on May 28, 2008
In my years of subscribing to the HG Web site and now using this book, it has occurred to me that there are many different philosophies of dieting and weight loss/maintenance. There are WAY more than two, but for the purposes of this review I am going to boil it down:
1. Eat super healthy, nonprocessed, preferably organic foods. Make whole grains, fruits and veggies the mainstays of your diet. Severely curtail fats, oils and sugar. When you want to indulge, enjoy one small portion of something "real" -- i.e. one sliver of chocolate cake, one square of dark chocolate, one cookie, or the like. [And exercise.] People who follow this approach are probably more likely to never snack between meals (or eat only fruits and veggies as snacks), avoid "100-calorie-packs," eschew artificial sweeteners and diet sodas, etc.
2. Follow the above philosophy to the extent that your time and lifestyle allow, but lean on processed low-cal foods to (a) save cooking/prep time and (b) enjoy modified versions of the "junky" foods you feel deprived of when you are dieting or have to eat low-cal in order to maintain your weight. [And exercise.] People who take this approach are probably the lion's share of 100-calorie-pack purchasers, more likely to use artificial sweeteners, drink diet sodas, and so on.
What you have to understand about HG author Lillen is that her Web site and book are tools for those who adopt approach #2. She states repeatedly that she isn't a nutritionist or a dietitian, and she makes no claim for the "healthfulness" of her recipes. They do lean on processed ingredients and tend to contain a lot of sodium, artificial sweetener and chemical ingredients. What they offer is a similar flavor experience to the very high-cal foods lots of people like, with much lower calorie and fat counts (and often more fiber as well).
But for those who would knock this approach (while you certainly retain the moral high ground as organic eating becomes something akin to spiritual cleanliness in more and more people's minds), please bear in mind that for some of us, our eating is always going to be a trade-off in terms of risk. I speak from experience as someone who has maintained a 100-lb. weight loss for over 10 years. For whatever reason, my body processes food in such a way that I gain weight exceptionally easily. I have to be CONSTANTLY vigilant about what I am putting in my mouth and how I am counterbalancing it with exercise. If I relax my vigilance for even a couple of days, it shows up on my body. As a (reformed) compulsive overeater I struggle with eating just one cookie, tiny sliver of cake, etc., every couple of weeks. (Yes, it is true, I would often rather have a larger portion of something that actually isn't AS good as the real thing.) And if you think that this behavior is not incredibly challenging to sustain for a lifetime, you just don't know whereof you speak.
So personally, while I certainly do my best to eat truly healthy, skip sugar, keep fat and meat intake to a minimum, and eat lots of whole grains and fruits/veggies, I salute HG for giving me recipes that allow me to "let my hair down" and enjoy some fun foods along with the rest of the world, without having to lie awake at night and worry about what I ate for lunch.
For the record, among my favorite HG recipes are the butternut squash fries, the turkey reuben and the fettucine "girl-fredo."
on April 29, 2008
This is an absolutely charming, informative and imaginative book for anybody, female or otherwise, looking to eat better. Hungry Girl started out as a helpful website and just exploded from there and the excitement of having a new book to reach and assist wider audiences is present throughout the work.
The usual standards of recipes - soups, salads, entrees, party foods, desserts, etc. - are there, most with information on just why this is better for you than the standard recipe. There are also plenty of tasty vegetarian recipes available for those who can appreciate the endless appeal of butternut squash. Along with the recipes are also tips and helpful guidelines for lots of situations - eating at work, going to a party, taking a cruise, in line for fast food, etc. - many of which really made me stop and think about what I've been eating and how I've been eating it. She's got a lot of really great tips that I honestly had never considered before. There are selections of color photographs but most of the recipes have small drawings along with them. I really enjoyed this because it allowed the book to be packed with information rather than tantalizing pictures. And in the end, it's the ingredients that are important, not how it looks.
Hungry Girl is also endorsed by Weight Watchers and so all the recipes have their points value available online.
Lastly, and most importantly for a lot of people, none of the recipes in this book are overly complex or require lots of crazy ingredients. I'm just learning to be confident in the kitchen and I haven't come across a recipe yet that seems out of my skill range. Her enthusiasm throughout the book gives a fun feeling to the recipes, like you're not cooking but embarking on an adventure to eat better.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the obvious effort put into it. There's something for everyone it its pages.
on May 6, 2008
I have mixed thoughts about the Hungry Girl Book. If you like her web site, you will like the book.
The benefit of the book is that it provides one with suggestions for swapping high calorie, high fat ingredients with lower calorie, lower or fat-free ingredients. The recipes are also very quick and easy.
The problems with the book are; 1) It relies on A LOT of processed ingredients with nutritionally empty, artificial ingredients - e.g. it is okay and healthy to eat low-fat natural cheese and a whole grain hamburger bun instead of plastic pieces of Fat free American cheese with an overprocessed, white flour, tasteless low calorie hamburger bun 2) There is an overemphasis on getting the calories down as far as possible - interesting, catchy approach to draw people to the book, but IT IS AT THE EXPENSE OF TASTE AND NUTRITION 3) Some of the recipes are not "recipes" - I do not need to be told to use low calorie bread, fat-fat cheese, and lean meat to create a sandwich 4) The descriptions are overly enthusiastic - they will not taste that good. It eventually makes you less willing to believe what she is selling after a while. 5) Hungry Girl has financial tie-ins with certain food products (I don't know if I am allowed to name them by brand), like those shirataki noodles (her picture is on them) and muffins (she has her own flavors). This biases her suggestions and swaps - there are better options available. 6) Most of the swaps that she suggests and similar recipes are available already on her web site. If you want to modify one of your favorites, you can find all sorts of swaps on her site or around the internet.
I really, really wanted to like this book, partly because of Hungry Girl's easy, breezy style. I had been forewarned by one of the recipes that appeared on the HG website (for mock French onion soup) that I never made again, but since I am always searching for good low-points WW recipes, I thought I'd give the book a try.
So far, I've made a handful of the recipes, all of which have resulted in varying degrees of disappointment as is most often the case when making mock foods. For instance, the mock chocolate peanut butter fudge (a potentially promising combination of brownie mix, canned pumpkin and peanut butter) counts on a tiny bit of peanut butter to mask what turns out to be the much too prominent taste of pumpkin. I admit that one small piece was quite filling, but at the price of sitting in my stomach for hours like a rock. Even the non-mock recipes, like the "Yummy, Yummy Eggplant Goo," are largely poorer versions of better recipes that are just as low in fat and calories as the HG version.
The cutesy recipe titles are somewhat grating (which would have been easily overlooked if the recipes were good) and the author's descriptions of the finished products won't measure up unless you have fairly dull taste buds and an overactive imagination.
If you just want to stuff yourself with mock and/or fiber-filled recipes and don't really care what the food tastes like, then this is your book. My bet is that most people will try a few of the recipes before deciding that it is better to have occasional smaller portions of real food.
on June 27, 2008
Well, I had really high hopes for this book, but if you're looking to actually be healthy, and enjoy your food, and live a healthy lifestyle long-term, this probably isn't the book for you. Too many weird chemical and tofu substitutions. Even the recipes that seemed promising didn't really taste good when I actually made them. A MUCH better book is "The Most Decadent Diet Ever" by Devin Alexander. She uses real food that you can live with forever. Her "Chocolate Not Only In Your Dreams Cake", is absolutely to die for, and it has real brown sugar, not splenda, 5 grams of fiber (without adding fiber one cereal), tastes totally indulgent, and you get a real life size portion for 3 weight watchers points! Now that's what I'm talking about!!! And it was easy to make to boot!
on September 16, 2008
I picked up this book mostly because it seemed like it had recipes for foods that I might actually enjoy like philly cheese steak, spicy chicken sandwhich etc and promised easy, low-fat, high-fiber recipes.
I wish I had glanced over the ingredient lists a bit more before purchasing. The recipes rely very heavily on "faux" foods such as fat free cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, soy crumbles, etc
Of all the recipes I tried so far, only the cheese steak is decent and it's basically just sauteed onions and meat, so....
The Fiber One breading she uses frequently for chicken dishes is imo horrible. I guess if you just really want to get some extra fiber or you like the taste of Fiber One, it's fine, but I didn't care for it at all.
All the fake dairy products make most of the recipes bland, with weird textures. Some of them I caught myself thinking might be decent if I swapped out all the fake ingredients for smaller amounts of real food, but overall everything I tried ranged from just edible to horrible.
I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone other than people who are determined to eat nachos and fries and such and are willing to resort to all these "diet" versions of foods to keep the calories down.
on May 5, 2008
This cookbook is unlike any other - it is creative and very fun to look through... However, the majority of the recipes in this book are made from processed foods and not enough clean ingredients.. the recipes also frequently use artifical sweeteners, which have been proven to actually stimulate appetites..
There are a lot of smart and easy to make recipes like Lord of the Onion Rings, and brownie muffins made with pumpkin puree - that will save you tons of calories!! I admit, the onion rings tasted strangely too sweet and looked nothing like the picture, but I loved the brownie muffins made with Pumpkin. I did do a serch online and saw that substitute oil and egg with pumpkin is not uncommon for people who want to eat healthier -- sorry HG, can't give you credit for that one. There are a lot of no brainer "recipes" such as the hamburger recipe which is essentially a boca burger slapped with lettuce, pickles, fat free cheese and an english muffin that consists of light bread, egg beaters, fat free cheese and low cal bacon ---I mean cmon now, is that really even a recipe?
FYI, if you found out about this book through the Hungry Girl website, please note that this book is not a full color cookbook like you would assume from visiting the HG site. There are about 10 pages of pictures in the middle. Weight Watchers points arent included - you'll have to go to the website for that.. But that's better than nothing right?
If you like Hungry Girl but want more recipes made with clean ingredients, be sure to check out the Biggest Loser Cookbook (very simple and clean recipes -- majority of them are low calorie but some are not!!) and the Weight Watchers Cookbook and the Decadent Diet cookbook. I happen to have all 3 of these cookbooks and think they complement each other well =) Sorry HG but your book is going back to the store.
HAPPY (HEALTY) EATING!
on August 23, 2008
I browsed through the pink-tinged pages looking at the recipes, fighting my way through the over-enthusiastic use of exclamation marks and cute-and-confusing titles like "pizzalicious chop chop" (page 44) and "amazing ate-layer dip" (page 158). Intending to be "sassy" and "fun", the writing comes across as though it were the product of a calorie-obsessed teen-aged girl rather than an adult woman...
The author, Lisa Lillien, is "a self-appointed `foodoligist' (sic)" and founder of the website HungryGirl.com- a popular website with more than 100,000 subscribers. According to her website, she rightly states that she is neither a dietitian nor a food professional, but "an average female, struggling with the same food issues most females struggle with every day." Losing and gaining the same 10-15 pounds several times over, and trying "every diet under the sun," she has a self-admitted food obsession- counting calories and finding low-fat, low-carbohydrate substitutes for a wide variety of foods.
The book, which is a natural extension of her popular website, is sadly rife with rather unnatural foods. For example, her "2-good twice-baked potato" (page 124, from"Manly Meals" Chapter 6) calls for fat-free American cheese and fat-free liquid non-dairy creamer. Is substituting the fats found in natural dairy products with things like corn syrup solids and Polysorbate 60 (both found in non-dairy creamer) such an excellent idea, however many calories might be saved? Polysorbate 60, as I have learned from a rather amusing article posted at Wired magazine, is:
...made by polymerizing ethylene oxide (a precursor to antifreeze) with a sugar alcohol derivative. The result can be a detergent, an emulsifier, or, in the case of polysorbate 60, a major ingredient in some sexual lubricants.
Perhaps the dish should be re-christened "2-good twice-lubed potato." (And hint to the recipe testers- you might want to sprinkle the potato with paprika and parsley after removing it from the oven...)
To read the full review, visit michaelprocopio.wordpress.com
on May 13, 2008
Of the four recipes that I've tried so far, I've enjoyed the ones that don't rely so much on fat-free products. The chopped buffalo salad was spicy, delicious, and quite filling, but I don't think that it tasted just like the industrial-strength version. It was easy to make and I recommend it to anyone who likes spicy food.
I was a little wary of the English muffin pizzas because I used to make those as a kid and never really cared for them. I also have never been crazy about turkey pepperoni. I added some pizza seasoning to the tomato sauce and cooked the pizzas in the oven rather than a toaster oven. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty these little pizzas turned out - even with the fat-free mozzarella cheese. The turkey pepperoni was crispy and the pizzas (made from one English muffin) satisfied my hunger.
My husband liked the twice-baked potato, but I thought that it tasted strange. The mixture wasn't too cheesy and had an odd taste and consistency. I'm not a big fan of baked potatoes, but if I were to make this recipe again, I might use reduced fat cheese rather than fat-free cheese. And yes, I know that will change the calorie and fat content of the recipe.
The onion ring recipe was very disappointing. While the rings smelled and looked good, they didn't taste as great as the author promised they would. They were dry and sweet-tasting. I've tried other mock onion ring recipes before and have been let down. I think that I will stick to the fried ones in moderation when I do indulge.
One thing that I do like about this recipe book is that it doesn't tout a plan with all kinds of restrictions. I plan to use some of the recipes in this book along with some other resources that I have in my quest to eat healthier.
on December 21, 2008
I was excited to get this book... excited to try the recipes... until I ate the concoctions that were created. For example, the oven-fried chicken made with Fiber One. Fiber One is a fine product, and I enjoy it very much as a cereal, but as chicken breading, not so much. My chicken did not get crispy, the breading was dusty and crumbly, and fell off the chicken easily, and well, it just didn't taste very good. But I thought that perhaps it was just one misguided recipe, so I persevered and tried another.
Big mistake. Missing pasta, I tried the Fettuccine Girlfredo. I searched high and low for those darn shirataki noodles. Not living in an urban area, I was out of luck, and had to resort to online ordering. It ended up being very expensive. Ah well, I thought, if it satisfies my desire for fettuccine without a prohibitive amount of fat and calories, it'll be worth it. So I hopefully commence.
Let me share something with you here, and I don't think it is giving away any trade secret - Laughing Cow cheese, while a fine product, is no substitute for Parmesan. How the Hungry Girl thought squishy Swiss cheese product, when melted, could possibly come close to being even a remotely acceptable substitute for real Alfredo... well, I just don't understand. But what's even worse is the substitution of the shirataki noodles for pasta.
Shirataki noodles are odd things if you have never had them before. First of all, they smell pretty bad, much like dead fish, even after thorough rinsing. And no amount of patting these things dry will encourage sauce to cling to them. But I could deal with those issues. What I couldn't deal with was the texture of the things. They have a fibrous feeling to them when you bite them, and a slippery mouth feel. I have never eaten worms in my life, but these things did indeed make me feel as if I were eating worms, possibly live ones. It was a very unpleasant experience. All in all, the dish neither tasted, smelled, nor felt anything like Fettuccine Alfredo, not in the slightest. It was a struggle not to heave while the stuff was in my mouth.
After this second experience, I am not going to attempt to try anything else. It would be one thing if the dishes were remotely like what the 'real' items they intend to replace, but they aren't anywhere in the ballpark. Or same city as the ballpark. Or state. Or... well, you get my drift.
So why did I give it 2 stars? Well, the premise was good, the book really makes things sound exciting, and the direct-comparisons showing the nutritional values of the HG versions next to the real things were a good tool. Some decent information was hidden within the pages. The book itself is mildly entertaining if you don't mind cutesy word play. It's just too bad that I thought a recipe book should be about palatable food, I guess. One thing about it - I would definitely lose weight if I attempted to eat only the foods made from these recipes.