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  • Federal Government Reaffirms Safety and Benefits of Low-Calorie Sweeteners


    Despite the alarmist claims about low- and no-calorie sweeteners that sometimes appear on the Internet, these rumors and myths have now, once again, been debunked. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recently released by the federal government sets the record straight on this topic and reinforces the findings of countless other regulatory agencies and the independent analysis of renowned scientists around the globe.

    Here are the facts you should know and keep in mind when sensationalist stories about these scientifically verified ingredients surface in the media:

    • The new guidelines clearly state: “Based on the available scientific evidence, these high-intensity sweeteners have been determined to be safe for the general population.” The report also verifies that low- and no-calorie beverages can help cut calories.
    • Leading regulatory agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and agencies in more than 100 countries deem low- and no-calorie sweeteners safe and approve these ingredients.
    • Health organizations also condone the use of these ingredients. For example, The American Medical Association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Diabetes Association, among others, give their stamp of approval to low-calorie sweeteners. In fact, the American Diabetes Association has said: “foods and drinks that use artificial sweeteners are another option that may help curb your cravings for something sweet.”

    So with the myths about low- and no-calorie sweeteners put to rest once again, we can have every confidence in enjoying products containing these ingredients, knowing they are safe and offer calorie-cutting benefits as well. These choices can be part of a healthy diet and active lifestyle. And the really good news? Today’s marketplace has an abundance of options in varying calorie counts and sizes so that people can pick the best products for themselves and their families.

  • Back to Basics: Nutrition Education

    Carol Berg Sloan, RDN, FAND

    I grew up in El Monte, a suburb of Los Angeles and worked as a consultant to the school district there for many years, specifically in nutrition education for K-8 schools. Just after I left this position in 2012, the El Monte City Council placed an initiative on the ballot to support a soda tax. I was not surprised when it was rejected by a 77% vote. Soda tax initiatives continue to pop up all over the country, despite their failed record to actually improve public health as is their alleged purpose. Unfortunately, most tax proponents continue to ignore this fact.

    Recent “added sugar” data from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans show that a variety of foods and yes, beverages, contribute added calories to the American diet. However, singling out one item in the grocery cart to tax just doesn’t make sense to me, as is reflected in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report. According to their recommendations, overall dietary balance is what matters.

    We need to empower consumers with science based nutrition information so they can make their own decisions about what they choose to eat and drink- not by arbitrarily taxing their everyday food and beverage choices. Utilizing resources such as the “Calories Count” initiative, which makes calories clear and easy-to-understand, is a great place to start.

    Carol Berg Sloan RDN, FAND is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and independent food and nutrition communications consultant in Long Beach, California. Carol has served as a delegate to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a committee member of the California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Nutrition Education for the Public and Dietitians in Business and Communication Dietetic Practice Groups.

  • Striving for Better Balance

    Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND

    Welcome to 2016, a leap year with one extra day to help all of us fulfill our New Year’s resolutions. If you’re like many Americans, you’ve resolved to do things that will improve your health, like finally getting active.

    Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans which advise government nutrition policies for the next five years. The message was clear – when it comes to achieving a healthy weight, balance is key. With that, I’ve resolved to get more balance in all aspects of my life. What does this mean? I’m trying to incorporate more activities that soothe my mind, lessen stress, and improve my overall well-being. Here are some examples:

    1.  Movement Reminders: I tend to sit at my desk for long periods of time, getting stiff and stressed. I now set a reminder on my iPhone that prompts me to get up, stretch, and move every 45 minutes. These short 1-2 minute breaks are a wonderful way for me to calm my mind and soothe my body.
    2. Shorter Fitness Walks: I tend to avoid working out if I think it’s taking too much time—it’s easy to come up with excuses, right?—so I’m now doing shorter 10-minute walks on my office treadmill. Just one week into the New Year, and I’ve already gotten more steps in one week than I got in all of December!
    3. Soothing Breathing: Santa brought me a new activity tracker, which has a heart rate monitor. I marvel at how I can slow my breathing, slow my heart rate, and gently and easily reduce my feelings of stress.
    4. Sweet Rewards: I have an afternoon sweet tooth. Some days I grab a small piece of dark chocolate, other days I’ll sip on my favorite beverage, a chocolate cherry soda. Choosing a diet or zero calorie beverage helps me achieve balance in my calorie intake.
    5. Expressing Gratitude: I end each work day be saying out loud three things I’m grateful for that happened during my day in my home office. By focusing on the positives, I end each work day with a lower stress level and more upbeat, positive outlook.

    Will I continue these activities throughout the year? They’re all easy to do, and I can see almost instant results, so I can confidently say the answer is yes. With these guidelines, I hope we can all find ways to achieve better balance in 2016.

    Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RDN, FAND, is a registered dietitian nutritionist who has lived well with Type I diabetes for more than 37 years. The owner of Farmer’s Daughter Consulting, LLC, she consults with a variety of food and beverage clients on issues related to nutrition and health.