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.
Do you believe in magic? Some people apparently do if they think they can cancel out all the excess calories and added sugars in their meals by simply using a low calorie sweetener. But no sleight of hand can make that happen!
If you’ve ever seen someone order a diet soda with a bacon cheeseburger and large order of fries you know what I’m talking about. The truth is they don’t need a magician they need a mathematician because the numbers just don’t add up right.
There is no doubt the diet drink helps to reduce their caloric intake. It can drop the beverage calories by 150 to 250 calories depending on the size of the drink, but the rest of that meal still clocks in at 800-1000 calories. Skipping the bacon and getting a small order of fries and a salad would help bring the meal into range with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines. So, along with the diet drink, they could cut out about half of the total calories compared to the higher-calorie version of this meal.
Identifying Calorie Culprits
A key benefit to using low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, in place of sugar is the way they can lower the calorie content of what we eat and drink – but that only applies to the added sugars they replace. All of the other sources of calories and carbohydrates in our meals stay the same.
For example, this recipe for Velvet Pound Cake calls for SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend instead of full-calorie brown sugar. The SPLENDA® Brown Sugar Blend has half the calories of full-calorie brown sugar, but the butter, cream cheese, flour, eggs, and the remaining sugar still contribute significant calories in this dessert.
Some people ask, “Then why bother using a sugar substitute?” That’s a question I’m always happy to answer because it gives me a chance to remind them that to achieve and maintain a healthy weight we must keep track of all sources of calories in our diets, not just those from sugar. You can learn more about that here. And research on people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off has found low-calorie sweeteners and products made with them were a helpful tool in their initial weight loss and continue to be a strategy that keeps them on track.
Replacing Hidden Sugar
Another benefit of low-calorie sweeteners is they can help us reduce the amount of added sugar in our diets. Every time we use a packet of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener in a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea we cancel out about 8 grams of sugar, which is 28 calories less than what we would have consumed if we used sugar.
But what about the hidden sugar in foods?
I consider “hidden sugars” to be any caloric sweetener added to a food or drink that doesn’t really make it taste sweet, so we may not realize it’s there. No one should be surprised there’s added sugar in ice cream, but did you know the dressing used on coleslaw often contains sugar? The same is true for marinara sauce, General Tso Chicken and barbecue sauce.
A good way to reduce your intake of these hidden sugars is to read ingredient lists carefully to identify all sources of added sugars, then look for products that avoid them or use a sugar substitute instead. You can also make your own dressings, sauces and marinades to eliminate many of these sources of added sugars in your diet.
When you understand the real benefits of low-calorie sweeteners, you don’t need to believe in magic to have a healthy diet!
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 on low calorie sweeteners, visit the Sugar Substitutes section of this blog.