(ARA) -Experts agree: the average American's dietary habits are dismal. On average, we consume 12 percent more calories - an added 300 calories per day - now than we did in 1985, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Added sugar accounts for roughly 23 percent of that increase, the U.S.D.A. estimates.

Awareness of sugar's caloric impact has fueled demands for sweeping reforms - including the recent trend of removing regular soda and sugary fruit juices from school vending machines. For health-conscious consumers looking to cut calories, reducing their sugar consumption can be a good start. Just one level teaspoon of sugar contains about 15 calories.

Unfortunately, concerns over the long-term health impact of non-sugar sweeteners have kept some consumers from replacing the added sugar in their diet with healthier alternatives. "Controlling calorie consumption is critical to weight maintenance," says Chef Stephanie Green, a registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Studios, a nutritional consulting firm. "Erythritol, which is used in the new zero-calorie sweetener Sweet Simplicity, gives Americans an all-natural way to guiltlessly indulge in the foods they love."

Part of the human diet for thousands of years and found in grapes, melons, mushrooms and fermented foods such as wine, soy sauce and cheese, erythritol has been used in foods and beverages in Japan since the late 1980s. It was recently approved for use in both the U.S. and Canada.
Chef Green offers the following tips to lower daily caloric intake with zero-calorie sweeteners that won't compromise taste:

* Homemade salad dressing can pack a lot of calories. Replace the sugar in your secret recipe with an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener.

* When you barbecue, use an all-natural sugar alternative instead of brown sugar in your baked beans or barbecue rub.

* The sugar on the rim of a cocktail  glass can add 15 calories or more. Instead, sweeten your favorite summer cocktail by rubbing a wedge of lemon, lime or orange around the rim of the glass, then dipping the rim onto a plate of all-natural sweetener.

For a natural way to indulge, Chef Green recommends the following recipe:

Pomegranate Peach Spritzer

Makes 4

4 small ripe peaches (about 1/2 pound)
14 packets Sweet Simplicity sweetener
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4cup 100 percent pomegranate juice, chilled
24 ounces club soda, chilled
6 packets Sweet Simplicity sweetener for garnish

1. Wash and peel the peaches. Cut in half, remove the pit and discard.
2. Transfer peaches, 10 packets of Sweet Simplicity sweetener, orange zest, and lemon zest to a food processor or blender and puree for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Pour peach puree into an ice cube tray. Distribute evenly into 12 ice cubes and freeze until hard.
4. Rub the rim of each serving glass with an orange. Turn the glass upside down; dip the moist rim onto a plate of Sweet Simplicity sweetener for garnish.
5. To each glass add 1 packet of Sweet Simplicity, 1 tablespoon of pomegranate juice, 3 peach ice cubes and 6 ounces of club soda.

Nutritional Analysis Per serving:

Calories: 35
Fat: 0
Sodium: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 29 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Fiber: 1 gram


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