Archive Monthly Archives: January 2012

Stevia Soft Drinks NOT Sweetened with Stevia

sodaThe legal standard for false advertising seems to be very low.  It seems that you can give completely misleading impressions about a product without facing any liability.  Gone are the days when consumers can just pick up what they want from the supermarket shelf without worrying about studying the ingredients list (or maybe those days never existed).  Now, we all have to be savvy consumers, especially if you are health conscious! 

Artificial sweeteners have received a hoard of controversy over the years.  Unsubstantiated scandals of cancer and side-effects of headaches and nausea have plagued their existence.  However, Stevia, which is a zero-calorie, super sweet compound derived from plants, has gotten a lot of press in recent years for being “natural” and “safe.”  It’s difficult to say exactly how “safe” anything is, but people seem to equate “natural” as being the same thing as “safe” (I’m not sure how great this illogical reasoning is, but that’s another matter).

Stevia has gotten so popular that several soft drink manufacturers have produced supposedly Stevia-sweetened sodas, such as Blue Sky Free and Zevia.  However, if you drink these drinks or use Truvia (a popular brand of sweetener that contains Stevia), then you may have been duped….most of those drinks and sweeteners contain much higher quantities of sugar alcohol than Stevia!

Let’s talk briefly about each of 3 popular brands, either of Stevia itself or of a soft drink supposedly sweetened with Stevia:

  1. Truvia is one of the more popular brands of Stevia sweetener, but if you look at its ingredients, you’ll notice that the main ingredient is actually not Stevia at all, but erythritol.  Erythritol is a sugar alcohol like sorbitol and xylitol, although it is “natural” like Stevia (in that it can be derived from plants).  This is what gives each packet of Truvia 3 grams of carbohydrates and probably around 0.6 calories even though it’s labeled as zero-calories (as each gram of erythritol is 0.2 calories).
  2. IMG_1929Blue Sky Free is a soft drink made by Hansen (the company that makes “natural sodas”).  I tried a can of Blue Sky Free (the cola flavor) when I was in Oregon, and I have to admit that it tasted OK (a bit flat, but not bad).  So what’s the problem?  Unfortunately, it is flavored with Truvia, so it also contains sugar alcohol rather than just pure Stevia as a sweetener.  If you don’t care so much, you can buy it either online at Amazon or at one of the stores listed on their website. A pack of 24 cans costs $24 (or $20.40 with Subscribe and Save) on Amazon.
  3. IMG_1865Zevia is another soft drink that’s supposed to be sweetened with Stevia (hence the name that rhymes with Stevia).  Like Blue Sky Free, Zevia comes in a variety of flavors (although Zevia has more flavors), but I found the grape soda to taste pretty good.  Unlike Blue Sky Free, Zevia is not flavored with Truvia.  INSTEAD, they add erythritol along with Stevia extract.  In fact, erythritol is the second most populous ingredient except for carbonated water! So basically, Zevia is just as bad as Blue Sky Free, except that some Zevia flavors contain caffeine. If you’re considering trying Zevia, then use their discount coupon and buy a 6-pack from Wholefoods, although they are also sold on Amazon.  

IMG_1511I personally think that sucralose is the best artificial sweetener out there both in terms of the slim chance of health problems and in terms of taste.  But if you’re determined to use Stevia, then you ought to realize that very few things are currently flavored with just Stevia.  SweetLeaf, which you can buy at Wholefoods or on Amazon, is a pure Stevia sweetener as opposed to Truvia.  But it does taste more bitter, which is why Truvia, Blue Sky Free, and Zevia have chosen to put erythritol into the mix.

It’s hard to know who to trust when it comes to information about artificial sweeteners, but you should try not to be fooled by all the claims of “naturalness” from the advertisers!  “Natural” does not always equate with “health,” and advertisers have zero interest in your health!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

IMG_2723It would be wrong of me to go on about these delicious low carb muffins (gluten-free and grain-free) without giving you the recipe for them!  So, it’s below…  The muffins are 2g net carbs each and are really moist and full of flavors because of the spices and apple chunks in them.  I keep them in the fridge and microwave one for 10 seconds on high to warm it up.  They’re really convenient to take with you as breakfast or as a quick snack.  You can try making them with other flavors, but I’ve generally found that apple and cinnamon go really well with artificial sweeteners (i.e. you can’t tell that it’s not real sugar!), whereas chocolate is really bad at hiding artificial sweeteners. 

These muffins are flaxseed meal and almond meal based.  You can either buy bags of flaxseed meal and almond meal (Wholefoods and a lot of larger grocery stores and health stores generally carry Bob’s Red Mill brand pictured below or you can buy it online at or you can make your own by placing flaxseeds/almonds into a food processor or blender (the almonds can wear down the blade in your blender/food processor quickly).  I generally make my own as it’s much cheaper to buy flaxseed and almonds unprocessed, but if you’re just starting to try low carb baking, then you might want to start with a small bag of flaxseed meal and of almond meal and see how you like the muffins before buying them in bulk.  The other essential ingredient in low carb baking is coconut flour, and my next muffins post will on that!

flax meal

Ingredients (makes 12 muffins)

      • 1 cup of flax meal
      • 1 cup of almond meal
      • 1 tablespoon of black sesame seed (optional)
      • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
      • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of nutmeg
      • 1 teaspoon of sugarfree vanilla extract
      • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
      • 1 teaspoon of orange zest (optional)
      • 1 cup equivalent of artificial sweetener
      • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
      • 4 eggs, beaten
      • 1/3 cup of almond milk (can substitute water)
      • 1 small apple, diced

Equipment: muffin/cupcake pan


      1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
      2. Grease muffin/cupcake pan with coconut oil or butter (ignore this step if you use muffin cups).
      3. Mix ingredients together and whisk well.
      4. Fill each muffin/cupcake cup to around 3/4 of the way.
      5. Bake for 20 minutes and cool before removing.

I’ve noticed that the muffins do shrink a bit once they cool, and they don’t look as fluffy as regular muffins, but they are deliciously moist even on reheating and much much healthier.  In fact, I think these are better than many regular full carb muffins!  Let me know what you think of the recipe and what variations you’ve tried.



The difference between low-carb and non-low-carb foods

When I shop, I like to look to see how many calories and how many carbs are in my foods.  But, most of the numbers I’m used to seeing are under 10g of carbs per serving as I usually look at low carb foods.  Even seeing something with 10g of carbs per serving might make me think twice before buying it!  I had therefore completely forgotten just how many carbs were in non-low-carb foods! 

I recently made some delicious apple cinnamon muffins, and I was interested in knowing how their nutritional values compared with Starbucks muffins.  Starbucks has very helpfully provided all the information on their website.


  • An apple bran muffin from Starbucks contains 57g net carbs.  
  • A comparable sized apple cinnamon muffin that I made contained 4g net carbs.

That’s a 53g difference!  It’s no wonder you feel so sluggish after your Starbucks break.

New Year’s Resolution–Cook More

new years2012 is going to the year when I unleash my cooking potential!  Already this year, I have made 3 new dishes (2 low carb desserts) and bought enough food that my refrigerator is staring to groan.  However, I’ve made enough resolutions to know that 2 weeks is the average amount of time before the resolution crumbles and then collapses into a distant memory of yet another failure. 

So this year, I’m going to help my lack of perseverance along a bit.  Instead of just saying I’ll “cook more,” I’m going to be a bit more definite – I am going to cook at least twice a week.  I’m also going to make more simple dishes, so that cooking doesn’t eat into my evenings too much.  To kick start this new resolution, I made a really simple dish tonight.  It took me all of 15 minutes and was delicious.  The recipe for the so-simple-even-you-can-make-it eggs and Chinese chives stir-fry is below, but first, let me explain what Chinese chives are and why they are so amazing!

imageChinese chives look a bit like tall grass (see the photo on the right), but they have a very distinct fragrant smell and taste.  Although they are similar to normal chives, they have a much stronger taste.  It’s hard to describe the taste since it’s quite unique, but it’s probably something close to that of a leek with the sweetness of green onions and a touch of garlic.  Doesn’t that sound delicious already??  Unfortunately, you can only find Chinese chives in Asian supermarkets, but you can substitute leeks or regular chives for the Chinese chives.

Ingredients (makes 2 servings)chives

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 and 1/2 lbs of Chinese chives (or leeks or regular chives), chopped into 1/2 inch segments
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil (or other cooking oil)
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce


  1. Pour 2 tablespoons of oil into a frying pan.
  2. Add the eggs and scramble them.
  3. When the eggs are cooked, add the chives and cook for 7 minutes on medium heat stirring every few minutes until the chives look wilted.
  4. Add the 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and stir.


It’s a great dish to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  And it’s easy and super quick to make!  I wish all recipes were so simple!