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Dear Hungry Girl,

I LOVE peanut butter.  Is there a good choice for me?  Please help!

- Nuts 4 Nuts

Dear Nuts 4 Nuts,

Experts say peanut butter can be a good food choice for people who are watching their weight.  And while PB is not exactly low in calories or fat, the fat it contains is the heart-healthy kind that makes your hair shiny and your nails strong, but doesn't clog your arteries.  Peanut butter is also super-filling, which is good since you should keep your portions small.  I usually use just half the recommended serving size (one Tbsp. instead of two), so I can keep my intake at under 100 calories.  My favorite peanut butter is the natural kind.  When I use natural peanut butter I pour all of the excess oil off before stirring (why mix that goop in there?). You'll still get plenty of the good fats if you do that.  And, according to my nutritionist pals, The Dish Divas, my little de-oiling tip saves 120 calories and 13g of fat for each Tbsp. of oil you pour off the top.  Get rid of FIVE tablespoons of oil and your entire jar is down 600 calories and 65 grams of fat, which works out to about 43 calories and 4.5 fat grams less PER SERVING.  Not too shabby!  If you're feeling adventurous, you can check out "Peanut Wonder"  (aka Better'n Peanut Butter), a peanut butter substitute that has just 100 calories and 2.5g of fat per serving.  I've tried it -- and it's interesting.  Not great alone but not a bad spread to pair with jelly.  Enjoy your PB!

Dear Hungry Girl,

What's the story with artichokes?  I'm kind of scared of them, but people seem to think they're great.  Am I missing something?  I don't even know how to prepare them.  Can you help?

Artichoke-ly Challenged
Dear Challenged,

For starters, there is absolutely NO reason at all to be scared of artichokes.  THEY ROCK!!!  Not only are they good for your heart, an excellent source of fiber (7g), magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin C, but they are also extremely low in calories (60) and they taste GREAT! They're also not that difficult to prepare.  Rinse them well (they are often dirty!). Then cut off part of the stem, and any pointy, sharp tips of leaves (I usually slice like an inch or two off the top, which catches a lot of the prickly parts). Stand the artichokes in a large saucepan, cover them halfway with water, and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes.  If you're impatient (like me), simply place your artichoke in a small amount of water in a microwavable dish that has been tightly covered with plastic wrap. Cook until tender (about 7-9 minutes), turning halfway. Once your artichoke is cooked, dip the leaves in something fun and low in calories-- like salsa or dijonnaise. (Pssst...if you're ordering an artichoke at a restaurant, ask for it steamed, ditch the butter or mayo, and ask for salsa instead.)

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