Swap sugar for Splenda to reduce calories and weight

Cutting Calories Every Day with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products

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

When I was a little girl I always stopped to pick up a penny in the street if I saw one. Back then it bought me a piece of bubble gum. If I saved ten of those pennies I could buy a comic book. Eventually I was collecting the pennies I found in a jar with all my other loose change to help fund more expensive things, like my college tuition. I still pick up pennies in the street because I know they can add up.

Reducing the added sugar in my diet one teaspoon at a time works on the same principle. Every teaspoon of sugar I don’t eat by using a low-calorie sweetener like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener can add up to cups of sugar over time. And, for me, that adds up to thousands of saved calories.

It’s easy to replace sugar with a low-calorie sweetener in your morning coffee and to order a diet soda with lunch to save some calories. Using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products to make your favorite dessert recipes is another simple way to enjoy something sweet without all the calories of sugar. Speaking of desserts, here’s a great one to share with your friends and guests on the Fourth of July, especially since fresh berries are in season.

Many ideas for recipes using SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener have been shared in other blogs on SPLENDA LIVING™. But are you taking advantage of all the less obvious ways you can save a few teaspoons of added sugar in your meals? Let me show you how.

Some places to be aware of added sugars are in salad dressings and sauces. For example, if you enjoy Cucumber–Onion Salad as much as I do (especially when cucumbers are plentiful in my garden), using this recipe can save you calories from added sugar. Another favorite of mine is the Asian-infused dressing on this Layered Chicken Salad that helps make this dish high in flavor. And if you like to put a sweet and tangy glaze on your baked ham, this Rosemary-Mustard Glazed Ham does just that, with less added sugar. Remember, every ½ cup of sugar you omit from a recipe removes nearly 400 calories!

The other part of the menu where I always find sugar that can be replaced with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products is in side dishes. Two of my favorites are this Noodle Kugel, which uses SPLENDA® Sugar Blend with only half the calories of full sugar, and Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes, where either SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, 1 Gram of Fiber or SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener can be used. The kugel incorporates several lower fat ingredients as well. Once you’ve tried it I’m sure you won’t want to wait for a special occasion to serve it again!

Another way to eliminate some unwanted sugar from your meals is by using a low-calorie sweetener in your home-made tomato-based sauces. Some commercial sauces rely on sugar or other caloric sweeteners, but you can use SPLENDA® Sweeteners. This Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Bowl uses ¼ cup of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated for a pasta sauce that anyone would be proud to serve.

For more ideas on how to make SPLENDA® Sweeteners part of your everyday cooking, visit Splenda® Recipes – and be sure to share your own special creations with me here!

A new study on behaviors that aid weight loss found keeping a food journal is number one

Proof: Keeping a Food Journal Aids Weight Loss

This post was written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the original post here.


When it comes to weight loss, any diet that results in caloric reduction will do the job. But if you’re looking for the best results, keeping a food journal can make the difference. That, along with not skipping meals or eating lunch at restaurants too often.

Those are some of the findings from new research done at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The aim of the study was to identify behaviors that support caloric reduction in a population of sedentary, obese and overweight postmenopausal women between the ages of 50 and 75.

The researchers monitored 123 women for one year who were randomly assigned to either the ‘diet only’ arm of the study or the ‘exercise plus diet’ option. They looked at the impact of a wide range of self-monitoring strategies, diet-related behaviors and meal patterns on weight change in the subjects.

At the end of the study participants in both groups lost an average of 10 percent of their starting weight. But those who kept food records lost the most — approximately 6 pounds more than women who did not keep records.

Skipping meals also affected results. Women who skipped the most meals lost about 8 pounds less than those who did not skip. Going out for lunch was another behavior that impacted weight loss. Those who ate lunch out in a restaurant at least once a week lost about 5 pounds less than those who went out for lunch less often. Eating out regularly for breakfast or supper were also linked to less weight loss, but lunch had the biggest difference on weight.

This research reinforces something I have seen work over and over again in my clinical practice. Throughout the 25 years I was seeing clients, those who keep the best food records lost the most weight and kept it off the longest – women and men, young and old alike. I’ve included this advice in my blogs, too.

Where you keep your record does not matter. It can be done in a simple blank note pad or detailed food journal template, in a computer tracking program or voice activated phone app. What matters is what you report.

Tips for Keeping a Food Journal

Honesty: Record everything you put into your mouth and swallow. Don’t leave out anything whether it was just a nibble or had no calories, like a diet drink. Make it your goal to record everything you eat and drink, period.

Accuracy: Get quantifiable information about the amount you are eating or drinking whenever you can by measuring or weighing the portion you take, counting the items, or reading the label to determine what is the serving size. The more you do this, the better you will be at estimating when you have to.

Thoroughness: Include descriptive information about how the food was prepared, what condiments were used, any sauces or gravy added, and any special features such as low fat, reduced sodium, sugar free, etc. Ask questions when eating out if you’re not sure how something was made or what it was made with.

Consistency: Continue your record-keeping when you are away from home so you can enter information as soon as you eat or drink something, even if you must use the back of a receipt until you can transfer it to your permanent record. Don’t rely on your memory.

I have been keeping a food journal every day since I was in college studying to become a dietitian and my weight has not changed other than when I was pregnant. Has anyone else been keeping a food journal that long?

Follow these rules to avoid overeating when ordering off restaurant menus.

Save Calories When Ordering Off Restaurant Menus


Who doesn’t enjoy the convenience of sitting down in a restaurant and ordering whatever we want off the menu? Apparently most of us do since one third of our meals are eaten away from home.

I covered the downside of splurging over the holidays in a previous blog, but dining out provides an opportunity to over eat all year round. The price we pay is not just rung up at the register. We give up a significant measure of control over the source of the food, how it’s prepared and how much is served to us. And that’s not good.

The only recourse is to follow some rules when you place your order to regain control over what arrives on your plate. It takes a lot more self-control to avoid eating half your meal once it’s served than to simply order wisely so the excess food is not in front of you.

These rules do not replace the need for you to order the foods that fit best into your day of eating. And they don’t ask you to give up all of the foods you love! Instead they give you some additional ways to reduce the chance of splurging when eating out, and that’s a good thing.



  • Custom Omelet Rule – Order only 2 eggs, not the customary 3, and only with vegetable add-ins.
  • Breakfast Meats or Eggs Rule – Since side orders of breakfast meats are large, skip the eggs if you really want bacon, sausage or ham.
  • Buttered Toast or Fried Potatoes Rule – Request one or the other with that omelet, egg or breakfast meat order, not both.
  • Pancakes or Toast Rule – No contest, if you’re not ordering pancakes as your breakfast, don’t add them to an egg order.


  • Cheese or Meat Rule – Think Kosher and try not to combine cheese with meat on sandwiches, pizza or burgers. Let sliced tomatoes, onions or mushrooms take its place.
  • 50% Burger or Fries Rule – Split one or the other, but don’t eat a full order of both.
  • No More Than One Fried Food Rule – If you must order something fried, don’t have anything else in your meal fried. That means the traditional “fish and chips” is out.
  • Wet or Dry Salad Rule – The bigger the salad, the more dressing it takes to wet it down. If you’re having an entree salad, be prepared to use just lemon juice, no calorie dressing or wet vegetables to partially moisten it.


  • Cocktail or Carbs Rule – For each alcoholic drink you order, be prepared to eliminate a serving of carbohydrate in the form of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes or dessert.
  • Appetizer or Dessert Rule – If your add something to the beginning of your meal, don’t also add something at the end. Sharing is the only other option.
  • Bread & Butter or Dessert Rule – Like an appetizer or a cocktail, you can’t afford to add the extra calories from a basket of bread to the front end of a meal then order dessert on the tail end, too. Check the quality of the bread and the dessert menu to guide your decision.
  • Double Green Vegetable, No White Starch Rule – A double order of any sautéed vegetable will contain fewer calories than a dressed baked potato, creamy mashed potato, rice pilaf, risotto or pasta in sauce.
  • Vegetable-Only Salad Rule – A first course salad picks up a lot of extra calories for every non-vegetable item tossed into it, like dried fruit, nuts, cheese, croutons and bacon. Make sure your salads are made from garden vegetables only.

Find more helpful hints here:

Is Overeating at Christmas Just one More Way to Splurge?

Avoid overeating at Christmas parties to reduce risk for weight gain in the New Year.

Is Overeating at Christmas Just One More Way to Splurge?


It’s party season and with those parties comes the annual excuse to eat, drink and be merry! Then after splurging on too much food or booze there’s the all too familiar lament, “It was just this one time.” Trouble is, that particular “one time” may have been the annual Christmas party, while the next “one time” may be your birthday or wedding anniversary or you-name-it occasion that is just another excuse to overeat and drink.

Before you know it, those binges are happening on a regular basis. But no matter what the frequency, they are not good for your body or diet. The excess calories, fat, sodium and whatever else you swallow without tasting are nearly impossible to offset by weeks of sensible eating and drinking. Even one big splurge a year can trigger an inflammatory response that can leave permanent scars on your artery walls.

Believing that it’s okay to overindulge once in a while is like believing you can drive over the speed limit without wearing a seatbelt occasionally. Both are very risky behaviors that can have drastic consequences.

The sooner you get those eating and drinking binges under control, the better your health will be. Here’s why.

Our bodies do not rate us on how many “good” days of eating we’ve had against the number of “bad” days. Instead, the value of everything we eat and drink is counted as consumed. The goal is for the high numbers to get averaged down by lower ones so our totals add up right by the end of the week.

For example, if you have a caloric allowance of 2000 per day and eat 2200 calories on Monday, you need to eat just 1800 on Tuesday to average it out. Or you can eat 1900 on both Tuesday and Wednesday to offset the excess 200 calories. Or you can add another 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to your week to cancel them out.

But what if you splurge over the weekend and eat an extra 3000 calories or 80 grams of fat or 5000 mg of sodium? It’s not difficult to consume those values in one sitting, but scaling back on what and how much you eat in order to offset them is nearly impossible. There just aren’t enough days in the week to average those high numbers back into your diet.

The result is slow but steady weight gain, clogged arteries and high blood pressure, along with an increasing risk for numerous other preventable diseases. Splurging for just one day or even one meal is not worth it if you cannot repair the damage.

The best anti-splurging strategy during this holiday party season and throughout the rest of the year is a simple one. Don’t let refreshments become more important than relationships.

  • Connect with the people instead of your plate.
  • Talk and listen more, eat and drink less.
  • Leave with the number for a new contact, not another notch up on the scale.

Read more about the numbers that matter in my post:

Weight Control, Healthy Diet and Fitness Are All a Numbers Game

Numbers matter for weight control, healthy diet and physical fitness

Weight Control, Healthy Diet and Fitness are All a Numbers Game


I’ve written about some of the important numbers involved in weight control and balanced diets before. Things like the difference between serving sizes and portion sizes and the grams of protein you need each day. But there are more numbers you need to know for good nutrition and physical fitness. Many more.

Unfortunately, self-control and mindful eating are not enough. If you want to lose, gain or maintain your weight or strive for a healthier diet and fitter body, you’ve got to watch the numbers. Here are some that matter most.

Calorie level? This is based on your age, height, and weight and activity level – all important numbers to know. If you do, you can figure out your daily calorie requirement here.

Number of Food Groups? 5 + 1 + “extra calories” are what we get in the latest USDA eating guide, ChoseMyPlate.

Number of servings per day from each group? Varies based on calorie level. The ranges for adults are:

5 – 8 ounce equivalents of Grains, with at least ½ as whole grains

2 – 3 cups of Vegetables, with specific amounts per week for the 4 subgroups

1 ½ – 2 cups Fruit

3 cups Dairy

5 – 6 ½ ounce equivalents Protein Foods

5 – 7 teaspoons oils

120 – 265 Empty Calories

Serving size? Varies with each food and each food group, but includes numbers of ounces, cups, tablespoons, teaspoons and counted pieces, like 3 pancakes or 16 seedless grapes.

Amount of aerobic activity? 2 hours + 30 minutes per week at a moderate level or 1 hour + 15 minutes at a vigorous level based on the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

Steps or Miles per day? 10,000 steps a day counted on a pedometer, which is equivalent to approximately 5 miles, can be an alternative way to get your aerobic activity according to Shape Up America!

Amount of strength conditioning? 2 days a week working all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders and arms), with 8-12 repetitions per activity that counts as one set.

As you can see, there are many numbers involved in reaching all the goals for a healthy diet and fit body. Fortunately, if you make a habit of eating right and staying active you won’t need a calculator to get through your day!

Check these related articles to help you get your numbers to add up right.

Protein in the Diet – How Much is Enough?

Getting Enough Protein from the Foods You Eat

Serving Size, Portion Size and Body Size Are All Connected

Control unwanted calories when eating out to control weight

Calorie Control Means Weight Control When Eating Out


Eating out is no longer just for special occasions. For many, eating in restaurants is a means to survival. But with it come all those extra calories from larger portions, hidden ingredients and menu temptations that can wreak havoc on any diet.

If you are trying to control your weight, you’ve got to control those extra calories when eating out. This doesn’t mean you should only order broiled fish and undressed salad. To control unwanted calories you’ve got to control the situation.

Here are 10 Tips for Calorie Control When Eating Out that put you in charge.

  1. Choose wisely when deciding where to eat so you know in advance what’s on the menu.
  2. Decide what you want to eat before looking at the menu to avoid being distracted by tempting choices.
  3. Don’t arrive famished, it’s much harder to resist temptation.
  4. Refuse the complementary bread, tortillas or fried noodles if offered.
  5. Don’t be shy. Ask how things are prepared and request what you want – you’re paying the bill.
  6. Skip the shared appetizers and just pass them along if they weren’t what you ordered.
  7. Listen to your stomach. When you start to feel satisfied, STOP eating and pack up the unfinished food for another meal.
  8. Beware of the effects of alcohol. Cocktails contain calories AND impair your judgment about how much you’re eating.
  9. Fit the meal into your day by making adjustments at other meals so you have room for some of the extras calories.
  10. Remember, there is always tomorrow. When everything just looks too good to pass by, plan a return visit for another meal.

How will you be controlling calories on your next meal out?

Protein is important to health, knowing your number matters.

Protein in the Diet – How Much is Enough?

The amount of protein you need changes over time

Protein is one of those nutrients that wears a halo of goodness but is shrouded in confusion. People know they need protein in their diets and that it’s good for them, but don’t know how much they need or if they’re getting enough. I can help.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

The amount of protein we need each day is based on our age and weight and if we have any specific building or repair conditions that demand more protein, such as pregnancy, recovery from a serious illness or extreme physical activity. This means our protein requirement is not a fixed number of grams once we reach adulthood, as most other nutrients are, but a value that changes over our lifetime.

What Are the Recommendations for Protein?

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science is charged with establishing the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) is for all essential nutrients. The DRIs are calculated to provide a sufficient amount of each nutrient to meet the requirements of 98% of all healthy Americans. For healthy adults over the age of 19 the DRI for protein is 56 grams a day.

The Percent Daily Values (DV) we see on the Nutrition Facts panels of food labels are based on 50 grams of protein per day. This represents 10% of the calories in a 2000 calorie a day diet coming from protein. The key point here is that the Daily Values are not nutrient recommendations. Daily Values are a tool for consumers to use when comparing foods on the shelf to see what has more or less of each nutrient. They are all based on a 2000 calorie diet as the common reference point. Obviously, we don’t all need 2000 calories a day, and may need more or less protein as well.

The sample menus on the USDA ChooseMyPlate food plans are based on providing between 17% – 21% of the total calories as protein. On those 2000 calorie diets, that translates to a total of 85 -105 grams of protein a day.

What Amount of Protein is Right for You?

To get a more personal calculation of your protein requirement you’ll need a calculator. It involves multiplying your weight in pounds by .36 grams for the lowest amount of protein you should get each day and .8 for the highest amount if you’re not in one of those special needs categories mentioned above. (If using weight in kilograms, multiply by the factors .8 grams and 1.8 grams.) If you weigh 120 pounds, that’s a range of 54 – 96 grams a day. For someone weighing in at 175 pounds, the range would be 63 – 140 grams per day.

Strength and endurance athletes are advised to get from 0.5 – 0.8 grams of protein per pound (1.2 – 1.7 grams/kg) for best performance according to a joint Position Statement on Nutrition and Athletic Performance of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine. That works out to 60 – 96 grams for the 120 pound person and 88 – 140 grams for the 175 pound person mentioned above.

Look for my next post on how to be sure you’re getting enough protein in your daily diet and how to distribute over your day.

Serving size on food label holds a key to weight control.

Serving Size, Portion Size and Body Size Are Connected

Learn how to estimate portion sizes using serving sizes on food labels

No matter how nutritious a food is, you still need to control the portion size to make it part of a portion size balanced diet. Or as the saying goes, too much of a good thing is not always good! The same holds true in reverse – a little bit of (almost) anything won’t kill you.

Knowing the amounts for everything you eat is your ticket to knowing things like how many calories you are consuming – an essential factor in weight control – and how many of the recommended servings you’ve had from each food group – a key to following the Dietary Guidelines. So as important as it is to your health to select the right foods to eat, it is equally important to know how to dish them out.

First some background.

The “serving size” that appears on the Nutrition Facts panel of a food label is based on government regulations established for food manufacturers. The intent was to have similar foods use the same serving size for their nutrition information so it would be easier for consumers to compare products.

It does not mean that it is the suggested amount to eat, although the government did base them on the average amount of each food usually eaten at one time.

The “portion size” is the amount you actually eat of a given food or beverage. So if you take a bit more or less than the serving size listed on a food label, that is your portion. The same is true when eating in a restaurant. They can dish it out anyway they want, but you get to decide how much of it you eat.

If you want to know how much you eat, you need to learn the basics about serving sizes so you can better estimate your portion sizes. Follow these Six Steps to get it right.

Six Steps to Sizing Up What You Eat

  1. Determine the capacity of the cups and bowls you normally use at home by filling them with water then transferring the water to a measuring cup. Measure the diameter of the plates with a ruler.
  2. Use measuring cups and spoons or a food scale for one week to measure and/or weigh everything you eat at home using the serving sizes given on the food labels to see what those amounts look like.
  3. Put the measured servings in the cups, bowls and plates you normally use to see how much space each food occupies relative to the size of the container.
  4. Compare the measured amounts of each food to a common object to create a visual reminder of each serving size. Common examples are to compare the amount to the size of a computer mouse, DVD, lipstick, bar of soap, golf ball, dollar bill or palm of your hand.
  5. Look at the cups, bowls and plates when you eat out to see if they are bigger or smaller than the ones you use at home.
  6. Estimate the total amount of each food served to you when eating out so you can decide how much more or less that is from the measured serving sizes.

Knowing how much you eat matters for a healthy diet and healthy body weight. What have you got to lose?

Fast food undermines survival instinct to work for food

Fast Food May Hurt Us in More Ways Than One

Eating fast food removes the effort that helps keep our mind and body in shape

When most people think of fast food, images of burgers and fries come to mind. But if you are part of the Slow Food Movement, even sliced bread would be in the picture. Although all convenience foods do not come loaded with calories, recent studies have me thinking the faster we get our food, the easier it is to get fat.

Let me explain.

For most of human history, hunting and gathering food took all of our time and energy. When we figured out how to raise crops and animals more than 10,000 years ago, we had a somewhat more reliable food supply, but still had to work very hard to get something to eat. Then with the dawn of modern agriculture less than 200 years ago, the era of cheap, easy and fast food began.

Whether it’s take-out fried chicken or boneless, skinless chicken cutlets, fast food brought with it a dramatic change in our way of life. Once we no longer had to expend much effort to get our food, we had a lot more time to think about other things, like ways to produce even more food even faster.

But what if the evolutionary connection between food and work is important to our survival? It appears this may be true for some animals.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that the more effort mice had to expend to get their food, the more they valued it. In the study, mice were trained to press levers to receive treats. They preferred the sugary treat that took 15 presses of the lever over the treat they could get after pressing the lever just once. Then when the sugary treat was replaced with a low calorie (less tasty) snack, the mice continued to show a preference for the harder to get treat.

The study suggests that mice valued working for their foods so much they would eat something less palatable (and better for them) as long as they could “earn it” through hard work.

A related finding was seen in birds. Researchers from the Evolutionary Biology Centre in Upsala, Sweden found that survival among birds in urban areas was based on brain size because they have to work harder to find food than birds living in the countryside. These “urban adapters” as the researchers called them, are able to develop novel foraging techniques and sustain a varied diet, which is key to survival in a changing environment. Again, working for food paid off.

I realize animal studies cannot explain human behavior. But it makes me think our quick and easy food supply may be bad for us in more ways than just nutritionally. I know I have never heard anyone complain about a meal of home-grown, home-made food, have you?