The Stevia “Low Down”

By: Dana Yarn, RDLD

When I meet with clients and we go over their current food logs I typically discover a vice or two.  One of the vices typically involves sugar or artificial sweeteners.  Stevia is my only approved none calorie sweetener, and thank goodness it is becoming more and more mainstream.  We all love some sweetness, but we have to learn how to control our cravings so it does not destroy our health.  If you are new to using stevia or would like to learn more about it, this basic guide will help you source a high-quality stevia product you can feel confident about.

Is Stevia really a plant?

Stevia is an herb that is anywhere from 50 to 450 times sweeter than sugar. It has a long history of use in South America in the treatment of diabetes and reducing blood glucose levels. Stevia is calorie-free, carb-free, sugar-free and does not increase blood sugar.  Home improvement store actually sell the stevia plants.

What do I do with Stevia?

Stevia can be used in cooking and baking and as a sweetener for drinks like tea and coffee. High-quality stevia is a healthy alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. Stevia acts synergistically when used in combination with other sweeteners.

How are the packets or bottles of stevia processed?

There are two different processing methods used to extract the glycosides, which are the sweet compounds, from the stevia leaves. The healthiest and safest process starts with non-GMO stevia leaves and uses only cold water for extraction. Another process of extraction, that is deemed a safe “sweetener” by the FDA, is chemically driven, using acetone, acetonitrile, methanol, ethanol and isopropanol for extraction and oftentimes starts with genetically modified stevia leaves.  Obviously the first method is the more natural way to process stevia leaves, typically the natural processed stevia products can be found on the natural food isle, NOT by the other artificial sweeteners.


There is a growing number of stevia options on the market, however, they are not all the same in quality, taste, bitterness or sweetness. High-quality, non-GMO, pure white, powdered stevia extract, is highly concentrated. As little as 3/4 of a teaspoon has the sweetening power of 1 cup of sugar. Five to seven drops of clear liquid stevia is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar.

What I use

NuNaturals and SweetLeaf are two honest brands that provide stevia products at a high quality level that can be trusted. Both of these companies start with non-GMO stevia leaves and use cold water for extraction.

Tomato Basil Meatball Sliders

Want a different option for the grill this summer?  Try this twist on a meatball sub, cut the portion down and add fresh basil and it is the perfect light summer slider.

Difficulty: Easy
Total Number of Servings- 6-8
Serving Size: 1 slider
Prep: 10 min.
Assembly: 5 min.
Cook: 8 min.
Yields: 6-8 sliders


• 1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
• ½ onion chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 egg
• 1 bunch of fresh basil leaves
• 1 c Organic marinara sauce
• Fresh mozzarella cheese
• 6-8 wheat or gluten free slider buns


Mix ground turkey or beef with egg, garlic and onion and make into 2-3 oz. burger patties. Grill until you reach desired doneness. Top with a thin slice of mozzarella cheese. 1-2 tbsp. marinara sauce and 1-2 fresh basil leaves on a wheat slider bun.

Is Special Kid Food Necessary?

Jodie Parus, RD, LD

There may be times that you want to prepare a special treat for your kids, whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack.

But, rest assured, it is not necessary to prepare something for the adults and then a completely separate “kid friendly” option every time your family gathers around the table.

A study called “The Family Meal Panacea,” from the University of Edinburgh and led by Dr. Valeria Skafida, found that children who eat the same meals as their parents have healthier diets than those who eat special meals designed to cater to their kid palates.

“Eating the same food as parents is the aspect of family meals most strongly linked to better diets in children, highlighting the detrimental effect in the rise of ‘children’s food’.” Unless a child has a serious allergy or medical issue, there is no reason why kids can’t learn to eat the same foods as their parents.

At about 6 months, your baby is ready for some solid foods, alongside their milk or formula (no cow’s milk before 1 year). Rice cereal is often the first food added into a baby’s diet at this point. Soon after, they can also begin trying some cooked and mashed or pureed vegetables and fruits. At the 10-12 month mark your baby can have chopped rather than mashed foods as well as some finger foods. These are general rules of thumb, so be sure to check with your child’s pediatrician to discuss introducing solids according to their specific development.

There are many advantages to feeding your child a home cooked meal and allowing them to enjoy the same foods as you. You will know all of the ingredients that are included and you will have more time to spend together at the table!

Cilantro Lime Cucumber Salad

Light and fresh salad with a little kick!

Difficulty: Easy
Total Number of Servings: 4
Serving Size: 1/2 cup


• 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
• 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
• 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
• black pepper to taste
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 2 cucumbers, very finely sliced
• 2 tablespoons minced cilantro, to taste


1. Dice the jalapeno and garlic and add to a medium-sized bowl.
2. Add 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper. Use a whisk to incorporate the 3 tablespoons olive oil. Set aside.
3. Finely slice the cucumbers (Use a mandolin if you have it). Add the cucumbers to the dressing and stir together.
4. Finely mince the cilantro and add it to the bowl. Stir to combine.

Pineapple Teriyaki Pork Chops


1 ½ c fresh canned pineapple slices
½ cup fresh pineapple juice
¼ cup reduced teriyaki soy sauce
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
¼ tsp ground ginger
4 – 4 oz (boneless center cut) pork chops, trimmed of fat
1 tsp fresh chives, chopped


1.  In a small bowl prepare marinade. Whisk together pineapple juice, teriyaki sauce, honey, rice vinegar and ground ginger.

2.  Place pork chops in a large glass container and cover with marinade. Seal container and place pork chops in fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. If possible, turn bag every hour or so to evenly cover pork chops with marinade.

3.  Remove pork chops from bag. DO NOT DISCARD MARINADE.

4.  In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring marinade to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for 15-17 minutes until sauce thickens, making sure to stir sauce frequently. After sauce has thickened, remove from heat and place in a small dish. You will use this marinade sauce while grilling pork chops and pineapple.

5.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Lightly coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray.

6.  Place pork chops on grill and brush often with marinade sauce while cooking. Cook pork chops on each side for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through.

7.  Delicately add pineapple slices to grill and cook for 1-2 minutes on both sides.

8.  Let pork chops rest for 2-4 minutes before serving.

9.  To serve, place a grilled pineapple slice on top of each pork chop and sprinkle with chives.