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Hungry Girl,

I love artichokes, and I've heard that they're super-low in calories, so I don't want to blow it with a fattening dip! What's a guilt-free option for dipping artichoke leaves in at restaurants?


Dear Artichoke-Challenged,

Artichokes themselves ARE very low in calories, and they're also really fun to eat (like a little project!). A large one has just 70 calories or so, plus a ton of fiber. But before we talk dips, you should know that the calorie count above only applies to an artichoke that's been cooked without any oil at all. Thing is, so many restaurants marinate and/or grill artichokes in WAY too much oil. Sometimes, they also top 'em with cheesy, buttery breadcrumbs or oily dressing. Then they give you crazy-fattening dipping sauces along with a shiny, oily version of that vegetable. Bad news! If you order the Fire-Roasted Fresh Artichoke at The Cheesecake Factory, you'll be served a 1,028-calorie appetizer -- and the ones at other places probably aren't much better! That's obviously crazy. So what do you do? For starters, make sure you order a plain, STEAMED artichoke -- that's the best way to ensure it isn't cooked with oil. The grilled ones almost always pack in lots of oil -- there's no way around it. Then, instead of the mayo-y, creamy sauce they usually give you, ask for SALSA. Salsa is THE best thing ever to dip your artichoke leaves into. Yum! You can also squirt your artichoke with lemon and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper -- simple, but SO good. Happy chewing!


I've been seeing a product called Miracle Noodle that looks like the Tofu Shirataki you always write about. Is it the same thing? If not, what's the difference?


Dear Noodle-Confused,

I've been meaning to answer this question FOREVER, because so many people have written in asking about those things. Miracle Noodles (a.k.a. straight-up shirataki noodles) are NOT the same as Tofu Shirataki noodles. Miracle Noodles are made mostly of glucomannan (Japanese yam flour) and don't contain any tofu at all. That means they have fewer calories -- ZERO per serving, as opposed to Tofu Shirataki's 20 calories per serving -- and are safe for people with soy allergies to consume. But the big difference is the texture. Miracle Noodles are even chewier, tougher, and less pasta-like than Tofu Shirataki. The tofu really helps give shirataki noodles a more "pasta-like" taste and texture. Some people go for Miracle Noodles because they are calorie-free, but I really think the Tofu Shirataki noodles are way better and worth the calories (still only 20 per serving!). I do like Miracle Noodles and other straight-up shirataki noodles, but they don't hold sauces nearly as well as Tofu Shirataki and aren't quite the incredible pasta swap that Tofu Shirataki is. And I stay away from the thicker pasta shapes that Miracle Noodles come in -- those are way too chewy. Bottom line? If you are on the fence at all about Tofu Shirataki, I don't think you'll be a fan of the ones without tofu. But if you're a die-hard Tofu Shirataki maniac, or if you can't (or choose not to) eat soy products, you can give the Miracle Noodles a try. That's my advice. For more on Tofu Shirataki and to find out where to buy it, click here. For recipes, click here. And definitely check out the Tofu Shirataki section of the "Fun With..." chapter in the first HG cookbook!

Today, July 15th, is National Tapioca Pudding Day. Celebrate with Kozy Shack's delicious No Sugar Added version. SOOOO AWESOME and just 90 calories per pudding cup!
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