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The short-sightedness/foolishness of some cookbook authors

I never fail to be impressed--negatively--at the silliness and short-sightedness of some cookbook authors.

Case in point: a recipe that appeared in a second-tier, major-metro-area newspaper this past weekend, for a black bean dip to serve 8.

The recipe is garnished with sour cream--1/4 cup. The author of this recipe is a host of a TV cooking show, and her credit lists one cookbook (there could be more, of course).

The author calls for *reduced fat* sour cream. 1/4 cup divided by 8 servings means an average of 1/2 tablespoon per serving.

Figuring 60 calories per T of regular sour cream, and perhaps 10 calories per T of reduced-fat sour cream, that means that using the reduced calorie sour cream saves a whopping 25 calories! Total. And all that substitution costs is taste.....

I've seen lots of short-sightedness of this kind with cookbook authors--limiting the amount of fat, and salt, often when the amount of fat, or salt, per serving, is minimal. Sad.

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  1. In many cases, I think this is more about the author recognizing that some people just need to see low/reduced fat in order to be interested in a recipe. While many people who aren't afraid of fat will just think "well, I'll just use regular sour cream."

    I know quite a few people who will make anything they see labeled as low-fat, and they usually seem more interested in how it's low-fat than how it tastes. "I made this dessert with fat-free cool whip, fat-free egg beaters, and splenda!! It only has 1 gram of fat per serving!!"

    3 Replies
    1. re: bluex

      Somewhat OT, but I do understand the OP's point when he says, "...all that substitution costs is taste.....".

      I used to make batches of Habanero Basil Mayonnaise. That stuff was HOT. I had to wear gloves and point a fan at my face because the fumes were too much to breathe. Finally I got the idea to use low fat mayo (which I normally loathe) to cut some calories and it tasted fine. Then I had the bright idea to use fat free mayo so I could have a guilt free version of my favorite condiment. Win-win, right? It was VILE. Not even habaneros could hide the taste of that foul fat-free mayonnaise. I had to throw the whole batch away.

      1. re: bluex

        Exactly, bluex.

        People also don't understand that dairy products that remove or reduce fat often add other substances that are not in the full fat version in order to give it a desirable texture.

        1. re: taos

          Plus, for example, when you remove fat from, say, milk, you are concentrating the sugar in the milk.

      2. I agree that Fat Free cream cheese does not taste very good. In fact, I find a lot of diet drinks taste horrible. I much rather drink water than diet Coke. Really.

        That being said, I understand that some people really need to cut their calories. Looking at our country (USA) average weight, where 2/3 of the adults are OVER-weight, I say it is not a bad movement. We also need to keep in mind that we are reducing the 25 calories of fat to 0. 25 to 0 is a lot. Of course, cutting on just one recipe is useless. If you want to cut fat, then it is important to reduce fat from all the recipes. Yet, we cannot simply say that "And all that substitution costs is taste". If you make one excuse here and one excuse there, then you won't get anything done.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          OTOH, you could save a LOT of calories by just foregoing the stuff entirely, or taking only 1/2 of a "normal" portion.

          <rant mode: on> I'm constantly surprised and amazed at the stupid things people do, eating-wise. For expl, I know a fellow who;'s a PhD psychologist. I was at dinner with him the other day., at an Italian rest. This fellow has recently started VISIBLY gaining wgt. Nevertheless, he requested a ginger-ale with his dinner--not low-cal, but normal calorie--then had another one. (I cannot imagine drinking a sugary beverage with a meal--wouldn't it kill the taste?) And as his side dish, he requested spaghetti with tomato sauce! Spaghetti is a refined carb, so not so healthy for you--and not especially high in taste, either (why not just eat the sauce and skip the pasta???).

          1. re: Howard_2

            <OTOH, you could save a LOT of calories by just foregoing the stuff entirely, or taking only 1/2 of a "normal" portion. >

            True. But everyone has a different diet plan. Some people are about cutting total calories, some are about reducing fat, while others are about reducing salt intake.

            1 cup of whole milk has 146 calories, 8 g of total fat, and 8 g of proteins. 1 cup of nonfat milk has 83 calories, 0 g of fat, and 8 g of protein. So drinking nonfat milk can get the person the same amount of proteins, most of the calories, but none of the fat. For a person who is worry about total fat or saturated fat, say someone who has high cholesterol, this is a very important diet.

            http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/d...
            http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/d...

            Simply foregoing does not always work, same thing about taking 1/2 portion. A person may simply want to reduce fat intake without reducing protein intake, right?

            I do agree with you that sometime people do make irrational decisions, like reducing salt in the home meal and only to eat a bag of potato chips later.

            1. re: Howard_2

              I would just like to say that I have recently lost 41 pounds in the past year, and 50+ overall, all while eating pasta at least once a week. Now, that's a small 2oz portion of pasta, I'm sure not like what your friend ordered. But, I would never consider ordering a sauce without pasta. Might as well just go without it altogether.

              But, having been that person who gained weight, a lot of it, but still ate like crap, there could be all kinds of other stuff going on there that you don't know about....emotionally, psychologically. I'm a smart person too, but I made a couple years' worth of really bad food choices due to some other issues in my life, and that piled on 50+ pounds.

              In regards to the OP, many people were taught for a very long time that "fat is bad"... so they always eat low fat everything. My mother eats margarine instead of butter, because it's lower in fat (although not that much lower)... never mind all the other weird chemical crap that's in margarine vs butter. For people who are learning to eat healthy, getting out of that "must eat low fat" frame of mind is really hard, when that's what they were taught for so many years. I recently added in full fat foods back into my meal plans, as I'm trying to maintain my weight and found it difficult... I kept losing. So, those extra few calories that I get from full fat vs low/no fat add up over the course of the day and help me get up to the calorie intake I need. One thing I never gave up though was full fat cheese... low/no fat cheeses are one of the more disgusting things available...blech!

              But, if you're on a 1200 calorie diet, which many people who are trying to lose weight are, even 25 calories can make a difference when figuring out what to eat. 25 calories here and there adds up.

              1. re: juliejulez

                < My mother eats margarine instead of butter, because it's lower in fat>

                Just to clarify. I am pretty sure the whole margarine vs butter diet was not about lower fat, but lower cholesterol intake.

                http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/f...

                The reason is that butter is from animal fat which has cholesterol. Vegetable oils do not have cholesterol, but they are liquid at room temperature. So how can we make vegetable oils to have the same feel and taste as butter? To make vegetable oils more like butter (solid), they undergo hydrogenization and become what we call margarine. The fat is still there in the margarine, but the idea is that cholesterol is not there.

                Margarine got a bad reputation due to the transfat content, and we now are fairly certain that transfat is worse than dietary cholesterol for coronary heart diseases. That being said, many modern margarine brand you can buy in the store do not have transfat anymore.

                Cholesterol intake is a very different topic than fat intake. Just so everyone is on the same page. Fat free sour cream is not like margarine. Fat free sour cream is more like fat free milk. Nothing is added.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Sorry, you are correct, it is not lower in fat, but in cholesterol, and saturated fat. Either way, she doesn't have an issue with cholesterol so I don't see any reason for her to use margarine. But, that's what she's been using for years (she's in her 60s) and is definitely still in the "low fat" is better mentality. But I'm also someone who likes to use whole non-processed ingredients as much as possible...heck I'd make my own butter if I had the time :) I only made the switch to low fat stuff when I was trying to lose weight, and when you're only "allowed" 1200-1500 calories a day, every little calorie counts.

                  Also certain low-fat items are not even lower in calories. I noticed it lately with Graham Crackers. The low-fat version of graham crackers has 2 grams of fat per serving, but 140 calories. The regular version has 3 grams of fat, but 130 calories. I just buy the regular kind... 1 gram of fat is not worth it to eat the cardboard that is low-fat graham crackers... the regular ones are cardboardy enough (compared to homemade).

                  1. re: juliejulez

                    this is referred to in some articles as "the Snackwell effect" -- after the Snackwell cookies that made the most of the low-fat craze in the early 90s.

                    Yes, they were low-fat -- but they had more sugar and calories than the "regular" versions of the same cookies!

                    (and so people began to *gain* wait while speed-eating Snackwells, feeling oh-so-righteous because they were FAT FREE)

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Didn't Snackwells come out in the '80s? I associate them with a friend I met in 1983 who was always on some diet or other -- still is.

                    2. re: juliejulez

                      <she doesn't have an issue with cholesterol so I don't see any reason for her to use margarine>

                      Probably not. I think you are correct that she should probably switch back to butter.

                      <But I'm also someone who likes to use whole non-processed ingredients as much as possible>

                      Agree.

                      <Also certain low-fat items are not even lower in calories>

                      Absolutely agree. I think it is important to look at the big picture, and understand where we are and where we are going. I agree with sunshine (below). Sometime we have to not simply look at "fat free". Some fat-free foods have more sugar. Is that better? Well, it depends. For most people, it is probably better to have slightly higher fat, then higher sugar. For others like people who have high cholesterol, it may be better to reduce saturate fat intake even if the sugar is more.

                2. re: Howard_2

                  Why not just enjoy your meal and let your dining companion enjoy his without being so judgemental?

                3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Another consideration is the fact that fat in your gut slows down digestion and hunger. So eating some fat may in the long(er) run cut down on the calories you consume.

                  1. re: Howard_2

                    <fat in your gut slows down digestion >

                    I think you mean "gastric emptying". I am in the health related research -- just for disclosure.

                    Agree if we are only talking about straight calories -- straight energy intake, but everyone has a different diet plan. I personally have no health issue, and would follow your suggested routine (simply eat less). However, for people who have health issues like high cholesterol level, then it is a different story.

                4. I completely agree with you. And many doctors, dieticians, chefs/cookbook authors do as well.

                  What I've been told personally from reputable sources as well as read? That while some "reduced fat" products can be "okay", the "fat-free" stuff is horrible & in some cases close to poison. Ever look at the ingredient list on this stuff? I'd rather have the fat thank you very much, & the vast majority of health professionals agree.

                  Unless you're sucking down copious amounts of sour cream, mayo, butter, etc., etc. on a daily basis, I don't see anything wrong with using the real thing. But then, I'm a HUGE disciple of the "Everything in Moderation" crowd.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: Bacardi1

                    <What I've been told personally from reputable sources as well as read? That while some "reduced fat" products can be "okay", the "fat-free" stuff is horrible & in some cases close to poison.>

                    We are talking about nonfat diary, like nonfat sour cream and nonfat milk. Can you explain to us or cite reputable sources which explain nonfat milk being close to poison? I am in the research community for years, and have never heard of this claim.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Right. Nonfat milk has the fat removed but doesn't have anything added (although some reduced fat milk has milk solids added to give it more body). It's not poison.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        No, it isn't poison, but when you remove the fat you raise the percentage of sugar in the milk, so you are ingesting more sugar and also aren't consuming the fat that would normally slow down the sugar uptake.

                    2. re: Bacardi1

                      Did you know that there is a zero calorie alfredo sauce, mayonaise, peanut spread? Walden Farms makes all types of zero calorie products. Scary.... no?

                      http://waldenfarms.com/nutrition_fact...

                      1. re: Vidute

                        Have you tried any of them? God awful stuff

                        1. re: foodieX2

                          back when i was stupid. and, yes, horrible!

                        2. re: Vidute

                          Are they by chance selling empty jars?

                          1. re: sandylc

                            at least the air in the jars would be natural and tasty. :)

                      2. Figuring 60 calories per T of regular sour cream, and perhaps 10 calories per T of reduced-fat sour cream, that means that using the reduced calorie sour cream saves a whopping 25 calories! Total. And all that substitution costs is taste.....
                        _________________________

                        25 calories here, another 25 calories over there ... and before you know it, you've saved yourself 100 to 200 calories. Which, for some people, is a midday snack.

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          200 calories from a 2000 calorie a day diet is a 10% reduction - so it can make a difference.

                          I personally agree that fat-free things like sour cream and yoghurt are pretty gross - I'd rather do without than substitute.

                          And I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around fat free mayonaise. Mayo, in its classic form, is mainly egg yolk and *oil*. Fat free mayo, therefore, must be some sort of chemical concoction that vaguely re-creates the texture of real mayo, without actually using its main ingredient. Same with fat free cream cheese.

                          I think that's where the 'poison' part comes from, up thread. Skim milk is milk with the fat removed - that's pretty benign. Fat free yoghurt/sour cream/cream cheese/butter, however, aren't simply a matter of taking away the fat - they have to put a whole lot of other stuff back in to try to re-produce the original food.

                          ....

                          I just did some searching, and this is an ingredient list for a fat free mayo (this is a US listing, so in order of the quantity of the ingredients)

                          Water,Corn Syrup,Distilled White Vinegar,Modified Corn Starch,Sugar,Egg Yolks,Salt,Cellulose Gel,Lactic Acid,Cellulose Gum,Titanium Dioxide,Xanthan Gum,Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate As Preservatives,Whey Protein Concentrate (Milk),Mustard Flour,Natural Flavors,Whey (Milk),Lemon Juice Concentrate,Cottonseed Oil,Soybean Oil,Soy Lecithin,Mono And Diglycerides,Tocopherol (Antioxidant),Calcium Disodium Edta Added To Protect Flavor, Spices,Turmeric,Corn Maltodextrin,Gum Arabic,Extractives Of Paprika,Sodium Ascorbate,Beta Carotene. Contains Egg,Milk,Soybeans.

                          and the list for a 'real' mayo

                          Soybean Oil, Water, Egg Yolk, Distilled Vinegar, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, salt, spices, calcium Disodium. natural Flavors.

                          (When I make mayo at home, the ingredients are

                          Oil, egg yolk, lemon juice, water, salt)

                          So when you do fat free, you're basically swapping oil for corn syrup, and adding a bunch of other stuff for texture/flavour. Interestingly, it's not really fat free, as oil is listed as an ingredient for the fat free version, but far enough down the ingredient list that it doesn't count.

                          For fat free cream cheese, the lists are

                          Cultured Skim Milk Solids*, Cultured Skim Milk, Calcium Caseinate*, Salt, Sugar*, Titanium Dioxide (Color)*, Sodium Tripolyphosphate, Stabilizers (Carob Bean And/Or Xanthan And/Or Guar Gums And/Or Carrageenan)**, Potassium Sorbate And Calcium Propionate (As Preservatives)*, Corn Syrup Solids*, Modified Food Starch*, Enzymes, Vitmain A Palmitate. *Ingredient Not In Regular Cream Cheese. **Ingredient In Excess Of Amount Allowed In Regular Cream Cheese.

                          And for regular

                          Pasteurized Nonfat Milk And Milkfat, Cheese Culture, Salt, Stabilizers (Xanthan And/Or Carob Bean And/Or Guar Gums).

                          1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                            Isn't fat-free yoghurt just made with skimmed milk?

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              My understanding is that fat free yogurt has all kinds of artificial stabilizers, etc. to make it seem more "creamy"...

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Fat free yogurt doesn't HAVE to have additives, but it often does. Most of the better Greek yogurts don't, though. I make my own yogurt at home using whatever milk I have around (often skim) and I don't add anything to it other than starter culture. The thing that I hate about store-bought yogurt is how much SUGAR they add to it - it's basically impossible to find any fruit-flavored yogurt that isn't also chock full of sugar. I make my own and add my own fruit compotes to it, lightly sweetened with Sweetzfree.

                              2. re: greedygirl

                                I happen to have some fat-free Yoplait yogurt here with me at work, in the "lemon cream pie" flavor. I don't even like yogurt that much at all, and can't stomach full fat versions (texture) and I hate drinking milk, so I'm left w/ this to get some more calcium in my diet. Anyway, here's the ingredient list:

                                Cultured Pasteurized Grade A Nonfat milk, Modified Corn Starch, Sugar, Kosher Gelatin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Aspartame, Potassium Sorbate added to maintain Freshness, Acesulfame Potassium, Colored with Turmeric Extract, Vitamin A Acetate, Vitamin D3.

                                I also have some Cascade Fresh brand fat free yogurt in "key lime" flavor. It's 20 more calories than the Yoplait, and I can't stand the texture of this brand, it's too much like regular yogurt. But, here's the ingredients list:

                                Grade A Pasteurized Nonfat milk, fruit juice concentrate, limes, tapioca, pectin, natural flavor, active cultures.

                                So, not all fat free yogurts have all the chemical ingredients like Dairy Queen mentioned, but at least for me, I can definitely tell the difference. The Yoplait with the stuff to make it "creamy" is palatable for me, whereas the kind without is not.

                                1. re: juliejulez

                                  I only ever buy plain Greek-style yoghurt. The lower-fat version is made with semi-skimmed milk. The 0% version (which I don't buy because I prefer full-fat or reduced fat versions) is made with skimmed millk. It's the flavoured stuff that has loads of additives, including a ton of sugar.

                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                    +1 I don't see any additives on my 0% fat Greek yogurt.

                                  2. re: juliejulez

                                    "so I'm left w/ this to get some more calcium in my diet."
                                    ----
                                    You actually have other choices to get calcium into your diet.

                                    Try leafy green vegetables, sesame seeds, sardines, almonds, and other things.

                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                      juliejulez, firstly, "natural flavors" are not natural (it's a legal labelling thing). Next, why buy all of the sweetened, flavored things? Why not plain Greek yogurt (no yoplait - get a good brand) at the fat level of your choice, and add your own toppings; maybe berries and honey?

                              3. I read that the average permanent weight gain for American adults each year between Thanksgiving and New Years is 1 lb (versus the 7 lbs number that had circulated for years). If you're heavy to begin with, the average is 5 lbs. And if you start the partying at Halloween, the average has the potential to be higher.

                                If you're referring to Ellie Krieger's Halloween piece this year, she's not just giving you a single dish, but an entire menu. Her overall message on Food network is one of moderation without deprivation --and it's generally scratch cooking-- and I think it's a good one. http://www.usaweekend.com/article/201...

                                Krieger's got you eating as party treats: "eyeball eggs" (hardboiled eggs+ olives), witches fingers (pizza dough+marinara dipping sauce plus an almond slice for a fingernail), vampire blood (tomato juice spiked with lime and hot sauce), jack o lantern soup (pumpkin soup served in mini pumpkins), goblin goo (guacamole), and "spider web" black bean dip with baked chips.

                                Overall, I think this is a pretty cute and healthful menu and a pretty good message. She's got you using reduced fat sour cream, not the vile non-fat stuff. She's got at least 2 other cookbooks that I'm aware of.

                                ~TDQ

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  That's one of the healthiest party menus I've seen! (and I mean healthy, not low fat - a world of difference)

                                  I don't think anyone's ever become obese from eating too much dip at a party. I think real weight issues are much more involved than that and require a holistic view of food, exercise and attitude. I do think the prevalence of items labelled "low fat" or "fat free" can fool people into thinking they're being healthy, but if people are buying these items and still gaining weight then their issue probably stems from one of the other sides of the triangle - attitude or exercise.

                                  1. re: feggy

                                    It's not a bad menu, actually, but I'd swap out the hard-boiled eggs (it's a little too boring for a party, even with the olive garnish) for some version of deviled eggs, and I do think you need something sweet on the menu as well...

                                    Otherwise I thought, oh, pretty cute!

                                    ~TDQ

                                2. they're short-sighted/foolish enough to be published cookbook authors, while I'm a hack sitting here evaluating a recipe over the internet....

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                    At least search engines,the internet,mostly gets past the cook books that have LAME TO PITIFUL indexes.

                                    1. I don't see your point at all. I've always substituted full fat when a recipe calls for half or low fat dairy products.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: lilham

                                        I'll stick my nose in: IMO the reason there is an epidemic of obesity in America is bc so many people eat fat/sugar and salt all day every day. We all know that. If more people would take the time to prepare really tasty dishes the need to eat so much would decline. Yes I know that many many people don't have the time nor interest to do so. As long as that's the case unfortunately America will literally implode in health care costs due to obesity eventually. Sad.

                                        1. re: Puffin3

                                          Although I am myself obese, I never realized until last night's treat or treating the vast number of obese members of the lower class there are. I live is an area with a lot of rental properties and went to a friend's house to help with candy. Although she only lives two blocks away, she is closer to te aprawnts and rental than I am. It was shocking. Plushy of the adults also seemed to be trick or treating, which just seemed wrong. I don't know how to get America on board with healthy eating, which I do. But this truly is an epididemic.

                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                            "the reason there is an epidemic of obesity in America is bc so many people eat fat/sugar and salt all day every day."
                                            __________
                                            The problem is that cutting fat and sugar without actually restructuring the American diet has not been very effective. In fact, it's often been counterproductive.

                                            To be fair, salt seems to have little to do with obesity itself. The cases linking it to stroke, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension have varying degrees of supporting evidence, but I don't want to get into that whole mess right now.

                                            Fat is probably more complicated than you've made it out to be. Generally speaking, very low-fat diets are increasingly shown to be counterproductive, or at least sub-optimal. Then again, if your diet is extremely high in fats, that is also generally not ideal. A lot of very healthy diets include plenty of fat from eggs, fish, oils (olive oil, being a particularly good example), meats, avocados, etc. If the fat in your diet is coming from good sources, most people have no particular reason to be super uptight about their intake.

                                            Sugar (with the likely exception of the sugars found in whole fruits and vegetables) is a big problem in the American diet. Drinking large amounts of sugar (soda, juices) seems to be even worse. A diet high in refined starches also seems to be problematic.

                                            IMO, the real problem with the American diet is that people want to eat junk as the bulk of their diet, and when they try to get healthy, they try to make that junk more healthy by lowering fat and salt and by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners (studies have generally found this doesn't work).

                                            It would seem disingenuous to suggest that there is a simple solution to the problem. But nonetheless there are a few mind-bogglingly simple things that would make a huge difference to the average person who struggles with their weight, diet, and health:
                                            First and foremost, eat non-starchy vegetables. Lots of em. Fill up on em. Once you've eaten a lot of vegetables, the room you have left goes to fish, meats, eggs, dairy, fruits, oils, starchier vegetables and grains - whatever mixture of the above you choose, make sure you get a decent amount of protein and fat. Skip dessert. Drink water, coffee, tea, the occasional glass of milk and/or moderate amounts of alcohol if you like. Exercise. Hard. Walk (for chrissakes, walk!) or ride a bike when possible.

                                            The main point - many Americans would be much better off if they stopped trying to detoxify an inherently unhealthy diet and accepted that the real solution is to transition to an inherently healthy one.

                                            /soapbox

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              *APPLAUSE*APPLAUSE* APPLAUSE*

                                              I especially like this part:

                                              <IMO, the real problem with the American diet is that people want to eat junk as the bulk of their diet, and when they try to get healthy, they try to make that junk more healthy by lowering fat and salt and by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners (studies have generally found this doesn't work). >

                                              cowboyardee, I think that many people are in a state of nutrient-deprived sugar-injected chemical confusion. Translation: They eat a bunch of crap and fake food and OTC/presciption drugs and too few nutrient-rich, real foods and their bodies get all mixed up. In times of crisis, the body hangs onto fat and sends out hunger signals so that we will give it more food. Scientific? No, but probably not far off target.....

                                        2. Not short-sighted or foolish at all.

                                          The rule to remember when dieting to lose weight or maintain weight is "Every little bit burts, every little bit helps."

                                          Ignoring these little increments of caloric intake means in the long run weight gain.

                                          I see foolishness and short-sightedness in those people who might state it as ridiculous to have a diet soda with an all-you-can-eat buffet. I'm sorry, 1000 calories vs. 1200 calories gives a real advantage to drinking diet soda at the 'heart-attack' buffet.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: FrankJBN

                                            Look further into diet soda. Studies have correlated it with even greater weight gain than regular soda. Reasons for this are speculative at this point. But there is good reason to suggest that it may not actually be any healthier for someone trying to watch their weight.

                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                              <Studies have correlated it with even greater weight gain than regular soda.>

                                              I wonder if it is not so much the diet soda itself causes weight gain. It can be a correlation of lifestyles. That is to say, the people who drink soda (diet or not) have a certain lifestyle and it is that lifestyle which causes the weight gain. For example, a person who drink soda (again diet or not) likely prefer sweet foods, and this preference alone has a correlation to weight gain. A person who regularly use soy sauce may have a low occurrence of weight gain, but that is because Asians have a much greater affinity for soy sauce, and Asians tend to be weight less.

                                              Alternatively, the artificial sweeteners trigger our bodies to eat more foods -- but I am not sure about this one.

                                              Anyway, I am sure most of us are getting to detail-orientated for the original poster.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                "I wonder if it is not so much the diet soda itself causes weight gain. It can be a correlation of lifestyles."
                                                _______
                                                That is one hypothesis. From the top of my head here are a few other explanations:

                                                - Diet soda trains people to expect sweetness, much as you can train your palate to expect a certain degree of saltiness in your food, and hence the drinker increases the amount of sugar they eat in the rest of their diet. Does not really explain why diet soda would be associated with increased weight gain compared to regular soda though.

                                                - Diet soda might be able to cause a spike in one's insulin levels without a corresponding spike in blood sugar. The result is lower blood sugar, decreased satiety, and increased hunger which tends to cause people to eat even more calories than they would had they just drank a can of regular soda in the first place. In the long term, this might also be associated with higher levels of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes as insulin resistance increases in the body's cells. Note that this is NOT proven convincingly as of yet to my knowledge.

                                                - The existing studies are not yet strong and numerous enough to even convincingly make the case that there is a correlation, and it's possible that more and better-controlled research will find no such correlation at all.

                                                In short, I can't say anything with too much certainty yet. But I can say with confidence that skipping soda altogether in favor of water is a pretty safe bet.

                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                  <Diet soda trains people to expect sweetness, much as you can train your palate to expect a certain degree of saltiness in your food, and hence the drinker increases the amount of sugar they eat in the rest of their diet. Does not really explain why diet soda would be associated with increased weight gain compared to regular soda though.>

                                                  Yep, that was one I was thinking too, although I phrased it differently. Do you happen to have the source? I wonder if diet soda has a deeper (more sensitive) relationship between diet soda vs weight gain, or if the diet soda has a tighter and less scattered correlation between diet soda vs weight gain. The latter may simply has to do with other variables. For example, the regular soda and diet soda have the same relationship with weight gain, but the sample pool of the diet soda consumers is "tighter", and therefore less scattered.

                                                  In the simple terms, I wonder if we are talking about a "steeper correlation slope" or a "less scattered plot". Sometime the phrase "a stronger correlation" can mean either.

                                                  http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:AN...

                                                  <Diet soda might be able to cause a spike in one's insulin levels without a corresponding spike in blood sugar.>

                                                  Yep, I heard about this one, but really do not understand this one very well.

                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                    "Diet soda trains people to expect sweetness, ...hence the drinker increases the amount of sugar they eat in the rest of their diet."

                                                    hat would maybe make sense, except for the fact (not speculation) that people who drink no- sugar diet soda are already restricting their sugar intake.

                                                    1. re: FrankJBN

                                                      As I said, it's only one hypothesis. Though I'm not at all convinced that people drinking diet soda are always restricting their overall sugar intake. I suspect many are just drinking diet soda and then convincing themselves that gives them a little license to spoil themselves elsewhere in their diet.

                                                      In my personal, non-scientific, experience - the easiest way to eat a diet low in sugar is to eat a diet that doesn't make you crave sugar. And that means avoiding both sugar and artificial sweetener, at least for me. Sure I still eat fruit and sprinkle a bit of sugar in my coffee, but I don't get sugar cravings now that I avoid anything super sweet, artificially sweetened or not.

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        I agree - my sister is a perfect example. She has a major sweet tooth, and drinks diet soda (not a lot of it, but any time she has a soda, it's diet) so that she can indulge in sugar at mealtimes and for dessert.

                                                        I also agree with your personal and non-scientific experience. I have been eating low-carb now for about 12 years, and although I am no longer doing it for weight loss (and I can therefore allow myself the occasional "treat" of desserts/pasta/bread/etc.), my tastes have changed to the point where I rarely crave sugar. Also, many sweet things that used to taste good to me no longer do - milk chocolate, for instance, is out.

                                                        Oddly enough, artificial sweeteners don't seem to cause sweet cravings for me, although I don't use them much. I was never one to drink sweetened beverages even before I started low-carb so I don't have much use for them.

                                                    2. re: cowboyardee

                                                      Current studies lean much like your hypothesis paragraphs #1&2 and are still looking at how it will all shake out.Brain,insulin,mixed signals and brain,metabolic expectation aren't proven yet,but the on going studies are leaning hard that way.The wrench of sorts in the mix seems to be blood pressure and some sort of ?salt issue with diet soda.

                                                      and with you,skip soda and drink water

                                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                      "A person who regularly use soy sauce may have a low occurrence of weight gain, but that is because Asians have a much greater affinity for soy sauce, and Asians tend to be weight less."

                                                      Is this food science or simply racism?

                                                      Are you saying because the Chinese eat soy sauce and I eat soy sauce I should be thin because many Chinese are?.

                                                      1. re: FrankJBN

                                                        I think you misunderstood. He's pointing out how factors can be statistically correlated to one's weight without actually being a major causative factor in said weight.

                                                        Another example - creatine supplements would seldom be associated with obesity. But this isn't because they cause you to lose weight. In fact, it's used to gain muscle mass. Because it's generally used by people who want to weigh more, it would be correlated generally with fit people, generally with low body fat %.

                                                        'Racism' is a word bound to get people riled up, and I see no reason to be throwing it around in response to Chem's post.

                                                        1. re: FrankJBN

                                                          You have missed my point. This is an analogy to distinguish "correlation" and "cause and effect"

                                                          <Is this food science or simply racism?>

                                                          It is not racism to say that Asians have a lower average body weight. It is not about food science either. It was a statistic illustration.

                                                          <Are you saying because the Chinese eat soy sauce and I eat soy sauce I should be thin because many Chinese are?.>

                                                          No, that is what you said.

                                                          Have you heard of the statement that "The more churches in a cities, the more crimes there will be" That is a famous example which illustrates that correlation is not the same as cause and effect.

                                                          http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study_guid...

                                                          To put this in perspective, cowboyardee and I were discussing the correlation between diet soda and weight gain. I just wanted to say that correlation may not always have a "cause and effect" relationship.

                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                            Yes, correlation is not cause and effect. That's why it's so hard to make generalizations about weight and health. For example, a person is fat and unhealthy. Is the fat itself intrinsically unhealthy, or is it a correlation that the fat is caused by the same factors as the poor health? Most large-scale long-range studies have shown the latter: it's not fat that's unhealthy so much as the behaviors (poor diet, lack of exercise) that made you fat. In other words, fat is a correlated symptom, not a cause.

                                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                              <Is the fat itself intrinsically unhealthy, or is it a correlation that the fat is caused by the same factors as the poor health>

                                                              That is an excellent point, and I have to agree. Although, like you said, fat is a symptom which has a correlation to poor health. So let's say I suddenly gain weight, then I should probably take a closer look at my blood work....etc.

                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                        It's "healthier" if someone who used to drink regular, replaces it with diet. But that rarely happens.... Most folks who drink regular and decide to get healthy, just cut it out altogether rather than switch to diet.

                                                        I personally have one diet coke a day. I like the flavor, but it's mostly for the caffeine, as I drink it in the morning and do not like tea or coffee. It has not helped nor hindered my weight loss. The rest of the day I drink water.

                                                        I'm a member on another weight loss message board, and the topic of diet soda comes up often. It seems, at least based on responses there, that diet drinks affect people differently. For me, it makes no difference in terms of it making me hungry, crave sweets, etc. But other people, it does. Some people have one and they want to eat all day long or gorge on candy.

                                                        To tie this back into the OP, there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to what works for weight loss. What works for me might not work for someone else. Some people do really well on a low carb high protein diet, others do not. Some do well on a higher fat diet, some do not. When it comes down to it, figuring out a weight loss and maintenance plan is one big science experiment... experimenting to see what will work best for you.

                                                    4. Quality of the substitution in a dish aside, here's a scenario that can easily play out:

                                                      I use the small amount of a "less-healthy-for-me" option (let's use 1/4 cup whole milk in 5 quarts of soup as an example)....but then am left with the rest of the container. I might use the remainder in a less "portion-controlled/healthy/etc." way. For example, I might pour a whole cup into by morning bowl of cereal because that is "the milk I bought for the week"....or I'll drink a tall glass because I have to "use it up before it goes bad".

                                                      You can fill in the "less-healthy-for-me" option with anything....for some people, skim people is the less healthy option. It's a red herring. My point simply relates to the fact that there is a longer-sight issue at hand- it's what to do with the rest of the stuff.

                                                      1. It has to do with people wanting that (low fat options) in recipes. It is not short-sightedness, it is marketing. It is about giving the market audience what they want. It also could have been the editor's choice because they are targeting a market, not necessarily making the best recipe.