Why is it that one of the most useful tools for managing calorie intake to maintain a healthy weight also happens to be one of the most misunderstood? Sensational headlines and inaccurate information are causing some people to shy away from low- and no-calorie sweeteners. Yet, they are an easy way to enjoy sweet-tasting foods and beverages without additional calories.

Because I’m a dietitian, I get questions about sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and stevia all the time. There’s a lot of confusion out there! So I get excited when I see companies like Coca-Cola whom I consult for, share educational information on ingredients such as aspartame through ad campaigns and an infographic that point to the science and try to clarify any uncertainty.

I’ve been drinking diet soda for over 40 years and have many clients who use low- and no-calorie sweeteners to successfully manage their overall calories. So here’s the science-based “skinny” on sweeteners:

Low-and-no-calorie sweeteners can HELP your waist line

“Will aspartame make me gain weight?” is a question I hear all the time. And in short, the answer is no. In fact, the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association state that people consuming low- and no-calorie sweeteners in place of calorie-containing sweeteners can reduce calories and ultimately help maintain or lose weight. Don’t forget, in order for this to work, you shouldn’t replace the calories you avoid – drinking a diet soda doesn’t mean you should eat a whole pint of ice cream. Reputable science also has shown that low- and no- calorie sweeteners do not cause you to eat or crave more sweets by adversely affecting your appetite and feelings of fullness.

Low-and-no-calorie sweeteners are safe to enjoy

Low- and no-calorie sweeteners are some of the most thoroughly tested ingredients in our food supply. They are allowed for use in the United States and countries around the globe and acknowledged as a quality alternative to caloric sweeteners by reputable scientific organizations including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association and American Medical Association, to name a few.  Aspartame’s safety alone is supported by more than 200 studies over the past 40 years.

Sweeteners can be consumed by practically everyone

Every FDA-permitted low- and- no-calorie sweetener is safe for consumption by nearly all populations, with the exception of people who are carriers of the genetic disease phenylketonuria, who should avoid aspartame. From adults and children to people with diabetes and pregnant and breastfeeding women, sweeteners can provide low-calorie alternatives to favorite foods and drinks. I even feel confident serving my 3½ year-old grandson sugar-free maple syrup on his pancakes. He loves them!

The bottom line is that you should feel confident that these sweeteners can safely and effectively help manage your calorie budget. They are efficient tools to balance diets, which is especially important when aiming to cut calories. Portion control and incorporating regular exercise is part of the equation as well. After all, every calorie saved or burned makes a difference with weight loss or maintenance.

Kim Galeaz is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and consultant to agriculture, food and beverage companies, including The Coca-Cola Company.