Traveling? Leave your ‘furbabies’ in good hands!

Tired of feeling guilty every time you go on vacation and leave your furry friend behind?  These days there are many options in local pet daycare, lodging and in-home pet sitting services. The holidays are typical vacation time for most Americans and pet owners start worrying about what to do with their furry companions.
Many hotels cater to pet owners and for a small fee will allow you to bring your furry friend with you. Make sure you talk to your veterinarian and check that all vaccines are up to date and your pet is fit to travel whether is by car or plane.
Pet sitting is a growing service industry and there are several companies serving Polk County. Make sure to ask for recommendations, testimonials, proper licensing and proof of insurance. You may want to use this option if you have multiple pets or need to pick up mail or have your plants watered also. The issue of privacy may deter some pet owners from using this option.
Boarding your pet is an important decision, especially if your pet is elderly or has special medical needs. For example; diabetic pets need personnel trained in proper administration and handling of insulin whereas cardiac patients need trained medical supervision. I recommend you tour several facilities and that you board your pet for a day, well in advance of your vacation. That way you will have the ability to judge the care and your pet’s response. If the facility offers day care, then a day trial will uncover how your pet will react towards attendants, lodging and other dogs. When selecting a facility consider those with a transparent management, where there are cameras and your pet can be visited by other members of your family while you are away. In my practice I’ve incorporated a unique pet lodging area called the World Suites at Orchid Springs Animal Hospital. Your pet will enjoy the personalized attention and care in a luxurious atmosphere. Our one-of-a-kind suites offer many amenities including air conditioned ample suites,moonlight walks, pool time, doggie treadmill, and spa treatments. Puppy cams will give you peace of mind and will make you feel closer to your pet. The reason I designed this level of care is because I wanted a place that will meet my personal standards of pet care for my dogs Puguido & Daisy. Otherwise, I know I will not enjoy my vacation and worry constantly about their wellbeing. For short trips I count on my relatives to check on my pets.
My advice is to plan ahead, check your options and take your pet to your veterinarian for a quick summer checkup. For a peek at the unique World Suites visit us at

By: Dr. Mitsie Vargasorchid-springs-world-suites

Age: A Work of Art

AGE: A Work of Art


“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art” Stanislaw Lec, a polish poet, was really on to something when he wrote these words. Youth is definitely a gift, as some would say they looked and felt their best in their youth, but age is not something to be apprehensive about either. In fact, it can be a work of art in the right hands, such as those of Dr. Christopher Mondello at Mondello Medical Spa. With over 25 years’ experience, Dr. Mondello has skillfully helped many people to maintain and regain both a youthful appearance and sculpted body.

Utilizing the most state of the art technology, Mondello Medical Spa can help you look your best this year without even hitting the gym!  Now, healthy eating and exercise are recommended to look and feel your best, but there are areas that even exercise can’t help you eliminate.  Be confident knowing that the best options available for body sculpting and facial rejuvenation are offered at Mondello Medical Spa.

Using a new high-intensity ultrasound technology, Mondello Medical Spa can help you lessen unwanted fat by liquefying and eliminating it through the body’s lymphatic system. Targeting any area of your body with stubborn fat including arms, backs, buttocks, thighs, flanks and hips, allowing you to achieve the smooth sculpted body you desire!

With this non-invasive procedure, patients can see as much as a total one inch reduction or more, improvement in the appearance of cellulite, and tightening of the skin immediately after their first treatment.  However, a series of six sessions spaced one week apart is highly recommended to achieve the ultimate results.  That’s a lot to say about a procedure that requires absolutely no down time or any incisions of the skin!

And just like an artists’ work, the best in injectables can also take time to achieve a natural youthful look. So if a full face lift is what you feel you need but the shear thought of cutting scares you, then look no further.  While some patients will require a surgical face lift to achieve their expected result, most patients will benefit from non-surgical treatments.  Mondello Medical Spa offers the best option, better known as a Liquid Face Lift.  Scultpra Aesthetics is a type of facial injectable made from poly-L-lactic acid, which helps to replace lost collagen. Once injected, the site will begin to show gradual results after just one treatment by stimulating collagen formation.  As the body produces more collagen, the desired long-term youthful appearance and healthy glow is developed that can last up to five years with proper yearly maintenance!  So unlike traditional injectables that are obvious quick fixes, Sculptra Aesthetics gives you subtle results over time, correcting shallow to deep facial wrinkles and folds, resulting in a natural-looking appearance without giving you away!


On average, three injection sessions are needed over a period of a few months. Yearly maintenance treatments are recommended to maintain your quality results.  The number of injection sessions and the number of injections per session are carefully customized for each client.  The results are stunning!


Have you wanted to have one of these procedures done but you have some questions or concerns? Or you don’t know where to go but you know you want the best treatment possible? Don’t waste any more time wishing you did, make this year about you! Dr. Christopher Mondello utilizes the best in technology and techniques, and has the most knowledgeable and caring staff that will make you feel comfortable and can answer any questions you might have.  Call Mondello Medical Spa today to schedule your complimentary consultation!

Portrait of beautiful european girl
Portrait of beautiful european girl

The Value of a Doula

What value does a doula bring to a birth?

What value would you put on a product that could shorten your labor, provide a more positive outlook on your birth and postpartum period, and substantially lower your chance of having a cesarean that isn’t medically necessary?

What if I told you there is a way to have all those things and more, and it will change your life forever? What if I told you it’s as simple as hiring a doula?

In a Cochrane review from 2013 women with doulas were shown to:

  • Be more likely to give birth spontaneously, i.e. give birth without cesarean, vacuum, or forceps
  • Be less likely to use pain medications
  • Be more likely to be satisfied with their birth and the days immediately postpartum
  • Have shorter labors
  • Have babies that were less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores

Interestingly, the Cochrane review found that hiring a doula had no harmful effects.

A doula is not just another member of your birth team. A doula’s sole purpose is to form a relationship with you and your partner in order to better support you throughout your pregnancy, labor and delivery, and early postpartum period. Nurses and doctors provide wonderful medical care; however, they have multiple patients and cannot be by your side through your entire labor. Your doula will be by your side the moment you need her, whether that is at your home or hospital, and through the duration of your labor. The value of hiring someone who is there for you from start to finish is immeasurable.

Our doulas operate in a team model so you never have to worry about them being distracted or called away by another client. When they are there for you, they are fully present. Your needs, wants, and desires come first. They are there to cheer you on, support your decisions, ensure you have someone to lean on, provide security, and help research information. They are there to help your partner connect with you deeper so that he/she can support you more fully.

Our doulas are invaluable, as they truly are unbiased. They will strive to provide you support with the birth you desire, no matter what it looks like. Our doulas have worked hard to facilitate professional, supportive relationships with the care providers in our community and when we step in a labor room, the nurses and doctors we work with can rest assured that we are there as a complimentary aspect of your birth team. When you hire a doula, you are hiring someone who has dedicated their lives to learning about the care and support of birthing individuals and their families. You are hiring someone who is knowledgeable, certified, and experienced in this field of expertise and that is priceless.

Author: Morningstar Middleton

Comparing Pay Stubs

Wage gap concept with blue figure symbolizing men and red pawn women

23 cents.

You will spot this number all over your Google search results after typing in some sort of combination of “wage” and “gap”.

This figure is commonly misquoted as the additional amount the average woman must make each year to catch up to what the average man makes each year.

Nearly a quarter on the dollar.

This figure, if true, should raise the blood pressure of every person fighting for equal pay. However, just because a number is easy to quote in debates, does not make it accurate.

There is a gap.

It’s just much smaller.

When comparing a defined full-time career woman to a defined full-time career man just starting a job fresh out of college, this number is more accurately quoted in the 5-7 cent range on the dollar.

Why the gap at all? Don’t women have higher educational levels than men now?

Women have actually closed the once much larger wage gap due to higher educational achievements over the last 16 years. According to the “Five Facts About the Gender Pay Gap”, since the 1990s, women have taken the lead in receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees. Higher education has accounted for a 1/3 close on the wage gap that existed previously.

One factor that explains the immediate gap following the tassel turn, is that men are still dominating some of the fields our culture deems worthy of higher pay: engineering and chemistry positions are largely being filled by males. Women are starting to enter these workforces as well, but the estrogen ratio is still fairly small, while women dominate teaching and nursing positions in contrast.

But what about the man and woman who start in the same career? Over time, that 5-7 cent range begins to widen to 10-12 cents down the line.

Why the increase in gap with time?

Men are more likely to be upfront and expectant of raises, promotions and growth. Most women are not as demanding in the workplace and prefer to allow work to speak for itself. High level of work ethic and achievement should be automatically awarded with a pay raise. However, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—er pay increase. Well-positioned conversations and unwavering confidence in work is key to gaining advancement that otherwise might go to someone else who speaks up.

But, this doesn’t explain why the number 23 is still prevalently used as a legitimate statistic in political debates, office lunch rooms and phone conversations.

This number compares ALL women to ALL men.

There are several other gaps that contribute to this wage gap seeming so large and unbalanced.

The majority of single parent households are headed up by women: eighty-three percent. Single mothers often are forced to choose between a 401k plan and flexible work hours, and deal with the “motherhood penalty” even coming back after maternity leave due to child-first mentality over corporate ladder climbing. With a significantly smaller population of single fathers, more men are free from the responsibility of diaper bags and fold-up strollers  to pursue a full-fledged career, resulting in financial freedom.

Also, part-time is not weighted in the wage gap. A single mother working part-time is not weighted in a separate category for the wage comparison. Her income is stripped of circumstance and added as another number.

Anyone who watches House Hunters knows that location is key. In the workforce, location does nothing to shrink the wage gap for women when it comes to rural areas.

According to The American Association of University Women,jobs for females living in rural states such as Wyoming, Louisiana and West Virginia dominated by blue collar industries and more commonly considered male-oriented jobs are few and far between. Most jobs associated to be “male-jobs” such as construction, financial management, and firefighting are paid much higher than the female-dominated industries of teaching, administrative work, and nursing.

So, is YOUR pay stub smaller than your male counterparts?

Perhaps not to your cubicle neighbor or office mate. But in large, women are still struggling to close the gap of 5-7 cents when comparing child-free career woman to child-free career man. The single mother is being forced to opt for part-time and schedule flexibility, and the world still deems the jobs women are choosing overall to be worthy of a smaller check than the jobs more men are choosing to work.

The wage gap is there. It will take more than more education. It will take rethinking what jobs are necessary to this world and how to value them, it will take pivotal conversations and confidence in a job well-done, it will require either more sensitivity to working mothers, or their male counterparts taking responsibility and helping close the daddy gap to share in parenting.




Chicken & Spinach Soup with Fresh Pesto

This fragrant, Italian-flavored soup takes advantage of quick-cooking ingredients—boneless, skinless chicken breast, bagged baby spinach and canned beans. It features a simple homemade basil pesto swirled in at the end to add a fresh herb flavor. If you are very pressed for time, you can substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto.


Makes: 5 servings, about 1 1/2 cups each

Active Time:

Total Time:



  • 2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup carrot or diced red bell pepper
  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 8 ounces), cut into quarters
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 5 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • 6 ounces baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup plain or herbed multigrain croutons for garnish (optional)


  1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add carrot (or bell pepper) and chicken; cook, turning the chicken and stirring frequently, until the chicken begins to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in broth and marjoram; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  2. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board to cool. Add spinach and beans to the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
  3. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, Parmesan and basil in a food processor (a mini processor works well). Process until a coarse paste forms, adding a little water and scraping down the sides as necessary.
  4. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces. Stir the chicken and pesto into the pot. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with croutons, if desired.


Per serving: 204 calories; 8 g fat (2 g sat, 4 g mono); 29 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 18 g protein; 6 g fiber; 691 mg sodium; 529 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (110% daily value), Folate & Vitamin C (20% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 1/2

Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 2 lean meat, 1 fat and spinach soup

September Survivor Speaks

Do you remember where were you on September 11th, 2001 quarter to 9am?

Many Americans shiver at the question, remembering that day quite clearly, a moment in history experienced by generations X, Y and Z first-hand. Two hijacked planes crashed into the top tiers of the twin towers. Many Americans were inside, while the rest of the world helplessly watched the crash via television, looped over and over again in offices, schools, and homes all over the United States showing vivid replays at varying angles of the targeted attack.

6:30am, Patricia Yepez, Financial Analyst at Tower A woke very early that morning, dressing in a suit, shoes and purse, ready to take her daughter to school before boarding the e-train directly to her tower.

7:35am, two hijackers boarded American Airlines Flight 11, a craft carrying 81 passengers and 11 crew members.

8:14am, seat occupants 2A and 2B stabbed two flight attendants and the cockpit controls of Flight 11 were compromised.

Slightly before 8:30am, Yepez made a quick stop at Cornucopia, a Manhattan breakfast place to pick up a bagel and cup of coffee.

She recalls feeling a sense of pride at all she had accomplished in the past nine years on that day.

She had just been promoted from staff accountant on the 88th floor down to the 82nd floor as financial analyst on July 31st of that same year: a promotion to the Office Space Division that was quite possibly her saving grace.

The time was shortly past 8:40am as she boarded the series of elevators she took every morning in route to her floor. The elevator ding cued her to part the sea of suits in front of her in the packed elevator as she stepped onto the 82nd floor.

8:46am, Flight 11 rammed into Tower A between floors 93 and 99, just seconds after Yepez exited the elevator.

“I had just taken a few steps, and not even made it to my desk yet when the first explosion happened,” said Yepez. “I didn’t burn because I had time to exit. All the other people who were on that elevator were burned. I had walked a few steps from the elevator and I was so close that I thought the flames would reach me.”

8:48am, WNYW reported the first national broadcasting of the terrorist attack.

Yepez, trapped inside, had no way of knowing what hit the building, or how long the vibrations would last.

“I thought it was an earthquake because the building was moving,” she said.

Debris fell from the ceiling and Yepez had to grasp at the wall to steady herself while members of the office rushed to her aid to ask what happened.

Her boss, Myron Finegold, General Manager for the Office Space Services Division, was among those close to her and concerned. Yepez told him the elevator had been destroyed.

Minutes later, Finegold signaled for the evacuation.

He also assigned a colleague named Michelle to hold tight to Yepez’s hand as they followed one of the fire drill leaders.

“He [fire drill leader] knew a lot of how the building was set up and all the secrets,” said Yepez. “He remembered about this hidden passage but they had to – we took some time because they couldn’t find the key to this closet sort of thing. When they found the key, then we started walking that way to the other corner where there was no smoke.”

They shuffled slowly, asthmatic victims, the elderly and handicapped went first, followed by everyone else in a methodic fashion. Yepez bent to pick up a piece of fallen debris to put into her purse.

They took the staircase to the 77th floor, where they found access to the hidden passageway.

Yepez remembers the smell and feel of the passageway: tight and dark with a dusty polluted feel to the air—dead air. No one spoke.

Upon reaching the 9th floor, water damage was very noticeable.

“I think it was those sprinklers for the fire that they turned on. But it was beginning on that floor and down. We got wet because of that. We kept walking, walking.”

They finally reached the lobby, which was in complete disarray.

“All I remember is I saw everything was destroyed, the glass door was broken. Everything dirty and I was thinking what happened? What did they do to my towers?”

The leader of the group opted to exit through an underground mall due to the obstruction in the lobby, blocking the way.

9:03am, Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower between floors 77 and 85.

Yepez and the survivors of floor 82 flew back upon impact.

“I remember telling myself, ‘this is it,’” said Yepez.

Yepez and Michelle flung back simultaneously, still joining hands. Michelle sustained black and blue bruises down her back and cuts and scratches along her legs. Yepez appeared unharmed.

Her sister later told her that she believed an angel was covering Yepez with her wings.

“In the hidden passageway, we saw a tiny light that was guiding us,” said Yepez. And I still remember hearing a voice that said ‘Don’t look back. It’s not over yet. Keep going.’ Michelle doesn’t remember hearing that voice. It still replays in my head.”

After gaining their bearings, the group trudged outside, past an old cemetery, while onlookers stared, touched and offered phones. The group was pulled in by a helpful woman and after cleaning up, doing a precautionary check at the hospital, and finally getting to call her family, Yepez made it home after 7pm that night.

Photo of Yepez taken outside the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.
Photo of Yepez taken outside the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001.

Her daughter still distinctly remembers the smell she brought home with her that day.

“She once described it like it was debris, dust, but it was like a weird smell, like strong,” said Yepez. “She never forgets the smell I had.”

The dirt and grime were so thick on her body that the tub clogged as she took a shower that night.

“I had so many messages waiting for me. The whole answering machine tape ran out of room, holding messages for me from all across the world: family in different states, South America, in Europe, all my high school friends in Ecuador called me.”

For the next few weeks, Yepez kept her routine the same, going into work as if nothing happened, her brain refusing to acknowledge what had happened. Exactly one month after the attack on October 11th, Yepez had a panic attack that woke her up to the reality of what she had been through.

And it changed everything.

“My psychiatrists told me I was in denial,” she said. “I became very afraid of being enclosed. I wouldn’t go to movies for the longest time because it was dark and small inside and for my MRIs, I request that they be open every time.”

She began taking strong medication to help with anxiety and PTSD: medicine that she later challenged herself to quit cold turkey.

“I wanted to get out of my head, to do it on my own,” she said. “I wanted to be okay without the pills.”

Yepez avoided airports for many years, and to this day prefers to drive if she can.

“My dad died in 2003 and the funeral was in Ecuador. I missed his funeral because I would not board a plane.”

In the aftermath, Yepez struggled greatly with feeling safe at work, wondering why it happened. She battled with anger for a long time.

She recalls the professions of those on her old floor that suffered serious burns and many fatalities. One woman in particular was in the bathroom on the 88th floor during the first point of impact. Her skin seered by the flames is still covered in scars. The pathways in her brain were so badly damaged, her recollection of September 11th is fogged by intermittent hallucinations.

Yepez remembers many nights of sleep interrupted by nightmares, flashing back to the event, to the closeness of the danger and to her escape.

Working so close to where the event occurred, she began to feel like she was living in her nightmare, surrounded by the all-too familiar scene, the sounds, the smells. She felt unsafe.

And she knew she had to make a change.

Yepez moved to Lakeland, Florida 12 years ago, on March 29, 2003. She was seeking a fresh start, and Lakeland reminded her of her hometown in Ecuador. She began to build her life again.

May 2011, Osama bin Ladin was executed by a team of Navy Seals.

Upon Bin Ladin’s death, she remembers feeling relieved.

“But then, you think it’s not just him,” she pointed out. “There’s still others trying to carry on what he started. Like this ISIS, they’re crazy.”

Fast approaching the 14th anniversary of 9/11, she is moving on.

She is happy even.

Her current position is Finance Manager at Curious Jane.

“I found what I was seeking for here. I love the environment.”

But she still tries to remind herself that it wasn’t a dream. It was real.

She still has her suit, shoes and purse, material reminders that have never been worn since. She took them to the dry cleaners and now they sit in a plastic bag in her closet.

“I keep it as proof of what happened,” she said. “Like, um, memory, um it’s” – she faltered – “it’s like I was part of that.“

She has a few sad days still usually around the anniversary mark of the event: mourning her friends and colleagues and mentally processing the reality that it could have been her.

She picked one word to describe her new life philosophy:


“I feel like I got a second chance at life,” she said. “I don’t care about the silly things I used to. I care about the things that matter, my family, the things that last. I want to pay attention to those things.”


Summer Job Ideas for Your Teen

Help Wanted

Your kids are home all day and now that the newness of school being out has quickly dissipated, they need something to do!

You would probably prefer they get involved in something that teaches responsibility, brings them extra spending money, and gives them some good life experience. What could this possibly be describing?

A summer job!

But where is a safe place for them to work where they will be treated fairly and be able to get hired part-time during the summer? There are, of course, the usual routes: McDonald’s, office work, etc.

OR you could suggest something summery they can do that they might even enjoy!

Lifeguard: Yes, you have to be certified. But, lifeguards get paid quite a bit, they have a very important role, beaches hire during the summer, and your son or daughter will enjoy getting a nice tan!

Fruit-picking: This teaches the lesson of hard work, as you get paid for each bucket that you pick. Slacking off is not an option, the hours are early, and the work is tough, but oh so worth it. Your teen will feel so proud of every dollar truly earned and this job instills determination and hard work. Plus, they won’t be stuck inside on a beautiful day!

Waterpark/Disney: so fun! Another industry that peaks in the summer time! They can operate a ride, monitor a slide, or check people in! This teaches excellent people skills and doesn’t always feel like “work”.

Lawn care: you can make some serious green…while you cut the green! Line up several lawns in the same day! But, don’t overdo it. One young entrepreneur got so ambitious he lined up 10 lawns in the same day! His sunburn went deeper than just one layer of skin.

Babysitting: So many mothers need someone to watch their kids. While daycare provides so much quality for children, if your son or daughter personally knows a family in need of childcare, they may be more inclined to go with someone they know.

Summer tutoring: tutor a friend in your best subject or work at a summer camp for a few weeks! You’ll get free meals, lodging; tons of kids to love on and you get paid to play games. It’s a great opportunity for a teen to take the role of a mentor.

Get The Skinny On Sugar


Remember when this simple, sweet substance sat in a mountainous heap, tightly sealed inside the sugar jar atop the kitchen counter, ready for when mom decided to pry open the lid to make those mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies? We knew what sugar was, how much to use, and how it affected our bodies.

But now, sugar goes by many different pseudonyms. Which colored packet should you use in your coffee? Is a natural source better than regular sugar? Does the color brown make it more healthy? Do artificial sweeteners even count as sugar?

There are many different chemical processes that pose as sugar, there are natural trendy herbal options such as Stevia, and even sugar alcohols hidden way down on the list of ingredients that make it difficult for even the most sugar-savvy to detect, let alone your average Jane.
The struggle is real. While this can be confusing and frustrating to the consumer when glancing at the nutritional content on the side of the box, it’s important to be able to identify what our bodies will essentially intake as sugar and which copycat sugars are okay to use.

When it comes to these daily choices we often find ourselves being forced to make, education on what’s out there is our best defense to making smart choices that won’t lead to things like skin aging, fat build-up, sluggishness, lack of energy and excess cravings.

According to Mayo Clinic’s article, “Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes”, there are four major groups of sugars.

Some are nutritive meaning they carry that added punch of calories, and some are non-nutritive, meaning they actually do not contain any calories.

Want a simple way to remember the difference? Nutritive sugars register the calories by your body and are absorbed by the body. Non-nutritive are not absorbed, hence no calories!

Artificial sweeteners are of the non-nutritive sort. Think you’re home free? Think again. While these offer an overt sweetness and no calories, studies suggest that these sugar posers actually throw off the body’s ability to compute any calories and subsequently have been correlated to weight gain in consistent consumers.

How do artificial sweeteners show up in real life? These are the colorful packets we pour into our coffees each morning that seem “better” than regular granulated white sugar and actually offer a sweeter taste than sugar. They appear on our food’s nutritional content list under the guises of Aspartame, Sucralose and Splenda and are used to sweeten diet sodas.

Next, we have sugar alcohols. While this sweet element bears a similar resemblance to the chemical structuring of sugar, these are in fact carbohydrates. Sugar alcohols go by names like Erythritol, Malitol, and Sorbitol and these carbohydrates are found naturally in fruits and vegetables, although they can be chemically be manufactured as well. These are of the nutritive family so they carry calories with them, but only about half of the calories in a sugar alcohol are absorbed by the body, splitting the calorie count in half to a serving size of actual sugar. This option is a clear winner for low-sugar seekers and also a smarter choice when consumed in small amounts for diabetics, as it is not as easily absorbed by the bloodstream

Steviol, a novel sweetener, is non-caloric and sugar-free due to its inability to be absorbed by the body at all. The commercialized product “Stevia” sold in stores contains traces of glucose which are absorbed by the body. Glucose is a simple sugary syrup made up of many carbohydrates.

What about natural sugars?

Natural sugars generally offer additional health benefits, however for the calorie-conscious, natural sugar doesn’t allow for over-indulgence. As a rule, sugar is still sugar. So, when it comes to things like fruit juices or concentrated natural sweeteners like Agave nectar, ask yourself this question: is this still sugar?

Sweetening elements like honey, brown sugar in the raw, or fructose all come from natural sources, however they are so concentrated, that without the balance of other elements, the body still receives that sugar shock upon consumption and reads the chemical structure as sugar. When going for natural sugars, it’s important to remember all the other components that should be invited to the food party. Drinking apple juice is like drinking liquified sugar while eating an apple offers your body sugar alcohols combined with all the other nutrients and offers the ‘meat’ of the apple to balance it out.

Essentially for all you calorie-conscious readers, it all comes down to how much of this sugar knock-off is being absorbed by your body. Sugar alcohols are less-absorbent than regular sugar. Artificial sweeteners in theory should help with weight gain, yet seem to take the consumer a few steps back, rather than helping you cut a calorie corner. Might as well enjoy the real thing.

So next time you reach for a sweetener to add to your coffee, remember to be mindful of artificial sweeteners and to either use a natural sugar in small doses or to go for a sugar alcohol. Not all sweeteners posing as sugar are bad. Just remember which ones are posing a threat to your health and which ones are sweet as can be.