Monday, August 31, 2009

Stevia is my new best friend

Even though I haven't mentioned it in a while, I'm still on my low-carb diet. I started off all gung-ho in January, then a trip to Mardi Gras in February threw me off track for several months. I picked it back up seriously in mid-June, after another trip to New Orleans. It is really hard to not eat carbs in New Orleans - I miss the food so much and just about everything is fried or on a piece of french bread, or both. And the New Orleans Original Daiquiris is probably the worst offender - a great big styrofoam cup full of sugar-y alcohol laden goodness. Luckily when I went back in August, I was determined to stay carb free and passed up all of my favorites (mostly). Sugar-free snoballs were my worst vice.

I've given up diet soda, too. The carbonation, the coloring, the caffeine, the artificial sweetener. I just figured it wasn't doing me any favors. I was drinking mostly water with a little bit of Crystal Light thrown in for some variety. But this week, I decided to start making Green Tea Iced Tea - and. Green Tea is all the rage - Lipton, Snapple, all the big guys are making green tea - either with unsweetened or sweetened with sugar or fake sugar. As a southern girl, you know I need my tea sweet.

Some time ago I read about Stevia - a natural herb sweetener that was not readily available in the US, but had been around for hundreds of years. You could buy it at specialty stores and it was marked as a "food additive" rather than a sweetener (something to do with the FDA and sugar lobby, so I've read). Only recently has the FDA approved it.

Trader Joe's carries stevia in several forms - packets, powder, pills and liquid. Each form has a different strength so be sure to read the package and find out how much you need - probably a lot less than regular sugar. Stevia has no calories and no carbs. The packets (which are a mixture of stevia and a neutral powder) were fine for a while when I was putting them in a cup of tea, but now that I've moved on to quarts of iced tea, I bought the full strength powder. It comes with a teeny tiny scoop. The green tea iced tea is so refreshing - I really wish I would have had it all summer. I know most people know how to make iced tea, but I had to fool with the recipe a bit to get it the strength I like (which is pretty strong and average sweet). Here it is:

Bring one quart of water almost to a boil. Turn off heat. Add 6 green tea bags and steep for five minutes. Add 7 (teeny tiny) scoops or 6 packets of stevia. Stir well and pour into two quart pitcher. Add one quart cold water and stir well.

I've got lots more to say about stevia, but I will save that for another day. :)


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