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Dear Hungry Girl,

Your recipes sound great, but I've noticed that you use a lot of packaged foods in them. Why do you use so many packaged foods? I heard someone on TV say it's best to only shop the "perimeter of the grocery store" and avoid the inner aisles -- is this good advice?

Confused in Aisle 1
Dear Confused,

I am actually asked these questions A LOT. Yes, I have heard that you should only shop the perimeter of the supermarket as well as a bazillion reasons why you should only eat natural and/or organic foods. And while those ideas are good in theory, they're not 100% realistic for most of us. Here's the bottom line. I personally eat a ton of fresh fruit and veggies -- I also eat a lot of lean meats and low-fat dairy. Those are all great things, and I encourage others to eat them. The HG book and emails have many recipes with a lot of fresh fruit, veggies, and lean protein. And there ARE some HG recipes that don't call for any packaged foods at all -- check out our Bake-tastic Butternut Squash Fries, Yummy Yummy Eggplant Goo, and Fiesta Tropical Fruit Salsa. But telling people to never eat the other stuff isn't entirely reasonable. I don't think people are going to live their lives never eating a crunchy chip or a scoop of ice cream... never indulging in a piece of cake or a brownie. It's not realistic to think most people can live that way. Also, a lot of people think that if they get their cake or brownies at Whole Foods, it is automatically a good choice for them and somehow diet-friendly. This is completely untrue. You will never convince me that eating thousands of calories' worth of "natural" foods is somehow better for you than a calorie-controlled diet, one that addresses your cravings but contains some foods with ingredients that are a little hard to pronounce. HG recipes often call for packaged foods because they keep the recipes low-calorie, low-fat, delicious, and easy. And another thing -- some people claim to be super-healthy because they avoid packaged foods, yet they'll head out to eat and devour an entire plate of onion rings as an appetizer and a slice of cheesecake for dessert. I'd rather avoid fried foods and fatty desserts at restaurants and make baked onion rings (with Fiber One cereal) and low-calorie desserts (with a bit of Cool Whip Free) in my kitchen. I think including those "inner aisle" foods as a way to maintain a healthy weight without feeling totally deprived is actually pretty smart. Especially since deprivation can lead to overdoing it with the food you were avoiding in the first place. My point here is that the HG lifestyle is one that is "real world". It's a strategy and an approach that is reasonable enough for people to live with forever -- it's not too extreme or off-putting. And that is super-important when dealing with an eating plan. Again, eat whole and all-natural foods as part of a sensible diet whenever possible -- I'm all for that. But that doesn't mean you have to cut all the other stuff out of your life completely. Thanks for the great questions!

Dear HG,

If a product says that it's "97% fat-free", doesn’t that mean that no more than 3% of the calories can come from fat? I realized recently that my beloved Hebrew National 97% Fat Free Beef Franks have 1.5g fat each. Since a gram of fat has 9 calories, that means each hot dog really has 13.5 calories from fat -- and that's THIRTY PERCENT of the total calories. How can this be?!?

Percentage Perplexed
Dear Percentage Perplexed,

First of all, I'm extremely impressed with your math skills and savvy detective work! Those dogs DO have 30% of their calories coming from fat. Don't panic -- here's the deal. The percentage claim is actually based on WEIGHT, not calories. So since each of those dogs weighs 49 grams, only 3% of that weight can be from fat. Since 3% of 49g is just under 1.5g, the 97% fat-free claim is totally accurate. A little confusing, I know! So does this mean companies can get away with labeling super-fatty foods as a certain percentage fat-free just because they weigh enough? Luckily, NO! For a product to tout that it's ANY percentage "fat-free", it has to at least be "low-fat" -- that means it can only have 3g fat or less per serving. So as long as you don't eat TOO many servings, you should be okay! And if you wanna watch your percentage of fat per day, pay attention to the % daily value on the label. That IS based on a 2,000-calories-a-day diet, but it can be a good, quick reference. Hope that helps. BTW, I LOVE those hot dogs and eat them all the time!

October 1st (today) starts the beginning of PUDDING SEASON! Yay! It's also Homemade Cookies Day -- so bake up a batch of our Grab 'n Go Breakfast Cookies.
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