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Dear Hungry Girl,

My friend Joanne told me that Splenda actually has calories. This CAN'T be true, can it? And if it IS true, how can they call it a "no-calorie sweetener"?

Sweet Sue
Dear Sweet Sue,

Unfortunately, Joanne is right. Here's the deal. Splenda DOES have calories -- four calories per packet. The reason they can call it a "no-calorie sweetener" is because, according to FDA rules, if something has less than FIVE calories per serving, the label can claim it has ZERO calories. Weird rule, I know, but it is what it is (yet another thing for us to be upset with the FDA about). Soooo... if you use two packets of Splenda (or pretty much ANY "no-calorie" sweetener) in your coffee, you are adding 8 calories to your beverage. If you use the granular version of Splenda for baking and in recipes, you should know that even though the box says "No Calorie Sweetener", it actually has 96 calories (and 24 carbs) per cup. (Heads Up: Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking is a different product altogether, with significantly more calories.) It's a bit of a bummer, but before you get all freaked out, please realize that those numbers are a heck of a lot better than the 770 calories and nearly 200 carbs that a cup of SUGAR has. By the way, in case you were wondering, we DO add the calories from Splenda to our HG recipe nutritionals. One more thing: This is NOT dissimilar to the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spray and nonstick cooking spray Qs I recently tackled, so check those out if you haven't already. Have a good one!

Dear HG,

Now that summer is here, I have dusted off my blender and am ready to make yummy frozen smoothies and coffee drinks. Unfortunately, I dont know what to buy to make them. I'm clueless. Can you please give me a list of your favorite ingredients for making guilt-free frozen beverages?

Dear Smoothie-Lover,

Worry not! I'm a pro when it comes to whipping up guilt-free drinks in the blender. And if you keep some simple ingredients on hand, you can mix and match to your heart's content, and make gazillions of insanely delicious, low-cal icy drinks. Here are 10 things to keep on hand at all times:

1. Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze - With just 40 calories for a full cup, this milk-swap is THE best way to make your coffee drinks and smoothies CREAMY without adding lots of calories.

2. Torani Sugar Free Syrups - There are other sugar-free syrups out there, but Torani makes the BEST ones. All their flavors are fantastic and have zero calories per serving (a full ounce). My favorite fruity ones are Strawberry, Peach, Black Cherry, Mango, and Watermelon. My fave coffee-friendly flavors are Vanilla, White Chocolate, and Almond Roca.

3. Coffee-mate powders in Fat Free and Sugar Free versions - With these, a little goes a long way. In fact, you typically only need to use a TEASPOON of this stuff (not the recommended serving size) to add flavor and creaminess to your beverage. (FYI: A teaspoon of each has around 10 calories and less than a gram of fat.) Just dissolve it in a tiny amount of warm water (an ounce or less) before adding it to the blender.

4. Instant coffee - For coffee drinks, of course!

5. Frozen fruit - Bags of frozen fruit are AWESOME for fruit smoothies! Just be sure to check that there are no added sugars or syrups (which are icky and unnecessary).

6. Splenda or your guilt-free sweetener of choice - Use this to make your drinks taste nice and sweet.

7. Low-calorie or calorie-free fruity powdered drink mixes - Ones by Crystal Light (or any of the other dozens of fruity drink mix brands out there) are GREAT ingredients for frozen fruity drinks. Dissolve 'em in water first, and they can take the place of hi-cal juices as a smoothie mixer.

8. Fat Free Reddi-wip - This is the world's best blended-beverage topper, with just 5 calories per serving!

9. GREAT ice! - Ice is important. Do NOT use lame ice! Pre-crushed frozen water (ice) works best if your blender tends to be lazy. Or you can place cubes in a baggie and smash 'em until they break into smaller pieces -- it makes blending easier and eliminates stress!

10. Bendy straws - They make any drink more fun. Doy!

Good luck -- and have fun!!!

June is National Dairy Month. Click here for our list of guilt-free supermarket must-haves (including awesome dairy finds)!
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