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My local news station recently did a segment on "diet" meals at restaurants. The meals were sent to a lab, and the results were SCARY! Some had way more fat and calories than the restaurants claimed. How can I be sure what I am ordering is really diet-friendly?

Scared to Dine Out
Dear Scared,

I answer questions like this all the time, but because they are so important (and since I've received many emails about this specific news story), I think it's definitely worth addressing again. When you go to a restaurant and order a meal, chances are the calorie and fat counts aren't going to match up exactly with the stats you see online. Why? There are so many factors that affect the nutritional content of your food when you're dining out. Are the cooks following directions word for word? Are they measuring EXACTLY how much oil they're adding to the pan? Are they weighing the ingredients? Chances are they AREN'T. And there's little you can do about it. You could special order (nicely, and without being too demanding or unrealistic!), but again, you NEVER know what's going to show up. If you are super-concerned about this, try to stick with "clean" foods. In other words, order everything "dry", and get your sauces on the side. Even seemingly light sauces can contain "mystery" ingredients, and simple sautéed dishes can still pack a lot of oil. On that note, if you SEE lots of shiny oil on your food, there's a good chance it has extra calories and fat, no matter what the online stats say. (And don't be afraid to blot some of that extra oil away!) The best advice I can give you is this -- PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR FOOD. If it looks or tastes like it has lots of calories and fat, it probably does. That's really the bottom line. And the whole "grilled or steamed with sauce on the side" way of ordering is truly the simplest and most effective way to avoid calorie catastrophes at restaurants. Keep in mind, though, if a restaurant offers low-calorie or low-fat options, even if the stats are somewhat off, those dishes are probably still FAR better than the regular stuff on the menu! Also -- drink lots of water, eat slowly, and don't think you have to finish all the food on your plate (stop when you're full, then bring the rest home if you like). Happy dining!

Hi Hungry Girl,

A lot of your recipes call for canned pumpkin. If I only use part of a can, can I cover it and keep the rest in the fridge? If so, how long will it stay fresh?

Dear Pumpkin-Eater,

Excellent question! Canned pumpkin can easily be stored in the fridge. Just transfer leftovers to a non-metal container (airtight, if possible) and cover securely. Then use within 1 week (5 days to be extra-safe). This should be easy to do, because there are SO many fantastic uses for the stuff. Check out this cool recipe for soft chocolate chip treats that calls for some pumpkin, and click here (then scroll!) for a soft pretzel 'n pumpkin dip recipe! Click here (then scroll!) for an easy, 2-ingredient, 100-calorie snack you can throw together using our canned orange friend. And here's a link to the world's BEST oatmeal recipe (pumpkin in oatmeal rocks!) -- just eat that stuff for breakfast for a few days, and your can will magically disappear! And there's an entire section called "Fun with Canned Pumpkin" in the HG cookbook. In fact, there are no less than TEN recipes throughout the book that call for some canned pumpkin! And, if you still have leftovers, you can actually freeze 'em in that non-metal container for up to 3 months (just make sure it isn't filled to the very top). But don't wait too long to use or freeze your leftover canned pumpkin, because then it'll get moldy, and you want to avoid that at all costs -- not only is it a waste, but it's also GROSS!

HG HITS SAN DIEGO! Catch HG's Lisa signing books, giving out snacks and awesome prizes, and answering your Qs face-to-face! She'll be at Barnes & Noble in San Diego tomorrow night (Thursday, 6/5/08). And remember, the bestselling book Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World is in stores everywhere!
June is National Turkey Lovers Month. We love turkey and plan to celebrate often, especially by snacking on a beloved fave -- turkey slices and pickles spears. Mmmmmmm!
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