Friday, April 14 2006

0 * 6 + 0 + 0 * 6/8 = 31?

I haven’t blogged about the specifics of why my doctor ordered me to work out more, but when that information is combined with his other order to cut way back on sugar (and, to a lesser extent, all carbs), it should be pretty obvious.

Mind you, I’d already cut back a lot on sugared soda a few years ago, just as part of a general desire to lose some weight and get in shape, and I’d found a few low- and zero-calorie drinks I could tolerate, but I didn’t go cold turkey. Now I have. [and things are going quite well, by the way; down from an average 250 mg/dL to ~125]

Not long before the doctor forcibly changed my lifestyle, I had acquired a taste for Arizona Iced Tea’s Arnold Palmer. While this is significantly lower in calories than the Lemon Tea we used to buy in massive quantities, it’s still filled with sugar. (I’ve never seen their Splenda-sweetened diet drinks in stores…)

So, armed with my New Best Friend Splenda (note: unless you’re a biochemist, please don’t send me any links about “the dangers of Splenda”; I’ll just point and laugh), here’s a pretty decent “zero-calorie” Arnold Palmer:

Mix, chill, serve.

Note that I’ve put “zero-calorie” in quotes because I cannot determine how many digestible calories are actually present. All three of the powdered ingredients contain maltodextrin, but the serving sizes used allow them to round the calories down to 0 on the Nutrition Facts label. (see update below)

Basically, if each of the three powdered ingredients contains the maximum amount of maltodextrin that can still be rounded down to 0 calories, then an eight-ounce serving of this “zero-calorie” drink could contain as much as 31 calories, or nearly 8 grams of sugar. I’d like to think it has less, but I honestly can’t tell. The USDA Nutrient Database has data for Splenda packets (which also contain dextrose), but not the granular variety, and they’ve got nothing on the Lipton mix. The Kool-Aid mix is fine, at only 0.6 calories per serving, but it’s by far the smallest contributor. I think I’ll cut the Splenda in half for the next batch and see how it turns out.

While I’m on the subject, Lipton Iced Tea To Go is sweetened with Splenda (and maltodextrin…), and the Lemon flavor is pretty good. I don’t know who thought Green Tea with Mandarin and Mango was a good idea, but it’s at least drinkable, unlike the incredibly nasty Green Tea with Honey and Lemon. The other three flavors are apparently too new to be in wide distribution, but I’m not interested.

By the way, it would be nice to try sweetening with pure sucralose, the truly-zero-calorie active ingredient in Splenda, but I can’t. Unless your middle name is “Pepsico”, it’s unlikely that you can afford one of the 10 kilogram cartons that they ship the stuff in. Why not? Because the stuff is so ridiculously sweet that a carton is equivalent to more than six tons of sugar (if I’ve calculated correctly…), and priced accordingly. They cut it with maltodextrin and dextrose to bulk it up to a size that can be divided into consumer-friendly portions. There are some syrups available that are sweetened with the pure stuff, but they’re either expensive or a bit dodgy.

Update: ah, Google; the amount of maltodextrin in granular Splenda adds up to a total of 96 calories per cup, reducing the maximum possible calorie count per glass from 31 to 15.6, and establishing a lower bound of 12.7. Not bad at all.