Dear Heloise: I've heard that low calorie, artificially sweetened drinks and sweeteners aren't so good when I'm trying to lose weight. What do you think? — Emily in Illinois

Emily, yes, there are studies that show artificially sweetened drinks do not help folks curb their appetites, cut calories or lose weight. Rather, consumption of artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain, along with a myriad of other health issues, like diabetes and heart disease.

If you consume a beverage with no calories, your brain may trick you into thinking it's OK to eat more calories. Some experts even say that consuming sugar substitutes can cause you to crave sweets more.

Discuss this issue with your doctor or nutritionist. A best practice in the struggle to cut sugar and calories? Taper off sugar consumption, but take it slow -- and a small amount of real sugar is generally OK. Again, check with a medical professional. — Heloise

French tuck

Dear Heloise: Can you tell me about the French tuck fashion trend and when it is appropriate to wear? — Heidi in New York

Heidi, the French tuck is a way to highlight your waistline, while also going casual. Tuck the front of your shirt or blouse into pants, jeans or a skirt. Let the back of the shirt hang loose.

This is an extremely casual look, and even though office dress codes have relaxed significantly, and we are in a breezy, springtime mode, keep this look for the weekend.

It does tend to visually nip in the waist, and can make you appear taller. Give it a try. — Heloise

Cake cutter

Dear Heloise: Instead of cutting a round cake into wedges, my family cuts the cake straight down the middle to make two half circles. Then we cut diagonally again, about an inch over. This is one portion.

When finished, we "smoosh" the two cut ends together, and this keeps the cake fresher than foil or plastic wrap on a wedge from a traditionally cut cake. — Abbey in Texas

Family recipe box

Dear Readers: Do you have a family recipe box? It's probably wooden, including well-worn, paper-clipped, dog-eared, hand-me-down index-card-size recipes and homemaking hints that are a time capsule legacy of your family.

Seeing the handwriting of a mother or grandmother and reading their recipes can bring back memories that you may not have been able to recall any other way. Such a treasure! — Heloise

Using disinfectant sprays correctly

Dear Readers: When wiping down most counter surfaces with commercial spray disinfectants, get the best use out of the product that you can. Spray down the area and let the product sit on the surface for 30 seconds. This allows time for the product to kill all the germs. Then wipe. On plastic, wipe up immediately. — Heloise

Clean cups

Dear Heloise: The easy and safe way to clean stained tea or coffee out of delicate cups is to use hot water and about a quarter of a denture tablet. Let sit and rinse. — Carol K,. via email

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, Texas 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com.

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