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Dear Hungry Girl,

I'm going to be traveling a lot soon, and I have a habit of attacking the hotel mini bar. I know it's a bad idea, but I can't help myself. Any tips on how to avoid all those carby, EXPENSIVE snacks?!

In Need of Hotel Help
Dear In Need,

Great timing! I'm actually heading to a hotel TODAY! Typically, the first thing I do when I check into a hotel is view all of the items in the mini bar. It's a little crazy, I know, but I love to check all that stuff out (it's FUN, but risky if you're easily tempted!). I travel so much these days that I've gotten pretty good at avoiding the items in the mini bar, but that's only because I arrive prepared. Here are some tips & tricks to help you on your next trip...

1. If the snacks are locked up, don't take the key. Just refuse it when offered to you at check-in (or hide it ASAP!).

2. BYOS (Bring Your Own Snacks)! I ALWAYS show up at a hotel with my own emergency snacks (or I run out and immediately grab some). I'll stock up on bottles of water, bananas, apples, and whatever shelf-stable, portion-controlled, guilt-free snacks I can get my hands on (like jerky and soy crisps). Then when I'm hungry, I reach for my stuff -- not that giant jar of cashews!

3. Look at the price list. If seeing that a tiny bag of chips costs $9.00 isn't enough to stop you, I'd be shocked! Mini bar prices are THROUGH THE ROOF. I find that the idea of spending crazy amounts of money on small snacks (especially ones high in fat and calories!) is usually enough to stop me from eating them.

Good luck -- and safe travels!!!

Dear Hungry Girl,

I am an avid label-reader, and I've noticed recently that the numbers don't always add up anymore. I used to be able to multiply the number of carbs by four, fat grams by nine, and protein by four -- then I'd add all of those numbers together and have the total calories. It used to add up correctly 100% of the time. Now I find that it rarely adds up -- especially in foods that contain high amounts of fiber. What gives?

Dear Label-Baffled,

GOOD EYE! So many people have been asking this question lately, which means we're ALL becoming a lot more savvy when it comes to label reading (a great thing!). But prepare to potentially be more confused, because the answer is tricky. Here's the bottom line. While fiber is considered a carb (so it counts as a carb on labels), our bodies do not digest calories from fiber. So in recent years, many companies have not been adding these calories from fiber carbs to the total number of calories on the label. If something is listed as having 30g carbs, but 10 of those grams are from fiber, only 20g carbs count toward the total calories -- so instead of 120 calories from carbs, there would be only 80 (4 calories per gram). Yes, it's complicated -- especially since the rules are different in the U.S. than they are in other countries. In Canada, for example, companies are required to count the calories from fiber in the total calories -- so a serving of Fiber One original bran cereal is listed as having 100 calories (the same exact product has 60 calories per serving here in the States). Another factor throwing off the old formula of adding up calories is the issue of sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are considered carbs, but they contain fewer calories per gram than other carbs. And if you think you're confused NOW, think about THIS. What about foods in which fiber occurs NATURALLY, and their calories were calculated and made standard a bazillion years ago? Take an apple, for instance. A medium-sized apple supposedly has around 70 calories, but it also has about 3g fiber. So does that mean it really has 58 digestible calories? Hmmmmm... food for thought.

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