The Weird But Amazing Benefits of Eating More Corn

Corn isn’t exactly high on the list when most people think about healthy foods. There are many myths about corn, such as the ideas that it’s not healthy, contains empty carbs or makes you gain weight. In reality, whether you love grilled sweet corn or corn flour tortillas, this golden vegetable offers a surprising number of benefits.

Sweet Corn Doesn’t Hurt Your Blood Sugar

One misconception people have is that sweet corn is packed with sugar and bad for your blood sugar. While sweet corn does have natural sugars, it’s actually a low-glycemic food. This is because there’s plenty of fiber to slow down digestion, so it doesn’t trigger sugar spikes.

People who have diabetes should always follow a doctor’s recommendations, which may mean eating smaller portions. That said, an ear of corn only has 6 grams of sugar. That’s less than half what apples and bananas have.

A Bag of Popcorn Has About 50% of Your Daily Fiber Needs

Everyone needs plenty of fiber to encourage healthy digestion. High-fiber foods contribute to regularity and support your gastrointestinal tract. In turn, GI health is related to better cholesterol levels and blood sugar.

One bag of popcorn (without grease and salt) provides about 16 grams of fiber. Men should get 30–38 grams a day, and women need 21–25 grams. With the help of this healthy snack, you can hit your fiber goals relatively easily.

Fiber Helps You Lose Weight, Not Gain It

What about the myth that corn is just waiting to add pounds to your waistline? It’s true that this vegetable has starch, but it’s not empty carbs. In reality, the abundance of fiber helps you feel full and keeps cravings for sugary treats away.

In other words, it’s much better to reach for a bag of fresh popcorn than a candy bar. You won’t experience the “crash” that comes from sugar, and you’ll feel satisfied until mealtime. This can have a positive effect on weight loss.

Corn Has Many Nutrients

Contrary to the idea that corn doesn’t do anything for your health, different types of corn have a large variety of nutrients:

  • Vitamins: Fresh corn gives you vitamins A, B-1, C and E.
  • Antioxidants: Corn is a great source of the natural compounds lutein and zeaxanthin. These protective antioxidants are good for healthy vision.
  • Minerals: Corn has potassium, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and copper. It’s like a mini-multivitamin.

The Ear That’s Good for Your Eyes

Did you know that eating corn can reduce your risk of cataracts and age-related eyesight problems? Antioxidants help to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. Blue corn is even better than yellow corn at taking care of your vision.

Colon Benefits

The insoluble fiber in corn can help you keep your colon and GI tract clean. According to an important study, the risk of colon disease was almost 30% lower in men who ate popcorn regularly. That’s a huge difference for a sweet veggie.

A Tasty, Flexible Option for Dinner

Whether you choose fresh corn or the frozen variety, you can get health benefits. It’s easy to add some corn to chicken soup, sprinkled over your salad, in chili, or grilled on the cob. However you enjoy it, corn deserves a regular place at your dinner table.

4 Natural Sweeteners That Are Healthier Than Sugar

A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean cutting all sugar. Even medical experts recognize that there’s room for some sweetness in your daily routine. That said, too much sugar is bad for your heart, increases your risk of diabetes and adds quickly to your waistline. One tablespoon of refined sugar has 50 calories!

The Secret to Healthy Living With a Sweet Twist

One option to avoid empty calories is simply to lower the amount of added sugar you eat. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy, because many manufacturers add sugar to things you wouldn’t believe: spaghetti sauce, bread, bacon, ketchup, etc. Homemade meals are easier to keep low in sugar, though.

Another trick is replacing refined sugar with healthier alternatives that are naturally low in calories. You can’t go crazy with them, but you can have a sweeter life and lose weight at the same time.

The Healthiest Sugar Alternatives

If you think outside the box, it’s not as hard as you may think to reduce added sugars. These days, there are many natural sugar alternatives. Here are the best.

1. Fruit (Fresh or Frozen)

Ditch the sugar and choose these fruits instead the next time you want to sweeten smoothies or oatmeal. Opt for unsweetened cereal or natural yogurt and add fruit for sweetness. Try these delicious superstars:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Pineapple
  • Pears
  • Figs
  • Mangos
  • Cherries
  • Cantaloupe

Health professionals agree that natural sugars in fruit aren’t a problem for your health. You can enjoy them as much as you want. They provide a great source of antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, too. Frozen fruit is almost as rich in nutrients as fresh, so feel free to choose it if it’s less expensive or more convenient.

2. Applesauce (No Added Sugar)

Technically, applesauce is fruit, too, but you use it for sweetening different things. Fruit puree makes an excellent alternative to sugar for baked goods, adding both moisture and natural sweetness. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Cupcakes with strawberry puree
  • Banana bread with guava
  • Cheesecake with passion fruit puree
  • Pumpkin-apple coffee cake
  • Dark chocolate cake with raspberries
  • Carrot cake with pineapple puree
  • Real cherry pie
  • Strawberry-kiwi dessert pizza

3. Stevia

This natural sweetener comes from the leaves of a plant native to South America. Stevia doesn’t have any calories, and it doesn’t have the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners. If you’re worried about your wallet, you should know that a little goes a long way: Stevia is 450 times sweeter than sugar.

4. Monk Fruit Extract

Like stevia, monk fruit extract comes from leaves — in this case, from a Chinese plant. Monk fruit extract packs tons of sweetness into a zero-calorie package. It also doesn’t affect blood sugar, making it a good alternative for people who need to be careful with glucose levels.

A Balanced View of Sweet Treats

The key to good physical, emotional and mental health is balance. Sometimes, enjoying a slice of apple pie with family and friends is just what the doctor ordered for reducing stress. With the help of natural sugar alternatives, you can indulge your sweet tooth without feeling guilty.

Upgrading a Traditional Pasta Salad With 4 Healthy Ingredients

Most people assume pasta salad is unhealthy and, depending on the ingredients; they aren't wrong. The average pasta salad contains loads of carbohydrates and fats.

For people trying to lose weight or eat a heart-healthy and carb-friendly diet, pasta salad seems like an obvious no-go — unless you make a few healthy changes. Swapping out standard white pasta for whole grain pasta is one healthy alternative, as is using an oil substitute like avocado or applesauce. Besides swapping the two primary ingredients for healthier options, you can include additional items to increase the nutritional value.

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, but that is not the only thing that makes them unique. The bright red food contains lycopene, which produces its color and supports the immune system.

Lycopene-rich foods reduce your risk of certain cancers and diseases. The substance helps the body, in part, by fighting free radicals that can damage cells. Lycopene may also reduce levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol.

2. Bell Peppers

Like tomatoes, bell peppers are nutritionally rich. While the peppers contain many vitamins and antioxidants, the level of vitamin C and various carotenoids make the food exceptionally healthy.

Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is essential to several bodily functions, including wound healing, collagen production, iron absorption, immune system performance, and the maintenance of teeth, bones, and cartilage. One bell pepper contains 169% of your recommended daily intake.

Carotenoids are the compounds that give bell peppers their vibrant colors. They also act as antioxidants in humans. Bell peppers contain several carotenoids, including:

  • Capsanthin (red bell peppers)
  • Violaxanthin (yellow bell peppers)
  • Lutein (green bell peppers)

3. Arugula

As a cruciferous vegetable, arugula is a dark leafy green similar to kale or cabbage. The flavor profile is spicy and bitter and only gets stronger with age. It can be the perfect addition to a pasta salad, especially if lacking a little kick.

The vegetable is a rich source of antioxidants, but what makes it unique is glucosinolate and vitamin K. Glucosinolate causes the potent scent and bitter taste of the plant; it also can reduce the risks and protect against certain cancers.

Vitamin K is essential for bone building and blood clotting. People who consume enough of the nutrient can reduce their risk of osteoporosis. One cup of arugula provides nearly 22 mcg of the 80 mcg daily recommended requirement.

4. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are an excellent protein source because they are a complete protein: they contain all nine essential amino acids, the keys to proper bodily function. Also, the legume contains several vital nutrients and a generous amount of fiber.

Choline, an organic, water-soluble compound, is present in chickpeas. The compound is unique because it contributes to a healthy brain and functioning nervous system.

Aside from being a vegetarian and vegan-friendly protein, chickpeas promote weight control and cardiovascular health, control blood sugar spikes, and maintain gastrointestinal health. The legumes also provide a lovely texture and subtle flavor to pasta salad.

Pasta salad is traditionally unhealthy, loaded with carbs and "bad" fats. However, you can alter the conventional perception of the dish by upgrading, eliminating, and adding certain ingredients. Using whole grain pasta and healthy fat as a foundation, you can add tomatoes, bell peppers, arugula, and chickpeas to the salad for flavor and crunch. The upgraded salad will be much healthier than the pasta salads you're used to.

Why Intuitive Eating Might Not Work for You

Intuitive eating is one of those weight-loss fads people swear by, but is it actually effective? Like so many weight loss methods floating around out there, it may work for you or it may not. I know, that’s so noncommittal. But let me explain.

Intuitive eating isn’t a diet. It’s a method of eating that gives its users a great degree of freedom of what and how much they eat. Some people experience success with intuitive eating and are able to use the technique to lose excess weight. But unfortunately, not everyone responds well to this dietary strategy. In fact, it can cause some people to gain even more weight!

So how can you tell if intuitive eating is a good strategy for you to try, or if it will cause you to fall back even further on your weight-loss journey? While you won’t know for sure unless you try it, here are a few indications that intuitive eating might not work for you (even if it worked for your sister, best friend, or cousin Harry).

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Understanding How Intuitive Eating Works

Before we dive into the pros and cons of intuitive eating, let’s review what it is and what it isn’t, shall we? Intuitive eating is a pretty simple idea, and its main principles were developed in 1995 by two dietitians (Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch).

The main idea behind this type of eating is to come to peaceful terms with all different types of foods. You’re not supposed to refer to any foods as bad or off-limits when you adopt this way of eating. Instead, you do the following:

  • Listen to your body and consume what feels right in the moment

  • Eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re full

  • Select foods that make your mind and body feel good while satisfying your health needs

  • Respect your emotions and seek treatment for them instead of engaging in emotional eating

Some people may lose weight with this eating strategy, but many others may not. Here are a few indications you may not want to try intuitive eating.

Indications Intuitive Eating May Not Be Right for You

Here are a few indications that intuitive eating may not work for your situation:

  • You have certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Consult with your doctor to see if there are certain foods you should add or cut out of your diet completely.

  • You don’t know how to recognize your body’s hunger or satiety signals. Eating intuitively sounds great in theory, but what if you don’t trust your body’s intuition? For some people, counting calories is a more reliable way to avoid overeating (or undereating).

  • You have a hard time losing weight. If you already struggle to lose weight, you may plateau or even gain weight by eating intuitively. Some people have higher ghrelin levels than others (that’s the hormone that triggers hunger), and they’re more likely to gain weight if they always eat until they’re full. For people like this, tracking calorie and macro intakes is essential for weight-loss success.

  • You’re addicted to sugar. Yes, science shows that it’s possible to become addicted to sugar. And if you follow the intuitive eating mindset, you can eat sugar if you really want it. As you can imagine, this can lead to over-indulgence for people whose relationship with sugar is out of control. It’s generally best to stay away from sugar or severely limit it in your diet rather than allow yourself to eat it “intuitively.”

So there you have it. If any of the above bullet points sound like you, intuitive eating may be something you want to skip (especially if you are trying to lose weight).

The 3 Best and Worst Drinks for Weight Loss

Have you ever had someone tell you “don’t drink your calories”? I know I have. It can get a little annoying because I like to enjoy my beverages without judgment. But I did decide to see what all the commotion is about and check out the nutrition and calorie content in some of my favorite drinks. What I discovered surprised me, so I decided to share my knowledge with you.

If you’re trying to lose weight, some drinks can derail your progress (or at least slow it down significantly). But other drinks can actually help you reach your weight loss goals! The key is being able to differentiate between them. Now that I’ve got your undivided attention, here are the three best and the three worst drinks for weight loss.

DO Drink These!

Ready for the list of top beverages that can help you reach your weight loss goals? Here you go!

1. Water

Before you get disappointed by the first beverage on the list, I promise you that water doesn’t have to be bland. I have a few great tips for making plain old H2O much more appealing. They include:

  • Pour your water into a fun, brightly-colored bottle (yes, this really can make it more fun to drink!)

  • Drink your water with ice to help you feel refreshed and hydrated.

  • Put slices of lemons, cucumbers, strawberries, and any other type of favorite fruit into your water. This lends a subtle flavor to the beverage and looks pretty, too!

  • Squeeze some water-flavoring products into your water bottle each day.

Water has zero calories and it hydrates your body, so it deserves its spot as the #1 best drink for weight loss.

2. Green Tea

Green tea is practically bursting with antioxidants and other nutrients. It’s also been shown in studies to decrease both body fat and body weight. Those are both causes we can stand behind! In addition to antioxidants, green tea also contains caffeine, which helps boost energy and exercise performance.

3. Ginger Tea

Did you know ginger tea can potentially reduce your appetite while helping you expend more calories? According to one study involving 10 overweight men, ginger tea consumption increases satiety and decreases hunger.  

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DON’T Drink These!

Now that you know what drinks are great choices for losing a few extra pounds, let’s talk about the three worst drinks for your weight loss journey.

1. Soda

You can’t say you’re particularly surprised about this one, can you? Soda has no redeeming qualities, and it can actually harm your health in the long run. Every time you choose to indulge in soda (whether it’s a regular or sugar-free variety), you’re pumping your body full of artificial flavorings and colorings. Soda is also acidic, which can negatively impact your gut microbiome and make it more difficult for you to lose weight.

2. Energy Drinks

While some caffeine has been shown to aid in weight loss, too much caffeine can stress your body and cause a wide variety of health problems (such as nausea, nervousness, and increased blood pressure). When you’re not feeling good, you’re less likely to exercise and take care of your body. So it’s best to consume caffeine in moderation (400 mg or less is ideal for most people).

3. Specialty Coffees

A simple cup of coffee won’t derail your weight loss goals. In fact, it may help you reach them. But stay away from specialty coffees! A 12-ounce cafe mocha, though delicious, contains nearly 300 calories! Compare that to a simple cup of black coffee, which contains just three calories.

How did you do with the above lists? Do you drink primarily the beverages in the “DON’T drink” category or the “DO drink” category? The great news is that you can change your habits today to optimize your weight loss journey by indulging in drinks that can help you reach your goal.

These Are My 4 Favorite Milk Alternatives

Cow’s milk is rich in nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, magnesium and amino acids, or protein. If you're planning on switching to a milk alternative, you need to fill those nutritional needs. Which are the best milk substitutes?

1. Soy Milk: Super-Nutritious, Mild but Weird

Soy milk is a nutrient superfood, which makes it one of the best milk alternatives for your health. It has almost the same amount of protein that cow’s milk does, a filling 7 grams per cup. This protein contains all the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own, which is why vegetarians and vegans benefit a lot from drinking soy milk.

There’s only one tiny catch, at least for me: the taste. I’m not a huge fan of the flavor of soy milk or tofu (another high-protein food made from soy).

What I would recommend is to start yourself off eating soy yogurt. After you get used to the texture and flavor, mix soy milk with fresh fruit and enjoy a nutrient-packed morning smoothie.

2. Almond Milk: Thick, Creamy, and Delicious

Personally, I could drink almond milk all day long. It has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and an amazing texture. Imagine drinking a creamy glass of whole milk, but way better for your waistline.

This is my go-to option for recipes that call for milk, such as baked goods or creamy Italian dishes. I also love it with coffee because it’s like having a shot of amaretto and cream.

Any downsides? It's low in protein. So, while almond milk is an excellent replacement for cow’s milk flavor-wise and calorie-wise, it doesn’t fill your protein needs completely.

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3. Coconut Milk: Sweet, Great for Weight Loss, But High in Fat?

If you haven’t tried coconut milk yet, trust me, go out and buy yourself a carton. This sweet treat will put a big smile on your face.

But is it healthy? Yes and no. This tropical drink gives you lots of vitamin D, vitamin B12 and other nutrients. But it also has the same amount of fat as whole milk.

The interesting thing is that some scientists think the type of fat in coconut milk and coconut oil can actually help you lose weight. These MCTs help your metabolism burn fat instead of storing it. They may also calm your appetite and improve your cholesterol levels.

4. Macadamia Milk: All-Around Amazing but Expensive

This rising superstar would be my favorite milk alternative … if it wasn’t so darned expensive in the stores near me. Macadamia milk has it all: great flavor, lots of protein, a smooth texture and few calories.

As long as you choose a fortified version, you’re getting magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin B6. Plus, this creamy nut milk has omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids too, which are amazing for heart health. Macadamia milk is low in carbs, making it ideal for keto dieters.

All in all, with half the fat of cow’s milk, one-third the calories and the same amount of protein, this nutty milk is a homerun for parents and kids. Just maybe not for your wallet.

The Best Alternative Milk for Your Family

Honestly, no one said you had to choose just one. Try a few kinds and settle on the ones that fit your lifestyle. It’s OK to use some for coffee, some for cooking, some for smoothies and some for drinking happily.

Ranking Salad Dressings From Most Healthy to Least Healthy

There's nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy a variety of salad dressings. These days, you have a lot of options for giving salads a kick of flavor. What are the best healthy salad dressings?

The Healthiest Salad Dressings

These are my favorite dressings, and they won't add to your waistline:

  1. Vinaigrette: These dressings are full of flavor and focus on a few simple ingredients. What I love is the endless variety. You can go for balsamic vinegar, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar — even strawberries! And with basil, cilantro and other herbs, all I can say is “yum.”
  2. Green Goddess: It’s easy to find green goddess dressing made with a base of Greek yogurt. This gives you the creaminess you crave without the fat. Along with probiotics from the yogurt, you’re getting lots of vitamins from olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and green onions.
  3. Greek or Mediterranean Dressings: Think creamy Italian dressing, minus the cream. Many Greek dressings use avocado oil and extra-virgin olive oil for thickness. Both of these oils give you lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidant vitamins.
  4. Sesame Ginger: My kids love Asian-style dressings, and I think they spice up meals at home. Look for real garlic, ginger and rice wine vinegar in the ingredients, and try to keep sugar down with nut butter.
  5. Honey Dijon: Both Dijon mustard and honey make dressings thicker and smoother naturally. If you’re adding a salad to a meat-and-potatoes meal, try this dressing. The reason it's near the bottom is that you have to keep an eye on sugar and calories with store-bought versions.

The Least Healthy Salad Dressings

Basically, anything with the word “creamy” in its name is going to shock you into falling backwards when you look at the fat content and calories. This includes blue cheese, Caesar dressing, thousand island, French and (sigh) everyone’s favorite ranch dressing.

Now the good news. You can find reasonably healthy alternatives to each. Some replace mayo with avocado oil, coconut milk or Greek yogurt. Others go big on flavor from high-quality ingredients (like more blue cheese) to reduce the amount of other ingredients. Herbs and spices such as chipotle, jalapenos, basil, dill, parsley and chives add a boost of flavor all by themselves.

The Benefits of Homemade Salad Dressings

Homemade dressings offer a lot of benefits:

  • You control salt and sugar levels
  • Non-refined, natural oils give you more heart benefits than many store-bought dressings
  • Fresh ingredients provide more vitamins and minerals
  • Homemade dressings offer more flavor with less fat
  • Dressing you make at home doesn’t have any preservatives

That said, as a mom, it’s not always easy to find the time. Don't feel guilty if organic from the store is the best you can do.

A Sensible View of Dressings

I like to take a balanced view of mom-hood and weight loss. Focusing too strictly on every calorie can make healthy eating a chore. Isn’t encouraging your family to eat more salad a good thing?

It keeps you and your kids munching on fresh ingredients: romaine lettuce, arugula, alfalfa sprouts, carrots, tomatoes, yellow peppers and avocados. That's WAY better kids begging for pizza every night because they're tired of plain vinaigrette with every salad.

More salad + healthy dressing options = more omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and more! That’s a win in my book. So, don't punish yourself if you buy (gasp!) the tiniest bottle of (double gasp!) Ranch dressing sometimes.

5 Reasons Why Fiber Is So Important

I like to think I know the basics of good health. But periodically, I learn some new health fact that catches me by surprise. The importance of fiber is one of those health facts I didn’t really grasp until recently. Sure, I’ve always known fiber is an important part of a healthy diet, but I didn’t realize just how necessary it is for optimal health and digestive function. Here are five reasons why fiber is so important for all of us to consume regularly.

1. Helps Control Blood Sugar

If you struggle to keep your blood sugar under control, eating fiber may help. It’s especially helpful for people with diabetes to consume sufficient soluble fiber to slow down their body’s absorption of sugar. For those of us who don’t have diabetes, eating insoluble fiber may help us avoid developing it.

2. Promotes Normal Bowel Movements

Nobody likes to talk about their bowel movements (unless you’re my over-sharing Aunt Kathy), but how often you go is really important. The consistency of your poop is also really important. If it’s consistently runny, adding some fiber to your diet can give it a little bulk so you’re more regular and can pass your stools more easily.

Whew. Now that we got that topic over with, let’s move on to the next reason why fiber’s so important!

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3. May Decrease the Likelihood of Hemorrhoids

OK, so going from bowel movements to hemorrhoids isn’t exactly a step up. But it’s important to talk about how fiber can potentially help us avoid developing hemorrhoids. That reason alone is good enough for me to increase my daily intake of fiber!

In addition to decreasing your likelihood of getting hemorrhoids, studies show that a high-fiber diet may also lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Research is still being done to understand exactly how fiber helps prevent colorectal cancer, but it’s thought that it has something to do with how fiber ferments in the colon.

4. Assists With Healthy Weight Maintenance

It’s generally easy to put weight on, but difficult to take it off (unless you’re someone who can’t seem to gain weight no matter how hard you try). When you’re trying to let go of a few extra pounds, you probably think about exercising, cutting out sugary foods and drinks, and eating healthier. But if you’re neglecting to eat sufficient fiber, you could be making your weight-loss journey more difficult than it needs to be.

High-fiber foods are typically more filling than foods with little to no fiber. That means the more high-fiber foods you eat, the easier it will be for you to manage your appetite and keep your weight in check. Additionally, foods high in fiber typically require more chewing, which means you’re expending more calories to eat them.

5. Reduces the Risk of Some Diseases

One of the most surprising things I have learned about fiber is that it may reduce your risk of developing some diseases. According to studies, there is a link between increased dietary fiber intake and reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. So if you have a family history of cancer, make sure you add fiber to your daily healthy eating plan!

Though fiber has a lot of great benefits, it’s possible to eat too much of it. If you feel like your fiber intake is clogging you up and messing with your regularity, it may be time to cut back a little bit. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men aged 50 or younger consume 38 grams of fiber daily. Women aged 50 0r younger should aim to consume 25 grams of fiber per day.

Some good sources of fiber include vegetables, seeds, nuts, fruits, whole-grain products and legumes. Figure out how to incorporate these foods into your daily meals and you’ll start reaping the benefits of a high-fiber diet.

My Go-To Natural Sugar Substitutes

I may not have the body of a goddess, but I do like showing off some pleasant curves at the beach (just a little). One of the biggest things that has helped me burn way more calories, and that I know can help you, too, is avoiding refined sugar. Of course, ditching table sugar doesn’t mean giving up everything sweet. Try these natural sugar substitutes instead.

1. Fruit

My absolute favorite substitute for sugar is real fruit. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apples, oranges, peaches and pineapples all have a great blend of tart and sweet that makes me smile.

Do you like smoothies for breakfast? You don’t need sugar. Just add a banana, some date paste or applesauce to the blender with the rest of your ingredients. You won’t notice the difference.

Eating fruit gives your body tons of antioxidants and enzymes. They protect your heart, balance blood sugar levels, give you more energy, fight inflammation, improve digestion and strengthen your immune system.

Why Not Try This?

Take a handful of raspberries, chop half a banana, and mix it with a serving of Greek yogurt when you're feeling hungry. The burst of protein and nutrients will energize you and tide you over until later. Real fruit, both fresh and frozen, has a lot of dietary fiber, so it calms the munchies like junk food never can.

2. Stevia

This natural sweetener comes from South America. Stevia is herbal, not artificial, so you don’t have to worry about any weird side effects (those terrible headaches) like with aspartame and saccharin.

The leaves of the stevia plant have been used as sweeteners for at least 500 years. Pressing the leaves provides an extract that is 200 times sweeter than sugar. But it has ZERO calories!

For tea or coffee, stevia is my go-to sweetener. You only need a few drops. For baking, go with stevia powder. Just remember to use less than half the amount you would with refined sugar because it’s so potent.

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3. Honey, Pure Maple Syrup and Organic Molasses

Honey is a true superfood. It has special prebiotics that benefit your gut flora, plus lots of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins for your heart and eye health. Honey has been famous for its healing powers since the times of ancient Egypt!

Personally, I adore the taste of honey, which is why I usually prefer it over maple syrup or molasses. But all three of these thick liquids are good sugar substitutes with important nutrients. Of course, they’re also high in calories, so you have to be careful with how much you use if you want to lose weight.

I love to make oatmeal with rolled oats and drizzle a tablespoon of honey on top with a dash of milk. Instead of marinades with brown sugar, use organic molasses.

What About Monk Fruit Extract?

This exotic sweetener is natural, tasty and filled with nutrients. Monk fruit extract doesn’t have any calories, so it’s good for weight loss programs. Unfortunately, where I live, it’s also really expensive. If you can afford it, definitely try it!

Sugar Free Living Isn’t That Complicated

It’s OK to enjoy honey, stevia and fruit whenever you want during the week. To be honest, I find making sweet things for breakfast, like homemade muffins, granola or pancakes, is easier for me as a mom. For supper time, chicken (honey-lemon chicken anyone?) and pork recipes work great with honey instead of sugar. You don't need refined sugar.

How and Why To Try Hot Yoga at Home

Hot yoga is the “hot” new workout trend that offers a wide variety of benefits. If you think the idea of doing yoga in a hot and sweaty environment sounds like torture, you’re in for a treat! While it’s true that yoga isn’t “hot” unless it’s done in a humid and warm environment, it’s a much more enjoyable practice than you’re probably imagining in your head. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here’s how and why to try hot yoga in your own home this week.

Understanding the Point of Hot Yoga

I have to admit, I used to look that people who did hot yoga were a little crazy. Why in the world would you choose to exert your body in an environment that forces you to release as much sweat as possible? But now that I’ve learned more about it, I’ve come to understand the point of this unconventional form of exercise.

Hot yoga offers the same benefits as traditional yoga (you know, the standard benefits like improved strength, stress reduction and flexibility), but it also gives you an even more intense workout in less time. So if you don’t have an hour to spend on a typical yoga routine, you can spend half an hour doing hot yoga and get the same benefits! Plus, the humid environment a hot yoga session provides is meant to replicate the humid natural environment found in India, where yoga originated. So you get a more authentic experience from doing hot yoga than from doing traditional yoga in an air-conditioned environment. Just make sure you drink lots of water before you get your sweat on!

Benefits of Hot Yoga

Now that I’ve got you thinking hot yoga may not be so bad, here’s a list of some of the impressive benefits the practice can provide.

  • Increased calorie burn

  • Improved flexibility

  • Reduced stress

  • Improved mood

  • Boost in cardiovascular health

  • Improved bone density

  • Decreased blood glucose levels

Now keep in mind that in order to maximize these benefits and stay safe during your hot yoga session, you need to stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after your hot yoga session. You may also want to guzzle a low-calorie sports drink to restore your body’s electrolyte balance.

If you’re pregnant, don’t do hot yoga unless you’ve been given the green light from your doctor. And if you have certain health conditions, such as low blood sugar, heart disease, anorexia or a history of fainting, hot yoga may be too intense for you.

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How to Start Hot Yoga at Home

While prepping your space for a hot yoga session requires a little effort, it’s worth it if you don’t have a gym membership or don’t have time to go to an official hot yoga class. Here’s how to set up any room in your home for hot yoga.

  1. Designate one room in your home for you hot yoga session, and close the doors and windows.

  2. Put a small space heater in the room to bring the space to your desired temperature.

  3. Consider adding extra layers if the space heater isn’t getting the room warm enough for your liking.

  4. Bring in a humidifier and steam things up!

  5. Have a water bottle on-hand at all times.

  6. Complete your planned yoga session, making sure to take frequent water breaks throughout.

  7. If you need help coming up with your own hot yoga workout routine, look online or find a favorite workout on YouTube. You can also make things more fun by inviting a friend to come work out with you.

Hot yoga isn’t for everyone. But for those who like a challenging workout that delivers maximum benefits in minimal time, it’s a must-do routine to work into your weekly schedule. Give it a try this week to see if you’ll fall in love with it like I did!