When it comes to topping off your latté, you may think you're making the healthy choice by ditching the sugar in favor of a zero-calorie sweetener pack in your favorite color: pink, blue or yellow. But one celebrity fitness expert is here to tell you—surprise!—that's not exactly a scientific method.
We talked to JJ Virgin, the as-seen-everywhere-on-TV nutritionist and New York Times best-selling author of The Virgin Diet, and got her tips for the best artificial sweeteners for your bod on the market today.
"If you have a daily coffee habit, I'd travel with little packets of Stevia, because at places like Starbucks, I just don't see a good option," she says, of the herbal-based option that's sweeter than sugar, has zero calories and has no known adverse effects on blood sugar.
Virgin also suggests getting smart about what you consume by dodging unhealthy sweeteners disguised as all-natural goodness. "The brown sugar in the raw looks like it's healthier, but in reality it's no freakin' better for your than the white packet," she says.
As for the absolute worst choice you can make? That one might surprise you: Virgin says it's agave. "It's the biggest marketing ploy out there," she says, claiming companies that would sweet talk consumers into the wrong choices for their health are getting savvier and trickier by the day.
Overall, Virgin advises, beware of your consumption of sweetener—even if it has no calories—as it can be a trigger to make you crave more sweetness and cause weight gain.
So what's a sweet tooth to do? Try sprinkling a little cinnamon on top of coffee, "which is naturally sweet and helps balance blood sugar," she says. Or train yourself to appreciate the natural sweetness of foods like berries without dumping a packet of anything on top. And if all of that sounds a little no-can-do to you, here's the good news: "We finally have a time when there are decent alternatives that don't have to be artificial," Virgin says.
And there you have the skinny.