeds found within the fruit of the cacao tree. Once the seeds, or cocoa beans, are harvested from the pod, they are fermented, dried, and roasted. Next the shells are removed and the beans are cracked into pieces called chocolate nibs. Some nibs are sold for cooking and baking, but most are ground into a paste known as chocolate liquor.

Chocolate liquor is processed to separate the cocoa solids from the cocoa butter. The cocoa solids are more commonly known as cocoa powder, a bitter tasting, low fat baking ingredient. Cocoa butter is a pale-yellow, solid vegetable fat with a mild flavor. It is used to make toiletries, such as body lotion, and pharmaceuticals in addition to chocolate candy we know and love.

To make dark chocolate, the cocoa powder and butter are recombined in various ratios along with sugar, the emulsifier lecithin and sometimes vanilla. Milk solids are added to make milk chocolate. That mixture is then conched, or mechanically mixed, at various temperatures for up to 78 hours to develop the taste, texture and creamy consistency. A final melting and cooling process called tempering insures the melt-in-your-mouth quality of the chocolate.

At this point, those nutrient rich cacao beans – assuming they were grown under ideal conditions and harvested at their peak of ripeness – have been fermented, dried, roasted, shelled, cracked, mashed, liquefied, separated, recombined with other ingredients, refined, conched and tempered.

Do you get my point?

Cocoa beans are rich source of cocoa flavanols, naturally occurring compounds that have been shown to improve circulation, heart function and cognition among other things. But when used to make chocolate, those cocoa beans are put through a lot.

At present there is no way to know the flavanol content of the chocolate you buy, no matter what percent cocoa it contains. Consequently it is not possible to make any recommendations about how much chocolate you should eat to get certain health benefits. And it is unlikely chocolate will ever be “prescribed” in that way. percent cocoa

So my advice is this: Whenever you eat chocolate, be sure you pick the one that tastes best to you!