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Using Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners in a “Transition Diet”

Keith Ayoob, EdD, RDN, FADN

Making an extreme dietary change makes great headlines, clickbait, and party conversation. 

I prefer the real world of small changes.  Call them “baby steps” if you like.  I prefer baby steps when dealing with lifestyle changes because baby steps are easier to make, and they are less taxing and stressful, to both our bodies and our emotions. 

Best thing about making baby steps?  Behavior research has long shown that making small, gradual changes to be the most lasting and permanent.  Ask any registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN) who provides dietary counseling or medical nutrition therapy.  We always look for a “win-win”, and making small dietary changes is both easier and more permanent: a win-win.

Making small, gradual dietary changes also takes longer.  Progress is less dramatic, but I will swap “dramatic” for “permanent” any day.  Does it take more persistence and patience?  I would say it “teaches” patience and persistence.

When I hear someone say they are going to “cut out all the added sugars from my diet,” the first thing I want to ask is, “How long are you going to give yourself to do that?”   It does not have to be done suddenly, especially since doing it suddenly may produce failed results.  Transitioning to your dietary goals more gradually may take longer, but there is no need to rush and IU want them to enjoy the journey.

Where LCS fit into transitional diets

The single largest source of added sugars in our diets is from beverages: soda, flavored waters, iced tea, fruit-flavored drinks, etc.  These beverages don’t provide much nutrition, just calories.  You may want to switch over to just water as your primary beverage.  That’s great and I’m a huge fan of drinking water.  If you don’t drink much water, it’s time to start.

Replacing added sugar however, can start immediately, and may have to, in those newly diagnosed with diabetes or someone who is seriously overweight.  It’s unrealistic to expect someone to go “all-water” immediately, especially when there are other calorie-free options. 

Drinks with LCS, whether carbonated, non-carbonated, or hot or iced tea or coffee, also count toward your hydration, and can be considered “water-alternatives.”  Here’s why:

  • They all have no calories and are sugar-free.
  • They are hydrating.
  • They are TOOLS for reducing total added sugars in your diet.

It is still good to drink water, but know that these are alternatives that can help make the transition to drinking more water much easier and more enjoyable. 

Variety: The Sweetness of Life

You do not have to be living with diabetes or be overweight to enjoy the benefits of beverages with LCS.  Even people who have transitioned to drinking more water and unsweetened beverages like variety sometimes.  A drink with a LCS brings that variety without any added calories.

Those with Diabetes and anyone trying to lose weight or reduce their daily calories deserve to have access to as wide a variety of tools as possible to help them achieve their goals. 

Concerned that beverages with LCS will hamper your efforts to eat a better diet or make it harder to steer away from sweets?  No worries, according to the conclusions of the C.H.O.I.C.E. (Choosing Healthy Options Consciously Everyday) study.  This study looked at groups that replaced their sugar-sweetened drinks with either water or diet beverages for six months.  Compared to the all-water drinkers, the group using diet beverages showed:

  • Greater reduction in consumption of caloric drinks.
  • Ate FEWER desserts than the water group.
  • No evidence that the diet beverages increased a preference for sweet foods or drinks.

Bottom Line Takeaways:

  • It’s great to drink water as your primary beverage. 
  • Water isn’t the only way to get water or to hydrate. 
  • Replacing your sugar-sweetened drinks with both water and some drinks sweetened with LCS may make your diet more palatable and enjoyable, and leave you feeling less deprived. 

Feeling less deprived may even help you avoid high-calorie snacks and desserts a little more.  Use all the tools you can to make your transition diet as easy to follow as possible.

Keith Ayoob, EdD, RDN, FADN, is an Associate Clinical Professor Emeritus at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. As a pediatric nutritionist and registered dietitian, Dr. Ayoob is also a past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Dr. Ayoob is a consultant with the Calorie Control Council Advisory Board and the Global Stevia Institute (GSI), GSI is supported by PureCircle Ltd, a global leader in purified stevia leaf extract production.

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.