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Dear Hungry Girl,

I'm so tired of all the misinformation out there. I was horrified to learn that many packaged foods actually have more fat and/or calories than the labels state. How can we know what to believe? Is it safe to eat ANYTHING?

Label Rage
Dear Label Rage,

I feel your pain. Totally. It's hard to know who or what to trust these days. I have a few general rules that I live by, and I want to share them with you (and everyone else!). Here they are...

1. If something seems or tastes too good to be true, there's a good chance the stats are off. For example, if you prepare a packaged pizza with a 200-calorie label and you taste buttery crust and see a pool of oil on top of the cheese (hello, EAT RITE PIZZA!), the label is WRONG. VERY wrong.

2. Big boys don't lie. If a product is made by a trusted brand, like General Mills, Quaker, Kraft, etc., there's an excellent chance the info provided is accurate. On the flip side, mom-and-pop companies are far more likely to have mislabeled products. If you're buying things from little-known companies with names like Grammynana's Cookies and Rising Starz Cookie Company, and the foods are large, rich, and decadent yet have suspiciously low calorie and fat counts, there is a tremendous possibility the labels are wrong. This may be a tough one for you to swallow (no pun intended), but it is what it is.

3. Weigh your food. Every so often, throw it on a food scale to see if the actual weight matches what the package says. This serves two purposes. First of all, you'll immediately get a feel for whether or not this food manufacturer cares about accurate labeling. And secondly, if the food weighs more or less than it's supposed to, at least you'll know that the nutritional stats are off in some way and you'll be able to factor that in.

4. Pay attention to YOUR scale. If you discover a new treat and start eating it daily, and then you notice extra pounds creeping on when they shouldn't be, it's likely that your new find is a suspicious one. Try swapping it out for a while with a trusted snack with equal nutritional value -- if the numbers on the scale go down, you've found your answer.

There you have it -- four helpful tips for you. Hang in there!

Dear HG,

I see your logo on the back of Tofu Shirataki packages and now on the back of Fiber One boxes. A friend of mine said you are a paid spokeswoman for these products and that you are forced to use them in your recipes. I don't believe that is true. Can you please set the record straight on exactly how HG operates?

Gimme the HG Skinny
Dear Gimme,

I'm always thrilled to answer questions like this one. And since HG has SO many new subscribers (hooray!), I think now is a great time to go over this. I'll try to be concise and yet thorough in my answer. When I launched Hungry Girl in 2004, my goal was to share information about guilt-free eating (in the form of finds, news, recipes, etc.) with as many people as were interested in reading it. The integrity of the brand means EVERYTHING to me, and so I knew -- from the start -- that I would never EVER write positive things about foods that I don't like. When I decided to create custom ads on the site, my philosophy was (and still is) that the ads should be fun and useful, have some sort of added value (like recipes, coupons, free shipping, etc.), and ONLY (and this is the most important part!!!) be for things I like and would write about anyway. Most of the current advertisers on the HG site became advertisers only AFTER I had written about products, etc. of theirs that I love. I am CONSTANTLY turning down requests (and a lot of money) from companies that have products I don't like, because I would NEVER feature ads for foods I don't enjoy. As for HG appearing on Tofu Shirataki and cereal boxes... Is the Hungry Girl logo on Tofu Shirataki bags? Yes, but I am not paid for that! I helped the company redesign its packaging and provided recipes and my logo for the product because I LOVE Tofu Shirataki and think the world should know about those miraculous noodles! I want people to get a friendly, approachable vibe from Tofu Shirataki when they see it at the market -- that's why I helped out. And the HG logo and onion ring recipe are on Fiber One boxes, but I'm not being paid for that either. Since Hungry Girl was already using Fiber One in so many recipes, my friends at the company asked if they could feature a recipe on Fiber One boxes and form a little promotional partnership (non-paid) for the HG book. I was THRILLED beyond belief (as any normal human would be!). The first time I saw the design for the back of the box, I cried a little (not kidding!). And BTW, if I ever were to enter into a deal with a food brand where I’d be paid for any sort of on-package endorsement, you can BET I'd only do it if I were completely IN LOVE with the product. And no one could force me to use ANYTHING in a recipe -- I would never compromise HG recipes for monetary gain. I know not everyone is going to agree with my opinions on all foods -- but I think I have great taste buds and opinions that are in line with a huge percentage of the population's. Please know that Hungry Girl content is NOT, in any way, swayed by "deals" made with companies. I name names (quite often!) in reviews and recipes because there's a lot of bad-tasting food out there, and the delicious guilt-free gems aren't always easy to find. So when I find 'em, I share that info with everyone, in order to help people discover things that can keep them satisfied. That's basically it in a nutshell. It really is that simple. Hope that explains things. Oh, and please make sure your friend reads this!

Studies show that people who own the Hungry Girl cookbook live happier lives, earn more money, and have more friends. OK, we totally made all of that up! But the book is really great, so everyone should own a copy, no?
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