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Excruciatingly Honest Opinions About Health and Fitness Products.

Friday, February 6, 2009


In some ways I am a child. I like my beverages really sweet.

And yes, I know it's frowned upon, but I'm one of those folks who still uses Splenda, and I have good reasons and more good reasons, but it's still embarrassing to do so if you are a health and fitness blogger.

Hi Splenda! Please don't sue us!

And I'm sorry, but I just don't like the taste of Stevia. It tastes metallic and artificial to me just like Sweet & Low, another sweetener I can't stand. And I'm also not convinced Stevia is any safer for regular long-term use than Splenda is.

Why not just use sugar in my coffee? Well, that's not great for me either and I already get plenty of it. (And, to be honest, I'm not immune from superficial vanity concerns. Swapping Splenda for sugar has made it much easier to keep my weight down.)

But recently I found two new tricks to reduce my Splenda dependence (Splendependence?) so I thought I'd share them. Just in case there is anyone else out there who excessively sweetens their beverages and wants to cut down on either sugar or Little Yellow Packets.

Trick One: Try some Erythritol.

A while back I reviewed some "satiety smoothies" that contained erythritol, which actually appears to be both natural and virtually noncaloric. I wanted to try some in my coffee. Would it taste weird like Stevia?

So I found it at a local grocery store. (Note: this may be unusual. If you don't live near hippie/foodie stores, you may have to order online). I put it in my coffee and... it tasted fine! It's only 70% as sweet as sugar, so I used many, many little packets. Which leads to a big drawback:

So far, Erythritol is really freakin' expensive! One box, which seemed to be gone in few days (OK, so I was excited and I used a lot), was like, ten bucks. (I can't remember exactly). It was a nice experiment, and I'll look for this stuff in the future... if they get the price down to more practical levels.

Trick Two:
The Crabby-McSlacker Slowly Sip & Sweeten Method.

I know this is something that may seem obvious and you may have all tried it already. But I hadn't, and in my mind, I just invented it! And I'm all excited, because I cut my Splendependence in half.

1. Pour coffee or other bitter beverage. Don't add sweetener yet.

2. Take a sip of unsweetened coffee. Note the bitter flavor.

3. Add about 1/8th of the amount of sweetener you normally would and stir.

4. Sip again. Note presence of sweetener and become conscious of how Sip Two tasted Different than Sip One.

5. Add a tiny bit more sweetener.

6. Repeat, slowly and consciously, with tiny amounts of sweetener. If the trick works, you may discover that you reach acceptable levels of sweetness with quite a bit less of stuff than you usually use! You may also discover that you're late for work.

7. Do this every morning until you've reduced your consumption to less childish, embarrassing levels.

8. Notice that other food items are tasting sweeter than they did before!

So are all of you mature adults, who drink your bitter beverages unadulterated? Do you shun sodas and diet sodas? Or do you use natural sweeteners? Anyone else struggle with Splendependence like I do?

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  • Oh dear. I had forgotten to set up the comments section, sorry about that!

    Should be working now. Thanks for bearing with me!

  • I love splenda. I'm not a big fan of Truvia (well, I find truvia tastes better in COLD stuff rather than hot stuff, but it's too freaking cold right now to drink iced coffee and i must have me some coffee, especially since i gave up soda about a month ago! Go me!)

    I use 2 packets in my coffee and 2 packets over my cereal. Ah well!

  • I use good old sugar (same brand as what you tested, in fact, but their raw organic sugar and yummmm) or honey. I just can't imagine that the 15 calories per teaspoon which I put in my coffee or tea is really going to be that big a deal. And sometimes I don't sweeten those drinks. Depends on my mood. What I'm having for bfast, etc. Now, the afternoon brownie, ice cream, cookies. Sigh...that's where the cutting back needs to happen!

  • I like a splash of soy milk in my coffee, that's it. Sometimes nothing. Not sure what y'all go for coffee-wise, but I get the posh yummy fair trade type coffee and I've grown to appreciate its flavor by slowing cutting back on the hideous amounts of sugar and coffeemate I used to use. If I was faced with cheapie coffee I'm not sure what I'd have to do to make it palatable.

    I do drink too much diet soda however. I'm a huge Coke Zero fan and I'm not even sure what sweetener it contains - I think I'd rather know as little as possible about the potential health hazards. I try to limit myself to two diet bevs per day but lately I've been going over.

    So, sigh, I am trying to cut down on caffeine and artificial sweeteners. And not necessarily because of my health - because I think they may be what's been giving me so many pimples lately! But I figure if my skin's got problems what else must be going haywire inside that I can't see?

  • Comments! Lovely, lovely comments!

  • Another vote of shame for "I love Splenda." And I use a LOT of it in the billions cups of tea I drink every day. I would like to not be using it.

    But I don't like stevia. I keep trying, and I just don't. It is metallic and strange, and it's more like a sense of sweetness rather than really sweet.

    And, yeah, I should wean myself off it. But I have to admit that it's kind of my last Thing I Refuse To Give Up. I gave up my beloved Diet Coke because I didn't want to be drinking the Nutrasweet. I've given up so many things... I sort of refuse to give up sweetness in my tea. So there.

  • I have three cups of coffee a day, and each one gets sweetened with a tablespoon of sugar-free, vanilla Coffeemate.

    I'm a big advocate of "real food", but I actually like this stuff, and 3 tablespoons of Coffeemate a day isn't going to negate my otherwise healthy diet.

    I tried Stevia once, and that stuff was nasty!

    said dragonmamma/naomi on February 6, 2009 at 8:12 AM
  • I rock the Splenda in my tea as well. :P

  • All things not being Equal, I stick with the little blue packets. I'll go pink if I have to but I'm not thrilled with yellow. I like sweet coffee and diet sodas too much to go with regular sugar and the added calories.

  • I'm with you, I kept reading about the wonders of Stevia, ick, not so wondrous. And I need at least a little sweet in my morning coffee, plus a diet soda or two during the day. I don't think it will kill us right away. And when I'm back to my regular weight (somehow I "found" 10 extra pounds last year) than I will go back to raw sugar.

  • Heh, I'm even more of a child, I use Hershey's chocolate syrup in my coffee ^_^

    Although I've been meaning to get my hands on some alternatives to sugar, so maybe I'll try that one if I can find it.


  • I always try to put 1/2 Splenda in my late morning coffee, but it is really hard to pour 1/2 of a Splenda packet. My accuracy is @ 80%.

  • I only use an artificial sweetner in coffee or iced tea. Only other thing I drink is water. My sweetner of choice is Equal (now my wife found some other blue packet type) and I don't notice a problem with it.

  • Working as a clinical dietitian has ruined a lot of things for me, or maybe just opened my eyes. I have way too many patients that really aggravate GI problems (diarrhea mainly) from drinking diet drinks. Diet soft drinks mainly make me queasy anyway but now I have the association in my mind of artificial sweeteners=pooping like a gerbil. Splenda has never given me any problems except for a headache from eating too much at once in a failed batch of bean brownies.
    I tend to use real sugar if I want something like that but I'm not much of a sweets eater anyway.

  • I did this trick a few months ago, after years of over-sweetening shame. Here's the deal...I gave up sugar in my coffee completely for about a month. I could have stopped drinking it altogether, but it would have made me a drooling zombie. After my sugar hiatus, I added it back and now only use about half of what I used to, and it's sweet to me! I hate all non-sugar (or honey) sweeteners. They are uniformly vile, metallic and have scary properties in their ingredients or processing.

  • Hmmm. I bought a big bag of Zsweet (which contains erythritol) when it was on sale and found it tasted like rotted fruit to me. Maybe it's just the brand? Also, when I used it in cookies, it was bizarre because somehow chemically it doesn't stay hot-- the cookies seemed hot but the second I put them in my mouth it was like they'd been partially frozen. I'm definitely going to have to try your sip and slowly sweeten method because I have a huge sweet tooth.

  • Sorry: I drink my tea and coffee unsweetened; eat my oatmeal with butter and salt like a potato; don't drink soft drinks as a rule (except the occasional Fresca), don't care for sweets all that much.

    But Cheetos.......MMMM. So I don't think I can be considered such an "adult." :-P

  • I'm with Melissa on Cheetos, MMM, my very fave non food snack! Greese, butter, salt and cheese, a perfect comfort food!

    I don't ever add sugar to my coffee (or tea) and have been drinking it pitch black most of the time now, as I had to "go black" over a year ago because of a morning med. I only adulterate when it's a blend that doesn't quite rock, then I just add some half and half and it will usually shift the flavor to awesome. Since I roast my own and make my own blends I usually get a fabulous carafe of coffee every a.m... Awesome coffee makes a big difference in the need to add anything to it, because it tastes as good as it smells when you grind it. However the adjustment thing that you and others tried to lessen the amount of sweetener is very smart.

    My better half has to sweeten everything and is for some reason terrified of real sugar, and ends up with coffee that is just the carrier for artificially sweetened half and half, basically! I don't understand this. We don't drink sodas or have much sugar in our diets. I researched all the artificials at his request and told him to stay the hell away from Splenda! It looks great, tastes good, turns to chlorine in your body?!!

    I do know that Splenda and Aspartame both noticeably bother me. Saccharin doesn't. I'd rather be a little heavier than have even more neurological dysfunction than what comes with normal aging. Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Splenda, possibly the same. Saccharin is what I give my spouse, as the lesser of three evils.

    Something natural and SAFE would be a welcome alternative! Thanks for sharing this.

  • I stay away from all artificial stuff. And nearly always stay away from real sugar too. I like to just not sweeten things. I'm sweet enough already! :D

  • Most things I like straight up and unsweetened... but there are a few teas that taste better to me sweetened. I occasionally use sugar, or sometimes use xylitol. Tastes fine to me, and comes from beets, I think (but I could be way off).

  • I do forego sodas because I boycott HFCS as much as I can (i.e. if I know it's there I avoid it, but I'm sure it sneaks into my diet when I'm eating out). When adding sweeteners, I'm usually a Sugar in the Raw, honey, or agave nectar person. I prefer the natural route. I usually add minimal amounts, and as you gradually decrease the amount you use, like by way of the strategy you explained, you'll notice that your preferred sweet levels decrease too!

  • All hail regular old sugar! I love it but I hardly ever use it, unless I really really want to spend more time doing cardio. I avoid artificial sweeteners - some of them are scary chemicals, others just don't taste good. Stevia is too weirdly sweet for my tastes. Splenda reminds me of hostile alien invasion. (Don't ask me why.)

    If you really want to quit sugar, by the way, IMHO you have to quit cold turkey. That means no artificial sweeteners and no alcohol, either. It takes me about two weeks of extreme cold-turkeyville to make the sugar cravings go away. But after that, the taste of natural sugars in foods comes out in technicolor. Who knew a chicken breast could be faintly sweet? Who knew a carrot could be TOO sweet, actually? I did I did!

  • I'm a regular old sugar gal (OK, that sounds weird, but you know what I mean). My dietitian tried to get me to try Stevia, but I wasn't feeling it.

    By the way, the photo caption almost made me spit coffee at my monitor.

  • I use sugar.

    I'm probably going to hell.

  • I'm keeping Splenda. I purchased some stevia but haven't tried it yet. But, I haven't read whe ills of splenda either. All I know is I don't like the pink stuff, the blue stuff give me a headache, haven't tried the green stuff. As for sodas it is Coke Zero, once a week.

  • I drink my coffee and tea like my scotch, neat. And I gave up diet soda for New Year's (I can't believe I don't really miss it).
    I do still use splenda on occasion in my yogurt (better that HCFS, in my opinion) and I put sugar free vanilla syrup in my oatmeal. Maybe some day I'll be sweetener free, but until they make fat free plain yogurt that isn't sour, I don't see an end in sight.

    said Chelsea J on February 6, 2009 at 9:41 PM
  • I drink my coffee with heavy cream or half & half. No sugar. I do like my black tea sweet though and used good old-fashioned white sugar all my life until I discovered agave nectar. It's a sweetener similar to honey, but has a much lower glycemic index so is supposedly more suitable for diabetics (which I'm not). I know that Americans, in particular, have been taught to eat things sweeeeeet. And, that is a habit I would like to break. Fortunately, I'm not a soda drinker. Drink a Coke, regular, so rarely I can't even say the number. But, I never, ever drink diet sodas or use any of the artificial sweeteners you've mentioned. I think they're poison and I also don't like to eat or drink things that aren't actually food, but are just chemicals. To each his own, but not for me.

    said Anonymous on February 7, 2009 at 6:08 PM
  • I'm totally addicted to Diet Soda, but for some odd reason don't like any other sweet drinks (no juices, like my iced tea wicked black). However, I started drinking hot tea this winter which required a little sugar. I bought that Truvia and find it to be intensely sweet. I just had to sprinkle the tiniest bit from the pack into the mug to make the tea sweet...and now I'm drinking hot tea black, too. Anyone need a box of Truvia?

  • According to your definition, I am a mature adult. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to say that at least once in my life.

    I do like stevia but only in smoothies. My daughter thinks it's horrible, tho.

    Love your tastebud training technique!

  • I am trying to decrease my splenderpendance as well. I have heard that it is less bad for you than aspratame?

    I have been adopting the sip and sweeten method. Sometimes it works...sometimes I keep going until I've used the whole packet. Man I'd love to eat a hot chocolate, but I'm following a low carb low sugar plan. So, a little bit of splenda in my tea is basically my lifeline at present. :) Down with diet coke! (My one true love...which I am shunning atm.)

  • Splendependence all the way!

  • I don't tend to consume artificial sweeteners in isolation.

    But oh man do I LOVE my Crystal Light!!!!

  • i like my coffee black and my oatmeal sweetener free. am i really that weird?

  • Please be really careful with Splenda!!! I did an interview with the researcher at Duke who discovered it wipes out your probiotic bacteria in your gut (the foundation of your immune system!)

    Look (well -- beware is better said) of a new sweetner coming from the Frankenfooders called Neotame. Waaaay sweeter than Equal, so much so they don't have to declare it on a label, but super bad for you.

    Stick to cane sugar and use the Cranky sip&sweeten method!

    said LittleWriterGirl on January 9, 2010 at 6:31 PM


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