With Christmas being just around the corner, we are already considering which food and desserts we will prepare for our family and friends. Whilst the most important aspect of success in cooking is good taste, keeping some calories off is also essential in order to keep our body weight in control. Low calorie sweeteners can be a key ally in helping prepare great-tasting desserts with less sugar and fewer calories, helping us thereby to manage our energy balance more effectively over this Christmas season. Let’s find out how.
How are low calorie sweeteners used in cooking and baking?
Low calorie sweeteners are known for their benefit of providing sweet taste with low or no calories when used to replace sugar in food and beverages. They can also be used in home cooking and baking to prepare delicious desserts with fewer calories. An important difference worth highlighting between sugar and low calorie sweeteners is how much is needed to achieve the desired level of sweetness: low calorie sweeteners are indeed several hundred times sweeter than sugar; therefore only a very small amount of these is needed to match the level of sweetness provided by sugar. So why not try new recipes and make traditional festive desserts a little lighter?
What the science says about low calorie sweeteners, calorie intake and weight control:
A strong body of evidence shows that the use of low calorie sweeteners in place of sugars can help reduce energy intake and therefore be useful in weight management.1 In 2016, a systematic review and meta-analyses concluded that, based on randomised control trials (RCTs), which are the gold standard in nutrition research, low calorie sweeteners, when used in place of sugars, consistently helped reduce energy intake and can help in weight loss, when used as part of a weight control programme. Another recent review, by Bellisle (2015)2 concluded that “recent intervention studies in children and adults confirm that LES [low energy sweeteners] use tends to reduce rather than increase the intake of sugar-containing foods, and to facilitate, rather than impair, weight loss.”
Furthermore, in a consensus paper published in Nutrition Bulletin in 20143, and having reviewed the scientific literature on the subject, six internationally renowned experts concluded on a statement on the benefits of low calorie sweeteners and confirmed that low calorie sweeteners do not increase appetite, have no discernible effect on satiety and can, in fact, enhance weight loss under real-life conditions when used as part of an overall behavioural weight loss programme.
Five tips for successful weight control over Christmas:
The Christmas holidays are traditionally a time for family and friends to share happy moments and to sit around the table and enjoy delicious food and drinks in a merry atmosphere. Caring about the calories is certainly not the first priority; however, by following some simple tips we can manage our body weight more effectively while making the most of the festive season:
- Maintain your good dietary habits, including daily consumption of fruit and vegetables.
- Remember to start your day with a healthy breakfast. Eating breakfast also helps you avoid overeating throughout the day.
- Choose low calorie sweetened food and drinks, as well as table-top sweeteners, in place of sugar, to reduce your daily sugars and calorie intake.
- Stay active and keep your daily physical activity habits!
- Enjoy traditional Christmas foods and desserts during the holidays, but try doing this in moderation so as to balance your energy intake.
By following the above smart and simple tips you can keep the extra weight off during the holidays. More importantly, you can enjoy the traditional, great-tasting Christmas desserts while still keep your favourite sweet taste with fewer calories by replacing sugar with low calorie sweeteners in your food and beverages. To read more about the role of sweet taste in your diet please click here.
Wishing you a wonderful and tasteful festive season!
* Dr Grigoris Risvas
Public Heath Dietitian
Member of the Executive Committee
European Federation of the Associations of Dietitians (EFAD)