sugar substitutes replace unwanted calories from added sugar

Low Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss: There Are No Magic Bullets

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.

In my 30+ years as a registered dietitian I can no longer recall the number of times I’ve had to remind a client, “I am a dietitian, not a magician.” That was my way of steering them away from magical thinking about weight loss and helping them focus on the lifestyle changes they needed to make to get the results they wanted, and to maintain them.

The continued popularity of fad diet foods and programs is evidence that this magical thinking about weight loss is still going strong. This concerns me because there are unintended consequences every time another quick fix scheme fails to deliver what it promises. Instead of becoming discouraged, people tend to blame the product or plan that let them down while holding out hope that the next one to come along will do the trick.

Consequently, many healthy foods and ingredients are left on the battlefield in this quest to find an easy way to lose weight. For example, back in the 1990s there was a notion that fat made us fat. Soon everyone believed they could eat whatever they wanted as long as their diet didn’t contain fat. Anyone who knows anything about calories knows that didn’t work, yet fat remains a villain in the minds of many.

We’ve also seen our share of weight loss super foods come and go. Remember the Grapefruit Diet and the Cabbage Soup Diet? It saddens me to think there are people who no longer enjoy eating a sectioned grapefruit because it didn’t melt their fat away when they were eating it by the pound.

In 2013, we saw gluten, low-calorie sweeteners, and raspberry ketones come under the weight loss spotlight. Are there some lessons to be learned here? I think so.

Making Every Calorie Count

Losing weight and keeping it off is not about only eating certain foods and never eating others. It’s about eating foods that you like and can readily get that will provide you with all of the nutrients your body needs while not supplying more calories than you can use. That’s not necessarily an easy order to fill, but there are endless possibilities on how to do it.

The linchpin to the whole concept is our daily caloric allowance. Once we know that number, we have the freedom to choose foods and beverages to meet our nutritional requirements as long as we stay within our caloric allowance. That’s where low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products can help.

Every time you use a packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in your oatmeal in place of 2 teaspoons of sugar, you save 28 calories. You can also add SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to a cup of plain yogurt instead of getting a presweetened one and save even more calories. Want an iced tea with lunch but need to sweeten it a bit? Using a low-calorie sweetener lets you have the sweet taste you prefer, but without all the calories. Each of these options leaves us with more calories in our calorie “budget” for the other foods we’ll be eating to meet our nutritional goals for the day, and that’s a win-win combination.

It helps to know that several major health and medical groups support the use of low-calorie sweeteners as substitutes for sugar when used properly. For example, the American Heart Association has stated that foods and beverages containing low-calorie sweeteners can be included in a healthy diet as long as the calories they save are not replaced by adding more foods to the diet that will take you over your daily limit.

This reinforces something I’ve said many times in my practice: “Low-calorie sweeteners are not a magic bullet.” That means using them in place of sugar will not magically lead to weight loss. You’ve got to make the right food choices and get enough exercise to see results. But the good news is, that works, and low-cal sweeteners can be part of your success.

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.

For more information, please visit:

International Food Information Council, “Low-Calorie Sweeteners: Their Role in Healthful Eating”
American Heart Association, “Non-Nutritive Sweeteners (Artificial Sweeteners)”

 

woman weighting herself on balance beam scale

Do Low-Calorie Sweeteners like SPLENDA® Cause Weight Gain?

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

THE POWER OF MYTHS AND OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WEIGHT CONTROL

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.

At one time or another we’ve all experienced the jaw-dropping discovery that something we believed to be true, isn’t. I still can recall the unsettling moments in my childhood when I found out the truth about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy!

If you’ve had similar situations where something that you thought was a fact suddenly became fiction, then you understand the power of myths.

Myths often begin as a way to explain things we don’t understand. Based on my 30+ years as a consulting dietitian I know that over time myths can become “common knowledge” as more and more people accept and repeat them. Soon, there’s no one left to question whether that information is true or not, and the myth becomes part of our reality.

That is why it can be is so hard to accept some of the scientific reports we hear these days. When they challenge our long held beliefs, our initial reaction is to reject them, even if we have no evidence to support our version of the truth.

Too Much Myth-Information around Weight Gain

The subject of weight loss is one where myths and misinformation often collide. I like to call the result myth-information. Here are just a few examples of widely reported myths I’ve bet you’ve heard before:

  • Eating late at night makes you gain weight
  • Starchy foods increase belly fat
  • Sugar substitutes (even SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener, heaven forbid!) can cause obesity

None of those statements is true based on the best scientific evidence available, but many people still believe them. They have a hard time accepting the research that shows it is the total number of calories we consume each day that contributes to weight gain, not the time of day we eat them. Similarly, some people have doubts about the studies that demonstrate starchy foods, or foods high in carbohydrates, are no more likely to produce belly fat than any other source of calories.

Letting go of the myth about sugar substitutes and weight gain is particularly difficult for some people, despite the evidence to the contrary.

Research on the biggest users of sugar substitutes has found they are most often people who are trying to control their weight and improve the quality of their diets. In fact, a study of participants enrolled in the Weight Control Registry showed regular use of foods and beverages sweetened with low calorie sweeteners, including SPLENDA®, is a common strategy employed by those who have had long-term success maintaining a significant weight loss. (Note: SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener is a brand name for sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in all SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, and has been enjoyed by millions of consumers for over 20 years.)

Using a low cal sweetener such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in place of sugar, is probably not enough to make you reach your weight loss goal, but can certainly help, and is one of many small changes you can make in your diet and physical activity to get there. Just like using smaller plates to control portion sizes and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, small changes can add up to big results when they become part of a healthy lifestyle.

If you find it hard letting go of a myth, it may help to remember that it probably began to explain something we once didn’t understand. But after we have the facts to explain it, we don’t need the myth any more.

You can look forward to more truth telling in my upcoming blogs on SPLENDA LIVING™, which I promise will be based on science and well-documented facts, not myth-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.

For more information, please visit:

  • Sacks FM, Bray GA, Carey VJ et al. Comparison of Weight-Loss Diets with Different Compositions of Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrates. N Engl J Med. 2009;360(9):859-873
  • Anderson GH, Foreyt J, Sigman-Grant M, Allison DB. The Use of Low-Calorie Sweeteners by Adults: Impact on Weight Management. J Nutr. 2012;142(6):S1163-S1169
  • Sigman-Grant MJ, Hsieh G. Reported Use of Reduced-sugar Foods and Beverages Reflect High-quality Diets. J Food Sci. 2005;70(1):S42-S46
  • Phelan S, Lang W, Jordan D, Wing RR. Use of artificial sweeteners and fat-modified foods in weight loss maintainers and always-normal weight individuals. Int J Obes.2009;33(10):1183-1190
Physician in white lab coat speaking to middle aged obese woman

Pro or Con: Is Obesity a Disease?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013.

CLASSIFYING OBESITY AS A DISEASE IMPACTS WHETHER WE SHOULD FOCUS ON PREVENTING IT OR PAYING FOR THE TREATMENT OF OBESITY

Members of the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association (AMA) passed a resolution at their annual meeting this week that could be as significant as anything being considered by the US House of Representatives. The AMA Delegates voted in favor of classifying obesity as a disease, moving it up from its former designations as either a behavioral problem, chronic condition, health concern or complex disorder.

This vote was in direct opposition to the recommendations of their own Council on Science and Public Health.

The Council studied the issue and concluded obesity should not be considered a disease because there’s no good way to measure it. Body Mass Index is the measurement now used, but is considered too simplistic, especially since it cannot distinguish between excess weight from fat versus muscle.

As it turns out, obesity isn’t the only thing the AMA has a hard time defining. There is no universally agreed upon definition of what constitutes a disease, either.

This action by the world’s largest physician’s group is largely symbolic since the AMA has no legal authority over the insurance industry, which gets to decide which claims to pay. The resolution was, however, supported by other health groups including the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Cardiology, and American College of Surgeons.

After reviewing the widespread coverage of this decision, it was immediately evident that not everyone in the public health and policy arena agrees with the decision. To put it into perspective I’ve rounded up some of the Pros and Cons to help you decide whether this new designation will help or hurt our national problem with energy imbalance.

PROS: If obesity is a disease the benefits are it may

Reduce the stigma that it’s caused by poor personal habits

Result in expanded coverage by health insurance

Force physicians to raise the issue with their patients (more than half of obese patients have never been told by their doctor that they need to lose weight)

Encourage more obesity prevention programs in schools and the workplace

Support efforts to restrict the sale of certain foods and beverages to those receiving food assistance

Increase research to find a cure or more effective treatment for obesity

Qualify expensive treatments for IRS tax deductions

CONS: If obesity is a disease the disadvantages are it may

Increase stigma towards those who don’t seek treatment

Raise health insurance premiums paid by individuals and employers

Run up the cost of care for the 1/3 of Amercians who are obese and seek treatment

Increase the sales of ineffective and untested products

Support taxes and restrictions on certain foods and beverages

Undermine personal responsibility to change one’s eating habits and activity level

Shift attention towards expensive drugs and surgery and away from programs aimed at preventing obesity

If you’d like to read more about this evergreen issue, here are some past posts worth revisiting:

  • Prejudice Against the Overweight and Obese
  • Obesity and What We Buy at the Supermarket
  • 3 Anti-Obesity Drugs Now Available in U.S.
  • Reflections on Obesity and Weight of the Nation
  • Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity
  • Research on Mindless Eating Offers New Insight into Obesity
  • Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News
Woman on table having abdomen examined by physician

Crash Diets and Gallstone Attacks

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

STONES IN THE BILE DUCT CAN CAUSE GALLBLADDER ATTACKS IN PEOPLE ON VERY LOW CALORIE DIETS

If you want to reduce your weight, lowering your caloric intake is an option. If you want to reduce your risk of gallbladder attacks while losing weight, don’t lower your caloric level too far.

Crash diets have been proven to increase gallstone attacks.

Crash Diets and Gallstones

A new study from researchers in Sweden followed 6,640 people for one year who were losing weight on diets with different caloric levels. The “crash diet” included liquid meals providing 500 calories a day for six to 10 weeks. After that phase, those dieters gradually resumed eating solid food and followed a maintenance diet for nine months with an exercise regimen.

The other dieters followed a “low calorie diet” with between 1200 and 1500 calories a day for the first three months. It also included two liquid meals a day, then transitioned to a weight maintenance diet of all solid food for the next nine months.

As reported in the International Journal of Obesity, 48 people on the crash diet developed gallstones requiring hospital treatment while only 16 people in the low calorie group did.

One reason offered for this difference in gallstone attacks is that the people on the crash diet lost more weight. They had an average loss of 30 pounds at three months compared to 17 pounds for the low calorie group and an average loss of 24.5 pounds at the end of one year compared to 18 pounds for the others.

Even though obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, losing weight too quickly just makes the problem worse.

What Causes Gallbladder Attacks?

The gallbladder’s function is to hold bile, a liquid made in the liver, and release it during digestion when needed to help breakdown fats. Bile contains water, bile salts, protein, bilirubin (a waste product), cholesterol and fat.

The most common type of gallstones is made from cholesterol. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile it can harden into small pebble-like substances – or stones.

During rapid weight loss the liver secrets extra cholesterol into the bile, and that can increase the risk of gallstone formation. It is also believed gallstones are formed when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough, which is the case when eating a very low fat diet.

Bile travels through ducts, or tubes, to get from the liver to the gallbladder to the intestines. If there are stones in a bile duct that block the flow of bile it can cause inflammation. That can lead to the fever, jaundice and the pain commonly associated with a gallstone attack.

Who Gets Gallstones?

In addition to being overweight and losing weight too quickly, simply having gallstones is a risk factor for developing more. Other contributing factors identified by the National Digestive Disease Information Clearing House include:

Female – Women are twice as like as men to develop gallstones

Family History – There is a possible genetic link to gallstone problems

Diet – The more cholesterol and fat in your diet, the greater your chances of making gallstones

Ethnicity – American Indians have a genetic predisposition for gallstones and Mexican-Americans men and women also have higher rates

Cholesterol-lowering drugs – Drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile

Gallstone attacks typically occur after eating a meal and can mimic signs of a heart attack, so getting a proper evaluation is critical.

If your pain is in your lower back, see my post about kidney stones to see if they are a problem for you.

cave painting of prehistoric man chasing large animal with a club

Debunking Another Fad: Paleo Diets

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

PALEO PLANS PROMOTE EATING LIKE A CAVEMAN, BUT EXPERTS SAY IT’S JUST ANOTHER FAD DIET

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past few years, you’ve probably heard about the latest fad diet – eating like a caveman. Proponents say following a paleo plan is the answer to all that ails us about the typical Western diet: it can lower blood pressure, markers of inflammation that lead to cancer, and the risk for heart disease.

Even better, since all paleo diets are based on only eating foods you can hunt, gather or catch, you’ll never have to worry about obesity or diabetes, either!

Miracle or a Mirage?

The Paleolithic era is defined as a span of about 2.5 million years that ended with the development of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Knowing how to plant seeds and wait for them to yield food led to the establishment of permanent settlements with a secure food supply. Having enough food and free time

led to the rest of the advances of modern civilization.

The crops that provided the best yields to feed small tribes of people and their domesticated animals were grains. Yet grains are the curse of the paleo diet crowd. They believe we should go back to our pre-agriculture menu.

Imagine a diet made up of whatever wild animals, rodents, reptiles, fish, and birds you can catch with a rock or a stick. Now add to that whatever eggs, tree nuts, roots, leaves, fruits and berries you can gather.

Forget about eating anything that must be planted from seed and cultivated, such as rice, wheat and corn, or the many foods that can be made from these grains once ground into flour. There are no processed foods, like bread, in the caveman world.

There also is no milk or any products made from milk since that would require having a domesticated mammal that would stand still long enough for you to milk it. At this point in history, all animals are either predators or prey to you.

As a hunter-gatherer, you’d have to live without potatoes, beans and garden variety vegetables and the oils obtained by pressing olives and seeds. Who has time to squeeze olives anyway when you have to catch a fish with your bare hands?

If you were clever enough you could steal some honey from a bee hive. It’s just not clear what you would put it in since there’d be no coffee, iced tea or lemonade?

Getting Your Fill of Fad Diets

The paleo diet plans being touted in books today do not expect you to literally hunt for and gather all your food in the wild. But it may feel just as hard since they exclude so many commonly eaten foods. That’s the telltale sign of a fad diet. You’re expected to give up traditional, familiar and widely available foods. You may start out strong following the rules, but you are doomed to fail in the long run.

Human beings have evolved on the seven continents with different geographies, climates, and food supplies for thousands of years. Our diets have never been the same, yet people all over the world have very similar nutritional needs.

Learning to adapt to the menu is a survival skill. Once you figure that out you can have your cake and eat it, too.

Nutritious snacks like cheese and vegetables help kids eat less and feel more satisfied

Good-For-You Foods Make Best Snacks for Children

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

STUDY FINDS KIDS EAT LESS WHEN NUTRITIOUS SNACKS ARE SERVED

I’ve never met a parent or grandparent who didn’t want their little ones to eat more good for you foods. That wish stems from a lesson we all learn from our personal battles with food. Simply put, it’s a whole lot easier to start out life with good eating habits than to try to establish them later.

Amen to that.

Now we can turn to snacks as a way to help our children eat better and prevent obesity says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. The researchers set out to discover whether different types of snacks for children would make them feel full, yet consume fewer calories. And the winner was cheese with cut-up vegetables!

Some Background on Snacking

Thirty years ago American children ate about one snack a day. Now they eat three. Along with those extra snacks they have put on some extra weight. Nearly one-third of our children are overweight or obese.

Since snacking is part of the culture our children are growing up in, trying to restrict or forbid it is fruitless (pun intended). But changing what kind of snacks we offer them is not. The goal is to select snacks that help meet nutrient requirements without exceeding caloric requirements.

Highlights from the Snack Study

201 children in grades third through sixth were in the study. The participants and their parents were told the children would be asked to watch some cartoons and answer questions about the characters at the end and be given snacks to enjoy while watching. Measurements of body mass index and information about food allergies were obtained.

The children were assigned to one of four “snack food groups” and screened in 24 separate experimental sessions with 5-11 children in each. During the sessions the children were given a bottle of water and identical plates of food. They were told they could eat as much as they wanted of the food provided, and asked how hungry they were in the beginning, middle and end of the 45 minute period.

The snack food options included a plate with either:

  • A tube of plain potato chips and a medium bag of crunchy cheese flavored snacks
  • 6 Laughing Cow cheese wedges and 6 Mini Babybel cheese rounds
  • 2 cups each of raw bite-sized broccoli, baby carrots and bell pepper strips
  • A combination of 6 cheese wedges and 6 cheese rounds and 1 cup of each vegetable

The food on each plate was weighed at the outset and any uneaten food was weighed at the end to determine exactly how much each child ate. No child finished it all. Parents completed a questionnaire designed to measure family mealtime habits and levels of engagement.

Surprising Results About Snacking and Kids

Children who consumed the cheese and vegetable snack ate 72% fewer calories than those eating chips and needed significantly fewer calories to achieve satiety compared to them.

The children eating the combo snack consumed roughly the same number of calories from vegetables as the children who only got vegetables, so they did not replace the vegetables with cheese.

Overweight and obese children and those from low-involvement families had a bigger reduction in calories compared to normal weight children and those from high-involvement families.

Key Conclusions About Snacks to Make for Kids

Offering cheese and vegetables as a snack leads to eating fewer calories than when salty, high-fat chips are served and provide good sources of fiber, calcium and protein.

Eating cheese and vegetables as a snack may encourage healthier eating habits in children, especially in those who are overweight.

A higher level of engagement between children and adults at mealtime is correlated with healthy weight in children.

Don’t you wish someone had given you some mini cheese and baby carrots when you came home from school?

Myths about dieting and best weight loss diet make news

Update on Dieting and Weight Loss News

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

MYTHS ABOUT DIETING AND BEST WEIGHT LOSS DIET MAKE NEWS

News about how to lose weight is always newsworthy, even when there is nothing new to say. But that doesn’t matter. We are fed a steady stream of information about dieting and weight control to keep the conversation going. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear a broadcaster say just once, “There will be no weight loss news tonight.”

I know I’ve had my fill.

Last month we had the unique opportunity to hear about the best weight loss diet and the top obesity myths in the same news cycle. You can’t beat that for intrigue!

What’s True About Weight Loss?

The annual list of the best diets from U.S. News & World Report arrived with the usual excitement, followed by reflexive disappointment. Whether the goal is to lose weight, get healthy or control disease, the best diets in each category still require making better food choices and keeping track of them. Nothing new there.

The top weight loss diets were all about common sense things like eating more vegetables and less meat, taking smaller portions of food and bigger amounts of exercise, and being more focused on your food than your social networks when eating. Is there anyone left who doesn’t know that?

What’s Not True About Weight Loss?

The other story grabbing headlines last month was about obesity myths. Apparently everything we’ve told about dieting and weight loss isn’t true, or at least it hasn’t been scientifically proven.

Researchers at the University of Alabama wanted to set the record straight, so looked for the studies to back up the most popular beliefs about obesity. They reported their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine and said “false and scientifically unsupported beliefs about obesity are pervasive.”

Did you know there’s no proof that taking more physical education classes will curb obesity in kids or that eating more frequently throughout the day will help? With or without proof, it seems pretty obvious to me that the advice isn’t working. But it’s still news.

What Can We Do About Weight Loss?

Why not take a break from all the weight loss news and act on what we already know? There are no game-changing discoveries around the corner. Nothing new is in the pipeline that will make the task easier. And there is never going to be a magic potion that will melt our fat away.

It’s time to stop talking about dieting and weight loss and start doing something about it. We could really surprise all those researchers if we were successful in spite of the myths!

Some other thoughts on the issue can be found here:

  • Technology Beats Temptation in New Weight Watchers Plan
  • 3 Great Tips for losing Weight
  • 5 Sure Steps to Achieving Weight Loss
  • Choosing the Right Diet Plan
  • 8 Ways to Lose Weight This Spring
  • 10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss
  • What Fads Diets for Weight Loss Have You Tried?
Nutrition facts label and good nutrition websites need activity information

New Coke Ad Goes Beyond the Nutrition Facts Label

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

NUTRITION FACTS LABEL AND GOOD NUTRITION WEBSITES NEED ACTIVITY INFORMATION

There is plenty of good nutrition information in the world today, but we aren’t necessarily any healthier as a result, or any slimmer. We’ve got Nutrition Facts labels that tell us what’s in our food and nutrition websites that explain everything that happens to it once we eat it.

Maybe we need to start looking elsewhere for guidance?

A new Coke ad called Be OK spends 33 seconds equating the 140 calories in a can of Coke with fun and physical activity. It depicts someone walking her dog, getting into a groove while dancing, and doing a victory jig after throwing a strike in a bowling alley. With each fun activity we’re told how long we’d have to do it to burn off the calories in a can of Coke.

Research shows that’s a message people respond to.

What’s the Problem?
Calories are a difficult concept for Americans to grasp. Results from numerous consumer surveys done to test our knowledge of the connection between calories and weight provide all the evidence we need.

These studies have consistently shown the majority of us don’t know how many calories we are currently eating every day, how many calories we should be eating for our height, weight, activity level and health status, or how many calories we should be eating to lose weight — something the majority of us need to do.

Equally important, we have no clue how many calories we burn off each day, or more properly stated, how much energy we use to fuel the many functions our bodies perform 24/7. That is a key piece of the “energy balance” equation.

Who’s to Blame?

Caloric information has been on food labels since 1990. Books, brochures, and websites also provide detailed lists of the caloric value for everything we eat. And since 2008, chain restaurants in several big cities have been posting the caloric content for their menu items right up there along with the price.

To make it even easier for people to see the caloric content of their purchases, some food and beverage companies began putting the calories per serving on the front of their labels in 2011, not just on the Nutrition Facts panel found on the back or side of the box. But still, we have grown heavier.

What’s Been Missing?

Some researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) may have found a missing link. They designed a study to test what type of information might encourage diners to order differently from fast food menus. It compared four menu options: 1) just calorie information, 2) calories plus minutes to walk to burn the calories, 3) calories plus miles to walk to burn the calories, and 4) no calorie information.

The participants were 802 middle-aged women who were randomly assigned to one of the four groups. All were asked what they would order for themselves from a menu that featured fast food burger meals, sandwiches, salads, side orders, desserts and drinks. The only difference on the menus was the calorie and walking information.

Those who ordered from the menus with the calories and the number of miles needed to walk off those calories showed the biggest difference in their ordering preferences compared to those who had no information on their menus. Their orders contained 194 fewer calories, while the group that had calories and minutes of walking ordered 104 fewer calories, and those who had just calories ordered 93 fewer that the group with no information.

When asked which type of information they would prefer on menus, 82% of the participants said they preferred menus that showed physical activity, as minutes or miles walked, over menus that just had calories or no nutritional information at all. In their conclusions, published in the journal Appetite, the researchers state that it may be easier to imagine oneself walking a certain distance than trying to figure out what percentage of our daily caloric intake a menu item is worth.

It looks to me like The Coca-Cola Company has put the ball in our court with their new ad. What’s your next move?

Cheap diet solutions for safe weight loss if trying to diet on a budget

10 Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

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

Trying to diet on a budget can seem impossible when you see the price tags on the latest gluten-free foods and shiny new gym equipment that promise safe weight loss for those with fat wallets. As a challenge, i took a walk through the nearest discount dollar store to identify cheap diet solutions for those with good intentions, but modest means. I wasn’t disappointed. Here are ten items you can buy for ten dollars that will help you eat right and get in shape so you can lose and save at the same time!

Blank Notebook: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

The most valuable part of any healthy makeover is a blank book. Use it to record your goals, weight, measurements, and daily food intake and physical activity. If you faithfully and honestly fill the pages each and every day, you’ll soon discover the book was the most effective weight loss program you ever tried.

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Tape Measure: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Stepping on a scale is not the only way to measure your progress, or the best. A simple cloth tape measure can be used to get some baseline measurements that will help you see the loss of inches in places where it really counts. Be sure to include: waist and hip circumference, thigh, calf, upper arm and chest.

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Index Cards: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

It may seem old school to write recipes on index cards, but not if you use them for a collection of your favorite fool-proof, quick, easy, and tasty dishes that are diet-friendly. Take the time to try new recipes and be selective about which ones you allow into your collection. If you just find one new recipe a week there will be 52 winners in the box by this time next year.

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Measuring Cups: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Like it or not, all food contains calories and the serving size of the food you eat determines how many calories it contains – no matter how nutritious the food may be. Using measuring cups to both prepare your food and portion it at home will help you stick to your calorie budget and train your eye for the meals eaten away from home when you have to guesstimate.

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Measuring Spoons: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Just like the foods measured in measuring cups, there are calories in the smaller things we eat that are measured with measuring spoons, like cooking oils, salad dressing, and soft spreads. It isn’t easy to free-pour one tablespoon of olive oil into a skillet, so it pays to measure it since each additional tablespoon adds another 110 calories.

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Food Storage Containers: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

One of the biggest challenges to healthy eating is eating out regularly. By having a complete set of food storage containers you can take your breakfast, lunch and snacks with you to work with you, if needed. It’s a great way to use the leftovers from all those meals you’ll be preparing at home, too.

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Insulated Lunch Sack: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Now that you’ve got a set of food storage containers, you need and insulated sack to carry them in when filled with food. These sacks come in enough different styles you’ll never have to guess which lunch is yours in the office refrigerator, and they’re flexible enough to slip into your shoulder-strap bag or back pack for hands-free travel.

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Freezer Packs: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Keep an assortment of these freezer packs in different sizes in the freezer so they’re ready to add to your lunch sack. Remember, there’s nothing healthy about food that hasn’t been kept at the proper temperature.

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Egg Timer: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

No matter how many features you have on your smart phone, they can only help you if you know how to use them. A simple kitchen timer is a no-brainer way to build short bursts of activity into your day. Set it to ring once every hour then, then get up and stand, walk, or stretch for 5 minutes.

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Handheld Mirror: Cheap Diet Solutions for Safe Weight Loss

Give yourself some words of encouragement each and every day, you’re worth it!

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Two new anti-obesity drugs have been approved this summer giving consumers more help with weight loss

3 Anti-Obesity Drugs Now Available in U.S.

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

TWO NEW ANTI-OBESITY DRUGS HAVE BEEN APPROVED THIS SUMMER GIVING CONSUMERS MORE HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS

After 13 years with only one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved pill for weight loss available in the U.S., the agency added two more anti-obesity drugs to the arsenal in the past 30 days. Qsymia is the latest.

I covered the Belviq when it was approved last month. Before that, Xenical was the only option. It received FDA approval in 1999, then became available in a lower dose as the over-the-counter drug Alli in 2007.

What does this recent flurry of activity in the world of anti-obesity drugs mean?

To the 68 percent of American adults who are either overweight or obese (that’s more than 23 million people) it means hope. Hope that one of these drugs will help them win the battle they fight every day with overeating. They still have to learn to make better food choices and be more physically active – no pill can replace that – but maybe, just maybe, one of these prescriptions will make it easier.

Obesity is a complex disease with multiple causes. No single treatment will work for everyone. Since each of these drugs functions in a different way, one could be better for you than another.

If you tried weight loss pills in the past and didn’t get the results you expected, you may want to try again. If you’ve been afraid to try them before, keep an open mind. It’s a hard battle to win alone.

FAQ About the Anti-Obesity Drugs

How do they work?

  • Some have a single mode of action, others have a combination of effects. They may:
  • Suppress appetite
  • Increase metabolism
  • Block absorption
  • Increase satiety
  • Stimulate alertness

How much weight can I lose?

FDA approval is based on studies that show weight loss is greater using the drug than can be achieved from just diet and exercise alone. Weight loss varies for each drug and with one’s ability to comply with the diet and exercise recommendations, but range from 5-10 percent.

How long must I take them?

Each of the available drugs must be taken daily to maintain results. They are not a cure, but a treatment that must be continued for the rest of one’s life.

Do they have side effects?

As with most drugs there are risks associated with their use, but when taken as recommended the benefits are expected to outweigh any risks for most people.

Can anyone take them?

Most are approved for adults only. Some are restricted if pregnant, when taking certain medications or if suffering from other conditions. These concerns must be discussed with your physician.

Some related blogs:

  • My post on last month’s anti-obesity drug: New Weight Loss Drug Wins FDA Approval
  • Some thoughts on what obesity is not: Reflections on Obesity and the Weight of the Nation
  • Why obesity isn’t our biggest problem: Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity