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

Posted April 22, 2014 on SplendaLiving.com
Guest Blogger: Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN

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.