Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops Review & Giveaway: All Natural Soda Alternative

SweetLeaf_SteviaLeaf_WaterEnhancers_DoubleChinDiaryDisclosure: I received free samples of Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops in exchange for a review.

It’s now been about a year since I gave up my dark master (Diet Pepsi) for good. I still crave it every now and then, but I find if I go for it and order a soda, the first few sips are like “Blech! Why did I used to think this stuff was good?” I now drink a ton of iced tea, perrier, and water, and occasionally I’ll splurge on something delicious and caloric, like a Mexican Coca Cola or Izze. When an announcement about Sweet Leaf ended up in my inbox, I knew I wanted to try it. The problem with so many water enhancers or flavor additives is that they’re full of garbage and chemicals, or if they’re low-cal, they’re packed with aspartame. Sweet Leaf is USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO project verified, gluten-free, and zero carb/calorie.

Upon first tasting, I thought the drops tasted good, but there wasn’t enough flavor. I was putting two drops in per 8 ounces of sparkling water. Then, I read the directions again and realized it was two drops per OUNCE of sparkling water. Duh! No wonder I wasn’t getting the flavor I wanted. I re-did it and was pleasantly surprised at the simultaneous sweet but light taste of Sweet Drops. My favorite of the four flavors I tried (Lemon, Berry, Orange, Cola) was definitely cola, followed by orange. Another small but important thing to me? No gross coloring. The Cola flavor adds a very slight caramel tint to the water, but you’re not getting any hues that will turn your tongue into a rainbow.

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These are affordable ($9.99 for a three pack), and the small size is easy to slip into your purse to have your own flavored water anywhere you go. I liked using the berry flavor in still water with a few smashed raspberries — it felt like a fancy cocktail, but with no calories and no booze. I like, I like. Sweetleaf also carries funky flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Peppermint Mocha, Chocolate Raspberry, Rootbeer, and Grape. Can you imagine baking with these, or using them as yummy flavors for coffee? My friends at Sweetleaf are giving you a chance to win a full-sized bottle of Cola drops (ARV $15.44), and all you have to do is “like” Sweetleaf on Facebook. This is on the honor system, and I will be checking that the winner has “liked” Sweetleaf on Facebook. Once you’ve “liked” them on Facebook, please leave a comment on this blog post. I’ll give you two extra entries each for sharing on Facebook or sending a tweet — let me know if you do those actions in the comment you leave. I’ll pull a winner a week from now, next Sunday at 8:50 p.m. GOOD LUCK!

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Things Thursday: Alyssa’s Wellness Check Up

Hey everyone! Is today your Friday? It’s mine, and I’m so psyched to head out to Paso Robles with Matt for a quick trip. I first explored Paso Robles on Fitcation, and I can’t wait for some hiking, hot spring soaking, and olive oil tasting.

I had a couple random things about my health I wanted to tell you about, and because “Random things about my health I wanted to tell you about” doesn’t seem like a very good blog title, I decided to add some alliteration (copywriter’s favorite) and call it Three Things Thursday. So without further ado, here are three things on my mind this Thursday about wellness, health, weight loss, and my general state of being. In the spirit of full Alyssa disclosure, I did receive complimentary Blue Diamond almonds for free in exchange for discussion :)

1) About two weeks ago, something clicked for me that to be my best self, I need to be active every single day. I decided to make a small promise to myself — on days I wasn’t doing yoga, cardio, walk training, or hiking, I needed to walk at least one mile every day. That doesn’t sound like much, but on days when I literally walk only the distance from my bedroom to my kitchen, it will help. I ended up racking up about 14 miles over my weekend in Savannah, and I’ve come to realize how much I *like* walking. Especially when I can be with a friend, sight seeing, or talking on the phone — walking is a very calming thing! I’ve been making good on my promise, logging at least 1.6 miles consecutively every day for the past four days, and tonight, my Yoga Meltdown dvd from Jillian Michaels. Hooray for change!

2) Another thing has clicked for me, and that is that I don’t eat enough. Let me rephrase that. There are times when I eat too much. But then, there are times where I eat only my three square meals (or worse – I skip), and for someone with near PCOS insulin resistance, that’s no good, because hunger makes me cranky, shaky, and anxious. I’ve turned into the girl who carries a snack in the back pouch of her purse – something small, like a Health Warrior bar, or lately, Blue Diamond Almonds. You guys know about my love/hate of almonds – I am sad to admit that on their own (raw, unsalted), I’m not a fan. But dress them up in sexy clothes like Rosemary Black Pepper, Smokehouse seasoning, Coconut, or Blueberry, and I’m all good. These in particular taste like Fruity Pebbles! I’m down. So down — they taste like junk food with minimal sugar — and how patriotic, red, white n’ blue almonds!

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3) I’m stating here for accountability that in addition to being active every day and eating more regularly, I also need to get back to taking my vitamins. I’ll do really well for a few months and then get super lazy. Lately, I’ve noticed I’m battling some day time fatigue — just a general sense of low energy. Well — I forgot about my ridiculously low Vitamin D levels, and then remembered the fact that I haven’t taken my vitamin D in… oh, several months. DUH. So now, all my vitamins are stacked up eye level on the bathroom shelf, staring at me every day. I’m taking a high quality women’s multi, Vitamin D, Biotin, EPA, and soon, some Horsetail extract to help with the tons of hair I lose (thanks, PCOS).

4) I lied — I have four things to tell you about. I got mentioned in a rap!!! My awesome friend Dre from Mission Meltdown celebrated Fitbloggin’s birthday by creating a hip hop blog soup. You’ll hear an Alyssa shout out mid way through. I’m so sad I missed this in person – I was running late for the key note session because I had just come back from a long 5 mile walk of Savannah and needed to get a shower in. I’m so glad it’s on video. Watch for my Fitbloggin recap soon, in addition to a fun giveaway for you all for some non-GMO, non-chemical stevia SweetDrops, a natural soda replacement.

HAVE AN AWESOME FOURTH OF JULY!

xoxo

The Double Chin Diary Siggy

Fitbloggin’ news: I won the California Avocado Commission’s Avocado Recipe Contest!

You guys! YOU GUYS!!!! Remember my Avocado Cream Tarts recipe? Well, it won grand prize! I am over joyed, and so grateful to both the California Avocado Commission and Fitbloggin. During the session, we learned things like a new method for cutting avocados, called the Nick n’ Peel method, that helps you conserve the good stuff in the bright green fleshy part of the avocado nearest the skin, and how to use avocado as a substitute for butter or oil in recipes. For all of the details, check out the great live blog by Denise at Almasdays.

With the winners of the California Avocado Commission Fitbloggin Recipe Contest - Kia of Bodhi Bear and Kelly of No Thanks to Cake

With the winners of the California Avocado Commission Fitbloggin Recipe Contest – Kia of Bodhi Bear and Kelly of No Thanks to Cake

The session was lead by the wonderful chef and RD Michelle Dudash, and at the end of the session, they announced the winners of the contest! When I heard name, I had a moment of shock, and then in typical overwhelmed Alyssa fashion, put my hands over my head and was like “WHAAAAT!?” I stood up and said a little bit about my recipe, and shared that it was a good grief project for me as I dealt with feelings of loss after losing my mother-in-law in May. I feel so honored to have won this contest, because I did spend a lot of time on it, and really, found it a very fulfilling creative outlet to focus on in a time of despair. I then got to watch Chef Michelle make my recipe, and the feeling was so, so surreal to see a professional chef prepare something I conjured up in my mind. It was incredible (and far more graceful looking than if you’d had seen me try to bumble, stumble, and prepare a dish in front of an audience!)

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After Chef Michelle made my recipe, the doors burst open, all talk show style, and a table rolled in with a bunch of the cream tarts for everyone to try. I was still in disbelief at this moment, and felt like a movie star as people snapped pictures of me with the tarts!

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I was super excited that I also had chosen to wear my California necklace that day — talk about good timing, right? I may not be a native Californian, but after 19 years here, I think its safe to say California’s not getting rid of me.

You all need to check out the other two prize winning recipes! In second place, is my friend and Fitbloggin roomie, Kelly from No Thanks to Cake! How delicious does her recipe for Grilled Avocado Caprese look? I can’t wait to try it out this summer!

In first place, is my friend Kia’s Green Chile Avocado Gazpacho. This sounds so cool and refreshing!

Once again, I’m so grateful to the California Avocado Commission (Emily, Jan, Michelle, and Lori) and Fitbloggin’ for choosing my recipe. My prize includes a monthly shipment of avocados for the next three months (*drools*), a Kitchen-Aid Artisan Mixer (Movin’ on up, baby!), a $150 William Sonoma Gift Card, and a California Avocado Gift Pack. I’ll certainly share a photo of all of the goodies once they arrive. I also get to keep that kick-ass sign… it’s totally going to hang in my home office :)

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I have so many other things to tell you about Fitbloggin’, but it’s late, and I suspect I’m still a little bit on East Coast time. For now, I’ll head to bed and dream of avocados! I hope you have a wonderful day!

Guest Post: Why Aubrey walks the 3-Day

Friends: I’m so excited to introduce you to my friend Aubrey, the co-captain of the Double Chin Divas! I have the pleasure of working with Aubrey on the 3-Day, and she’ll be walking 60 miles with me and April and Monique in San Diego in November. I wanted you to know why this walk matters so much to so many of us. To read more about Aubrey and donate to her fundraising, visit her here. Can’t donate but want to join us? Consider joining the Double Chin Divas team! Take it away, Aubrey!

Aubrey's the one holding the sign!

Aubrey’s the one holding the sign!

I registered for the Susan G. Komen Seattle 3-Day in January of 2010 with the idea of doing something bigger than myself. I had heard about the 3-Day once or twice before in passing. This time I was sitting on the couch watching The Biggest Loser and saw the 3-Day commercial. My mind was made in an instant. I knew that I was going to register to walk 60 miles over the course of three days and raise $2,300. I had never done something like this. And to tell you the truth, I hadn’t done anything in my adult life that was noteworthy.

My grandmother had beaten breast cancer twice by the time I was born, I lost two of my aunts to cancer (breast and ovarian), my great grandmother had passed away from stomach cancer when my grandmother was a small child, and if that wasn’t reason enough, I believed that it was the right thing to do. I’ve always been the type of person to be all in or not at all so I jumped into the biggest, boldest event facing breast cancer out there with both feet.

I remember walking my very first 3-Day anxious to find out what was ahead, and I didn’t mean on the route. I meant with my mom. Just one month before my first 3-Day she had been diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. All throughout my journey I remember wondering what was to come. Would I lose her? She was my only parent, and she fought long and hard to give my brother and me a good life. My mom’s cancer forced me to look at this event in an entirely new way. I realized there is a difference between the feelings that are conjured up when you hear about a diagnosis. If you’ve never known someone close to you with cancer, you feel badly for the person with cancer. If you’ve ever watched a loved one fight cancer, the word “cancer” chews up your nerves, pulls on your heartstrings and launches you into advocacy.

Aubrey and her team

Aubrey and the San Diego Camp Services Team

So why this event? Why walk 60 miles and raise $2,300? I do it because it is essential. It is the single thing that I can do about breast cancer. When my mom was diagnosed I was called to action. I knew that signing up for this event meant a level of commitment that I had never encountered. And to be completely honest, I had no idea what kind of time would be involved, but I did it knowing I would not give up because cancer patients don’t get to give up. The walking part of this event is important but also symbolic to what a patient goes through. There’s a huge difference between symbolic and the same. We, as able bodied people, have to push ourselves to take every step. We have to force ourselves to get up and train when we don’t feel like it. We have to try out different techniques until we find the right training gear or walking speed. Compare that to what cancer patients go through and you’ll quickly realize you have nothing to complain about. One foot in front of the other.

The money. Why is there a goal? It’s simple.  If the goal is to fund a world without breast cancer then a certain number must be set in place in order to fulfill the purpose of what we are doing. So why $2,300? Because people don’t work for free and cancer research is labor and time intensive. Why $2,300? Because mammograms for uninsured women aren’t free so we need to raise enough to share the hope that a free mammogram can give. Why $2,300? Because there are women losing their hair and can’t afford a wig or a scarf, but if you go to your local cancer resource center you can usually get one for free. Why $2,300? Because families should not have to choose between putting food on the table and paying for treatment.

What about the folks who can’t physically or financially commit to this, but still want to help? Consider joining the 3-Day crew. They are a wonderful and dedicated group of individuals that donate four days of their time working behind the scenes during the event to ensure that the walkers have a seamless event. You can also share posts on social media, or come out to cheer walkers on.

If you have ever had a question about whether you can do this or not, I am here to tell you that YOU CAN! You cannot fail when you put your mind to this. I never once had it in my mind that I couldn’t do this even though I am a plus sized girl who had never done anything physically challenging in my life. The 3-Day is not just about pink ribbons, walking, and fundraising. The 3-Day is about living, dreaming, achieving, and loving in every aspect of your life. The confidence and relationships that you develop within yourself and others because of the 3-Day is only the beginning of what you are capable of.

Step by Step

On Saturday, Matt and I headed out to Charmlee Wilderness Park for a hike. Charmlee is nestled in the Santa Monica mountains, and hikers are rewarded with sweeping views of the coast, complete with crashing waves and bird’s eye views of millionaire mansions.

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I had been looking forward to a nature retreat — where the only tweets I’d be interacting with were from real live birds. I was also excited to log some miles towards my 3-Day training, as I’m now to the point where I need to be totaling at least nine miles a week. The hike started out perfectly — not too hard, not too hot, not too many people. I played with my new camera, stopping to photograph buzzing bees and the occasional bumbling butterfly.

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We did two miles easily, enjoying the relatively flat trail. On the second part of the loop, we decided to explore a few trails we hadn’t tried before. I got nervous when the trail started leading us way down into the valleys of the hills, because I knew that what goes down must goes up.

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The hills started climbing. I put one foot in front of the other, determined, triumphant. Surely my walk training counted for something. 3 miles done. I was doing fine. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t. It was like I hit a wall. I was hot, thirsty, and tired. I was out of breath. I was sweaty. I suddenly felt the weight of every single extra pound I carry, the pounds I’ve carried for many, many years. I wanted to stop. I wanted to give up.

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I had no choice. If I decided to stop hiking at that very minute, no bus, train, plane, car, horse, Rapunzel braid or carrier pigeon was coming to pick me up. No bike would suddenly materialize by my side. No rope would cascade down the side of the mountain to help me hoist myself up its side. I had no choice but to keep going.

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So I did. I put one foot in front of the other. I took small steps and deep breaths. I battled the voice in my head that was telling me I couldn’t do this. I kept going. Because I had to. Because I had no choice. I asked Matt to take these pictures, because I wanted to show you the struggle. Finally, I saw the parking lot below us. At that point we had made it five miles, and I smiled.

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All that sweat, all that struggle. All a reminder that the best I can do is just take this journey step by step, and slowly, but surely, I will succeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Going at full speed

Hello wonderful blog followers!

The month of June is nearing the end.  Can you believe 2014 is already going to be half over?   Time goes by way too quickly and lately I have been finding it hard to do anything that includes sitting down. Unless it is when I am sitting in traffic during my new rush hour commute.

Summer camp is in full swing at the humane society I am now working at and so far,  this job is incredible.  My first two weeks of training brought me all types of new experiences with animals and filled my head with dancing bunnies, barking dogs, and climbing kittens. It has been AWESOME. This week we have our campers, all fifth and sixth graders full of questions, enthusiasm and opinions.  Today I was introduced to the wonderful large group game called “Kelp Help” (a revised version of “Elbow Tag”). Since I’m an awesome camp teacher, I played with the kids and ended up getting a quick workout that even got me sweating!  I had to sprint around a circle playing the role of a shark-dodging seal, as one of  the campers would try to tag me before I latched on to the “kelp” to be released from my role. It was nuts. But the kids were impressed with my short bursts of swiftness.

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Last week marked the first week of the Susan G. Komen 24-week training guide.  I managed to walk eight miles last week and this week I have done five so far, thanks to the first official training walk I hosted on Monday. Another 3-day participant, her daughter, my mother, and my two friends joined me to walk through a five mile chunk of my town. I was grateful that the weather was gorgeous and not too hot as we spent our evening chatting about what fitness meant us, weight loss, the effects of cancer on the world, and other random conversation pieces. My feet were about ready to fall off by the end of it as I was still sore from three miles I had done the day before hiking around the Santa Cruz mountains.

All my mileage I have racked up so far has certainly been making me feel all sorts of soreness. However, I also have been quickly feeling much more in shape than even just a month ago. I was down another 3.6 pounds last Saturday at Weight Watchers and am (ideally) another weigh-in away from being down 10 pounds officially since I began the program. It has been a challenge to take off those ten pounds but some progress is better than none. I have a feeling with the walk training and my new lifestyle of change of working to eliminate all the foods I am allergic to, I have faith I’ll be able to continue to drop the pounds.

This week I have been surviving off of yogurt, quinoa mixed with salsa, lettuce, cheese sticks, and grapes.  Mmm, grapes.  ::moment of Napa Valley appreciation::  I am looking forward to finally getting my first pay check so I can grocery shop for more variety! I went to Whole Foods and was saddened by the lack of products that are gluten-free but not made with rice or oats instead.  I did see some corn bread mix that inspired me to research recipes so I have faith maybe I will be able to find some other variety of carbs. Coming up with quick breakfast foods has been my biggest challenge but after some facebook friends made some suggestions, I have some ideas I could do.

Do you have any breakfast ideas for me that don’t include wheat, oats, rice, apples, bananas or oranges?  Thank you :)

I hope everyone had a glorious  rest of their week and an even better weekend.  I’m aiming to walk another eight miles before next Monday, I’ll use this blog as a commitment to do it. ;)

Bye bye!

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

PS – I’m brewing up some great ideas for fundraising for my 3-day walk but once I hit 20% of my needed $2,300 – I’ll be working with my friend and stylist, Ashley Blanchard of Lauthr, to create a “pink hair color” fundraising meter - the more money I earn – the more pink my hair will become. So far I have 12% thanks to donations from lovely people (Tommy, my Mom, my sister, Shannon, Audra, and Linda!) and I am VERY EAGER to get that pink in my hair.  If you have it to spare, please consider even donating $5 to my fundraising!  Thank you so much!

 

Visit my personal page here:   http://www.the3day.org/goto/aprillofgren