Q: I am diabetic and want to avoid artificial sweeteners. Is Stevia a good alternative? — Joel, Sebring
A: Stevia is a plant that is a natural sweetener and is native to South America. Because of the natural sweetness of Stevia, many researchers believe this is a healthy sugar substitute for diabetics.
Stevia can be bought in grocery and health food stores. In addition to being added to coffee and tea, Stevia can also be added in baked goods recipes.
Stevia is no-calorie and comes in various forms such as powders, extracts, liquid and fresh or dried leaves. This is a very sweet herb and how much sweetness you intend to have with its usage will depend on the type of Stevia you use.
For example, Stevia extract is much sweeter than honey so you would not use the same measurements.
Because Stevia is a plant, you may be able to grow your own. Visit your local garden store and buy an already established plant. Place it in a pot or in well-drained soil with full sun.
There are numerous recipes and some gardening tips available regarding Stevia. They can be found on the package or by visiting www.stevia.net/recipes.
Q: My family is cooking Christmas dinner this year. How do I make healthy food choices without offending them by saying 'no' to any of the food? — April, Sebring
A: Eating healthy during the holidays can be challenging, especially when other people are cooking. Before going to dinner, eat a small snack so you are not overly hungry when you arrive at your family's house.
Drinking water or herbal tea instead of egg nog or alcoholic beverages will save you hundreds of calories. Water and tea will also give you a sense of 'fullness' as well as help flush your system of any toxins.
If you are trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, ask your friends and family for their support. You can also lead by example by filling at least half of your plate with vegetables.
Avoid gravy, sauces, fried food and second helpings of any food, especially pies. By not adding sauces or dressings you will be prevented from consuming unwanted calories and cholesterol.
Eat mindfully and chew your food slowly. Take your time eating and enjoy your meal. It will also be helpful to use a smaller plate or a smaller fork.
Please remember that now is just as important as any other time in the year to be proactive with your healthy lifestyle habits. Just because the table is full of food does not mean you need to eat all of it.