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Howdy, HG!

I have been hearing a lot lately that the nutritional facts on many food labels at the supermarket are OFF by around 15% and that it's totally LEGAL. I am so upset and feel betrayed (and defeated). How can we trust the labels of anything we eat? What do we do, Hungry Girl?

Gloomy in Gainesville
Dear Gloomy,

As long-time HG subscribers know (I have been writing about this for ages), the stats on food labels can LEGALLY be off by as much as 20%. It's not great news, but it's not HORRIBLE news either. While some foods have more calories, fat, etc., than the labels say, some have less. Plus, we're way better off knowing this information than NOT knowing it. Think about it... Now that you're aware that packaged foods could have more calories than the labels say, you can make adjustments to account for it. Here are a few tips:

1. If you count calories, pad your numbers a bit. What I mean by "pad your numbers" is that you can round up -- if something says it has 280 calories, count it as 300. Small changes totally make a difference.

2. If something tastes too good to be true (especially if it's from a small mom-and-pop company), it may very well be -- so don't kid yourself. If you start eating some new treat regularly, and then you notice extra pounds creeping on when they shouldn't be, you might wanna ditch that snack or count extra calories for it.

3. The nutritional stats for all types of food -- even fruit and lean protein -- vary due to size and weight. So weigh your food once in a while to see if the actual weight matches the given or assumed amount.

The bottom line is that no matter how hard we try to pin numbers down, they're always going to be a little off. It won't help to become outraged. Just keep those tips in mind, and you should be fine!

Hungry Girl,

I love hot cocoa. What's the best kind, in your opinion, and how do you prepare it?

Loco for Cocoa
Dear Loco for Cocoa,

I like hot cocoa a lot! I usually stick with any diet hot cocoa mix that has 25 calories per packet. The most readily available one is Swiss Miss Diet Hot Cocoa Mix, but there are others that are great, too. I don't like lame 6-oz. cups of cocoa (too small!), but I do like a lot of flavor. So sometimes, for a little fun, I'll add a bit more water and toss in some other things as well: cocoa powder (a teaspoon or two), a packet of Splenda, flavored extract (yay, coconut!), instant coffee, fat-free or sugar-free powdered creamer, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze, mini chocolate chips (melted in for a chocolate boost!), etc. Topping it off with mini marshmallows or a little Fat Free Reddi-wip is a great idea, too. Play around with your own concoctions, or try some of our recipes: Gimme S'mores Hot Cocoa, Sweet 'n Salty Caramel Cocoa, That's Hazel-NUTS! Cocoa Supreme, and White Hot Mint Mocha Cocoa. Those are all amazing. ENJOY!!!

This month, a.k.a. January, is National Soup Month. Do NOT miss three fantastic new no-guilt soup recipes, coming up tomorrow!
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