Meal replacement drinks might be part of plan for longterm weight loss

Posted1/20/2016 6:00 AM

Q: Will meal replacement drinks, bars and packaged food help me lose weight more successfully

A: We're all individual, and what helps one person lose weight may not be helpful for another. Several research reviews in recent years identify a few studies in which using meal replacement drinks, bars or packaged food as part of a larger lifestyle program may boost weight loss by a few extra pounds. It appeared to help for about six months, but the review found the evidence was not that strong. More studies are needed to understand whether that advantage continues longer term. But even if it doesn't, successfully losing weight in the first few months can help some people stay motivated and focused to develop new long-term habits.


Adopting long-term habits, though, is your key to achieving and maintaining weight loss long-term. You may find meal replacements help as you learn new healthy behaviors, for example, it may help teach you about portion control, especially for high calorie foods. And, if you can learn to fill up on low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetables and other health-promoting foods like fruit, whole grains, beans and nuts, you'll learn how to make these foods the foundation of your eating.

Since excess body fat is so strongly linked to greater risk of cancer, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, using meal replacement products may be one way to help you to start on the path to weight loss. On the other hand, these products are expensive, and they certainly are not necessary for many people to reshape eating habits. If you choose to use them, make sure they are just one part of an overall plan to create a healthy lifestyle and that you plan to make the transition to a sustainable approach to eating balanced meals with healthful whole foods.

Q: How long do jars of spices and dried herbs last?

A: Spices and dried herbs do not spoil, but eventually they do lose some of their flavor. Stored as recommended, you can usually count on seeds and whole spices (such as cumin and dill seeds, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and peppercorns) staying fresh for three or four years. Ground spices (including cinnamon and ground pepper) stay flavorful for one to three years. Hold onto dried green herbs (such as basil and oregano) for six months to three years, watching for fading color and flavor to guide you.

Although these seasonings may look attractive displayed over the stove, exposure to heat and moisture can make them lose flavor faster. Instead, store them in airtight containers away from the heat, moisture and light that speed up their deterioration. If you have room in a cabinet or drawer, that is the ideal way to store them. Although research is growing on the potential of herbs and spices as sources of health-protective phytochemicals, it's not clear how content changes during storage. For now, it looks like these shelf life recommendations are advisable to maintain potential health benefits as well as flavor.

• The American Institute for Cancer Research is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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