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  • Diet Soda: Science says you may be doing something right.

    Amber Pankonin

    MS, RD, CSP, LMNT 

     The recent media hype the past few years regarding low-calorie sweeteners would lead us to believe that people who consume low-calorie sweeteners have poor quality diets and perhaps are not very physically active. In fact, we have seen studies claim that low-calorie sweeteners found in beverages such as diet soda, table top packages, and diet foods could cause an increase in appetite leading to weight gain and decreased physical activity.

     However, a study published in Nutrients this fall suggests instead that people who use low-calorie sweeteners might actually be healthier than the media wants you to believe. Results from this study indicated that participants who consumed low-calorie sweeteners had higher healthy eating index scores compared to those that did not, were more physically active, and smoked less. So, is it possible that consumers who include low-calorie sweeteners in their diet might actually be doing something right?

     Perhaps people who consume low calorie sweeteners are often more aware of their food and beverage choices and other health habits like physical activity and smoking.  Taking the first step to improving your health often involves becoming more self-aware. I believe that awareness helps people make better choices when it comes to making better food choices and getting in more physical activity throughout the day. Whether or not you choose to consume low-calorie sweeteners is up to you. The great thing is that consumers now have so many options available than ever before. Regardless of how the media wants to villainize them, low-calorie sweeteners can be a great tool for people making better health decisions.  


     Amber Pankonin is a nutrition communication consultant and adjunct professor based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She also serves on several boards including the Nebraska Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Dietetic Practice Group.

  • Veggie Halos and Soda Demons

    Kim Galeaz, RDN, CD


    The over-hyped health halo for fruits and vegetables is no more warranted than the demonization of soda and all things sugar. I may be a registered dietitian, but I simply refuse to single out any one food, beverage or food group as the shining star or scapegoat for your health status. Which is why I found myself quite frustrated recently on two specific occasions, while reading an article on Market Watch about soda taxes and while sitting in the dentist’s chair getting my teeth cleaned. 

    The dental hygienist asked “how can I get my daughter to eat more vegetables?” While I didn’t reply “you can’t, only she can,” I did my best to provide tips on offering - not forcing or mandating - kid-friendly veggies like edamame in the pod, strips of red, yellow and orange bell peppers and sweet potato oven wedges. Her daughter will eat corn, green beans, and mashed potatoes, so I had to set the record straight and explain all three were indeed nutrient-rich vegetables and not “bad” choices. Serve them often I encouraged.


    Then I read the Market Watch article about the new soda and sugary beverage tax in Berkley, California.  I detest taxes on soda and beverages as much as I detest labeling foods as “good” or “bad.” Every food, every beverage, can - and should in my opinion - have a place in your diet if you choose. No forcing, mandating, regulating or legislating how you will spend your daily calorie budget. Soda tax supporters hope more expensive sugary beverages will lead to less consumption, even no consumption, and result in improved public health.


    But eliminating soda and sugary beverages from your diet will not save your health any more than over-emphasizing fruits and vegetables.  No one food or beverage alone is ever responsible for poor or good health. It’s the overall balance that makes a difference. Enjoying the right amount of all nutrient-rich food groups for your calorie budget, adding a daily treat if you choose (whether it’s a soda, milkshake, brownie or chips) and balancing all choices with ample daily activity. It’s your choice.




  • My choices for a happy and healthy 2015

    Melissa Joy Dobbins MS, RD, CDE

    ‘Tis the season for reflecting and making those New Year’s resolutions. As a dietitian and a mom, I’m keeping my entire family in mind as I consider realistic and effective ways to improve our health in the New Year. Read my family’s resolution’s below.

    Make exercise a family affair. We already have some family-oriented activities that we enjoy. A family bike ride is my all-time favorite, though my husband and I just completed our first triathlon together and recently started taking ballroom dance lessons- which are really enjoyable! This year, we want to do more. I am looking forward to taking a karate class with my son and a weekly dance class with my daughter.

    Balance our diets better. We will continue to strive for more balance in our diets by emphasizing nutrient-rich foods and moderating less nutritious choices. I’m all about “guilt-free” strategies to include all the foods we love, so there are no hard and fast rules for sweets and treats at our house. Instead, we consider the entire day, and even the entire week, when making decisions about what kinds of foods and beverages to choose, and how much. Because of our emphasis on including nutrient-rich foods at meals and snacks, I feel good about letting my kids learn to make their own choices about the “extra” foods and beverages they consume.

    Be sensible about our screen time. We are very aware of the amount of time we spend in front of the TV, computer, tablet, video games and smartphones. In addition to spending quality time together, we will focus on quality screen time together. For example, we love watching movies together. It provides us with lots to learn and laugh about. We ensure that some of the video games we play have some puzzles or brain training games and that we get our bodies moving with dance video games.

    I’m confident that we have a good foundation upon which to build healthier habits, and glad that we have the right to choose what is best for our family. I wish you and yours a healthier new year by choosing what is best is for you!


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