Natural Sweeteners for Recipes, Plus Drink Creations Galore!

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Hi Hungry Girl,

A lot of your recipes call for no-calorie sweetener packets. I don't like to use artificial sweeteners. What do you recommend?

All-Natural in Nebraska

Hi All-Natural in Nebraska,

Good news... There are MANY no-calorie sweetener packets that are completely natural. The most commonly found ones are made from stevia. Stevia, if you don't know, is a plant-based sweetener that's used in everything from low-cal drinks (like Vitaminwater Zero and Trop50) to yogurt snacks (like YoCrunch 100 Calorie Packs). Lots of brands make packets with stevia, but my favorites are Truvia, Pure Via, and Stevia In The Raw. An up-and-coming natural sweetener is monk fruit. This stuff is used by brands we love (Kashi, So Delicious, and more) to bring down the sugar count in their products. Nectresse is a sweetener product made with monk fruit, and the packets work perfectly (and taste great!) in HG recipes. It's from the makers of Splenda but does NOT contain Splenda or any artificial sweetener. And the folks behind Stevia In The Raw recently launched Monk Fruit In The Raw! Look for all of these natural no-calorie products in the supermarket with the other sweetener packets -- they're typically in green or orange packaging.

If you want to use straight-up sugar, know this: It takes two packets (or 2 tsp.) of sugar to equal the sweetness in one packet of the no-calorie stuff. Using this amount of sugar instead of a no-calorie sweetener packet will add about 30 calories and 8g of sugar to any recipe.

By the way, if you're looking for an alternative to Splenda Granulated No Calorie Sweetener (the kind used in baking), there are some natural no-calorie options. Just look for ones that measure cup for cup like sugar -- the version by Stevia In The Raw works. Real sugar, BTW, has nearly 800 calories per cup, compared to the 100 or so in a cup of Splenda. (Yup, there are calories in each serving of Splenda, but less than five.) These days, HG recipes typically include the nutritional info if made with sugar in place of Splenda, and vice versa, so you can decide what works for you!

Hope this info frees you up to try the HG recipes you've been missing out on!

Dear HG,

I'm always looking for fun new drinks without very many calories. You've had some amazing recipes over the years! Would you ever consider doing a cookbook of all of your beverage recipes?

Thirsty for More

Hi Thirsty,

Great question! There's a lot of emphasis here at the HG HQ on food (in general, we'd much rather eat our calories than sip 'em!), but that doesn't mean we've forgotten about beverages...

If you're of the legal drinking age, we do have an ENTIRE book of cocktails for you. Hungry Girl Happy Hour is packed with guilt-free recipes -- from martinis and frozen blended beverages to fun pitcher drinks and even pudding shots! If you avoid alcohol or are underage, you can make virgin versions of the recipes in that book. Yay!

While there's no HG book of only nonalcoholic beverages out there (or in the works), check out these drink-packed chapters... In the first HG cookbook, Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World (a.k.a. the one with the green cover), there's the "Zappuccino" chapter, full of coffee-shop swaps! Then there's the "Shivering Sips" chapter of Hungry Girl 200 Under 200. And Hungry Girl 1-2-3 has "Things That Go Blend"!

Love shakes 'n smoothies? Who cares if it's winter?! These freezy drinks RULE. Try the Cookie-rific Ice Cream Freeze, Just-2-Good Gingersnap Shake, Simply Red Velvet Shake, Pumpkin Pie Smoothie, Banana-Berry Cloud, Happy Birthday Cake Shake, PBCG Shake (that's Peanut Butter Candy Goodness!), Happy Monkey Banana Pudding Shake, Dan-Good Coconut-Berry Smoothie, and Tropical A.M. Smoothie. YUM!!!

I also love giving guilt-free makeovers to decadent blended coffee drinks! Case in point? The now-famous Mocha-Happy Frappé, Oh-So-Mocha-Coco Swappuccino, Cara-mellow Coffee Freeze, Vanillalicious Cafe Freeze, Raspberry Mocha Madness Swappuccino, and Green Tea Crème Swappuccino.

Crazy about indulgent hot sippers like cocoa and steamy coffee drinks? Click here for a mini recipe roundup!

And here are some super-low-calorie sips... Each of these has less than 60 calories! This berry-infused lemonade swap is the perfect balance of sweet 'n tart. Our Mr. Tea Iced Chai Latte has just 40 calories. This Freakishly Good Frozen Hot Chocolate is EXACTLY as good as it sounds. Then there's the ever-popular Pulpy Pineapple Arnold Palmer and Fizzy Virgin Sangria!

There you have it! Consider your thirst officially quenched!

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Today, January 9th, is National Apricot Day. Apricots are awesome, but they're not exactly in season. (Major fail, food-holiday peeps.) Celebrate anyway by slathering some Smucker's Low Sugar Apricot Preserves on a light English muffin... Or use it to make some Fruity & Tangy Cocktail Meatballs!

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