Diets don't lead to weight loss, healthy lifestyles do

A Healthy Lifestyle – What Does It Mean?

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.

What do you think is the best way to avoid gaining weight or to successfully lose weight? Did the word “diet” come to mind? If so, is there a diet that you believe really works to accomplish these goals? Most people I know can name several different diets that have worked for them for a while. Then, when life got in the way they were “off” the diet. If this sounds familiar, instead of looking for another diet, it may be time to examine your life!

The simple truth is establishing a healthy lifestyle, not another diet, is the key to losing excess weight and maintaining a lower weight.

Of course, eating right is part of a healthy lifestyle, but all of the factors that make that possible are tied to our way of life. For example, if your best breakfast options are either makingblueberry oatmeal with fat free milk and topped with blueberries, or bringing a high-fiber cereal bar, container of fat free Greek yogurt and a banana to work with you, that means you have to:

  1. shop regularly so you have all of those foods on hand
  2. allow enough time in the morning to prepare and eat breakfast before you leave
  3. have a tote bag with an ice pack so you can take your breakfast with you

Each of these steps is tied to lifestyle choices. Did we make the trip to the grocery store on our way home yesterday to buy more fresh fruit and milk? Did we avoid downloading another movie at 10:00 PM so we could get a good night’s sleep and awake in time to eat breakfast? Did we put the ice pack in the freezer after using it last so it will be ready to take tomorrow? Those are the choices that make it easier to eat breakfast and do all of the other things that help us feel our best.

PRIORITIES AND PAYING IT FORWARD

While this makes sense to most people, many still tell me there aren’t enough hours in the day to do it all. That’s when I remind them that we all get the same 24 hours a day, so why is it that some people with demanding jobs and busy families do manage to strike the right balance? When they’re stumped for an answer I tell them it’s all about priorities and paying it forward.

If your priorities are aligned with a healthy lifestyle you use your time differently. For example, maybe you take a walk after eating lunch instead of catching up on Facebook. Maybe you write a weekly menu and shopping list before going to the store so you’re sure to have the things you need to make the meals that fit your schedule. Maybe you set limits on your children’s activities so you’re not chauffeuring them around every day during dinner time and resorting to a fast food meal. Having your priorities in order can help make it easier to make the right choices.

A healthy lifestyle is also a way to “pay it forward.” For example, no one wants to get sick, and when we do, it can cost us time and money to get well again. By taking the time to get routine medical checkups we pay it forward by reducing the likelihood we will need to see the doctor because we are sick. The same is true with eating right, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. If we do those things now, we can pay it forward by lowering our risk of developing “non-communicable lifestyle diseases,” such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, which are so common today.

It’s important to remember, a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Not even close. It means you are making better choices whenever possible that support good health. If you smoke and can quit, that will have a significant impact on your health, even if it’s the only change you make. If you take the stairs instead of the elevator, that will help, too. And if switching to a low calorie sweetener, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, helps you reduce the added sugar and calories in your diet, control your weight and stay on track, that’s a good lifestyle decision, too.

For more information, visit:

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.

Why Do We Have Low-Calorie Sweeteners?

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

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

SWEET HISTORY

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

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES, THE EARLY YEARS

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

SUGAR SUBSTITUTES, THE MODERN ERA

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

WHAT’S AVAILABLE

LCS table

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

Have any questions? Ask them in the comments!

Notes:

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

Keep your New Years Resolution to eat well with these tips for Super Bowl appetizers

Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Lose Weight Even During the Big Game!

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

Put SPLENDA® Sweetener in Your Game Plan!
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.

There’s nothing like a new calendar signaling the start of a brand new year to motivate us to lose the weight we may have gained during the holiday season. That must be why New Year’s Resolutions are so easy to make But by the end of January the first big obstacle many of us will have to tackle is around the corner – parties to celebrate the Big Game. If your year of healthier eating has started off strong, don’t let this football feeding frenzy throw you out of bounds.

What you need is a strategy to carry you through game day, just as your team’s quarterback needs a playbook to move the ball down the field. In fact, planning to win will help you with every “interference” that may come your way in the year ahead.

Step Up Your Activity

One way we can get in shape after the holidays, and to prepare for the extra calories that often go with football parties, is by increasing our energy output long before game day. Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps is a great way to set goals and measure your progress.

If you regularly work out in a gym, try adding 10 minutes or more to each workout or add another day to your weekly workout schedule to burn more calories. The best part is, if you stick to this new routine you should reach your weight management and fitness goals even sooner.

Plate Every Portion

Party food tends to be indulgent, but even worse, we sometimes eat it mindlessly. How can you keep track of how many chips and how much dip you’ve eaten when you’re cheering on your favorite team? I know I can’t.

The best way around this dilemma is to plate everything you’re going to eat before putting it in your mouth. You can use a cocktail napkin, small paper plate or drink cup to serve yourself the portion you want to eat instead of endlessly reaching into the big bowls of snacks and platters of food all around you. I find this especially helpful when faced with easily munchable treats like roasted peanuts, kettle corn and candy.

Even vegetables can be a problem if you end up eating too much high calorie dip with them. That’s why I use a piece of celery to scoop a tablespoon of dip onto my plate, then add plenty of vegetables to go with it. Not only does it help control the amount of dip I eat, it prevents double-dipping, too.

Rethink Your Recipes

Another way to save calories you’ll never miss is by preparing your party foods using low calorie ingredients, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners instead of sugar, Neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese, and reduced fat sour cream instead of regular. Best of all, these simple substitutions can lower the excess saturated fat and added sugar content of many recipes in addition to lowering the calories, and that’s good for everyone.

Of course, we still want these popular dishes to taste delicious, which is why I turn to tried-and-true recipes like those found on SPLENDA.com. Three big winners for me are Sweet Red Pepper Hummus, Raspberry Cocktail Sauce with Chilled Shrimp and Sweet and Crunchy Nuts. If you’re asked to bring something to the party, why not make one of these and see if you agree with me?

Score Every Point You Can!

Staying on track with your eating and exercise resolutions for the New Year is one way you can win by losing, so make every calorie count. Using SPLENDA® Sweeteners instead of sugar can help, especially since Valentine’s Day is just two weeks after the Big Game!

For more delicious appetizers and salads sweetened with SPLENDA® Sweetener: http://recipes.splenda.com/recipes?category_id=1-Appetizer

If you haven’t signed up for the SPLENDA® Recipe Club, to receive THE SWEET DISH® e-newsletter (for free), you can do so here: https://www.splenda.com/recipe-club-signup.

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.

Differing research results may be due to different research methodologies

Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (Sucralose) Safe? Authorities We Can Trust

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.

One of the fascinating things about scientific research – at least to me – is that the more studies there are that attempt to answer a particular question, the more likely there will be conflicting results.

The reason for the different outcomes is that every study that sets out to answer a particular question isn’t conducted in exactly the same way. Some studies use human subjects while others use animals. Some have only a few subjects, while some have hundreds. Some research is conducted for a week or two; other research goes on for decades.

There are also different methods used to answer scientific questions. One method is to design a study to prove whether “X” causes “Y.” This type of study is regarded as the gold standard in scientific research because it leaves no room for doubt – the same results should occur every time the study is done.

Another method is to look for common traits among a group of subjects and what outcomes are associated with those traits, such as the correlation found between gardening and longevity. This type of study is useful in identifying links between certain traits and conditions, but it does not provide evidence that the traits cause the conditions. In the case of gardening and longevity, further research would be needed to prove whether the act of gardening adds years to your life or something else, such as people who keep gardens eat more vegetables.

Understanding these differences in the way research is done is the key to understanding why new studies occasionally come along that contradict the old. Unfortunately, nothing improves newspaper sales, TV ratings or website hits like a good headline, so these offbeat studies are often blown out of proportion by the media covering them.

If you’ve heard or read conflicting reports about the safety of low calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), then you know what I’m talking about. But it’s important to keep in mind that there’s more to the story (and to the study) than you can fit in a twitter feed!

The truth is, some of the people writing the news often have not even read the study; they rely on a press release for their “scoop.” By reading the complete study it is possible to see how the research was conducted – and how it differed from other research on the topic – and what conclusions were drawn at the end. What I have learned is they often do not match the claims being made in those newsreels.

But who has the time or ability to read every new study that gets published? I know I don’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be in the know. My rule of thumb is to simply wait six months for the dust to settle after the release of any contradictory report. Then, after all of the experts have had a chance to critique it, I wait for their conclusions to see if the contradictory study had any merit. Most often, it didn’t, which is why I continue to enjoy SPLENDA® Sweetener Products as part of my diet.

 

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.

 

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.

Marsala Chai fills kitchen with scent of holiday spices

Simmer Some Holiday Spices in Masala Chai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MASALA CHAI

Serving Size- 2 cups

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS

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

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

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

Pancakes can be part of a healthy diet when made with the right ingredients and paired with the right side dishes

Making a Place for Pancakes in Your Diet

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

The way we judge foods is a lot like the way we judge people – by the company they keep. Pancakes are a great example of that. They are a really good-for-you food made of flour, milk and eggs in their most basic version, but they’re often viewed in a negative way by dieters. My theory is it’s because they frequently hang out with a big dollop of butter and are surrounded by super-sweet syrup. Sometimes they can even be found snuggled up against several strips of fatty bacon. How can anyone’s reputation survive that?

If you’ve removed pancakes from your diet it may be for the wrong reason. It’s time to give them a chance to return with the right makeover.

While it is unknown when or where batter was poured onto a hot stone slab to make the first pancake, the idea quickly caught on and has been replicated in cuisines around the world. They are enjoyed as both a sweet and a savory part of the meal, for breakfast or dinner, flat or leavened and stacked or stuffed. The varieties are as limitless as the cooks who make them since all you have to do to create a new recipe is change the type of flour or grain used, add some signature spices or extracts and top them with an original syrup or sauce. Mistaking the almond extract for vanilla was all it took for me to invent my now famous toasted almond pancakes with Amaretto syrup!

The nutritional value of a plate of pancakes also varies right along with the recipe and the number of pancakes made per batch. That means they don’t all have the same caloric content, either. Fortunately, even if you’re making them from a mix you still have control over some of the ingredients added to it and can make smaller pancakes to help reduce the calories.

Some simple substitutions to cut calories in your favorite pancake recipe include using:

  • fat-free milk instead of whole milk
  • egg substitute instead of whole eggs
  • sugar substitute instead of sugar
  • applesauce instead of some of the oil
  • sugar-free syrup instead of regular
  • light soft spread instead of butter

To help you become reacquainted with this popular food loved by kids and adults alike, try this foolproof recipe for Apple Pancakes. I’d love to know how you liked them and what else you’re pairing up with your pancakes to help improve their reputation!

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.

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.