Stevia…what do you know about it?

Wondering if you should use it in your coffee or tea?

Perhaps you are seeing the big bag in your local grocery store next to the sugar and you are wondering if it would work in your morning muffin recipe?

One thing is certain, stevia is gaining popularity and we are happy about that! But, we want to make sure consumers know everything they need to know about stevia and how to use it and incorporate it into their everyday lives.

Make sure to read our Facts page to learn even more about stevia as well as our Safety page.  SteviaBenefits’ resident RD, Beth Hubrich, answered a few of the top questions consumers have.

What is stevia and is it safe?

Stevia, is a low-calorie sweetener made from the leaf of the stevia plant. Many people use it to sweeten their favorite foods and beverages instead of sugar to result in fewer calories. There are also many products in today’s marketplace that use stevia.

Does stevia have the same qualities when cooking and baking?

This is an important one to know with sweeteners. When cooking or baking with any low-calorie sweetener it is best to follow that manufacturers’ recipes and recommendations. Sugar provides more than just sweetness in recipes, it can also assist in browning, caramelizing, etc., so recipes will need to be adjusted accordingly. Furthermore, low-calorie sweeteners like stevia are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar, so just a small amount of stevia is needed to get the same sweetness as sugar. For some great recipes on stevia, check out our official Pinterest page here to find all types of recipes that use stevia!

Is stevia safe for people with diabetes?

Stevia is safe for people with diabetes and for others who are looking to control calories, carbohydrate and sugar intake. Before a low-calorie sweetener is allowed on the market it must be studied and proven to be safe, especially for the most vulnerable populations including people with diabetes, the elderly and children.

By this time, many people have made their resolutions and declared their intentions for 2016.  If you are like a lot of people out there (myself included), this could mean exercising more and losing weight.  The problem with this is that our resolutions can be very lofty and sometimes we set our expectations so high we are doomed to fail.  By the time Valentine’s Day rolls around we may be resolutely slamming ourselves for not reaching our goal – especially a weight loss goal.

But, it does not have to be that way.  As a dietitian and mom of three I am keenly aware that just because it is a new year, does not mean that I don’t face the same set of problems or obstacles I did last year.  For me, those obstacles include a lack of time and a “mom’s at the bottom of the list” kind of mentality.  But, with a few tweaks I am hoping to be more successful in actually sticking to my resolutions for 2016.  Here are some simple suggestions:

  • Set small, attainable goals. For example, if you want to lose a total of 40 pounds, start with 5 or 10 pounds first.  Once you have reached your first milestone, set another attainable goal.
  • Be specific about how you are going to accomplish your goals. Once you have set your (realistic) goal, determine how you are going to do it in a specific way.  Instead of saying “I will exercise every day”, really take a look at your calendar and see what is doable.  Perhaps a 30 minute walk at lunch is the best you can do with some added activity on the weekend.  Whatever it may be, determine exactly how you are going to accomplish your goals.
  • Plan accordingly. As a busy mom of three, I get into trouble when I don’t plan because I am much more likely to overeat or grab a less than healthy “on-the-go snack.”  To combat this, I find that grocery shopping on Sunday and having precut veggies and made ahead salads help me be prepared.  If I am already hungry and pressed for time, I am much more likely to grab what’s easy and handy….  So my healthier options need to be just that!
  • Be accountable. A study of thousands of people who have lost more than 30 pounds or more and kept it off for 5 years shows that a key factor in keeping weight gain at bay is a “food diary.” So find what works for you and keep a record.  This can be an online app, pre-portioned meals or any other tool that works for you.  By nature, we are likely to underestimate what we eat and overestimate how much we exercise (even dietitians do this).  So keeping a record helps you stay on track.
  • Thing long term. There is nothing worse than hitting your weight loss goal only to find the weight has come back six months later.  To combat this, make changes you can live with over the long term.  For me, I know I don’t drink as much water as I should (but setting a goal to drink a gallon of water every day is not realistic). To help increase my fluids, I look for something without calories but with taste.  (I think those stevia-sweetened flavor drops you can add to your water bottles are great!) Further, giving up all carbs may not be doable either.  So, if you want to cut out carbs, look for ways to cut back on refined carbs and include more fiber and whole grain carbs instead.
  • Be good to yourself. Not every day is going to be perfect.  Remember that you are human and there will always be highs and lows in your weight loss journey.  If you hit a bump, dust yourself off, re-evaluate your goals and the specific actions to accomplish those goals and start again.

 

bethjpgBeth Hubrich, MS, RD, LD Beth is well versed in clinical nutrition, food service, nutrition communications, and community and public health. She holds a B.S. in nutrition and food science from FSU and a Master’s in nutrition and food science from Texas Woman’s University. Beth has worked with CNN and has written forToday’s Dietitian and USA Today magazine.  She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), as well as a founding member of the Weight Management  and the Dietitians in Business and Communications dietetic practice groups.  Beth has served as a nutrition and food communications specialist for the Calorie Control Council for a number of years. She currently lives in the Southeast with her husband and three young children.