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What are your favorite veggie burgers? There are so many out there now to choose from, and I have a hard time figuring out which ones to buy. Help!

Vicki Luvs Veggies
Dear Vicki,

There are obviously a lot of veggie burgers out there, and I have many favorites. But figuring out which one is the best choice for you really depends on what you're looking for. As far as a straight "MEAT" substitute goes, you really can't beat Boca's Original Meatless Burger. It's FANTASTIC and really does taste like a hamburger (for just 70 calories and a half-gram of fat!). If you're more interested in veggie burgers that taste like actual vegetables, there are sooo many great ones. I'm a huge fan of Gardenburger's line. They make a black bean chipotle one that's AWESOME, a portabella burger that I love, and also a sun-dried tomato and basil one that's GREAT. They have a fairly new flavor called the California Burger, and that one is actually my new favorite. It tastes a lot like Dr. Praeger's California Veggie Burger but without all the grease. I still love Dr. P's burgers, but I have to warn you to blot the HECK out of those things before eating them because they are super-oily and there was that nutritionals scare with them a few months back. PLEASE take my blotting advice and de-oil ANY of the Praeger's products. Our friends at Amy's make a bunch of delicious veggie burgers, too (pretty much everything that comes out of the Amy's kitchen is INCREDIBLE) -- but sometimes those burgers are a little hard to find. Click here to see some of our past veggie burger reviews, and here to see what we had to say last year about Gardenburger's line.

Dear Hungry Girl,

Is dried fruit the same thing as freeze-dried fruit? And what about those baked fruit snacks I see popping up? I love fruity snacks, but I bet some are better than others. Give me the 411!

Fruit Fan
Dear Fruit Fan,

Good question! Dried fruit and freeze-dried fruit are totally different. Dried fruit is typically made by putting fruit through a machine called a dehydrator, which sucks most of the water content out and gives us those shriveled, somewhat ugly dried fruit pieces we all know (like raisins and dried cranberries). While some organic and health-brand kinds are all-natural, most of the ones you'd find at the supermarket contain added sugars and preservatives. Between the added sugars and the fact that it takes A LOT of fruit to make one tiny portion of the dried stuff, those calories add up fast. If you grab a bag of dried fruit at the airport or quickie mart, you could easily suck down 400 - 600 calories without even thinking about it. Freeze-dried fruit involves a fancy drying process that removes the moisture and weight but keeps the basic shape and size of the fruit. The freeze-dried stuff has a melt-in-your-mouth consistency (think of that astronaut food you tried as a kid at the space museum). This stuff's not as common, but it's less likely to contain any added sugars and funky ingredients. A company called Crispy Green makes AWESOME freeze-dried fruit snacks. Their snack bags have 35 - 40 calories each and come in flavors like apricot, peach, pineapple and more. Baked fruit snacks (the fruit is dried out in ovens) have a chip-like consistency. They're pretty low in calories as long as you don't overdo it and they taste great, but they do usually contain some preservatives. General Mills and Nature Valley both make portion-controlled baked apple snacks that are pretty easy to find at most supermarkets. (Nature Valley's Cinnamon Apple Fruit Crisps are the BEST, but GM's Fruit Ripples are great as well!) Bottom line? Baked fruit snacks and freeze-dried ones are your best bets for low-cal fruit snacks, but freeze-dried fruit is less likely to contain any extra ingredients. Regular dried fruit gives you the least bang for your calorie buck and usually has stuff added to it; but it tastes the sweetest and is the most readily available. Whoa, that was a long answer.  Hope you're still awake.

April is National Soft Pretzel Month. Enjoy our cinna-swap. Yum!
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