What’s New This Fall at Zing: New Chocolate, New Look, New Recipes

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Not to steal Mother Nature’s thunder, but the leaves aren’t the only things changing this fall. Zing Bars is sporting a fresh new look and we’ve made exciting modifications to two of our recipes that we’re proud to tell you about.

Vegan Dark Chocolate

The biggest news is a small but important improvement in our chocolate coated bars.

Some of you may remember last year that we voluntarily recalled some of our chocolate coated bars because we discovered micro amounts of dairy in the dark chocolate. In sourcing a new chocolate, we found that 95% of the U.S. dark chocolate is produced on equipment that also produces milk chocolate, which means there can be very low (but detectable) remnants of milk proteins in nearly the entire U.S. dark chocolate supply. So we spent the past year sourcing and testing a new dairy-free chocolate that meets our requirements.

After what turned out to be a long and rigorous process, we’re happy to report that, with the help of a renowned chocolatier, we’ve developed a custom new chocolate that is dairy-free and now suitable for our vegan bars. This makes Zing unique among chocolate coated bars in the U.S.

New Packaging

Our next announcement is that we’ve refreshed our packaging. Much of the change is subtle, but you’ll notice we’ve moved our Gluten Free, Vegan, Kosher and Non-GMO icons to the front of the package so they can be more easily identified. We’re proud of our  protein and fiber content so we’ve highlighted them more clearly in little circles on the upper right. Most notably, we’ve replaced the white borders with platinum edges, emblematic of the platinum quality to which we aspire.

New Recipes

We’ve also made a few great changes to the line, including:

  • Our Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bar is now vegan — we replaced the whey in our recipe with rice and pea protein.
  • Our Double Nut Brownie bar now has a smoother, tastier chocolate that we know you’ll love!

As a Registered Dietitian, I am personally focused on geeky nutrition topics like healthy food, portion sizes, meal timing, the importance of breakfast, benefits of smart snacking and on and on. But also as a product developer focused on meeting customers’ desires, I rely heavily on those same customers to provide feedback and suggestions. It’s from this feedback that we’ve made these changes to our products, and all of us at Zing thank you for your help. We hope you are as thrilled with the results as we are.

We also have NEW flavors coming out this winter, so stay tuned for updates!


Read more about why we chose these ingredients.


6 Smart Snacks for Back-to-School Success


How do you define the word “snack”? Most people associate snacks with chips, cookies and generally indulgent food choices that lead to all kinds of health issues. All the refined flour and sugar in traditional go-to items like cookies, crackers, chips, brownies and candy have given snacks a bad reputation — good for a quick boost, but leave you tired and hungry two hours later. Snacks are the enemy, right?


Snacks are actually essential supplements to sustained energy and vitality — and just like Joan Jett they don’t give a darn about their bad reputation. That’s because nutritious snacks or “smart snacks,” as we like to say, provide you with the energy you need to tackle your busy schedule and feel great doing it.

First, let’s take a look at the main problems both kids and adults face over the course of a work or school day:

Problem: Inability to focus, mental fog and irritability between meals due to low blood sugar

Solution: Smart snacks provide a boost of energy that keeps your blood sugar stable between meals, like in the late morning or afternoon. Stable blood sugar results in clear focus and a positive mood.

Problem: Low energy, fatigue and cravings for junk food

Solution: Smart snacks reduce cravings for sugary, refined, caffeinated foods that your body craves when your energy reserves dip below a certain level

Problem: Overeating at mealtime due to extreme hunger, with the unwelcome result of poor digestion and weight gain

Solution: Smart snacks reduce your hunger at subsequent meals so you eat less, but are more satisfied. Smaller meals mean better digestion, better utilization of the nutrients you ingest and a more synergetic relationship with food.

In short, smart snacks improve your energy, focus, mood, weight and general feeling of wellbeing.

They deliver the real Zing, a feeling of natural and enduring vitality that comes from giving your body the nutrition it needs.

As you know, we’re a company of nutritionists. In working with clients – from kids to adults – with a range of health challenges like diabetes, weight gain, digestive issues, food intolerances and fatigue (or in the case of kids, the dreaded meltdown), smart snacks became a secret weapon that help in every situation. And the science holds especially true for keeping your kids at their mental and physical best as they enter into a new school year.

Below are six ideas that are both easy and nutritious to pop in your kids’ lunchbox or take with you to work. All are gluten, soy and dairy-free, contain high quality protein, fiber, low-glycemic carbs and heart-healthy fats:

  1. Hard-boiled egg with cut up carrots, red peppers or celery
  2. Roasted chickpeas with cherry tomatoes
  3. Smoked salmon romaine wraps
  4. An apple with a small handful of raw, fresh almonds (12-15) or walnuts (8-10 halves)
  5. 1 tablespoon peanut butter (or almond or cashew butter) and a banana
  6. A Zing Bar in your favorite flavor

With adequate energy reserves we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.  Eat less, snack more and seize the day!


To receive updates on how to cultivate the Real Zing, subscribe to the Zing blog and learn about infusing your life with vitality!


3 Tips To Avoid Mindless Eating

Hummus and Vegetables

Hummus and Vegetables

“Mindless eating” is a term coined by food psychologist Brian Wansink to describe the many subconscious decisions we make every day about what, when, and how much food to eat. In his research, he’s found that we can make a few simple adjustments to our environments to ensure that we push our subconscious in a healthier direction.

Here are three things you can try for yourself to avoid the pitfalls of mindless eating:

Volume Control

To achieve smaller portions at meals without feeling deprived, use a 9- or 10-inch plate instead of the standard 12-inch plate. You’ll get a smaller portion, but it will look like plenty of food on the smaller plate, fooling your brain and your stomach into thinking you’re getting plenty. Using smaller utensils like teaspoons and salad forks will limit how much food you can put in your mouth at one time, promoting slower eating and better digestion. Use small glasses or cups for any beverage that isn’t water.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

  • Don’t bring home the foods that you know you tend to overeat. If they aren’t in the house, you won’t see them, and won’t eat them.
  • Make “healthier” foods more accessible than more indulgent foods. If you decide to
    Double Nut Brownie will be your new guilt-free chocolate treat

    Enjoy a Zing bar for a wholesome, balanced snack.

    bring home sweets and snack foods, stash them in the back of the fridge or pantry and not out on the kitchen counter. Put fruits, vegetables, nuts and other nutritious foods in the front of the fridge, and pre-cut or portion out some of your favorites for easy-to-grab snacks.

  • If you buy large quantities of food at discount stores, put most of it away in a basement or garage. You will eat more of it if it’s all stored in the house.
  • Minimize temptations at work. Bring a pre-packed lunch and a couple of snacks so you won’t be tempted by treats brought in by coworkers.

Practice Mindful Eating

Wansink’s studies have shown that people often eat not because they’re hungry, but rather because they see food, are with people who are eating, or are bored. And they don’t always stop eating when their hunger is quenched, but will often continue to eat until the plate is empty, the social event has ended, or the TV program they are watching is over.

Before you start eating, check in with your stomach (not your mouth, which may be salivating over that burger you just saw an ad for) to determine if you’re truly hungry. You can use a handy tool like the Hunger/Satiety Scale if it helps. Once you’ve started eating, you’ll need to build checkpoints into your meal so that you reassess your hunger before you have the chance to overeat. A great way to do this is to start with smaller portions than you’re used to (this is a good time to break out those 9-inch plates). After you’ve finished the first helping, give yourself a few minutes before going for seconds. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes after eating for the brain to register what’s going on in your stomach. If you’re still hungry after the first helping, it’s okay to go for seconds.

These are just a few of the ways you can hack your environment to prevent overeating. For more, take a look at Wansink’s new book “Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life”.


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

4 Fitness Myths To Bust Right Now

Young Woman Exercising on an Exercise Bike

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


Whether you’ve said them or heard them, don’t ever be fooled again by these common fitness fallacies:

  1. No pain, no gain. It rhymes nicely, but this pervasive myth can land you on the injured list faster than you can say Achilles tendonitis. Pain is a signal that you’re pushing too hard, too fast, or too far. Effective exercise is done at a level high enough to elicit benefits, but below the pain threshold. Working at a moderate-to-vigorous level for long enough will induce a feeling of fatigue and/or discomfort, but not pain.
  2. I work out a lot, so I can eat anything. If your goal is good health and weight management, guess again. Let’s say you burn 450 calories on a 45-minute bike workout. You can out-eat those calories in a flash with a candy bar or a plate of nachos. Eating less-nutritious foods also crowds out the more-nutritious foods (like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean sources of protein) you need for optimal well-being and performance. But obsessing over calories consumed vs. calories burned isn’t healthy either, so I recommend the following:
  1. Doing hundreds of crunches will melt my spare tire. Every time I hear someone brag about doing 200 crunches, I cringe; it’s usually only a matter of time before they experience back pain — and that’s a real shame. Because neither trimming the waistline nor building core stability requires abdominal super-sets. Losing abdominal fat requires lifestyle changes that support weight loss:
  • Regular cardiovascular exercise. Cardio torches calories; for weight loss, burning 1000-2000 calories/week via exercise is recommended. Including a couple of high intensity interval workouts each week can be especially helpful.
  • Dietary changes. Moving to a whole-foods, less processed diet helps keep calorie intake under control. And people who eat more whole grains and fewer refined grains have 10% less belly fat than those eating mostly refined grains.
  1. I’ll bulk up if I lift weights. I’ve heard many female clients, patients, friends, and family cite this myth as a reason why they’re not strength training. It breaks my heart — because strength training just twice a week does everyone, of any age, a world of good in terms of overall strength, bone health, posture, weight control, and much more. The truth is that body builders bulk up because they spend hours training every day; this is far beyond what strength training involves for health and fitness. Work with a certified fitness professional to get the results you want.

Interested in learning more? Check out these resources:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 5th edition by Nancy Clark, MS, RD

Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

Energize Your Life With Strength Training — American Council on Exercise


IMG_1557Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard


Your New Fitness Strategy: 5 Tips For Success In 2015

Success & Failure

If you’re starting an exercise program on New Year’s Day, you’re in good company. In this season of hope and renewal, getting fit is a popular pastime. Setting the right goal is key, but you also have to get your head and heart in the right place — and keep them there. Try these tips to set yourself up for lasting fitness success in the new year and for years to come:

Identify your core values.

Spend 30 minutes or more reflecting on what really matters to you; dig deep. Is it family, faith, love, service, or… other things? Identify up to five or so values that serve as your inner compass. Then, look for ways that physical activity supports each core value. If family is one, being fit lets you enjoy activities together that you couldn’t otherwise do; and it reduces health risks, boosting your odds of being around for loved ones longer.

Connecting these dots lays a solid foundation for making daily exercise a priority — because it’s not just about getting out for a run; it’s about making daily choices that align with what matters most to you.

Find a fitness friend — or two.

Exercising is a lot more fun when you make it social. You might prefer working out solo, and that’s fine; getting out on your own for a run or walk can be incredibly refreshing. But do your best to add a little mixing and mingling to your fitness plan several times a week; cultivating social support for exercise is a key factor in sticking with it.

Tune into a trend.

Turn up the heat by trying out popular workout formats. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, body weight training, high-intensity interval training, strength training, outdoor activities, and yoga are among the top trends for 2015. Be open to sampling new activities; you never know when you’ll stumble upon a new fave.

Zero in on immediate payoffs.

According to Dr. Michelle Segar, focusing on immediate payoffs of exercise — like more energy, increased happiness, or a better mood elevation — is more effective in keeping us motivated than focusing on longer-term benefits.  It’s true — preventing heart disease, cancer, and other ills later in life isn’t super motivating in the moment. So think about how good exercise will make you feel — today, right now.

Leverage the “fresh-start effect” all year long.

Interestingly, scientists say that January isn’t the only time of year we’re inclined to take a new crack at getting fit. The start of a new week, new month, a birthday, or other big events serve as temporal landmarks — letting us put some distance between our past attempts at behavior change and the here and now. No need to wait for a new year to push the reset button; just pick a day and get started.

Making exercise a regular part of your everyday life is a fantastic target to aim for. Spend a little time this week personalizing your strategy, and get ready to shine in 2015!

What’s on your fitness agenda for the New Year? We’d love to hear from you.


Beth Shepard thumbnail_2014Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard

3 Nourishing Foods For Winter


Eating well throughout the winter is not just about navigating holiday parties and avoiding winter weight gain. It’s about eating foods that will help you stay warm, maintain energy and fend off illness during the shorter days and longer nights. Here are three foods to help you thrive during the coldest months of the year.


The warm dry air in heated homes and offices can tax your skin’s ability to hold onto moisture and maintain its barrier against bacteria and irritants. Staying hydrated in winter is paramount for maintaining glowing skin and supporting optimal organ function. Drinking tea is one way to help meet your body’s needs for fluids this time of year.

In Chinese medicine, black tea is thought to have warming qualities, while green tea, which is less fermented, is more cooling. Either can be helpful during the winter: a cup of oolong, English breakfast or pu-erh tea to stoke your inner furnace, or cooling green or white tea as an anti-inflammatory drink.

Both kinds of tea contain polyphenols (highest in green tea), which support cardiovascular health and may help prevent certain cancers, and catechins, which were shown in a recent study on green tea to keep skin healthier by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery to the skin.

I like to brew ginger tea and green tea together (one bag of ginger tea and three bags of green tea brewed in one quart of water). The warming ginger counters the cooling quality of green tea and offers a boost to the digestion.


Ambersweet_orangesTraditionally, oranges were one of the treasures of winter. The bright flavors of orange, grapefruit, lemon and lime can be a wonderful counterpoint to rich cold-season dishes. Though citrus fruits are known for their high vitamin C content, it’s not just the vitamin C that makes them such a great choice this time of year.

Citrus fruits also provide a bounty of other nutrients. Flavonoids – plant compounds that neutralize free radicals, improve blood flow, and inhibit the growth of cancer cells – are abundant in citrus. Citrus is rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that lowers LDL cholesterol and improves heart health. And it’s not just the fruit itself that has health benefits. The peel and the pith (the white part just under the skin) are high in hesperidin, which has been shown to help keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check.

Incorporating citrus into your diet is easy. My favorite way to do this is to squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on sautéed kale or chard. I also like to toss thinly sliced lemon with broccoli, cauliflower, olive oil and salt, then roast them together for a tangy side dish. Fresh orange or grapefruit segments brighten up a salad, and of course, a fresh orange by itself is a pleasure any time of year.

Dark Leafy Greens

Kale, Swiss chard and collard greens are available during the cooler months of the year in most parts of the country. These “dark leafies” are a go-to vegetable this time of year when other vegetables are not as abundant. Versatile, hearty, and nutrient-dense, greens offer respectable amounts of fiber, bone-building calcium, magnesium and vitamin K, and skin-nourishing vitamins A and C.

Kale and collards are cruciferous vegetables, known for their glucosinolates, compounds that are important in cancer prevention and detoxification. Cruciferous vegetables also have the ability to bind cholesterol, an effect that’s enhanced by cooking.

Chard, a member of the same family as beets and spinach, contains betalain pigments not found in other families of foods. These pigments are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and support the body’s detoxification processes. Chard also contains a compound called syringic acid which has proven in animal studies to have blood sugar lowering properties.

Rainbow Chard-Potato Friatta

Yes, greens are nourishing, but more importantly they’re delicious. Chard makes a wonderful side dish sautéed with garlic (remember to add the squeeze of lemon juice!), or can be a component of a main dish like this frittata. Sturdier kale and collard greens are well-suited to hearty soups and stews.

If these foods are not already a part of your diet, give them a try. See if they don’t make a difference in how you feel and function throughout the cold, dark days of winter.


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

Why Not Being Perfect Is Better For Your Health


Image source: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/importance-of-self-compassion.html

Image source:  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/importance-of-self-compassion.html

My sister makes the best cheese dip — and it’s not something I want to eat every day, if you know what I mean. To manage my weight and cholesterol, I generally avoid cheese, but enjoy a pinch of cheddar on a salad or chili now and then.

So after working out hard and eating lots of vegetables last week, I was feeling on top of my game… until I went to my nephew’s 3-year-old birthday party. I wasn’t super hungry, but there was the cheese dip, calling my name. For a few tense moments, the all-or-nothing voice in my head tried to shame me for even considering having the cheese dip. “Are you kidding, after how well you did this week? You want to erase all that? You suck! Just walk away!” Thankfully, the kinder, more reasonable voice won. “Eating cheese dip isn’t a sin. I love it, I hardly ever get to have it, and in the context of my healthy lifestyle, it’s not a big deal. I’m going to have some — and enjoy it!”

Do you ever struggle with a perfectionist mindset when it comes to your health and fitness? Psychologists call it all-or-nothing thinking; it’s a common type of cognitive distortion. And it creates a huge roadblock in your quest for a sustainably healthy lifestyle; I see it all the time in my coaching clients. “I was on track until my husband brought donuts home. I blew it; I’ll just try again next week.” It’s easy to get off track and throw your whole plan out the door just because everything didn’t go exactly as you planned it. But absolutes don’t exist in reality; unless you stay flexible, bending this way or that to accommodate life’s twists and turns, you’re going to be perpetually frustrated and unable to reach your goals.

If you normally run for 30 minutes at lunchtime, what happens if your meeting runs late and you only have 15 minutes? Do you bag it altogether, go for a shorter run or walk, or run after work instead? Which choice is best for staying on track with your fitness goals? A flexible mindset gives you options; all-or-nothing thinking backs you into a corner.

Researcher Kristin Neff, Ph.D., argues that practicing self-compassion is far more effective than self-criticism in keeping you motivated. In fact, self-compassionate people have greater self-efficacy — they believe in their own ability to succeed — and they’re better at rolling with the punches, learning from mistakes, and moving forward. They also experience less depression and anxiety, conditions that stifle success.

So remind yourself that you’re human, and that nobody’s perfect. Practice flexibility and self-compassion every day. Catch your self-critical voice, and counter it with truth and kindness. Be patient; changing the messages you give yourself will take time and effort. But whatever your wellness goals, you’ll be amazed at the level of success you can achieve when you become your own ally.

How do you work flexibility and self-compassion into your everyday routine?


Recommended resources:


Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – by David D. Burns, MD, 2009


Beth Shepard thumbnail_2014Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard

Sweet Tooth? 5 Tips For Cutting Back


photo credit: Jade Gordon

In my last blog post, I wrote that certain sweeteners can be part of a healthy diet in moderation. So you might be asking yourself, what exactly does “moderation” mean when it comes to sweeteners? How do I satisfy my seemingly endless sweet tooth in a way that’s healthy? Here are some tips for cutting back on sweeteners if you think you’re getting too much in your diet.

Take stock. The first step, as in most paths to self-discovery, is to figure out where you’re starting from.What sources of added sweeteners are already in your diet? Some common sources are fruit juices, sports or vitamin drinks, bread and baked goods, pasta sauces, condiments, dairy products, breakfast cereals and salad dressings. Start reading the labels of these and other packaged foods, focusing on the ingredients list rather than the nutrition facts label. You will probably find sugar where you least expect it.

To find all the sources of sugar, you’ll have to learn some new vocabulary since manufacturers use many different forms of sugar in their products. Some other names for sugar are: cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn sugar, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, isoglucose, lactose, levulose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup. When you see one or more of these words on the label, consider buying another brand that doesn’t have added sweeteners, or make it from scratch.

Revamp your pantry. Once you’ve identified where the sugar is coming from, you can change your buying habits. The easiest way to cut back on sugar is to eliminate fruit juice and soda. And since added sweeteners often come from snack foods, stock up on some alternatives like fresh fruit, nuts, cheese, or hummus with whole grain crackers or chips. Try making salad dressing from scratch (here’s a recipe). Buy unsweetened dairy products and add fresh fruit for natural sweetness.

Examine cravings. Next time you have a craving for something sweet, take a moment to assess before you answer that craving with a treat. The first thing to determine is whether you are truly hungry. A good question to ask yourself is, Am I hungry enough to eat an apple?  If you don’t like apples, substitute another healthy but pleasurable food in this question. If the answer is yes, then why not just eat the apple?

If you’re not hungry, then what triggered the craving? Are you stressed? Bored? For me, cravings often arise when I’ve hit a roadblock in my work and am having trouble finding a way forward. Many of us are programmed to try to quash uncomfortable feelings with something sweet. If this is true for you, keep reading for some strategies for responding to cravings.

Find pleasurable substitutes. As I said earlier, if you’re hungry enough to eat an apple, go ahead and eat an apple! Fruit is naturally sweet and can satisfy both your craving and your true hunger. Better yet, snack on something with protein. Nut butter or nuts, beef or salmon jerky, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese… these are filling and satisfying options. On the other hand, if you’re not hungry, the substitute doesn’t even have to be food. Find something to do that will distract you from the craving. Get up and take a quick walk around your office or home. Call a friend, watch a funny video online, take several deep breaths, take a nap, sing a song, do a little dance. Many people find their cravings disappear if they just wait them out.

Mindful eating. Another way to approach sweets is to eat less of them but enjoy them more fully. Many of us eat without truly enjoying what we’re eating, paying more attention to the TV show we’re watching, for instance. Mindful eating is the practice of paying closer attention as you eat. Try enjoying your next piece of chocolate with your eyes closed in a quiet room without other distractions. As the chocolate melts on your tongue you’ll find yourself noticing nuances of texture, aroma and flavor, and therefore feeling more richly satisfied with that small bite.

After all this self-examination, you may discover that you’re already doing a good job of moderating your intake of sweeteners. If so, congratulations! It’s not easy to resist the temptations of sweet treats. Going into the holiday season, it gets even harder. What works for you in terms of moderating sweets? We’d love to hear from you!


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

Can Sweeteners Be Part Of A Healthy Diet?

Sugars; clockwise from top left: White refined, unrefined, brown, unprocessed cane

Sugars; clockwise from top left: White refined, unrefined, brown, unprocessed cane

Anyone who’s ever thought about what constitutes a healthy diet probably assumes it doesn’t include sugar. What about natural sweeteners, such as maple syrup, honey, and agave? Or stevia?  Is there a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth? While the type of sweetener you choose to eat is important, even more crucial is the amount you eat. Here’s why too much sugar of any type in your diet can be harmful to your health.

One argument against sweeteners is simply that our bodies did not evolve to handle large amounts of concentrated sugars. Traditionally, the only sweet food we ate was fruit. The sugars in fruit are conveniently packaged with fiber, which slows the absorption of the sugar so that it doesn’t overwhelm our systems. Foods with added sugar (and refined carbohydrates that readily turn into sugar in our bodies) are so abundant these days — and, let’s face it, they taste really good — that most of us eat too much. But our bodies haven’t caught up to this new way of eating. For some, the extra load on the pancreas, the organ that controls blood sugar and fat storage, is enough to cause it to literally wear out, leading to insulin resistance and diabetes. In addition to having negative effects on your blood sugar, eating excess sugar can depress your immune system and promote chronic inflammation.

We also now know that carbohydrate intake from added sugars and refined carbohydrates is a more important contributor to heart disease than fat and cholesterol. Add that to the brain fog and energy highs and lows that can result from eating sugary foods, and we have good reason to be wary of added sweeteners.

What about artificial sweeteners? After all, they have zero calories and don’t raise your blood sugar. Well, there’s reason to be wary of these as well. Firstly, they’re artificial. If you’re following a whole-foods diet, these chemicals have no place. Secondly, new research is uncovering the darker side of artificial sweeteners. A recent study demonstrated that artificial sweeteners can negatively affect gut bacteria and cause glucose intolerance, the condition that precedes diabetes.

So what’s the bottom line? Does all this doom and gloom about sweeteners mean we have to give up our favorite desserts and snacks? No, I don’t think so. Sweets can still be a part of a healthy diet… in moderation, of course.

But moderation can be difficult when it comes to sweets. If you’re someone who finds it hard to get through a day without a sugary coffee drink, an afternoon candy bar, or dessert after dinner (or all three!), you might want to experiment with cutting back. I’ll talk about some ways to approach that challenge in a future blog post.

Sometimes awareness is enough to bring about a change for the better. Start by simply paying attention to the sources of added sugars in your daily diet. Refined white sugar or artificial sweeteners can be replaced with maple syrup, honey (especially from a local source), stevia, and agave. Zing Bars are sweetened with a small amount of agave – here is more about that.

We want to know – how do you make sweeteners a part of your healthy diet?


Carol White, MS, RD, CD, has her Master’s degree in nutrition from Bastyr University and a Bachelor’s degree in writing. Blogging about nutrition allows her to blend her dual passions for writing and nutrition education. She currently  works as a clinical dietitian in several skilled nursing facilities in the Seattle area.

Health and Fitness Apps: Which One Is Best For You?

Young Woman Exercising on an Exercise Bike

Is your phone full of useless apps you’ve used once or twice? With over 43,000 health apps on the market (1), we’ve all tried our share of apps that over-promised and under-delivered.

The popularity of wearable trackers and health and fitness apps is growing at a rapid rate; consumers are offered a dizzying array of choices. So how do you find reliable apps that can actually help you achieve your goals? Start by asking these two questions:

1. What’s My Goal?

Are you sedentary and looking to start a walking program? Are you already active and training for a race? Or do you want to lose that extra 30 pounds once and for all? There are plenty of flashy apps that offer a lot of bells and whistles, but that doesn’t mean they’re more effective.

My best advice is this — keep it simple. Apps that offer too many features can be overwhelming and may distract you from the behaviors that really make a difference for lasting success. If your goal is weight loss, for example, choose a user-friendly app that allows you to keep a meal diary, track your workouts, and connect for social support. My favorite is Lose It! — this app has a huge nutrition database, a simple meal diary, a basic fitness tracker, and a friends feature. For running, I like RunKeeper — because usually all I need is my total time, pace, and distance, and the occasional workout idea. For meditation, I love Meditation Buddy — I set my time, choose a sound (like rain, beach, thunder, etc.), press play, and close my eyes.

2. Does Data Motivate Me?

Self-monitoring is a well-researched technique for successful behavior change. Some people love tracking weight or workout data; seeing the numbers move up, down, or hold steady can be very motivating; others hate it or just aren’t interested.  If data is your thing, you can get a device that syncs to an app with your workout stats like steps, distance, speed, heart rate, and more. I’ve been wearing a Fitbit for 3 years, and I love it — knowing where I stand with my daily steps really does get me up and moving on otherwise sedentary days.

I’ve also worked with clients who were obsessed with their fitness and weight loss data; they became distressed if they didn’t track one day or didn’t have access to the app — and paid more attention to the data than to their own feelings of energy, fatigue, hunger, and fullness. This is an example of data use that isn’t helpful — and isn’t sustainable.

If data isn’t your thing, look for an instructional app that guides you through workouts or offers health advice from a reputable source instead of tracking your every move.

App Appeal

The concept of having a personal trainer or meal diary in your pocket is what makes apps so enticing. But concepts don’t always translate well into practical, everyday use and lasting behavior change. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference and what works for you. What health or fitness app is your fave, and why? We’d love to hear about it.


  1. Reynolds, A, Critically Evaluating Health Apps, ACSM’s Certified News, Volume 24, Issue 3, 2014


Beth Shepard thumbnail_2014Beth Shepard, MS, ACSM-RCEP, ACE-PT, has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Arizona. Beth is an expert in fitness and health promotion and a certified wellness coach, helping people thrive by adopting sustainable lifestyle changes. She and her family love to hike, bicycle, and try new sports. www.wellcoaches.com/beth.shepard