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About SparkPeople's Recommendations

Where Our Guidelines Come From

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SparkPeople.com provides free tools, resources and support for adults who want to improve their diets, establish a healthy lifestyle, get physically active, lose weight and/or manage their weight. We stand by our weight-loss, exercise and dietary recommendations because they are evidence-based and scientifically accurate within the framework of published scientific literature. For adults who desire a safe and comprehensive weight-management program, the SparkPeople Coaches provide diet, physical activity and behavior modification recommendations that are safe, effective and medically accepted.

This page provides a short summary for health care providers, trainers, dietitians and first-time visitors who want to learn more about what SparkPeople stands for and where our recommendations come from. You can learn more about our guidelines and philosophy by visiting our Healthy Lifestyle Resource Center, which houses thousands of practical articles that were written and/or reviewed by our team of experts.

SparkPeople Does NOT Endorse or Recommend SparkPeople DOES Recommend:
  • Establishing realistic and management healthy lifestyle habits
  • Calorie counting and food tracking/journaling
  • A balanced diet and moderation (no foods or food groups are off limits)
  • Regular exercise that includes cardiovascular activity, along with strength and flexibility training
  • Losing weight at a slow and sustainable rate—no more than 2 pounds per week (or up to 1% of body weight per week for people who are more than 100 pounds overweight)
  • Eating at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Using measurements besides the scale to track weight loss
  • Getting support from our positive Community of members and experts
  • Taking a multivitamin/mineral supplement (especially for people who follow calorie-restricted diets for weight loss)
Our advice and recommendations come from the following sources:
  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Evidence Analysis Library (EAL): Adult Weight Management Guidelines
  2. American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  3. American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  4. Beverage Panel Recommendations and Analysis
  5. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies: Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrates, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids
  6. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies: Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride and Sulfate
  7. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) Obesity Education Initiative
  8. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements
  9. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Database
  10. United States Department of Agriculture Choose My Plate
Our recommendations evolve as we continue to discover more of the secrets of our most successful members. Through regular case studies, surveys and polls, we are able to share the safe and effective strategies that work for them, such as eating breakfast daily or exercising in the morning.

Here are some of the guidelines we provide throughout the website in the form of tools, trackers, articles and expert community support.:

Weight Management
  • Members are provided tools to help them self-assess their degree of overweight and obesity using body mass index and the following classifications: Underweight (less than 18.5), Healthy Weight (18.5-24.9), Overweight (25-29.9), Obese (greater than or equal to 30.0) and Severely Obese (greater than or equal to 40.0). Waist-to-Hip ratios and other measures of body composition are also encouraged for the most accurate picture of one's weight and health status.
  • For overweight adults, we provide a calorie range that results in a 1- to 2-pound weight loss per week for the first 6 months, and encourage an initial 10% reduction in weight from one's baseline. This is achieved through a calorie deficit of 500-1,000 calories per day. For safety, floors of 1,200 calories for women and 1,500 calories for men have been established as minimum recommendations. SparkPeople's software does not allow someone to set weight-loss goals that would result in an underweight BMI.
  • Our software determines an individual's Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) using the Harris-Benedict Equation—the most familiar and most used formula to determine calorie (energy) needs. For more information on how we calculate calorie ranges for members, click here.
  • SparkPeople does NOT provide specific weight management guidelines or nutrition therapy for adults considering, planning, or who have had weight loss surgery.
  • SparkPeople does NOT provide specific weight management guidelines for adults considering, planning or who are using prescription medication for weight loss.
Diet and Nutrition
  • Our macronutrient ranges (approximately 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 30% fat) are based on the recommendations for healthy adults from the Food and Nutrition Board.
  • We advocate the consumption of healthy fats and the following daily goals: no more than 8-10% saturated fat, up to 15% monounsaturated fat, up to 10% polyunsaturated fat.
  • Adults should aim for 20-30 grams of fiber daily, fewer than 300 milligrams of cholesterol and fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium and adequate vitamin and mineral intake based on recommendations from the Food and Nutrition Board.
  • We advocate drinking water, aiming for eight cups daily.
  • Calories should be distributed throughout the day, with the consumption of 4-5 meals daily, including breakfast and snacks.
  • SparkPeople also provides supportive nutrition education, including label reading, recipe modification, energy value of different food selections, food composition, meeting nutrient guidelines, grocery shopping, calorie budgeting, food preparation, menu and snack planning, eating patterns, adequate fluid and water intake, appropriate beverage use, portion sizes, emotional eating, portion control, weighing and measuring, dining out tips, restaurant selections, limiting alcohol and a four-stage SparkDiet program.
Exercise and Fitness
  • All members should refer to the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (Par-Q) before starting an exercise program. Anyone over 65 should b see a doctor to get medical clearance before starting a diet and exercise program.
  • Our fitness recommendations are based on the American College of Sport Medicine's FITT guidelines. A balance of aerobic exercise, strength training and flexibility training is recommended for optimum physical fitness. Our reference guides for cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training provide these details.
  • Adults should aim for a minimum of three cardiovascular workouts and strength training workouts per week and include a warm up, cool down and stretching during each session.
  • All of SparkPeople's workout plans are designed by certified personal trainers and/or certified fitness instructors.
  • We use the more-accurate Karvonen formula to calculate max heart rate and target heart rate for aerobic exercise.
  • SparkPeople also provides supportive fitness education, including increasing physical activity, squeezing in exercise, home workouts, fitness walking, free and inexpensive exercise ideas, workout videos, detailed exercise demonstrations, calories burn estimates, safety tips, precautions, workout progression, food and liquid intake related to exercise, specific training programs (i.e. 5K training), fitness testing and assessments, modifications, fitness myth busting and injury prevention.

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