Seek expert advice about food and nutrition

Why We Still Need Experts in the Information Age

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

I was at a meeting with my tax accountant last April and she had a can of diet soda on her desk when I arrived. “You must think I’m terrible for drinking this stuff” she said, but added, “the caffeine gives me the boost I need when putting in late hours during tax season and the sugar-free option helps me avoid unwanted calories.”

While I’m usually the one asking her for professional advice when we’re together, this was clearly a situation where she needed my expertise, so I asked her why she thought I would disapprove of her beverage choice. Her answer surprised us both.

She said she had seen so many alarming reports about sugar and artificial sweeteners that she simply believed all sweet tasting drinks must be bad for her. Then when I asked her where she had read these reports, she admitted she didn’t have a clue. “They’re all over the Internet” she sheepishly said.  She went on to say that must sound pretty foolish coming from a person who deals in the cold hard facts of accounting, but when it came to nutrition facts, it was all a blur to her.

I told her I could relate to her feelings since I am equally baffled by financial matters, but fortunately, I could rely on her expertise to set me straight. Now I was going to return the favor.

I explained that sweet drinks – whether made with sugar, high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners –could be a regular part of her diet as long as all of her nutritional needs were being met and she did not exceed her energy requirements. The problem isn’t the sweet drinks, I told her; it’s not getting the second half of that equation right.

To make the point hit home I explained diet and exercise were like an accounting ledger. The nutrients column needs daily deposits and the activity column needs regular expenditures. “Good nutrition is all about checks and balances,” I said, not any single food or ingredient. If you budget properly you can “afford” to eat anything, just like a good financial budget allows you to buy what you want. She nodded in agreement.

When our visit was over she thanked me for the gentle nudge to be more critical of where she gets her food and nutrition information, and said if she has a question, she’ll consult an expert. “You have my number” I told her, “and don’t be afraid to use it for expert advice.”

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.

 

Losing weight involved changes in diet and activity

Do I Really Have to Exercise More?

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

Don’t you hate it when you swear off your favorite banana nut muffins (or fill-in-the-blank treat) for an entire week only to find you haven’t lost an ounce when you next step on the scale? It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that you might as well eat all of the muffins (or whatever you gave up) that you want since omitting them from your diet didn’t lead to weight loss, but that isn’t what your little experiment proved.

Losing weight is hard, but not complicated. As we all know, the hard part is giving up (or cutting back on) foods and drinks that we enjoy eating whenever we want. It’s difficult because we have to disrupt well-worn habits and deliberately do something else instead. But it’s not complicated once we understand why we are changing our habits. In order to lose weight we need to create an energy deficit, and the best way to do that is to increase our energy output (through increased activity) at the same time that we decrease our energy (calorie) intake.

That’s why skipping the muffins wasn’t enough. Maybe you ate more of something else or had less physical activity that week so didn’t create an energy deficit. It’s also why just swapping out sugar for a low-calorie sweetener may not always lead to weight loss. What matters is the total energy taken in versus total energy used up.

Research shows that working on both sides of the energy deficit equation is a more effective way to losing weight than just cutting calories or just increasing physical activity. It’s also a great way to reinforce the new healthy eating behaviors and exercise routines that will help us maintain our weight loss once we reach our goal.

Moving More throughout the Day

If you need to up your activity level to create your energy deficit you’ll be happy to know a gym isn’t the only place where we can burn calories. We can incorporate more activity into our daily routines by doing things like building a short walk into every coffee and meal break we take throughout our workday and parking on the outer rim of the lot and walking to the entrance instead of parking close to it. We can also get into the habit of standing instead of sitting whenever we’re talking on the phone and walking into the bank instead of using the drive up window. Every time we move we are helping to create that energy deficit!

Staying Active When the Days are Shorter and the Temperature Drops

If you find it more challenging to stay active in the colder, shorter days of winter, just think like a kid! I remember loving it when it snowed so we could build snow forts, have snowball fights, go sledding down the steepest driveways in the neighborhood and ice skate on the frozen ponds near my home. There’s no reason why we can’t still do those things as adults.

If snow isn’t part of your winter, but it is too cold and dark to exercise outdoors, you can still act like a kid and sign up for some fun stuff at the recreation center, like fencing, archery or judo. Maybe it’s time to take that introductory 6 week class at the gym in kickboxing, rock climbing or dance? And don’t forget the free workouts you can get at home using DVDs or YouTube videos or by doing a few laps inside the mall. Just make sure you crank up your speed as you walk past the food court!

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

For more information about the role of low-calorie sweeteners in weight loss, read “Low Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss: There Are No Magic Bullets.”

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. 
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Gaining weight is easy on campus

Preventing College Weight Gain

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

There are many controversies in the field of nutrition, but one thing everyone seems to agree with is that it’s easy to gain weight! All it takes is a subtle disruption in the energy balance of the body. That can happen when we consume more calories (energy) than we need or are not active enough to use up all of the calories (energy) we’ve consumed – or a bit of both.

Living on a college campus can make it even easier to gain weight. The notorious “freshman 15” may be a bit exaggerated, but even gaining five pounds is more weight than most students want or need. Learning how to balance your energy while away at college may be one of the best lessons you can learn.

Here are 10 Tips for Fighting the Freshman Fifteen to help keep you in energy balance from your first year on campus to the last!

  1. Start your day with a meal – no matter what time you wake up – to avoid random snacking for the rest of the day.  Even a leftover slice of cheese pizza and a glass of orange juice counts as a meal!
  2. Take advantage of the breakfast items available all day for a nutritious and lower calorie meal, such as a cereal, yogurt, fruit parfait, vegetable omelet, or peanut butter and sliced banana on a toasted English muffin.
  3. Stock the mini fridge and personal food bin in your dorm room with single-serving calorie-controlled foods and drinks you can eat on the go, such as low calorie drinks in cans or bottles, granola bars, fruit cups, hummus, cheese sticks and yogurt.
  4. Schedule your physical activity for certain days and times each week, just like a class, so you’re sure to get it done – and never miss the chance to walk or ride a bike instead of taking a car or bus to class.
  5. Keep your hot and cold drinks lower in calories by adding a no calorie sweetener instead of sugar and choosing diet or low-calorie beverages made with them.
  6. Explore the international and vegetarian food choices in the cafeteria to find more flavorful vegetable-based dishes that are lower in calories than standard American fare.
  7. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) with like-minded house mates to have a steady supply of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs all semester long and the chance to burn some calories working on the farm to pay for your share.
  8. Reach for some sugar-free frozen yogurt topped with berries for a sweet treat, instead of regular ice cream covered in candy bits.
  9. Have designated eating places on campus for eating (cafeteria, student lounge) and other places that are off-limits (library, lecture hall) so  you won’t snack mindlessly everywhere.
  10. Stay in motion when not studying by playing competitive Virtual Console games, joining an intramural team, trying out new equipment at the fitness center, taking a Zumba class, swimming laps at the pool.

An advisor for the Calorie Control Council, 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.

 

Avoiding sugar is not the key to weight control

Avoiding Excess Calories

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

I heard a funny joke the other day about a woman who couldn’t double the recipe for her favorite chocolate chip cookies because her oven didn’t go up to 700 degrees. Anyone who likes to cook knows you don’t have to double the oven temperature to make more cookies, just the ingredients, but it got me thinking about some of the other “kitchen math” that keeps people from eating well.

Counting calories is by far the toughest nutrition problem most people have to solve each day. Knowing how many calories we consume is one half of the energy balance equation (more math!) Knowing how much energy we expend in physical activity is the other half. The calories from all foods and beverages contribute equally to the intake side of the equation. When we consume more calories than we expend we can gain weight. Increasing our level of activity is one way to off-set those extra calories. Consuming fewer calories is another. Keeping both sides in balance is the goal for weight maintenance. If you’re tuned in to popular media you might think sugar-sweetened drinks are responsible for obesity, but that simply isn’t true.

All calories count – which is why I shake my head in disbelief at those who single out just one caloric source as the cause for obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Proponents of taxes on soda, warnings on sugar-sweetened beverages, and more red tape for grocery stores have got it wrong. As a registered dietitian, I’m convinced that consuming excess calories is the problem and unfortunately, there is no tax that will fix 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.

Have fun burning calories this fall

Family Fitness Tips for the Fall

This post was written as a guest blog for SplendaLiving.com on September 30, 2014. 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.

The added hours we get to spend outdoors during Daylight Savings Time and mild weather that goes with it make it easy to be more active in the summer, even if it does just feel like you’re having fun. Who doesn’t jump at the chance to go for a swim or paddle a kayak on the lake?

Contrary to what some kids may think, the sound of school buses rumbling through the neighborhood doesn’t mean the fun is over. There are still plenty of ways for the entire family to enjoy outdoor activities together now that fall has arrived.

Energy Balance Knows No Season

Maintaining a healthy weight is all about energy balance. The calories we consume from foods and beverages must be matched by the number of calories we use up each day. The problem with most advice on how to do this is it often focuses on getting enough “exercise” to use up those calories. But what if you don’t belong to a gym and don’t have the recommended number of hours per week to spend in one?

The solution is to have more lifestyle activities. They can be things you build into your everyday routines, like walking the dog, or chores you do yourself instead of paying someone else to do, like mowing the lawn. It can also be doing things you enjoy, like dancing. As long as you get your body moving you are helping to stay in energy balance.

Here are 30 Family Fitness Tips for Fall to help get you started.

Parks & Playgrounds

  1. Gather pine cones, rocks or interesting leaves
  2. Climb the monkey bars
  3. Climb a tree
  4. Ride on a swing
  5. Have a scavenger hunt
  6. Hit a tennis ball against a wall
  7. Shoot a basketball and rebound it yourself
  8. Hit golf balls into a field and retrieve them
  9. Play catch with a baseball or softball
  10. Fly a kite

Driveways & Sidewalks & Backyard

  1. Play hopscotch
  2. Draw a mural with chalk
  3. Blow bubbles and chase them
  4. Have a beach paddle ball contest
  5. Throw a football
  6. Hula hoop
  7. Jump rope
  8. Play monkey in the middle
  9. Play bean bag toss
  10. Kick the can

House & Yard Chores

  1. Wash the car and bicycles
  2. Rake leaves
  3. Bag the leaves or pile at the curb
  4. Sweep the garage, porch, patio, deck
  5. Turnover and mulch garden beds
  6. Wash the windows
  7. Shake or beat throw rugs
  8. Paint a fence
  9. Plant fall bulbs in flower garden
  10. Wash patio furniture

And if you want a steaming cup of hot cocoa after your outdoor activities, you can save some calories without giving up the sweet taste by preparing it with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. Keep a batch of this Mix Ahead Hot Cocoa Mix in your pantry so it’s ready when you are.

For more information:

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.

 

Hunger and appetite are not the same

Hunger versus Appetite: Learning the Difference is Key to Weight Management

This post was written as a guest blog 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.

When I hear people say they don’t use low calorie sweeteners because they believe they’ll lead to food cravings, I’m always surprised. When I want something sweet and chocolaty I just reach for a dish of sugar free chocolate pudding or cup of no added sugar hot cocoa because they always satisfy me, and with far fewer calories than if I went for the full sugar version!

I have used a number of different no and low calorie sweeteners in my life, and continue to use them, and have never experienced anything close to a craving when eating a food or drink containing them. My experience is confirmed by studies that show people did not report increased appetite when given food and beverages sweetened with sugar substitutes.

All of the discussion over whether these sweeteners can really make us eat more, or want to eat more, got me thinking about just how complex our eating behavior really is. After reading this brief summary I think you’ll agree there are more triggers to food cravings than sweeteners.

Learning to Eat

Human beings come into the world with two basic drives that control when we eat: hunger and satiety. Hunger makes us seek food and satiety keeps us from thinking about it again until we are hungry again. You can see these innate mechanisms at work in any healthy newborn baby.

We do not start out life knowing what to eat. We must be taught what is edible and how to feed ourselves. These lessons are shaped by many things. Think about how your own food choices have been influenced by your family food traditions, religious dietary practices, health beliefs, food labeling, cost, advertising, peer pressure and serving sizes, just to name a few. Our exposure to the many factors that shape our own eating behavior begins at birth and continues throughout our lives. These influences are part of every food decision we make.

Separating Our Wants from Our Needs

Now let’s get back to those internal signals, hunger and satiety. When a wide variety of good tasting food is readily available virtually all of the time, external forces can easily override the internal signals that tell us when to eat and how much. If that happens often enough we soon have a difficult time telling the difference between our hunger (a physiological need for food) and our appetite (a psychological desire to eat). If you’ve ever ordered a delicious dessert right after eating a three course meal then you know how your appetite can get the best of you!

Ignoring our internal signals of hunger and satiety can also explain why some people think drinking a diet soda can make them overeat. Here’s what may really be happening: if someone is hungry and grabs a can of diet soda instead of getting something to eat, they will still be hungry soon after they finish the soda. Since a serving of diet soda has little or no calories, it’s like drinking a glass of water. The longer they ignore the feeling of hunger the greater the likelihood that they will overeat when they finally get some food because by then they are really hungry. But that is not the fault of the diet soda; it was hunger all along!

These are just some of the examples that illustrate how complex human eating behavior is compared to other animals. Our individual eating behavior is also unique when compared to other people, whether family members, friends or folks we’ve never met around the world. You could say no two people eat in exactly the same way.

That is why I do not believe low calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), can make us eat more or crave sweets. But it’s reassuring to know there’s plenty of scientific evidence that shows low calorie sweeteners do not stimulate appetite or food intake and don’t cause weight gain. In fact, millions of people use them every day to help with weight management, but when people overeat, there are a million other reasons why.

 

save cash by cutting calories

How Counting Calories is Like Saving Money

This post was written as a guest blog 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.

How much money would you be willing to lose in order to avoid gaining 20 pounds? According to a survey of Consumer Attitudes Towards Food Safety, Nutrition & Health, more than half of Americans (56%) “somewhat” or “strongly” agreed with the statement, “I would rather lose $1,000 than gain 20 pounds.”

Fortunately, there is no one coming to collect this $50 a pound if you happen to gain a few, but there is a way to make a connection to money here. Just think about what it costs to buy larger clothes and pay for a weight loss program if you do gain weight. Now consider the fact that by not gaining weight you can save all that money. And when you include the savings from the improved health you’ll have by not gaining weight, your savings can quickly add up to much more than $1000!

The Dollars and Cents of Counting Calories

An easy way to put this concept to work is to view your Daily Caloric Allowance like a financial payment for a job you are doing. Getting the most out of your calories (or money) is the goal, without exceeding your allotted budget. That means you must shop around for good deals and plan ahead so you can afford what you want while still being able to balance your calorie (or bank) account at the end of the week.

The good news is there are many lower calorie foods and beverages available to help you do just that. Products that are labeled fat-free, low-fat and reduced-fat are almost always lower in calories than their full-fat versions (check the Nutrition Facts to be sure). Those labeled sugar-free are often made with a low-calorie sweetener, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, in place of sugar, and that saves you calories, too.

Just check the Nutrition Facts Label and compare the caloric content and serving size of the foods you buy to similar items in order to see how you can save calories while controlling your weight.

Here’s a couple of excellent sources explaining how to interpret the Nutrition Facts Panel:

Here’s an example of how you can save almost 750 calories in this 2000 calorie menu:

Calories Saved SPLENDALiving(3)

Note: Calorie savings are approximate, based on standard serving sizes and an average of similar products. They are not only the result of the SPLENDA® Sweetener substitution for sugar; other ingredients may provide calorie savings as well.

 

 

Breakfast can be made up of any foods that are part of a healthy diet

Breakfast Myth: Breakfast Foods Are Too Fattening

This blog was written as a guest post for the Bell Institute for Health and Nutrition. You can read the original post here.

It’s easy to understand how some people might believe that certain foods are more “fattening” than others. Classifying foods based on whether they can make you gain weight or not is a far simpler notion to grasp than the concept of energy balance (where calories in should equal calories out)!

So whenever the topic of “fattening foods” comes up, I try to clarify the issue with this brief lesson in anatomy: The stomach does not have eyes.

That’s my way of explaining that the body has no idea what we have eaten. It does not know (or judge!) whether we have had a chocolate éclair for breakfast or a chewy granola bar. It just sorts out the nutrients and calories that were in the food and either uses them, stores them or eliminates them, as needed.

I then explain that since the body continually “sorts” what we are eating all day long, no one food can really be more “fattening” than any other. It’s the sum of all the calories we have consumed by the end of the day that determine whether or not we have exceeded our energy needs, which could make us gain weight over time.

Once that concept sinks in, it’s possible to illustrate how all foods can actually be included in a well-balanced diet complemented by regular physical activity. It also provides an ideal time to introduce the topic of nutrient density – another difficult one to grasp.

My approach is to stress the fact that all of the calories in the foods we eat are exactly the same, but the nutrients are not. And since we need more than 50 distinct nutrients to maintain health and prevent disease, we must choose our foods so they deliver the best nutritional package for the calories they provide.

From there it’s a smooth transition to a discussion of food groups to understand how different types of foods fit together to make an overall healthy eating plan, such as in MyPlate. Any lingering thoughts about “fattening” breakfast foods are then easily replaced by the more important question, ”What are the best breakfast choices for me?”

Consider these important facts about ready-to-eat cereal with fat free milk and fruit when you answer. One serving provides:

  • Less than 200 calories per serving on average
  • Key nutrients many of which are lacking in American diets – calcium, potassium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, folate and fiber
  • Many whole grain options that help meet the goal of making half our grain choices whole grain
  • More nutrients with the fewest calories compared to most other popular breakfast choices