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.

 

Cut sugars in your diet by replacing them with artificial sweeteners

Using Artificial Sweeteners Instead of Sugar: What’s the Scoop?

This blog was originally written for SplendaLiving.com. You can read that post here.

Do you know anyone who loves to walk through an electronics store just to see the hottest new gadgets on the shelves? How about those guys who like to browse hardware stores for the latest thingamajig they can’t live without? For me, it’s a trip to the grocery store. I love to see the changing array of fresh produce on display, the endcaps with new and improved versions of time-honored brands, and the latest flavor sensations to hit the yogurt, ice cream, and salad dressing aisles!

The common thread here is that the world is constantly changing and we like to keep up with what’s happening. That’s especially true in the world of food. So if you’ve noticed some increased buzz around the topic of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and a move away from added sugars in the foods and drinks you buy, I’ve got the scoop for you.

In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the latest edition of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One of the key recommendations is to reduce our intake of added sugars to less than 10 percent of our total calories, or no more than 12 teaspoons a day if consuming a 2000 calorie diet. The Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations from the American Heart Association also call for a reduction in added sugars intake to help lower your risk for developing heart disease. As a result of these recommendations, the food and beverage industry has been working to reformulate many products to lower the added sugar content.

This means we may see new claims on the front of some food packages, changes in ingredient lists and in the nutrition facts panel. One way we can keep the sweet taste in foods and drinks at home while using less sugar is to replace some of that sugar with low-calorie artificial sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. In fact, the more we cook and bake at home, the more options we have to reduce the added sugars in our diets. Let me show you how.

Menu Makeovers Save the Day

Let’s say your menu tonight includes a garden salad with French dressing, grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans, a glass of lemonade and some homemade peach crisp for dessert. Did you know you could get more than 25 teaspoons of added sugars in that meal, even with modest portions? That’s more than double the amount of added sugars most of us should have in a single day!

One way to cut back on the added sugars in this meal is to replace the commercial products containing added sugars with your own salad dressing, barbecue sauce, and lemonade made with SPLENDA® Sweeteners. Another option is to use SPLENDA® Sweeteners to sweeten the lemonade and peach crisp. A third choice is to do all the above. If you’d like to give it a try there are plenty of SPLENDA® recipes to help you do all that and more.

If you want to substitute a SPLENDA® Sweetener for full sugar in your own favorite recipes just follow this helpful Measurement Conversion Chart to get the right amount whether using the granulated product, packets or Sugar Blends. You might also want to read my blog, Sugar Substitutes for Baking: SPLENDA® Sugar Blends and Baking with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products: Some Helpful Tips and Guidelines from Sue Taylor to get best results.

Every time you dip into a sugar bowl or honey jar is an opportunity to make a substitution that can lower your daily intake of added sugars – and more opportunities to use SPLENDA® Sweetener Products for a sweet alternative.

 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.

To learn more recipe tips for cooking and baking with SPLENDA® Sweeteners, visit the Cooking & Baking section of this blog.

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.

 

Recipes for vegetarian and diabetic diets have much in common

Recipes for Vegetarians with Diabetes

This blog was originally written for SplendaLiving.com. You can read that post here.

Maybe you’ve been a vegetarian for as long as you can remember, and then developed type 2 diabetes as an adult. Or maybe you received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes as a child and decided during your teen years to become a vegetarian. Either way, if this describes you or someone you know, you may be wondering if it is possible to combine a vegetarian diet with one to manage diabetes.

The simple answer is yes, vegetarian meal plans and diabetes diets are compatible and both can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

The goal for any diet is to meet your personal nutritional requirements, but there are endless ways to do that based on what is available, affordable and acceptable to you. Vegetarians who only eat pizza and French fries are not making the best choices possible to meet their needs. People with diabetes who never eat fruit or whole grains aren’t either.

 Vegetarian Meal Plans and Diabetes

The first step to combining a vegetarian diet with a diabetes diet is to make a list of the foods from each food group that you like and will eat and that you can easily purchase and prepare. The biggest difference for a vegetarian (compared to someone who is not a vegetarian) will be in the Protein Foods Group. A vegetarian’s list will include plant-based protein sources such as beans, peas, lentils, soy-based meat substitutes, nuts, nut butters and seeds instead of beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and fish. Eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt may be additional sources of protein for vegetarians who choose to include those foods.

Choices from each of the other food groups – Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy and Oils – are the same for vegetarians, “meat eaters” and people with diabetes. The focus for all of them should be getting the best quality and variety of foods in the diet as possible and eating them in the right frequency and serving size. That may mean having two canned peach halves packed in natural juices when fresh peaches are not in season, mixing a cup of spiralized zucchini squash with a cup of spaghetti to reduce the carbohydrate content of a meal, or adding a bag of frozen edamame (soybeans) to a can of vegetable soup to boost the protein in each serving.

If you’re wondering how much honey, molasses and other added sugars a vegetarian diet for diabetes can contain, the answer is the same as for any other healthy person – less than 12 teaspoons a day for a 2000 calorie diet. That recommendation is based on the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans which state added sugars should be less than 10% of total calories whether you eat meat or not!

Reducing added sugars in the diet is important for everyone since many of the foods and drinks added sugars are found in can displace other foods that provide essential nutrients. The calories from those sugars can also contribute to weight gain. This is just as true for people who don’t have diabetes as those who do. Using low-calorie sweeteners, such as SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products, can help reduce added sugars in the diet without giving up the sweet taste that makes so many foods and beverages more enjoyable.

To show you some options possible when combining a diabetic diet with a vegetarian diet, I have put together some meal plan ideas below using “Diabetes Friendly” recipes found in the SPLENDA® Brand recipe files. Of course, it is not necessary to only use recipes specifically designed for diabetes, or, for that matter, only those developed for vegetarians. Just about any recipe can be tweaked to make it work for both purposes. Please note if you have diabetes, it is important to check with your healthcare provider to determine your personal meal plan and adjust these recipes, meal combinations and portion sizes accordingly.

*For the purposes here the vegetarian dishes here may include dairy, eggs and fish.

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Snacks

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.

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.

 

Dozens of different sugar substitutes are used to sweeten our food

A Sweetener by Any Other Name is Just as Sweet

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

The ingredients we use to sweeten our foods and beverages come from a wide variety of sources and have many different features and names.  In some cases, the only thing they have in common is that they all taste sweet! Some are ingredients found on our pantry shelves while others are already in the food and drinks we consume. Some have names we cannot easily pronounce while others are words we use in our everyday speech. And the list goes on.

There are so many terms used to describe the sweeteners available to us that it’s easy to become misled into believing some are better than others. We have all these terms because the ones used by the scientists who study sweeteners are different from those used by the food safety agencies that approve and regulate their use. And the terms used by health professionals who counsel people about the role of sweeteners in the diet differ from the ones used by the companies that sell them to us.

Given the heightened awareness of “added sugars” in our diets with the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the expected appearance of “added sugars” on the revised Nutrition Facts label due later this year, it seems like a good time to review just what we mean when talking about the sweeteners we consume.

Calories Not Nutrients

The main way all sweeteners can be classified is by whether or not they contain calories. The scientific terms used to describe this distinction are “nutritive” sweeteners, which contain calories, and “non-nutritive” sweeteners, which do not.

Terms for Non-nutritive Sweeteners

This list includes the terms permitted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approved food additives and ingredients, as well as those that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This list also includes other terms that have crept into common usage but are not clearly defined by any official source.

  • Alternate or Alternative sweetener – any sweetener used to replace sugar, like aspartame; may include nutritive sweeteners, such as honey and corn syrup
  • Artificial sweetener – derived from plant-based sources or manmade, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin, sucralose
  • High-intensity sweetener – hundreds of time sweeter than sugar and therefore used in very small amounts, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo), neotame, saccharin, stevia (rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Intense sweetener – same as high-intensity sweetener
  • Low-calorie sweetener –used in such small amounts the caloric value is minimal, such as allulose and aspartame; can be used to describe a no-calorie sweetener combined with a bulking agent that has calories
  • Natural sweetener –any sweetener derived from plant-based sources; non-nutritive options include  stevia (Rebaudioside A), monk fruit extract (luo han guo), and the polyol erythritol
  • No-calorie sweetener –is not metabolized by the body and passes through it unchanged, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, monk fruit extract (luo han guo) , neotame, saccharin, stevia (Rebaudioside A), sucralose
  • Noncaloric sweetener – same a no-calorie sweetener
  • Polyol –carbohydrates that are not sugars, but have the taste and texture of sugar with less than half the calories, such as D-Tagatose, erythritol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates (HSH) isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, trehalose, xylitol
  • Reduced-calorie sweetener –contain less than 4 calories per gram, like polyols, or products that are a combination of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners
  • Sugar alcohol – same as polyol
  • Sugar replacer – same as alternate sweeteners, artificial sweetener and sugar substitute
  • Sugar substitute – same as alternate sweetener, artificial sweetener and sugar replacer; commonly refers to non-nutritive sweeteners in table-top packets
  • Synthetic sweetener –not derived from plant-based sources, such as acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), advantame, aspartame, cyclamate, neotame, saccharin
  • Zero calorie sweetener – same as no-calorie sweetener

Terms for Nutritive Sweeteners or “Added Sugars”

The terms in bold type are recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as ingredient names. The others also sweeten our foods and beverages and appear on food labels, but are not recognized by the FDA as ingredient names for “added sugars.”

  • Agave nectar
  • Anhydrous dextrose
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystal dextrose
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Evaporated corn sweetener
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Fruit nectar
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Liquid fructose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Nectars (e.g. peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • Pancake syrup
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice sugar or syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Sugar cane juice
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Table sugar
  • Turbinado
  • White granulated sugar

You may want to print out this list and keep it in a handy place so you won’t be confused the next time you’re reading a food label.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, 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.

 

Low calorie sweeteners are an aid to weight loss, not weight gain

What 22,000 Adults Had to Say About Low-Calorie Sweeteners and Weight Loss

This blog was originally written for CalorieControl.org. You can read that  post here.

Research on regular users of low-calorie sweeteners has found they have better diets than nonusers. If that isn’t incentive to use them, I don’t know what is! Of course, adding a low-calorie sweetener to your coffee isn’t all it takes to become healthy and thin, but studies show it can be part of a healthy lifestyle for many people and helps them reach their goals. And that’s exactly what the latest study by researchers Adam Drewnowski and Colin Rehm at the University of Washington found.

Since other research has reported an association between low-calorie sweeteners and obesity by simply looking at who was using them and their weight classification, Drewnowski and Rehm wanted to answer the question, “What came first, the weight gain or the use of low-calorie sweeteners?”

In their study, they went back 10 years to see peoples’ weight histories and their intent, or motivation, to lose weight during that time. What they found is the use of low-calorie sweeteners was common among people who were experiencing weight fluctuations and who were trying to return to a lower weight. In fact, nearly one-third of adults trying to lose or maintain weight used low-calorie sweetened products.

As anyone who has lost weight knows, it is easy to regain. When that starts to happen, there is a tendency to resume the weight loss strategies that helped in the past, like using low-calorie sweeteners. Even people experiencing weight gain for the first time and those with the early warning signs of diabetes may decide to use low-calorie sweeteners as a first step to reduce their caloric intake or added sugars in their diet. In both these examples, the low-calorie sweetener was selected after the problem of weight gain or prediabetes was identified, not the other way around.

Asking the Right Questions

Here’s how the study was done.

Information was collected from more than 22,000 adults about their use of low-calorie sweeteners in the past 24 hours, their intent to lose or maintain weight over the past 12 months and their 10-year weight history. Height and weight records were used to classify the participants as normal weight, overweight or obese during the period under investigation and a questionnaire was completed to determine if they had been diagnosed with diabetes.

Drawing the Right Conclusions

What the researchers found was the use of low-calorie sweeteners was associated with self-reported intention to lose weight during the previous 12 months, indicating it was a strategy being selected to help with weight loss.   They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners, and  this was true for participants at any weight, not just those who were overweight or obese. This finding provides the strongest evidence yet that low-calorie sweeteners do not cause weight gain, but are chosen to help prevent it.

They also found those who reported they were trying to lose or maintain weight during the past 12 months were much more likely to use low-calorie sweeteners.

A final conclusion drawn from this research, based on the analysis of the 10-year weight change data, is that obese individuals may have switched to diet beverages made with low-calorie sweeteners after they gained weight.  This supports the possibility that use of low-calorie sweeteners may be a useful “marker” to identify people have experienced weight gain and are trying to reduce it.

What Does This Mean For You?

We now have better evidence than ever that low-calorie sweeteners are deliberately chosen by individuals as a weight management strategy and do not contribute to weight gain. Using low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar is a simple step anyone can take to help reduce their caloric intake as part of a healthy lifestyle.

 

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, 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.

  

Let low calorie sweeteners take the place of added sugars in your diet

What’s New in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans?

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

If you don’t like mathematics or tracking what you eat, you may find it difficult to follow the recommendation to reduce the added sugars in your diet found in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines). Even if you do like math and record-keeping, you’re probably not going to be happy with how many of your favorite foods and beverages taste once the new limit on added sugars is applied. (Spoiler Alert: Keep reading for my advice on how to have a lower sugar diet that still tastes sweet!)

The new guidelines encourage us to limit our daily added sugars intake to less than 10 percent of our total calories as part of a healthy eating pattern. To figure out what your daily limit for added sugars is, you first need to know what your daily calorie requirements are. You can use this table in the Guidelines for an estimate of your daily calorie needs based on age, gender and physical activity level.

Once you know how many calories per day you should eat, take 10 percent of that number to know how many calories you can devote to added sugars. Now you must divide that number by 4 to determine the number of grams of added sugars you should try to stay under each day. Another option is to divide the sugar calories by 16 to calculate the daily number of teaspoons that shouldn’t be exceeded in your diet.

Tracking Added Sugars in Foods and Beverages

To stay within your allotted budget for added sugars you should keep track of the grams and/or teaspoons of added sugars consumed each day, along with your total daily calories. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges with this step is that added sugars are not labeled on the nutrition facts panel of food products.

There are, however, a few ways to use the food label to find foods and beverages with less added sugar as noted in my previous blog, “Lowering Added Sugar in Your Meals.” Try these tips:

  1. Ingredients are listed by weight with the one used in the greatest amount coming first, so if an added sugar is at the end of a long ingredients list on a nutrition panel it is most likely not present in a significant amount.
  2. Foods and drinks made with no- and low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA®Sweetener Products, typically have less added sugar than their full sugar counterparts.
  3. The more types of sugar there are in the ingredient list, the more likely their combined weight would appear higher on the list.

Strategies to Reduce Added Sugars in the Dietary Guidelines

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans report also provides a few strategies to help us reduce added sugars from our foods and beverages:

  • omit the sugar
  • choose unsweetened drinks or ones containing less sugar
  • have sweetened drinks less often
  • have sweetened drinks in smaller portions
  • limit or decrease the portion size, or choose unsweetened or no-sugar added versions of grain-based desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries) and dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, and custard).

Let SPLENDA® Sweeteners Help You Reach Your Goal!

An easy-to-incorporate strategy I recommend is to replace some of the added sugars in your food and beverages with high-intensity sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes or low-calorie sweeteners) like sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products) to retain the sweet taste that is such an important part of our eating experience.

Here’s what the new Guidelines say on the subject of low-calorie sweeteners: “High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.”

Replacing some added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners is a smart way to reduce added sugars in the diet while providing the sweet taste we want. For example, instead of the typical sweet tea with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you could try this Hot Spiced Tea and spread some No-Sugar Needed Triple Berry Jam on your sandwich.

Using SPLENDA® Sweeteners or other high-intensity sweeteners instead of added sugars is a strategy that can produce big results at the end of the day without doing all the math. For example, just by substituting one can of diet soda for a can of regular soda automatically eliminates 10 teaspoons of added sugars from your day no matter what other changes you may make. Adding a SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener packet instead of 2 teaspoons of sugar to three cups of coffee a day removes six teaspoons of sugar from your tally. And preparing this Berry-Cherry Pie with SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated replaces one cup of sugar in the traditional recipe (or 6 teaspoons per serving).

There are probably a number of other changes you will need to make to limit the added sugars in your daily diet. But being able to continue enjoying a little sweetness in your meals, with less added sugars, should help make those changes a lot easier to achieve.

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.

To learn more about Sugar Substitutes, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.
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. 

 

Aspartame has been help part of healthy diets for 35 years

The Most Studied Low Calorie Sweetener Turns 35 This Year

This blog was originally written for Aspartame.org. You can read that  post here.

The global population is aging at a faster rate than ever before in human history. Right now the number of people throughout the world over the age of 65 makes up 8.5 percent of the total population, or 671 million people according to International Population Reports.  That number is projected to jump to 1,566 million people by the 2050, making 16.7 percent of the world’s population over 65 years of age!

If you’re wondering what this has to do with aspartame and other no- and low-calorie sweeteners, there is a connection. Knowing you may live well into your 80s or 90s can provide the motivation for living better now to extend the quality of your life as you get older. That’s where aspartame can help.

 Benefits of Aspartame

Aspartame has been an approved food additive for over 35 years. Since its introduction into the food supply in the 1980s as an artificial sweetener 200 times sweeter than sugar a growing body of research has demonstrated its role in a healthy lifestyle. The benefits most frequently reported are that aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can aid in:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduction in the risks associated with obesity
  • Diet satisfaction with less added sugars and fewer calories
  • Eating a greater variety of healthy foods
  • Management of diabetes

Knowing low-calorie sweeteners can support weight management is significant because, along with getting older, the World Health Organization reports we are also getting heavier. In fact, obesity has more than doubled in the global population since 1980. Today overweight and obesity are the leading risk factors for noncommunicable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers and are now linked to more deaths worldwide than being underweight.

If you want to prevent the chronic diseases that can strip away independence as you age, achieving a healthy body weight is one of the most important steps you can take. Using aspartame in place of sugar can help by providing a sweet taste to foods and beverages with few or no calories.  And it can be used by the entire family, not just those trying to lose weight, although any unintended weight loss should always be brought to the attention of your physician.

Aspartame is not a drug and, therefore, cannot produce weight loss without making other behavior changes, but it can be a valuable tool in maintaining a balanced and satisfying diet — and that can add more healthy and happy years to your life.

 Safety of Aspartame

The safety of aspartame has been rigorously monitored by food safety experts since it was first approved for use as a food additive more than three decades ago. New research from human and animal studies is regularly evaluated along with the existing body of evidence to determine any potential risk to the population at current levels of exposure or Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI). The experts report aspartame does not cause damage to the genes or induce cancer, does not harm the brain or nervous system, and does not affect behavior or cognitive function in children or adults. They also have found no risk to the developing fetus from its use during pregnancy at the current ADI levels (except in women suffering from PKU).

Regulatory agencies representing more than 90 countries have conducted their own reviews of the scientific literature on aspartame and approved its use for their populations. This list includes the United States, Canada, the member countries of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), France, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. In 2013 the EFSA re-issued a Scientific Opinion on the safety of aspartame as a food additive and again concluded it was not a safety concern based on current exposure estimates and there was no reason to revise the ADI of 40mg/kg body weight per day.

It is reassuring to know there is a consensus among so many experts about the safety of aspartame, especially when conflicting reports from single studies hit the news. Living well into our nineties is a big enough challenge without having to worry about that!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, 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.

Vacation weight gain can lead to creeping obesity

The Spring Break Souvenir Nobody Wants

This post was originally written for TheSkinnyOnLowCal.org.

When college students return to campus after their winter break most of them can’t tell you exactly when they’ll be taking their final exams, but they all know the dates for spring break. Reservations are booked long before anyone cracks open a book at the start of the semester. Escaping to someplace tropical for fun in the sun is standard fare, but for many there is a souvenir that can linger long after the tan marks have faded. It’s called creeping obesity.

Just like holiday weight gain that isn’t lost from one year to the next, weight gained while on vacation can contribute to creeping obesity – or gradual weight gain over time – if those extra pounds aren’t lost when you get home.  A recent study found the average weight gain for vacations of one to three weeks was .7 pounds, with some subjects gaining as much as 7 pounds.

Another finding in that study was that weight was gained despite the slight increase in physical activity reported during vacations. Apparently snorkeling and beach volleyball aren’t enough to offset the increased caloric intake, especially from alcoholic drinks which tended to double while on vacation!

Gaining a small amount of weight may seem like no big deal, but as I said in my book Fighting the Freshman Fifteen, if you don’t deal with the ounces they’ll turn into pounds by the time you graduate.  And since it’s much easier to lose one or two pounds than five or ten, why not make it part of your vacation plans to drop those unwanted pounds as quickly as you gained them?   Here’s how to do it.

Ways to Spring Back From a Spring Break!

  1. Know Your Number– Before you go on vacation use a customized program, like SuperTracker, to determine the number of calories you consume each day to maintain your present weight with your usual amount of physical activity. This is number your baseline calorie allowance.
  2. Step on the Scale– Weigh yourself before you leave for vacation and again on the morning after you return to see if you’ve gained weight and how much you need to lose to get back to your pre-vacation weight. Weigh yourself daily while following the steps below until you reach your goal.
  3. Keep a Record– Start recording everything you eat and drink, and the amounts, so you can tally your daily caloric intake. Keep it 200 calories below your maintenance number, calculated in #1. One way to drop 200 calories a day is to replace sugar-sweetened drinks with diet drinks and to use no- and low-calorie sweeteners in place of sugar.
  4. Up Your Activity– Increase your usual time spent in physical activity by at least one hour per week by adding a single 60-minute workout or an additional 15 minutes to four regular workouts.
  5. Monitor Your Maintenance– You can stop the calorie counting and extra hour of exercise once you return to your pre-vacation weight, but continue to weigh yourself weekly. Resume the food records and added exercise time if you see your weight going up before your next vacation.

Robyn Flipse. Fighting the Freshman Fifteen. Three Rivers Press, 2002.

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.

 

Introduce sugar free drinks to children to reduce added sugars

Winning Kids Over from Sugary Drinks to Ones with Less Added Sugar or Sugar-Free Drinks

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

Every generation of parents faces different challenges when it comes to raising their children. That may explain why grandparents and their adult children don’t always see eye-to-eye over what a child should eat for breakfast. Yet the one part of childhood nutrition they usually do agree on is the need to reduce the amount of added sugars children consume.

Back when I was in elementary school parents and teachers warned us to cut back on added sugars to avoid cavities and those dreaded trips to the dentist for drillings and fillings. Today, thanks to fluoridated water and better dental hygiene, childhood tooth decay is better controlled. Now children face rising rates of obesity and excess added sugars are being blamed for contributing to the problem.

So when I get questions from parents (and grandparents) about whether their children should have chocolate milk or plain milk with their school lunch, drink lemonade or lemon seltzer at the family picnic, or order a soda or glass of water at a pizza party, I recommend drinks that replace sugar with low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, for a simple solution.

As fellow Registered Dietitian Hope Warshaw explained in her blog, “American Academy of Pediatrics Weighs In on Added Sugar and Sugar Substitutes,” the Academy recognizes the safety of low-calorie sweeteners for children and their use as a tool to reduce the added sugars and calories in a child’s diet. The important point here is that they are a tool, and when used as part of a balanced diet, low-calorie sweeteners can help children enjoy a wide variety of foods and beverages they might not be willing to eat without a little sweetness.

 Lead By Example

The best way to introduce children and teens to drinks with less added sugar is to let them see you choosing and drinking them. They should feel good about the choice, not stigmatized for having something labeled “sugar free.” It also helps if you serve just one beverage option for everyone in the family instead of segregating the sugar-free version for only some members. And it makes life easier when you only have to find room for just one pitcher of sugar-free iced tea on the picnic table!

Another important behavior to model for children is moderation. Serving sizes of no-calorie and low-calorie beverages should be age appropriate along with their frequency of use. And they should never replace recommended servings of low-fat milk and 100% fruit juices that provide essential nutrients.

Special occasions like birthday parties and youth sporting events provide a perfect opportunity to offer drinks with less added sugar to a child since plenty of high-calorie foods are typically being eaten, including many that contain added sugars. These occasions also provide a very effective “teachable moment” for a child when they realize they can have the frosted cupcake or goody bag of candy and the drink with less added sugar, but must give up the treats if they have the sugar-sweetened drink.

Let Children Help

Allowing children to help prepare family meals is a valuable way to teach them about good nutrition. A good place to start is by making smoothies together. This Strawberry Orange Smash Smoothie contains strawberries, calcium fortified orange juice, non-fat yogurt and SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener to make a delicious and nutritious drink for kids of any age.

Since most children love watermelon and it doesn’t require a sharp knife to chop up once cut open, you can let your little ones help make this Watermelon Lemonade. Just make sure they wear their swim goggles while squeezing the lemons!

And if you have teenagers looking for something more “sophisticated” to drink, let them try this Homemade Chai. It’s full of flavor from the fresh ginger and dried spices with just enough sweetness from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, to keep them smiling as they sip.

You can find many more beverage recipes with less added sugar on Splenda.com and more good advice on dealing with childhood weight gain and obesity in the blog “Small Changes Can Help Children and Teens Manage Weight” by my colleague Sue Taylor.
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.

Use low caloire sweeteners to reduce added sugars in the diet

Hitting the Sweet Spot in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Savor the Flavor for National Nutrition Month

National Nutrition Month Savor the Flavor

Use National Nutrition Month to make progress towards meeting the goals of the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans by reducing the added sugars in your diet

If you’re a numbers person you’re going to love the news in the latest edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Guidelines) about the amount of added sugars we can include in our diets. If you don’t like mathematics or tracking everything you eat, the news is dreadful.

The Guidelines say we should limit our added sugars to no more than 10 percent of our total calories as part of a healthy eating pattern. To figure that out we need to record the calories in everything we eat and drink all day so we can find the total calories we consume, and then take 10 percent of that to know how many calories we can devote to added sugars. Once we have that number we must divide it by 4 to determine the number of grams our added sugars can weigh, or we can divide the sugar calories by 16 to calculate the number of teaspoons we can have.

Now all we have to do is keep track of those grams and/or teaspoons of sugar, along with all the calories, to be sure we don’t exceed our daily allowance. And don’t forget to reserve some of your “sugar allotment” if you have a special occasion coming up that might include a decadent dessert. You need to budget for that.

What’s Missing from the Sugar Reduction Strategy?

A thorough reading of the 300+ pages of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in early 2016, did reveal a few shortcuts to these calculations, but the results won’t be as accurate. The “strategies” offered to help us reduce added sugars from our beverages are to simply omit the sugar, choose unsweetened drinks or ones containing less sugar, have sweetened drinks less often or have them in smaller portions.

The only strategies on how to reduce added sugars from grain-based desserts (cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, doughnuts, sweet rolls, and pastries) or dairy desserts (ice cream, frozen yogurt, pudding, and custard) are equally imprecise. The Guidelines suggest “limiting or decreasing portion size” or choosing the unsweetened or no-sugar added versions.

Given these options you’ll be out of luck if your menu tonight includes a garden salad with French dressing, grilled chicken with barbecue sauce and a side of baked beans, a tall glass of fresh squeezed lemonade and some homemade blueberry crisp for dessert. You’d be getting more than 25 teaspoons of added sugars in that meal, even with modest portions, and that’s more than double the amount most of us can include in our daily diets.

That just doesn’t seem right and it doesn’t hold true to another key message in the Guidelines that states, “Any eating pattern can be tailored to the individual’s socio-cultural and personal preferences.”

What’s missing from these “strategies” are ways to use high-intensity sweeteners (also known as sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners), or products made with them, to replace some of the added sugars in our food and beverages so we can retain the sweet taste that is such an integral part of our eating experience.
What the Guidelines do say on the subject is:

“High-intensity sweeteners that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) include saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), and sucralose. Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.”

Why not recommend high-intensity sweeteners as a guaranteed way to reduce added sugars in the diet? Every time they are used in a food or beverage they can reduce our total added sugars consumption while providing the sweet taste we want. Instead, we are being asked to give up or use less honey in our tea, syrup on our pancakes and jelly with our peanut butter.

Replacing some of the added sugars in our diets with high-intensity sweeteners is a “strategy” that can produce big results without doing all that math. Substituting one can of diet soda for a can of regular soda automatically eliminates 10 teaspoons of added sugars from our day no matter what other changes we may make. Using a yellow sugar substitute packet instead of sugar in three cups of coffee a day removes six teaspoons of sugar from our tally. Preparing blueberry crisp with a sugar substitute deletes a cup of sugar from the recipe.

There are many other food and beverage choices we must also make to meet the goals in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Having the chance to enjoy a little sweetness in our meals will make them easier.

About the author: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and cultural anthropologist with over 35 years of experience specializing in food, nutrition and health communications. She is a consultant to several food and beverage companies, including the Calorie Control Council and Heartland Food Products Group. She is author of the blog “The Everyday RD” and tweets as @EverydayRD.

This blog was originally written for FoodConsumer.org. You can read the original post here.