Becky Hand (DIETITIANBECKY)

SparkPeople Nutrition Expert and Registered and Licensed Dietitian

Becky Hand earned a bachelor's degree in food, nutrition and dietetics from Marian College and a master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. Becky has more than 25 years of nutrition experience in hospital and community settings. She is passionate about improving the health and wellness of people in her rural community as well as the lives of people throughout the world via SparkPeople. Becky is involved in numerous food, nutrition and health education activities, including nationwide presentations for SparkPeople conventions. A licensed and registered dietitian with a certificate in weight management from the American Dietetic Association, she also teaches weight-management classes for children and adults, conducts cooking classes and food demonstrations, and assists school districts in implementing wellness policies. Becky hosts a weekly nutrition radio talk show, writes articles for newspapers and magazines, and provides food and nutrition coverage on television.

Whether Becky is talking to schoolchildren, a scout troop, college students, high school athletes, a women's club, church group, or corporate America, she wants her nutrition messages to be practical, easy to apply and fun! She utilizes humor and hands-on activities to involve the audience in her presentations and assists them in setting realistic goals and action plans.

As SparkPeople's Head Dietitian, Becky stays on top of the most current nutrition research and provides nutritional recommendations for the SparkPeople websites. She also advises members by writing and reviewing food and nutrition articles and answering questions on the message boards.

Becky also blogs for Huffington Post Healthy Living. Read her posts.

More from Becky:

The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body HealthSparkPeople's Ultimate Grilling Guide: 75 Hearty, Healthy Recipes You Can Really Sink Your Teeth IntoThe 8-Week Diabetes Weight Loss Challenge from SparkPeople


Read More of Becky's Blogs:

Can Meal Replacements Save You From Bad Decision Making?



In a 2007 study, Dr. Brian Wansink, professor and Director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, discovered that making healthy food decisions isn't just a one-and-done deal. In fact, according to his report, the average person makes more than 200 food decisions every single day.

For anyone who has ever worked to stick to an eating plan, this should come as no surprise. You start the day strong, but with every twist and turn you're faced with a calorie-packed landscape. Grabbing a coffee at the gas station brings you face-to-face with the candy aisle; the vending machine calls your name at lunch; the doughnuts that appear every morning in the breakroom. Your brain quickly tires and your healthy eating plan goes south.

The daily decisions can derail even the most dedicated among us, which is why many people find turning themselves turning to meal replacements to combat the convenient and tempting foods all around. With the right understanding and some smart choices, meal replacements can be a smart option for people looking to gain more control of their food environment.

What Is a Meal Replacement?

A meal replacement is a portion-controlled, calorie-controlled food item that is used in place of a regular meal. Popular meal replacement choices include shakes, shelf-stable entrees, frozen meals, cereals and soups. Meal replacements offer a blend of protein, carbohydrates and fat, and are also fortified with vitamins and minerals. The nutritional make-up of meal replacements is similar to what would be found in a well-balanced meal. An important distinction to keep in mind is that while a meal replacement shake contains a blend of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals, protein shakes are composed of one main nutrient—protein. Thus, protein shakes should not be used as a substitute for an entire meal, but rather only by those who have an increased need for protein or are having difficulty meeting protein needs through food intake exclusively.

Current scientific research evidence indicates that meal replacements can be a beneficial tool for those looking to lose weight. Research has shown positive results in both medically managed programs that use only meal replacements and home weight-loss plans that use one or two meals replacements daily, along with other well-balanced nutritious meals and snacks. These eating plans result in weight loss by eliminating some of those hundreds of food decisions that need to be made each day, and because the meal replacements offer more structure, portion control and calorie control.

How to Choose a Meal Replacement

Planning and selection is important when using meal replacements. Use these guidelines:

  • Calories: 120 to 350. When selecting a meal replacement, look for one that contains the approximate calories that you have designated for that meal. If the meal replacement is low in calories, try doubling the portion of the meal replacement, adding fruits and vegetables to the shake or entrée, or rounding out the meal by adding a serving of fruit or a side salad. Remember, fruits and veggies contain not only valuable nutrients, but also higher water content and extra fiber that can help you to stay more satisfied.


  • Protein: 12 to 20 grams. Be sure that the meal replacement contains about 12 to 20 grams of protein in a serving to ensure that you meet your protein needs for the day. Adequate protein intake helps to maintain muscle mass during weight loss and wards off hunger.


  • Sodium: 600 milligrams or fewer. Beware of high sodium meal replacements.


  • Vitamins and Minerals: 25 to 30 percent of daily intake.

How to Use Meal Replacements

By using the meal replacement selection criteria listed above, you can be assured that you’ll be meeting your nutritional needs when you use one to two meal replacements daily along with well-planned traditional meals and snacks. If you find this plan to be a helpful weight-loss or weight-maintenance tool, it is possible to safely use a healthy eating plan with the aid of meal replacements daily for the rest of your life.

Programs and clinics that use only meal replacements do exist for individuals who have a greater amount of weight to lose, as well. The programs use medically formulated products that are specially designed to provide all the recommended nutrients with no additional outside snacks or meals.

As always, it is best to discuss the use of meal replacements with your primary care physician or registered dietitian before starting. When used correctly, meal replacements have been used safely with people who have Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and other medical conditions. For those needing a more restrictive diet due to conditions such as kidney disease, fatty liver disease, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis or and Crohn’s disease, check first with your doctor.

There are many weight-loss tools that can be used to bring about a safe and effective weight loss. Meal replacements aren’t the magic bullet in the battle of the bulge, but they can be a great tool to keep in your arsenal to help maintain control of your calorie intake.

HMR Weight Management is a meal replacement program that’s been offered in hospitals and medical centers for 34 years. Once available exclusively through these medical setting, HMR’s meal replacements are also now available for home use. (For a limited time, get free shipping on your first order of an HMR food. Use code SPARKFREE at checkout.)

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Posted 12/7/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 8,170 views

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Should You Take a Ride on the Carb Cycling Rollercoaster?

It feels as though there is no escaping carbohydrates when it comes to talking about healthy eating. The latest carbohydrate-focused diet to take center stage combines very low carbohydrate days along with days packed with carb-containing foods. Known as "carb cycling," the premise of this eating plan comes from the world of bodybuilders and professional athletes looking to quickly increase muscle mass—though that hasn't stopped the average person looking for a weight-loss solution to jump on the bandwagon as of late. But does this eating plan really "optimize" carbs to boost weight loss?

Posted 11/21/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 88 comments   20,065 views

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A Dangerous Day of "Healthy Eating"



Meet Patty, a happily married mother of two school-age children who works full time at her company's information systems department. Patty has a plan to stick to 1,400 calories a day to lose weight. However, due to slick packaging and masterful marketing, Patty may not realize that many of her so-called "healthy food choices" are actually destroying her plan to lose weight.

Like Patty, a lot of us probably have a hard time always choosing the best option. Take a quick calorie quiz from HMR Weight Management here to see how you’d do selecting “healthier” options when dining out.

Let’s see how Patty would do as she goes through her day…

After staying up too late the night before, Patty starts her morning with a cup of caffeine-charged coffee to reboot her fog-filled brain. Flavoring it with a little sugar and half-and-half is more calorie-friendly than those expensive coffee shop concoctions anyway, plus it's all natural and only adds a few calories, she thinks.

  • 6 ounces black coffee
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half
  • 2 packets sugar

Just then, the kids bound into the kitchen for breakfast. They pour sugar-coated, fruit-flavored cereal and milk into their bowls. Patty makes the decision to eat a healthier cereal of wholesome granola with skim milk.

  • 1/2 cup granola
  • 1/4 cup skim milk

After breakfast, everyone piles into the van. Patty drops the kids off at school, heads to the office, and gets straight to work. She spends the morning deeply immersed in several projects, so she's surprised when she glances at the clock and sees that it is already lunchtime. Patty had intended to pack her lunch the night before, but never got around to it, so she heads to the company's café to check out her options. There, she spots the chicken Caesar salad, which consists of chicken strips on a bed of romaine lettuce with various salad toppings, all tossed with Caesar salad dressing. She knows that's the ticket—low calorie and nutrient rich. For a beverage she opts for a soda, figuring just one little splurge won't hurt since her other food choices so far today have been carefully planned.

  • chicken Caesar salad
  • 16 ounce soda

Back on the job, Patty is approached by three of her favorite coworkers. They suggest heading to the local bar for happy hour after work. Although she hesitates, Patty doesn't want to forgo the fun and ultimately joins her friends. At the bar, she makes a conscious effort to keep her low-calorie meal plan on target. She nibbles on just a few crackers and cheese cubes, and orders a small glass of heart-healthy red wine.

  • 5 ounces red wine
  • 6 crackers
  • 3 cheese cubes

Upon arriving home, Patty is surprised by her husband, who has cooked a pasta dinner. Because he knows she's watching her weight, he used whole wheat spaghetti and topped it with a basil pesto sauce. What a thoughtful guy, she thinks, thanking him for the wonderful meal.

  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto sauce

After she and her husband clean up dinner and put their kids to bed, Patty feels like she can finally relax and unwind. She really wants ice cream, but makes a wiser choice to reach instead for the frozen yogurt to boost her calcium intake.

  • 1 cup frozen yogurt

As Patty heads off to bed, she confidently thinks, "This healthy, low-calorie eating is a snap. I'm positive I hit my calorie goal or maybe even less. A few more days like today and I know I'll be one to two pounds lighter."

What would you guess Patty's calorie intake was for the day?

A. 1,389
B. 1,845
C. 2,542
D. 3,321


If you selected "C," you are CORRECT!

Coffee:

  • 6 ounces black coffee = 4 calories
  • 2 tablespoons half-and-half = 40 calories
  • 2 packets sugar = 22 calories
    Total = 66 calories

Breakfast:

  • 1/2 cup granola = 210 calories
  • 1/4 cup skim milk = 21 calories
    Total = 231 calories

Lunch:

  • chicken Caesar salad = 793 calories
  • 16 ounce soda = 208 calories
    Total = 1,001 calories

Happy Hour:

  • 5 ounces red wine = 125 calories
  • 6 crackers = 80 calories
  • 3 cheese cubes = 207 calories
    Total = 412 calories

Dinner:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta = 348 calories
  • 1/4 cup basil pesto sauce = 263 calories
    Total = 611 calories

Dessert:

  • 1 cup frozen yogurt = 221 calories
    Total = 221 calories

TOTAL for the DAY = 2,542

In today's calorie-filled food environment, it doesn't take much to go over your daily calorie allowance. Patty made a conscious effort to take in only 1,400 calories for the day, but was actually 1,142 calories over her goal. An effective weight loss tool that has been shown to assist with food selection and portion control is the use of meal replacements.

Meal replacements are a great option for people who struggle to count calories and watch what they eat and want to take the guesswork out of weight loss.

HMR Weight Management is a meal replacement program that’s been offered in hospitals and medical centers for 34 years. Every time you use an HMR Shake instead of a higher calorie meal or snack, you can save calories and get closer to your goal. (For a limited time, get free shipping on your first order of any HMR food. Use code SPARKFREE at checkout.)

HMR

Learn More

Posted 10/31/2017  2:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 23,355 views

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You Asked: What's The Best Diet for Long-Term Weight Loss Success?

Are you bombarded in the break room by the latest diet adventures of your co-workers? Are you thinking about starting that metabolism-boosting diet splashed on the cover of your magazine? You’d love to lose 30 pounds. But where do you begin? Eliminate carbs, reduce your fat, count points, track calories, push protein, use prepared meals? Is your head spinning from all these choices? 

Posted 9/9/2014  12:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 24 comments   60,881 views

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How Fasting Affects Your Health

Many religions recommend fasting for both spiritual and/or health benefits. All religious fasts are different: Some restrict certain foods, while others only restrict the times of day in which one can eat. Few religious fasts involve a long-term or complete abstinence from food, but no matter what the nature of the fast is, you may wonder just how it really impacts your health.
 
Three religious fasts have been studied the most:

  • Islamic Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, which varies according to the lunar calendar, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset.
  • The 3 annual fasting periods for Greek Orthodox Christians:  The Nativity Fast (40 days prior to Christmas), Lent (48 days prior to Easter), and The Assumption (15 days in August).
  • Biblical-Based Daniel Fast:  This fast typically incorporates a 21-day fasting period.
 
Read on to find out how these fasts impact your health and weight-loss efforts.

Posted 3/27/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 11 comments   46,808 views

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How to Prevent Muscle Loss When Losing Weight

When starting a weight-loss plan, most of us hope to lose body fat, specifically—not muscle mass. But when we lose weight, a large percentage of the total weight lost can be muscle. Is there any way to reduce that muscle loss?

Posted 3/22/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 34 comments   204,786 views

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You Asked: Can You Really Eat Too Much Protein?

For a healthy adult, eating more protein than your recommended daily range once a week or so won't have any major impact on your long-term health or weight loss (assuming you still eat approximately the same amount of calories for the day). Based on your food selections for that day, if you consume a larger-than-normal amount of protein you may notice:

  • A change in bowel habits in the next 24-48 hours (due to a lower fiber intake)
  • A sluggish or light-headed feeling (if you also ate very few carbs)
  • Some abdominal discomfort if your fat intake sky-rocketed
  • No noticeable changes at all
However, you may be wondering how a long-term high-protein diet affects your health in the long run...

Posted 3/21/2014  5:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 37 comments   141,825 views

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Are 'Negative Calorie' Foods Real (or Too Good to Be True)?

You might have heard that you can eat as much of you want of certain foods because it takes more energy to burn them than they actually contain. But is it true? Can eating more of these foods really help you lose weight?

Posted 2/28/2014  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 32 comments   138,535 views

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Is the Junk-Food 'Addiction' Study Junk Science?

"I'm fat because of Oreo cookies!" screamed the woman as she entered the weight-loss class I was coaching last week. In hand, she waved the press release from Connecticut College, which blared the warning, "Oreos are just as addictive as drugs!" 
 
 
"I am addicted to certain foods, just like those rats were addicted to Oreo cookies," she continued on.  "It's supposed to be worse than being addicted to cocaine. How am I ever going to be successful with my weight loss?"

Posted 10/23/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 85 comments   40,349 views

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What Did the Founding Fathers Eat?

The Fourth of July is a time for flags, fireworks, food and fun!  It’s also a time to remember that safe and convenient food has not always been readily available in our country.  Today, the average person spends about 50 minutes in the kitchen each day preparing meals—about five minutes for breakfast, 15 minutes for lunch and up to 30 minutes for dinner. In colonial America, cooks would slave away over the stove for hours.  Talk about your American Revolution!
 
However, some of our modern dining habits actually do bear similarities to those of our colonial ancestors.  Beef, chicken, pork, fish, fruits, vegetables and baked products would have been familiar foods in colonial times. Colonial cooks used some of the same cooking methods we still use today, like frying, baking, broiling and boiling.  And while the colonists enjoyed their coffee, tea, and hot chocolate like we do, they didn’t have a Starbucks in every neighborhood!
 
Not much else was the same.  While we may not know exactly what George Washington ate for dinner on July Fourth, we do know several things about the preparation of foods in 1776.  Here are a few highlights:

Posted 7/4/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 50 comments   40,132 views

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How to Conquer Your Snack Attack

I’ll admit it up front: I am a snacker. In fact, I have a snack twice a day. My body screams for food around three p.m. every day, even though I make a point to eat breakfast and lunch. If I ignore the hunger, I end up grabbing and devouring handfuls of chips or cookies as soon as I get home around five p.m.  Therefore, I plan ahead and have a non-perishable snack stashed in my desk drawer at all times, usually homemade trail mix.
 
My second snack attack hits in the evening, and is not related to true belly hunger at all.  In the evening, I want to eat food for comfort.  You know what I’m talking about. At the end of a long day, all I seem to want is chocolate ice cream along with my favorite TV show, book or magazine. 
 
There is nothing inherently wrong with snacking. In fact, snacking can help with weight loss by warding off afternoon and evening binge eating.  However, the snack should be factored into your total calorie intake for the day, and should contain about 150 calories. A balanced snack should have about 15-30 grams of carbohydrates and three to five grams of protein.

Unfortunately, this type of healthy snacking is NOT happening in America, for children or adults.  While I know you are probably not really surprised by this statement, you may be surprised at the numbers. 

Posted 6/6/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 164 comments   165,899 views

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83 Cheap, Healthy Foods for Meals in Minutes

People often ask me what foods they should be eating. I think they expect that as a dietitian, I'll tell them they have to eat pricey, trendy health foods to lose weight. No way! I'm passionate about spreading the word that you can lose weight and get healthy as a family while sticking to a budget. That's why I'm so excited to share today's blog with you! It's a great resource for those of you who are new to healthy cooking or who don't know what to put in your cart at the supermarket.

What a great feeling! You’re driving home from work and automatically know that you have the ingredients in your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer to whip up a meal for your family in mere minutes.   No need to waste time or money with another trip to the grocery store or fast food joint. Ah!  Sit back, relax and enjoy the music.

The foods picked for this pantry list are ideal choices for weight loss--lower in calories, yet packed with nutrition.  They are also commonly available, budget friendly, familiar to most, and liked by many.  Their flavors and textures mesh well for tasty food combinations.  These "mix and match" marvels will have you making magic in the kitchen in minutes.

I've divided my list into food groups for easier shopping and included serving suggestions, too.

Posted 5/23/2013  6:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 167 comments   608,126 views

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Should You Maintain Your Weight Before You Lose?

"Weight loss is really hard---but maintaining that weight loss is even harder!"  If anyone out there agrees with this statement; please raise your hand. 
 
That’s what I thought. There are lots of hands held high.  It seems that most people struggle with the yo-yo syndrome: lose the weight, gain the weight, lose the weight, gain the weight.  But, what’s a dieter to do?  Perhaps it is time to put the cart before the horse.
 
Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine recently conducted a "switcharoo" when it came to weight loss and weight maintenance.  They took 267 overweight and obese females and divided them into two groups.  The control group went through a traditional 20-week weight-loss program followed by an eight-week maintenance phase. 

The test group went through the eight-week maintenance phase first, and then focused on weight loss for 20 weeks.  The results were surprising to say the least, and significant.  While each group lost about the same amount of weight--17 pounds or 9% of their initial body weight--the "maintenance-first" group only gained back three pounds at their one-year follow-up but the "weight loss first" group had gained back seven pounds, on average. 
 
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it!  But guess what?  Those women who first spent eight weeks mastering the tools, techniques and skills for weight maintenance were better equipped mentally and physically to handle the day-in, day-out struggle of their toxic food environment after the 28-week program was completed.  Are you itching to discover how?  

Posted 4/11/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 131 comments   61,801 views

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Do Detox Diets Work? Are They Safe?

Spring is right around the corner, and as I glance around my home, I see that a thorough cleaning is in order.  Dust bunnies are multiplying under my bed, spider webs are glistening on my chandelier, and a layer of dust has settled on all places too difficult to comfortably reach. 

As I strategically plan my upcoming cleaning project, I start to wonder if my body is also in need of a cleaning, so to speak. 

Like many of you, I tend to go into hibernation mode during the winter months.  With less daylight hours and physical work to do outside, along with an influx of sugary treats and comfort foods, my body has been insulated by an added layer of fat. I'm surely not alone in feeling this way, judging from the number of questions we field on the site about detox diets this time of year.

While the idea of cleaning out harmful toxins in your body or removing body fat quickly may sound tempting and even beneficial, is a detox the answer?

Posted 3/8/2013  12:00:00 PM By: Becky Hand : 51 comments   131,731 views

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Do Raspberry Ketones Really Help You Lose Weight?

Before you jump on the raspberry ketone bandwagon, there are a few things you should know about this over-priced, proclaimed weight-loss miracle in a bottle. I tell you what they don't want you to know about raspbery ketones, in my latest blog on Huffington Post. Click here to read it.

Posted 3/6/2013  6:00:00 AM By: Becky Hand : 52 comments   154,269 views

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