Day 15 of the Healthy Steps No Added Sweetener Challenge

Two weeks down, one to go! You’re almost there!

Sweetened beverages are one of the major sources of added sweeteners in America. Did you know that, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (1), Americans drink about 45 gallons of sugar-sweetened beverages per year? Sugary drinks account for almost half of all added sugars consumed in the American diet. A typical 20-ounce bottle of soda contains nearly 15 teaspoons of sugar!! And many people switch away from sugar-sweetened beverages to beverages sweetened with non-caloric sweeteners, like diet soda. (Remind yourself why you should limit your intake of non-caloric sweeteners here.)

So what exactly should you drink if you’re trying to avoid added sweeteners? Here are some of our favorite ‘no added sweetener’ beverages:

  • Purified Water (always the best!)
  • Herbal Tea, from tea bags (hot or iced)
  • Sparkling Water (flavored is ok, but check the ingredient list: things like carbonated water and natural flavor are allowed, but look out for sweeteners like Sucralose, aspartame, or acesulfame K).
  • Homemade Fruit-Infused Water: float slices of lemon, lime, orange, strawberries, cucumber, whole raspberries, or chopped mint in a big pitcher of filtered water and leave in your fridge. Every time you drink some, you’ll taste a hint of whatever you’ve infused.
  • Green Tea, from tea bags (hot or iced; limit to 2 servings caffeinated beverages per day)
  • Coffee (add a splash of milk if you like, but avoid all those other additives; limit to 2 servings caffeinated beverages per day)
  • Milk, unsweetened (cow, almond, soy, coconut, hemp, etc…just UNSWEETENED!)
  • Vegetable juice (made with no fruit; be aware of the sodium content)
  • Wine, dry, red or white (if you consume alcohol, limit to 4 small servings per week; avoid most cocktails, dessert wine and champagne due to sugar content)

A good goal is to consume at least 64 ounces of fluid per day (don’t count caffeinated or alcoholic beverages toward your fluid ounces). Try some of the above out if you’re getting bored and craving some of your old sweetened beverages again.

Keep up the great work!

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN



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Day 11 of the Healthy Steps No Added Sweeteners Challenge

You’re well into your second week without added sweeteners now! How is your motivation going?  If you need a little boost, consider spending a few minutes listing your core values. Research shows that doing this can greatly increase long-term motivation to change behavior. Recently, research has shown that individuals that clarify and focus on their core values lose more weight than those who do not. (1)

So what are core values and how can they help with your motivation? Core values are those qualities that you hold as precious and supremely important. Examples of core values include growth, happiness, authenticity, independence, security, family, honesty, kindness, self-respect, achievement, etc. Once you create a list of the values that define you (try to stick to a handful of “Highest Priority” values), then you can use those values to help with your motivation. Here’s how: see if you can find a connection between the behavior you are working on (for us, it’s limiting added sweeteners, but you can use this technique to support any behavior change) and one of your top 5 core values. For instance, if I chose family as one of my core values, I might realize that my children might naturally eat less added sweeteners if I limit my own consumption. Given that the average American child under age 12 eats 49 pounds of sugar per year (!!!), raising their risk of obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease, I can definitely feel that this one behavior change could make a huge difference in the quality of life of my family. Since I’ve now mentally connected my behavior (limiting added sweeteners) with my core value of family, I am much more likely to stick with it when the going gets tough. See how that connection thing works?

Now that you understand how to use your core values to motivate yourself, start making your connections today. If you’d like support identifying your core values or making connections between them your health behaviors, give us a call to schedule an appointment today!

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN



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Day 8 of the Healthy Steps No Added Sweetener Challenge

You’ve survived a whole week without added sugars! Congratulations! Here’s some more motivation to keep you going:
The mot prevalent types of added sugar Americans consume contain two monosaccharides, glucose and fructose. It’s useful to understand the physiologic response of the body to each.
When you eat a food prepared with added sugars, the physiologic response starts with the first bite of food in your mouth. Taste receptors stimulated by intense sweetness signal the reward center of the brain, which releases pleasure neurotransmitters like dopamine via the mesolimbic pathway. The more frequently you consume added sugars, the less dopamine you get in response (this is known as “tolerance” in the addiction model), meaning you need more sugar to get the same amount of pleasure. And there are a few other similarities to the addiction model…the more added sugar you eat, the more you’ll crave it and the less you’ll feel able to resist it, partly in response to serotonin depletion. (1)
Once you swallow, those added sugars will move to your stomach and then to your intestine, where they will be absorbed into the blood stream as glucose and fructose. Glucose does not need any processing and will raise your blood sugars immediately. The body then releases insulin to help normalize blood sugars. Insulin lowers blood sugars by moving the glucose into cells and glycogen stores as needed, and then moving the rest into fat cells for storage. If blood sugar levels spike (as they can be if you ate a large portion of added sugars), then insulin levels will spike too. Too much insulin often leads to low blood sugar levels within the first 2 hours after eating, which turns on the hunger cue. This means you eat lots of calories, store much of them as fat, but end up quickly ravenous and need to eat even more calories…leading to weight gain and obesity.
Another important thing you should know about insulin: it prevents us from accessing and using the energy stored in our fat cells. The more hours of the day that your insulin levels are HIGH, the less hours of the day you can burn your fat stores. So even if you restrict calories overall, if many of the calories you do get come from added sugars, you can’t access the energy in your fat stores. This leads to a slow down in metabolic rate to compensate for the decreased calories INSTEAD of the desired fat loss. Lastly, chronically high insulin levels leads to insulin resistance, which leads to even higher insulin levels in the future. So to sum up, the metabolic impacts of elevated blood glucose include:
  • elevated insulin levels—> fat storage, hunger and increased calorie intake, inability to use existing fat for fuel, insulin resistance
Now what about the fructose that enters your blood stream after eating foods prepared with added sugars? Fructose must be processed in the liver. These are the metabolic impacts of the liver having to process a lot of fructose:
  • decreased circulating leptin (satiety hormone) —> increased portion sizes, overeating (2)
  • elevated triglycerides, lower HDL (good cholesterol) and elevated VLDL —> elevated risk of cardiovascular disease (2)
  • Hepatic De Novo Lipogenesis (the liver makes new fat molecules out of the fructose) (3)
  • Storage of fat in the liver itself —> Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (3)
As you can see, overconsumption of added sugars creates a cascade of negative impacts for your health and weight…but none of that is happening in your body while you’re on the challenge!
For more information on how dietary choices impact your body, call to schedule an appointment today!
Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN
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Day 5 of the Healthy Steps No Added Sugar Challenge

After 5 days of working to cut out added sweeteners to your diet, have you been surprised at how many places sugar is hiding in processed foods? One common culprits that can impact lunchtime is store-bought salad dressing. Of course sweet dressings like Raspberry Vinaigrette or Asian Dressing can be packed with added sugar, but I was surprised to find that sugar was the fourth ingredient in one popular Ranch dressing brand. Ranch isn’t even sweet!! Here are two healthy homemade dressings that are delicious and completely free of added sugars. You can make them over the weekend and enjoy them on your salads all week long!
Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN
Greek Yogurt Ranch (No Added Sugar)

1 cup buttermilk
2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Combine buttermilk and minced garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer gently for 5 minutes (don’t let it boil!). Pour hot buttermilk mixture into a medium bowl and cool in fridge for 30 minutes. Whisk remaining ingredients into cooled buttermilk mixture. Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Raspberry Vinaigrette (No Added Sugar) 

1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries 
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
1/2 cup olive oil 
1/8 teaspoon salt

Blend all ingredients together in a blend. Store in refrigerator for up to 10 days (re-whisk before using).
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Day 3 of the Healthy Steps ‘No Added Sweetener Challenge’

“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” – Hippocrates

If you’ve joined us on our ‘No Added Sweetener Challenge,’ congratulations on going two full days without any added sugar or sugar substitutes! (Remind yourself of which foods to avoid here.) Many people notice a feeling of fatigue the first few days, but it will start to get easier with every passing day from now on. And before you know it you’ll be even more energized than you’re used to. So don’t give up yet!

Here are some tips for when cravings come up:

  • It’s ok to enjoy whole fruit when you’re hungry and craving something sweet. Pair it with a small amount of protein (like a string cheese or some almonds) if you’re using it as a snack, or enjoy it for dessert after a meal.
  • Try unsweetened hot or iced herbal tea, or drink water infused with mint, a citrus wedge or raspberries.
  • If you’re not hungry, treat yourself without using food: give yourself a hand massage with your favorite scented lotion, curl up with a good book, watch a funny YouTube video or call up a friend.

Many people find that accountability makes the difference between success and failure during a period of behavior change. Cutting back on added sweeteners is so beneficial, but it’s hard! Please call us today to schedule an appointment for one-on-one support including a full personalized weight loss meal plan and healthy eating guidance.

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN


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2017 Back on Track – with Sharon McKenzie RN


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Day 1 of the Healthy Steps 21-Day ‘No Added Sweeteners Challenge’

Today’s the day! If you’ve been following our last few posts, you know that today is Day 1 of our No Added Sweetener Challenge. Check out the great benefits of decreasing your intake of sweeteners here and read all about what foods to avoid here.

You may have noticed in last week’s post that we are recommending avoiding not only Sugar but also Sugar Substitutes, even the calorie-free ones. Here’s why.

  1. If you avoid all sweeteners, you can increase your palate’s sensitivity to the subtle sweetness of natural foods like whole fruit, vegetables, and unsweetened dairy. If you continue using sugar substitutes like non-caloric sweeteners, your palate won’t adjust.
  1. All sweeteners stimulate the same area in the brain, which signals your body to prepare for carbohydrate (i.e., release insulin). Stimulating this area of the brain—whether from sugar or non-caloric sweeteners—has been linked in studies to increased appetite and cravings later in the day.
  1. When your body prepares for energy (as carbohydrates) but doesn’t get any (as in non-caloric sweeteners), things can get a little wiggy. Research indicates consumption of non-caloric sweeteners on a regular basis weakens hunger and satiety signaling in the body, by decoupling sensory signals from post-ingestive signals. This can mean more overeating later and trouble with portion control.
  1. Artificial Sweetener use has been linked to an INCREASED risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease—just like sugar.
  1. Artificial Sweeteners negatively impact the gut microbiome. Having a healthy balance of the good bacteria (“probiotics”) you should avoid both sugar (which feeds the bad guys) and artificial sweeteners (which harms the good guys)

Now you see why it’s helpful to cut out both added sugars and sugar substitutes during our 21 day ‘No Added Sweetener Challenge’!

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN

Research studies of interest:

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How to Prep for Success

Getting Ready for the 21-Day No Added Sweeteners Challenge

We invite you to join the Healthy Steps 21-Day No Added Sweeteners Challenge, Monday January 9th through the 30th. As part of the challenge, you’ll give up all added sugars and other sweeteners for 21 days (you can do anything for 3 weeks, trust us!). Reread our first blog post on the challenge to remind yourself of all the amazing health benefits you’ll accrue over the next three weeks. By giving up all added sweeteners, you will lose weight, decrease your cravings and lower your risk of chronic disease!

Here are the sweeteners you’ll avoid. During the challenge, don’t add these to your food yourself, and avoid food prepared by others with these, or food products with any of these in the ingredient list:

  • Anything with the word sugar in it (including but not limited to):

Granulated Sugar

Powdered Sugar

Brown Sugar

Coconut Sugar

Date Sugar

Beet Sugar

Turbinado Sugar

Raw Sugar

  • Anything with an -ose ending (including but not limited to):






  • Other sweeteners, including but not limited to:

Evaporated/Dehydrated Cane Juice

Agave Nectar


Maple Syrup


Fruit Juice

Fruit Juice Concentrate

Barley Malt

Corn Syrup

                       High Fructose Corn Syrup

  • Sugar Alcohols, including but not limited to:






  • Non-caloric sweeteners, including but not limited to:

Aspartame (ie, Equal)


Sucralose (ie, Splenda)

Saccharin (ie, Sweet n’low)

Acesulfame-K/Acesulfame potassium (ie, Sunett)

Stevia, Stevia Leaf Extract (ie, Truvia)

Monk Fruit Extract

The challenge starts next Monday, January 9th. Take some time this weekend to clear out all the foods in your pantry and refrigerator that you’ll be avoiding during the challenge. It’s super important to have an environment free of temptations, especially during the first week. See if you can get a friend or coworker to join too, so you’ll have some added support. In addition to getting the sweetened foods out, spend an hour or two this weekend getting some unsweetened foods ready, so you’ll have them on hand when needed. For instance, many modern American breakfasts are loaded with sugar, so why not whip up our No-Sugar-Added High-Protein Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal so you’ll have something warm and satisfying to start the challenge off right?

Make-Ahead High Protein Oatmeal

1 cup uncooked organic steel cut oats

Cook the oats per package instructions. After the oats are fully cooked, remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pot for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then mix in: 

1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce

1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

4 scoops unflavored whey protein powder

Divide into four portions and refrigerate. They will look a little thin, but will thicken overnight. Store in the fridge up to five days. Eat cold or reheat in the microwave. 

Note- If you’re really missing sweetness (maybe on day one and two) you can add 1 TBSP of raisins after reheating. Over time you’re palate will become more sensitive to subtle sweetness and you can cut out the raisins. 

Want even more advice, recipes and support for healthy weight loss? Call to schedule an appointment with one of our Registered Dietitians or Nutritionists today!


Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN


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Join the Healthy Steps 21-Day ‘No Added Sweeteners Challenge!’

Most of us start the New Year full of inspiration to lose weight and improve our health. One of the absolute best things you can do to that end is cut back on your intake of added sugars and sweeteners. Take a look at this list of benefits identified by research on sugar consumption:

  • Lose Weight (1)
  • Decrease Cravings (2, 3)
  • Lower Insulin Resistance (4)
  • Improve Blood Pressure (5)
  • Improve Cholesterol Levels (6)
  • Lower Triglycerides (6)
  • Decrease Risk of Diabetes (7,8)
  • Decrease Risk of Alzheimers and Dementia (9, 10)
  • Decrease Risk of Heart Attack (11)
  • Decrease Risk of Depression and Anxiety (12)
  • Decrease Risk of Certain Cancers (13, 14, 15)
  • Decrease Risk of Fatty Liver Disease (16, 17)
  • Protect Youthful Skin (Less Wrinkles) (18)
  • Protect Teeth (19)
  • Protect Sleep Quality (20)

Most of us know sugar and other sweeteners aren’t good for us, but it can be overwhelming to know how to get started. We here at Healthy Steps want to support your efforts! We’ll help you get prepared for 21 days of No Added Sweeteners leading up to Day 1 on January 9th, and then provide inspiration, tips and recipes often during the three-week challenge. Our next post will describe which foods to avoid during the challenge, and how to get ready to start. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you don’t miss out, or call us to schedule a one-on-one appointment for added support and accountability.

Lindsay Pasdera, MS RDN

Links to Research Studies: 

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Closed for the Holidays


As this year draws to a close we can’t help but reflect back on all the success stories of our patients in 2016. We are so proud of each and every one of you as you strive toward a healthier you. We are touched by your motivations: to play with your kids on the floor, to fly in an airplane comfortably, to be able to walk without pain, to get of medications, and the list goes on. We are so blessed that you have chosen us to help you through your personal journey and see to it that you reach your goals.


As staff, we love our job for we are daily affirmed by your progress to get back the life you always dreamed of. Your smiling face of accomplishment that you lost weight since the last time we saw you is our greatest joy. And as for those difficult visits that are of heartache and pain where we are the one to console you, that too is our pleasure in seeing you through that bump in the road and back on that path to victory.

We care deeply for each of you and can’t wait for what 2017 will bring; more success stories, new faces and much progress of those who have lost weight and continue in that trajectory with us.

Cheers to YOU and the New Year!

-Healthy Steps Staff



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