Sorting the Sweetness: Sugar, Stevia, or Splenda
When I first became pregnant with my first child, I decided to go out of my way to avoid Nutrasweet (Equal, Aspartame, etc). I had stopped drinking diet drinks prior to becoming pregnant but occasionally ate a yogurt or other product that contained the artificial sweetener. I noticed that each time I ingested the stuff, my head would "close" and I'd have a negative reaction. I got a numb feeling in my head/ears and it would sound as if I was talking inside my head. I didn't want anything that made my body react that way making it into my little one's system just as he was trying to form into a little guy. Today, Splenda has been added to the mix. Much like Nutrasweet, I have this gut feeling that it's been rushed to market too soon without the proper analysis of long term effects. So my first instinct is to avoid it and also avoid letting my son consume it.
Why would this sweeteness thing be a difficult decision? Well, to say the least, I have a horrible sweet tooth. I LOVE candy, chocolate, sweets, and of course most of all, ice cream. I thought at one point the artificial sweeteners would allow me the sweet flavor without all the calories. Now, I know, that the answer is not in the sweetness but the choice of foods. I prefer to snack now on sweet fruits and veggies (and occasionally some dark chocolate or a fluffy biscuit with honey on it).
Not surprisingly, the fruit did NOT fall far from the tree. My little guy is almost 4 now, and pretty much hops out of bed asking for candy or chocolate. We implemented a rule that he can't receive candy if he asks for it (just to try and cut down the requests). It is up to mama and daddy's discretion when the sugar is to be doled out. Especially challenging is trying to keep the soda drinks out of him (this is daddy's weakness, and when the stuff is around, it's just not fair to say that the kiddo can't have it 'because we said so'). So, when I saw this product on sale at Fred Meyer, I thought "wow, a sweet drink treat with no sugar in it!" Because it was sweetened with Stevia, I assumed it was a safe alternative. After all, stevia is just a plant extract, so it must be safe, right? Right??
Well, my husband (the soda addict) raised a bit of a stink, saying who knows what stevia could do to our child. Queue the mommy guilt. Wow, did I just make a horrible choice here? The FDA has at one point restricted it, later allowing it but not as an artificial sweetener. Rather they term it as a "dietary supplement." I know that our family is lucky in that we don't have any diabetes to battle, but in learning to make good food choices, do we draw the line at stevia, or do we allow it? My instinct tells me it should be allowed, but I'm also trying to be sensitive to my husband's thoughts as well. What about your family, do you just stick to the natural sources (honey, maple syrup, etc), or do you indulge in the sweet treats? Does stevia meet your diet requirements or is it a no-no?