One of the participants in 21 Days to Permanent Weight Loss asked me a great question, so here it is for all of you:

Cindy says, “My cousin is a professional baker (she bakes all kinds of cakes and sweets). She wants to know if she can bake with STEVIA extracts instead of sugar and is this a really natural type of sugar? What about dark chocolate? Is that OK? I heard it’s full of anti-oxidants.

My answer is that, yes, Stevia is definitely better than sugar.
Stevia is a natural herb, that when high quality Stevia is used very sparingly, it can actually balance blood sugar.

However, in my opinion, ALL sweeteners need to be used with great moderation. I think it’s important to pay attention to whether or not they are a trigger for more hunger. Definitely, pure stevia is better than the alternative.

When using Stevia, please make sure that it’s PURE stevia. That can be tricky as not all manufacturers put every ingredient on the label, and they don’t have to.

I use a very small amount of pure stevia in Slender Cider to take the edge off, but it is a very high quality stevia. Some Stevia products have natural flavors mixed in. Natural Flavors is a synonym for “undisclosed chemicals,” so I would advise her to use stevia with natural flavors with caution.

In my experience, all sweet tastes, including healthy fruits and dried fruit, must be used sparingly when you are a carb/sugar addict (as many of us are). Even if they are “healthy” they can trigger the desire to eat more carbs.

I feel the same about dark chocolate. Of course, many experts tell us that dark chocolate contains essential health properties, and that may be very true. But for people like you and me, we have to be mindful of the bigger effect of eating foods like dark chocolate. You may be able to get away with a little once in awhile, but it’s good to know your own tipping point—the point where you are no longer in control. You may discover that the risk of addiction outweighs any potential health benefits.

So for me, I know that I can have one small healthy, homemade oatmeal cookie (sweetened only with soaked prunes) every day or every other day and there will no emotional trigger for me, especially if the rest of the day, I am eating 80% protein, salad, veggies, healthy fats, etc.

But if I ate more sweet/carb rich snack food, than that, obsessive thinking and desire for more food could creep back in. So each of us needs to discover what that point is for ourselves and what are the “allowable foods” that can be a treat for ourselves, without setting us back, or increasing our taste/desire for harmful foods.

It is a balancing act, but it’s totally doable and extremely rewarding. Using the tools I provide will help this way of life and living in balance with health as your priority become more and more automatic.

Thank you, Cindy, for this excellent question!