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Dear HG,

What are some of the biggest mistakes people consistently make while dieting and calorie counting? I feel sure I am making some of them...

Miss Take
Dear Miss Take,

I answer questions like this a lot -- and it's a really important one, so I think it's worth going over again. Here are the top three mistakes (in my opinion) that people make while trying to lose weight...

1. Serving size flubs. Whether people misread or overlook labels (yes, there could be THREE servings in that snack bag!) or are sloppy or lazy when it comes to measuring (and accidentally eat two cups of cereal at once instead of one!), ignoring portion sizes is a HUGE problem. So be sure to pay attention to serving sizes.

2. Believing the hype. What this basically means is that people often misunderstand the buzzwords that restaurants and food manufacturers throw around. People assume that because something's labeled light, low-fat, or healthy, it's therefore low in calories. That's DEFINITELY not always the case. A low-fat muffin can have 400 calories, and "healthy" wraps often have 600 - 700 calories each (just unroll one of those ginormous tortillas, and prepare to be shocked -- DO IT!). You need to be able to cut through the BS when it comes to this stuff. (Oh, please don't be offended by my use of "BS" -- asking nicely!)

3. Assuming salads are always good options. All salads are NOT created equally. Pay attention to what's in and on your salads. Cheese, tortilla strips, crispy noodles, nuts, etc. -- those extras can add hundreds of calories to your greens. The dressing can be even worse. It is not uncommon for restaurants to pour 500 calories' worth of DRESSING on your salad... a lot of those calories come from FAT. It's HORRENDOUS. Eating salads that have 1,000 - 1,800 calories is definitely a cause of diet sabotage for lots of people.

There are more mistakes people make, for sure -- but those three are BIGGIES. Are you making any of them? If so, now you know, and you can take steps toward fixing 'em. Good luck!

Hey, HG!

With all the new calorie-posting laws that are popping up in different cities and states, more and more restaurant stats are becoming available. Can you point me in the direction of some hard-to-find restaurant nutritionals that are now available in certain areas? Thanks!

Dining Out Diva
Dear Dining Out Diva,

Excellent Q!!! And one that I am excited to answer. In the past, many restaurants have been secretive about the calorie counts of their foods, and with good reason -- so many of those stats are frightening! Here's a list of some that are now public -- click but prepare to be scared!

1. The Cheesecake Factory - The cheesecakes aren't the only offenders. Truly shocking stuff here!

2. Claim Jumper - Entrees with over 1,000 calories each = not uncommon. Click and see.

3. Olive Garden - It isn't pretty, people. You can find several decent options in the Garden Fare section, but even some of those are a little scary.

4. Red Lobster - Thankfully, the newly disclosed nutritional info reveals plenty of guilt-free items. But, of course, there are fat-tastrophes too.

5. Friendly's - Click here for the not-so-friendly 411...

6. IHOP, T.G.I. Friday's, Outback Steakhouse, and Applebee's - These chains haven't posted the stats online, but you can find nutritional brochures and/or calorie counts on the menus at CA and NYC locations (as well as a few other areas). Click HERE and HERE to see stats we found at IHOP, Friday's, Outback, and others; and click HERE for a SLEW of salad shockers we uncovered. And, of course, we'll continue to disclose some of these hard-to-find stats in HG emails.

Keep in mind, these chains aren't necessarily trying to spin themselves as healthy -- they're merely following the law and making the info available. It's a means of helping educate the public about the calories in foods they eat, and it does explain, in part, WHY the obesity problem has been getting worse and worse. Knowledge is power, people! So click around and make informed decisions next time...

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