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12.19.07
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Dear Hungry Girl,

I can't completely switch to the fat-free or sugar-free versions of certain foods, because I don't think they taste good at all! What do you think about mixing half the amount of the regular version with half of the sugar-free or fat-free version? For example, I can’t stand the taste of sugar-free jelly, so I mix a jar of regular and a jar of sugar-free together (so it has fewer calories than the original but tastes better than the sugar-free). I do this with lots of things. What do you think of this? And do you have any mixing suggestions for those of us who can’t seem to make the switch to the sugar-free/fat-free versions of some foods? Thanks!

Miss Mix 'n Match
Dear Miss Mix 'n Match,

What do I think of it? I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE what you're doing! People are often so "black and white" in terms of their diet and making changes. And, in my opinion, when it comes to eating, doing that "all or nothing" thing is a big mistake. I believe you're SO much better off saving where you can, while still enjoying the foods you love -- every little bit helps. Mixing sugar-free or fat-free stuff with the real thing is a great idea. And if that helps you, then I support it! HOWEVER, I do want to point out that sometimes there are middle-of-the-road options that you might like, and those could save you some effort. For example, low-sugar jelly (like the Smucker's Low Sugar line) has around 25 calories per tablespoon. Mixing the regular and sugar-free ones would give you a concoction with about 30 calories per tablespoon. So you may want to try that low-sugar stuff and see if you like it. Same goes for reduced fat products -- look for ones labeled "light" or "low-fat", if the fat-free ones don't do it for you. In general, I think it's ALL about balance -- even when it comes to meals. If I want to eat a few french fries, I'll have water with 'em instead of a drink with calories. If I want to indulge and enjoy the cheese my salad comes topped with, I'll skip the dressing and squirt some lemon juice on top instead. So if you cave and order a burger, don't think you should go all out and get cheese and special sauce on that thing, and then wash it down with a shake. Do what you can to save here and there. It'll help you make smarter eating choices and lifestyle changes you can stick to in the long run.


Dear HG,

Healthy eating is so important, but at the same time, it's leaving such a hole in my wallet! Those portion-controlled snacks are way more expensive than the regular kinds, and buying fresh fruit and veggies all the time is costing me a ton! Hungry Girl, do you have any ideas?

Frugal Franny
Dear Franny,

You're right. Fresh produce and guilt-free packaged foods are often higher in price than other foods. Those 100-calorie portion-controlled snacks are typically WAY more expensive than large bags of the same (or similar) products. If you're disciplined and have the time to do this, get the larger bags of these foods, and then break them into individual servings and store them in Ziploc bags or plastic containers. Another trick is to always be on the lookout for sales! Mygrocerydeals.com is a great resource for local bargains. And there are some HG staples that can be found extra cheap -- things like Progresso canned soups (sometimes as low as a dollar a can!) and Lean Cuisine frozen meals (I've seen them as low as 5 for $10). Dreyer's/Edy's Slow Churned Light Ice Cream goes on sale a lot, too (yum!). When you see these things on sale, STOCK UP! As for fresh fruit and veggies, always buy them whole and hack 'em at home (WAY cheaper than buying the precut ones!). Or visit the frozen food aisle for fruits and veggies -- you can save a lot. Take a look at HG's "Guilt-Free on a Budget!!!" article on Yahoo! for some more money-saving ideas. Thanks for checking in...

 
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