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Death by Diet Soda Artificially Sweetened Beverages To Premature Death

There was a collective gasp among Coke Zero and Diet Pepsi drinkers this week after media reports highlighted a new study that found prodigious consumers of artificially sweetened drinks were 26 percent more likely to die prematurely than those who rarely drank sugar-free beverages.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 450,000 Europeans over 16 years and tracked mortality among soft-drink consumers of all persuasions — both those with a fondness for sugary beverages and those who favored sugar-free drinks.

Given the well-documented health effects of consuming too much sugar, it was little surprise the authors found that people who drank two or more glasses of sugar-sweetened beverages a day were eight percent more likely to die young compared to those who consumed less than one glass a month.

But what grabbed headlines, and prompted widespread angst, was the suggestion that drinking Diet Coke could be even more deadly than drinking Coca-Cola Classic.

“Putting our results in context with other published studies, it would probably be prudent to limit consumption of all soft drinks and replace them with healthier alternatives like water,” said Amy Mullee, a nutritionist at University College Dublin and one of 50 researchers who worked on the study, one of the largest of its kind to date.

The study is not a one-off. Over the past year, other research in the United States has found a correlation between artificially sweetened beverages and premature death.

The problem, experts say, is that these and other studies have been unable to resolve a key question: Does consuming drinks sweetened with aspartame or saccharin harm your health? Or could it be that people who drink lots of Diet Snapple or Sprite Zero lead a more unhealthy lifestyle to begin with?

A number of nutritionists, epidemiologists and behavioral scientists think the latter may be true. (It’s a theory that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has guiltily ordered a Diet Coke to accompany their Double Whopper with cheese.)

“It could be that diet soda drinkers eat a lot of bacon or perhaps it’s because there are people who rationalize their unhealthy lifestyle by saying, ‘Now that I’ve had a diet soda, I can have those French fries,’” said Vasanti S. Malik, a researcher at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the lead author of a study in April that found that the link between artificial sweeteners and increased mortality in women was largely inconclusive. “This is a huge study, with a half million people in 10 countries, but I don’t think it adds to what we already know.”

The authors of the JAMA paper tried to account for these risk factors by removing study participants who were smokers or obese, and they tried to improve its accuracy through statistical modeling.

But Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital, said these so-called observational studies cannot really determine cause and effect. “Maybe artificial sweeteners aren’t increasing mortality,” he said. “Maybe it’s just that people with an increased risk of mortality, like those with overweight or obesity, are choosing to drink diet soda but, in the end, this doesn’t solve their weight problem and they die prematurely.”

Still, scientists say the alternative to observational studies — a clinical trial that randomly assigns participants to a sugary drinks group or a diet soda group — isn’t feasible.

“Clinical trials are considered the gold standard in science, but imagine asking thousands of people to stick to such a regimen for decades,” said Dr. Malik of Harvard. “Many people would drop out, and it would also be prohibitively expensive.”

Concerns about artificial sweeteners have been around since the 1970s, when studies found that large quantities of saccharin caused cancer in lab rats. The Food and Drug Administration issued a temporary ban on the sweetener, and Congress ordered up additional studies and a warning label, but subsequent research found the chemical to be safe for human consumption. More recently-created chemical sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose have also been extensively studied, with little evidence that they negatively impact human health, according to the F.D.A.

Some studies have even found a correlation between artificial sweeteners and weight loss, but others have suggested they may increase cravings for sugary foods.

“There’s no evidence they are harmful to people with a healthy diet who are trying to live a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Barry M. Popkin, a nutritionist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He and others remain concerned that giving diet beverages to young children might encourage a sweet tooth.

Still, many scientists say more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of consuming artificial sweeteners. Although Dr. Mullee, one of the authors of the study, cautioned against drawing stark conclusions from their data, she said the deleterious effects of artificial sweeteners can’t be ruled out, noting studies that suggest a possible link between aspartame and elevated levels of blood glucose and insulin in humans. “Right now the biological mechanisms are unclear but we’re hoping our research will spark further exploration,” she said.

For consumers, the mixed messaging can be confusing. Dr. Jim Krieger, the founding executive director of Healthy Food America, an advocacy group that presses municipalities to enact soda taxes and increase consumer access to fruits and vegetables, said the new study and others like it raise more questions than they answer.

“Gosh, at this point, you probably want to go with water, tea or unsweetened coffee and not take a chance on beverages we don’t know much about,” he said. “Certainly, you don’t want to drink sugary beverages because we know that these aren’t good for you.”

By

Andrew Jacobs is a reporter with the Health and Science Desk, based in New York. He previously reported from Beijing and Brazil and had stints as a Metro reporter, Styles writer and National correspondent, covering the American South.

Source: Death by Diet Soda? – The New York Times

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25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School

If your kids are picky eaters, you know that every meal can be a battle. Their growing bodies are in need of vitamins and nutrients, yet all they crave are unhealthy foods with no nutritional content. What you need are creative meal ideas they can eat for lunch at home or at school, designed to appeal to their palate.

The recipes listed here contain lots of vegetables, minimal or no processed ingredients, and most importantly, flavors that even the pickiest kids will love! The ingredients for each meal are listed below. Click on the name of the dish to see the full recipe!

Finger Foods

1. Asian-Style Fish Cakes with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce

Do you have a finicky eater that refuses to eat fish? This is a great way to make this omega-3 fatty acid rich protein appealing and fun to eat. And it’s much better for you than frozen fish sticks.

Just so you know, these fish cakes freeze amazingly well! To save time, make a big batch and freeze them for whenever you need a quick meal or snack.

View recipe here.

2. Chicken Zucchini Poppers

Some kids don’t like the texture of zucchini, but in this recipe, they add moisture and the zucchini is barely detectable. Make sure to squeeze out the excess water in the zucchini so that the poppers stay together and don’t fall apart. They can be pan-fried or baked! The poppers pair perfectly with the citrus avocado dressing.

View recipe here.

3. Baked Crispy Chicken Fingers with Apple Fries

If your kid asks for chicken fingers, you don’t have to say no. This version is made with white meat chicken and baked. Substituting fries with apple fries makes this an appetizing lunch that both you and your kids will approve of. Turkey breast can be used instead of chicken.

View recipe here.

4. Broccoli and Cheese Nuggets (Vegetarian)

Broccoli is notorious for being a hard sell. Who knows why kids don’t like eating these miniature trees? But when mixed with cheese and formed into a fun shape for easy dipping, kids may give these broccoli-filled nuggets another try. Another positive is that they are baked, not fried.

View recipe here.

The Salad Bar

5. Chicken Taco Salad

Kids love tacos, so why not make them a healthy taco salad? This one is packed full of leafy greens, tomatoes, corn, avocado and grilled chicken. Adding crushed chips on top gives it the perfect amount of texture and appeal for your young kids to enjoy without a single complaint.

View recipe here.

6. Chicken Salad with Grapes

A colorful chicken salad with crunchy roasted nuts, dried cherries, grapes and celery, it can be served alone, in a sandwich, or on a bed of lettuce. Apples can be used in place of the cherries or in addition. Greek yogurt can also be used in place of the mayonnaise to up the healthy factor even more!

View recipe here.

7. Salad Stuffed Pepper Bowls with Creamy Avocado Dressing (Vegan)

As many of you moms know, a huge part of the appeal of a meal is the presentation. These pepper bowls are such a clever idea for a kid-friendly lunch. The salad AND bowl are made from a plethora of colorful, nutritious veggies. How often do you get to tell your kids to eat their bowl? You can add a protein to the salad if you prefer, such as grilled chicken.

View recipe here.

Soup of the Day

8. Vegan Chili

This vegan chili recipe contains primarily of vegetables and beans, making it very healthy and filling. Making a flavorful and rich tasting chili doesn’t have to take all day. By blending a small portion and adding it back in, the chili will be thick and satisfying, and no one will be able to taste the difference! Make a big batch because the leftovers keep very well.

View recipe here.

9. Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Get all the flavors of chicken pot pie in half the time with this chicken pot pie soup recipe. This is such a comfort food, but also contains a lot of nutritionally dense ingredients, such as carrots, celery, peas, corn and green beans. The crust and filling are cooked separately, which is a major time saver for busy moms.

View recipe here.

10. Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Another spin on the beloved taco, a fan favorite of young kids. This recipe is slow cooker friendly, so you can prep all of the ingredients in the morning, throw it in the slow cooker and come back to a house smelling of aromatic taco soup. Serve with tortilla chips or over a baked potato.

View recipe here.

Oodles of Noodles

11. Baked Eggplant Parmesan Penne

Swap out typical Chicken Parmesan with healthier but just as tasty eggplant, which is sauteed instead of deep fried. But you don’t have to sacrifice the crunch from the breading by adding panko on top. You can also use whole wheat pasta to cut calories and add fiber, minerals, and protein.

View recipe here.

12. Roasted Chicken and Tomato Pesto Spaghetti Florentine

This recipe incorporates roasted grape tomatoes, baby spinach leaves and rotisserie chicken breast for a light and easy lunchtime pasta. You can make your own homemade pesto if you have the ingredients on hand. Store-bought also works just as well.

View recipe here.

13. Thai Noodle Salad (Vegan)

Filling your meals with plants of different colors will ensure that you are getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. This recipe alone covers four colors! You can use any type of noodle (wheat, rice, soba, etc.) to make this dish, and customize the veggies to your heart’s content.

View recipe here.

14. Southwest Pasta Salad (Vegetarian)

This pasta salad is bursting with flavor — with tons of spices, lime juice and chipotle peppers. Don’t worry about making too much because the leftovers will be even more flavorful, after marinating in all of the seasonings overnight. And there is no heating needed! Use a lentil and quinoa pasta to make this dish gluten free.

View recipe here.

15. Avocado Hummus Pasta (Vegan)

This recipe is one that I created when I had no clue what to do with the vegetables, ripe avocados and leftover hummus I had to use up in my fridge. The textures and flavors of each ingredient somehow just works magically together. The creaminess from the avocado and hummus ties it all together. This accidental discovery is a huge hit with my husband and son!

Prep Time: 20 mins

Cook Time: 10 mins

Total Time: 30 mins

A 30-minute creamy vegan pasta loaded with veggies and tossed in a creamy sauce made from ripe avocados and hummus.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rotini pasta (substitute as needed)
  • 3 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz white button or baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
  • 8 oz sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, chopped
  • 3 oz sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
  • 2-3 ripe avocados, chunks
  • 10 oz hummus, any flavor
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • salt, pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside.
  2. Chop veggies and set aside.
  3. Add olive oil to a large saucepan. Saute minced garlic until aromatic. Add mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, spinach, and sun-dried tomatoes. Saute until tender.
  4. Add pasta, avocado, and hummus to the pan and mix gently.
  5. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  6. Serve warm. Store leftovers in the fridge for a few days.

Some Assembly Required

16. French Bread Pizza

This is one of the most versatile recipes I’ve ever come across. Not only can you completely customize the toppings on the pizza, you don’t even have to use French bread. Deli rolls, Italian rolls or hoagie rolls work just as well! The possibilities of toppings that you can add are endless. Have your kids customize their own individual pizzas with their favorite toppings to ensure they will create a meal they love.

View recipe here.

17. Rainbow Pizza

Look at the colors on this pizza! Not only is this pizza visually appealing, it’s also extremely healthy and delicious. The combination of bell peppers, broccoli, red cabbage and beets add a variety of complementary textures and flavors to this creative pizza recipe.

View recipe here.

18. Asian Lettuce Wraps

Chicken lettuce wraps are a crowd-pleaser at P.F. Chang’s, but there’s no reason you can’t make a just as good if not better version at home. Requiring only 15 minutes, these lettuce wraps are scrumptious and fun to eat. Your kids will love assembling their own lettuce wraps and devouring this healthy lunch.

View recipe here.

19. Fish Tacos

Another way to get kids to eat fish is to serve them into tacos! These flaky pieces of fish are topped with a tangy, crunchy slaw loaded with veggies. The fish can be pan-fried or grilled and served in a flour or corn tortilla. Your kids will be requesting this dish over and over again.

View recipe here.

20. Skirt Steak Fajitas

This tortilla friendly recipe that incorporates skirt steak, onions and bell peppers has decided to go the fajita route. All of these ingredients can be combined on one baking sheet. That means fewer dishes and easier clean-up! You can serve with your favorite toppings such as avocado, sour cream, salsa and shredded cheese.

View recipe here.

No Utensils Needed

21. Avocado Egg Salad Wraps

Eggs are a great ingredient to include in a nutrient-dense lunch for growing kids. Egg salad is one of the best ways to serve it, but the large amounts of mayonnaise introduces a lot of unnecessary saturated fats. This recipe cuts out a lot of the mayo and uses nature’s mayo — avocados, for creaminess.

View recipe here.

22. Spicy Tuna Avocado Wrap

Canned tuna is such a convenient ingredient and is also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, iron and potassium. This wrap contains lots of hearty vegetables and uses avocado and Dijon mustard to flavor the tuna. Sriracha is used for added spice if your kids can handle spicy food! These wraps can be packed easily in a lunch box to take to school.

View recipe here.

23. Chicken and Avocado Roll-Ups

These easy roll-ups take only 10 minutes to make! And they’re packed with great veggies like avocados, tomatoes and onions. You can pack it with even more veggies like spinach, cucumber, or whatever you might have in your fridge.

View recipe here.

24. White Bean Veggie Burgers (Vegan)

Do you have kids that love eating burgers? These 100% vegan burgers with plant-based bacon and cheese will be so delicious that they won’t even realize they’re not eating meat. Beans contain lots of vitamins and fiber and are a great source of protein. You can bake or grill these delectable burger patties.

View recipe here.

25. Turkey Spinach Slider

One of the problems with turkey burgers is that they can be flavorless and unappetizing when prepared incorrectly. This recipe incorporates ingredients that pack a punch like cumin and garlic. There’s also spinach leaves blended right into the patty, but your kids will be too busy chowing down to even notice!

View recipe here.

Making healthy lunches for home or school doesn’t have to be daunting task. Armed with these recipes, you have all the tools you need to find meals that the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

By incorporating nutritional but less appealing ingredients into forms your kids recognize and love, you can introduce them to new flavors and hopefully, open their minds to trying new things.

Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

The post 25 Tasty and Healthy Kids’ Lunch Ideas for Home or School appeared first on Lifehack.

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