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There's healthy eating, and then there's the Hungry Girl blog. Have you ever seen it?

I love to eat and cook, but I'm also a big believer in doing so relatively healthfully, except for the occasional indulgence.

HOWEVER, some people take this concept too far. Have you ever visited www.hungry-girl.com? It's a successful blog geared toward food-conscious women, and I was excited to hear about it because the author offers up frequent lower-calorie concoctions of favorite recipes, like fettuccine alfredo or french onion soup. However, this recipe (http://www.hungry-girl.com/chew/chewd...) for "better" lo mein drove me absolutely crazy.

I mean, Splenda instead of a touch of brown sugar? Blasphemy!

To be fair, Hungry Girl doesn't profess to be another Chow, but at the time the site's mission is to enable its readers to watch their figures AND enjoy food.

I say it fails. What do you think?

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  1. It's pro-ana propaganda, wrapped in a perky color scheme!! What fun. I haven't seen so many exclamation points since 5th grade!!! I immediately had to eat a piece of cherry pie to rid my mind of the whole stinkin' thing.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      It is very much NOT a pro-ana propaganda site. Not at all. She follows Weight Watchers and many of her recipes list the Weight Watchers points. Clearly you have not spent much time on the site or you wouldn't make such an ignorant statement.

      While I do not share the HG love for Tofu-Shirataki noodles or artificial sweeteners, it is very easy to adjust their recipes to use stevia, agave syrup or raw sugar. She does promote several convenience foods, which many people may not like, but the site is incredibly helpful for people who do not mind that.

      1. re: Moriaelini

        Ok, I'll reveal my own innate cluelessness: What is "Pro-ana"?

          1. re: mcf

            Oh. My. Lord. Really? There are people who encourage eating disorders? Well. I mean. Besides Vegans.

            1. re: jmckee

              Look up the message boards. Sick and sad.

      2. I like that she reviews new products that I would not necessarily want to waste the money to try and then end up hating it, but I am also not a fan of over-processed 'fake' foods either - which is 95% of the products that she talks about.

        Every once in a while there is a product that I would not have spotted in the grocery store (I am like a horse with blinders on when I am in a hurry) like when Fiber One came out with their vanilla-y flake cereal. She reviewed it, I thought it would be worth checking out and it turns out I like it.

        I say take it for what it is...a place to learn about new lo-cal foods that are coming on the market and don't bother with any of the recipes.

        3 Replies
        1. re: sparkalina

          True enough, sparkalina; I have sometimes found the product reviews to be helpful.

          I think the site taught me something important about my food philosophy: I'm a moderate when it comes to calories and healthy eating. For instance, I cook with olive oil instead of butter, but also instead of Pam.

          1. re: sparkalina

            Sadly she is all about the processed short cuts. Almost like the Sandra Lee of healthy eating. My best friend and I both have done WW but I try to limit processed foods as much as possible. My friend gave me a HG cookbook for my birthday and after a few year it made its way onto the yard sale pile. I hated to do it but it was taking up valuable space for my other cookbooks.

            1. re: melpy

              Funny thing - I did WW about 2 years ago- and the group's teacher was "all about Hungry Girl"- her words. Suggested lots of HG recipes for desserts. I'll give her credit for attributing the recipes, but never made any. Thought the emphasis on dessert recipes was counter productive, it wasn't the only thing that the well nourished WW members had been eating, after all.

          2. These recipes looked good - Fried Zucchini, No Noodle Lasagna, Fried Cheese, Oreo Invasion. I am on South Beach right now and very "hungry" for ideas. Hee Hee.

            If it's a tablespoon or something, I will usually use the real thing - brown sugar for example. But, if it's a feature - pasta or lots of white flour - I will try to sub it out.

            I try to be very good most of the time, so I can be bad when I want.

            1. I don't know about failing...from what I've heard, it's pretttttttty popular.

              1. I don't think the product reviews and/or her recipes have anything to do with healthy eating - the truckloads of preservatives in the products she mentions are astounding.

                My .02 cents: this is a Web site for those who want to lose weight, but are not ready to give up the habits that led to their weight gain in the first place (hence, the need for shortcuts) and an indirect advertising vehicle for the food industry that has already discovered and is exploiting this niche (of the low-cal, sugar-free, fat-free, etc. etc.).

                I mean, wouldn't Starbucks want to appeal to the calorie-conscious? Any marketing person could tell you that 'word-of-mouth' is a lot more effective than ten flashy ads. As far as I'm concerned, this is just yet another advertising venue that is cheap and, sadly, has caught up with a lot of people....

                Who owns the site anyway? I've seen the name mentioned in the Yahoo sites. Any connection?

                1. I have subscribed to this newsletter for about a year now. I think it provides good information. Some of the recipes are good, some are not. I can descern the difference, I appreciate the information and product reviews

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: amethiste

                    I'm with you amethiste - I appreciate the wealth of information, and her enthusiasm for her calling. Besides checking out new products available at groceries and online, she also reviews restaurant food and provides recipes to cook up alternatives at home. I don't find all the info useful, but some of the recipes look pretty tasty! I'm thinking about trying the pumpkin cheesecake for xmas dinner.

                  2. The name-calling is pretty weird: "But who on Earth wants to deal with the horrendous calorie and fat counts of regular old lo mein? CRAZY PEOPLE, that's who." "
                    Lo Mein for Losers", etc. Not exactly going out of their way to welcome people who aren't 100% on board with the whole Splenda/shirataki/OMG a fat gram, eek! program.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: maryv

                      Did you see what the sodium count was in this recipe?
                      1800 mg. No thank you!

                      1. re: Gio

                        The 1,800 mg sodium was for the commercial lo mein, but the HG recipe was still high at 925 mg.

                      2. re: maryv

                        She does that? That's just weird. No, it isn't, it's pretty typical of people who need somebody to look down their noses at.

                        1. re: EWSflash

                          Pretty typical of some of the overblown language I see on this site sometimes. "Disgusting" food, food "drowning in butter and fat."......

                      3. I haven't seen the blog, but they used to print her column in the NY Daily News on Sunday (I think they moved it to another day, but I only get that paper on Sunday's).

                        As person who is constantly struggling with weight issues, I do like the concept. I also like some of the product reviews. Some of the recipes aren't half bad. I wouldn't necessarily serve them to guests, but would substitute skim milk for whole milk/cream for myself. Because as my Great-Gramma used to say, "Ya gotta suffa to be beautiful."

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: MrsT

                          Ha ha! I like that - ya gotta suffa. Sounds like something my grandma would say, too.

                          1. re: stellamystar

                            Go grandma...wisdom of the ages. But I'd rather suffa at the gym so that I don't have to suffa at the table.

                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                              I suffa at the gym, I suffa at the track, I suffa at the table.....I suffa and suffa!!

                        2. Eh, as usual, I'm taking the middle road.

                          I don't like the crazy overprocessed stuff or recipes where every ingredient is a "-substitute." But I like the product reviews, especially for things like veggie burgers, whole-grain bread and other products I normally eat. Her tips on eating in restaurants are pretty useful too.

                          So no, I'm not giving her all my assets or drinking the Kool-Aid, but I wouldn't crucify her either.

                          1. I must be sheltered but... I never noticed lo mein having ANY sweetener in it??

                            Otherwise, I love Splenda especially for my Southern Sweettea! It tastes just like sugar to me yet saves me a few calories on a drink I spend much of the day sipping.

                            1. They're always raving about it on caloriecount.com (yes, I'm on a diet...) Personally, most of what's on the hungry girl site just isn't for me - give me real food any day. Fruit, veggies, lean meats, and low (not NO)-fat stuff... I'd rather cut down on the quantity than substitute 'fake food' for real. I'm not nearly as extreme as she is either...

                              1. Boy does she use Splenda, etc. Artificial sweetener is a deal breaker for me.

                                1. I like the product reviews but the recipes are too fake and contrived. They require a lot of fake food stuff like Splenda and sugar-free flavorings and margarine that I don't use. I always wonder, though, when reading the blog, if somehow a large food company is behind it--all those product recommendations?

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: BillieJean

                                    My thoughts, too...seems too slick and cutesy to be anything other than a marketing effort by one of the big food conglomerates.

                                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                      The writing is highly stylized in a over-chatty, faux-friend/neighborly way. Seems like a marketing shill site.

                                    2. re: BillieJean

                                      She's answered that question on her site, she says lots of companies send her food to try, but she only endorses ones that she feels are tasty and healthful.

                                      1. re: jujuthomas

                                        She & I have wildly differing ideas about what constitutes "healthful"......

                                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                          Me too. Like others, I find some of the fat and calorie content info interesting but her product recommendations and recipe 'makeovers' are frighteningly fake (I don't even think we can get a lot of the stuff she recommends in Canada but to be honest I've never really looked). I'm pretty sure MODERATE portions of real foods such as whole grain pasta, etc. are healthier than pigging out on all the chemical-laden stuff she's recommending!

                                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                            well, i think that is perfectly fine - obviously she's reviewing pre-packaged foods for a specific market... I'm not saying that I agree with what she says, just that I find some of the information useful. I'm always looking for quick, low cal portable snacks to help me keep on target with my weight loss. I do agree with other posters that some of her recipe makeovers are freaky - but there have been a few that I printed out for future use with my weight watchers friends. :)

                                      2. I'm told that Weight Watchers has long been pretty aggressive about suing or C/Ding people who use their points values on the web. Given that she's using points values pretty heavily, I have to assume she's, at very least, got their backing.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: Jacquilynne

                                          Yep, she does a weekly blog on the WW website. (Fridays?)

                                          1. re: sparkalina

                                            another vote for too much "fake" food for me to enjoy it. This is precisely why I've never, ever been interested in WW, which they really try to shove down your throat here at my job (weekly meetings which are heavily advertised with "lures" to try to get you in, and almost everyone in my department is a member). I just think they're like a brainwashing cult that charges way too much money and alters your diet to the point that you're either eating everything with no taste and no fat or filling yourself up on fake/substitute foods, neither of which are healthy.

                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                              I've heard that impression about ww a lot lately, and I can tell you that it isn't really true. I've been doing weight watchers since February, I've lost 50lbs and I eat what I want. I've reduced the amount of fat in my diet - not eliminated it - increased the intake of veggies and learned about portion control. Yes, they charge you, but some of us need to spend that money to help hold ourselves accountable. I do eat some convenience foods - for convenience and control over my portions. But that's lunches. Dinners are usually what anyone else would eat - meat, veggies, starch. It works, it's rated as the most successful "diet" plan. BUT it certainly isn't for everyone, as with most everything in life including hungry girl. :)

                                              1. re: jujuthomas

                                                I know it's successful for a lot of people, and I think that's great. It's just not for me. Nobody that I know on the plan has much of a clue about actually cooking and preparing real foods in a healthful way using ingredients completely from scratch. But I agree it's a good tool for people who don't otherwise know better about what choices to make in terms of food selection and portion control as well as accountability.

                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                  We do have several people in our group who know nothing about cooking, but we have several others who do, and we are always exchanging new food finds, recipes, etc. I think that helps DH and I be more successful, we get new ideas almost every week. that's also why I read hungry girl, weight watchers.com and other weight loss sites - for the occassional idea I can use... :)

                                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                                    I have been on WW for a few months and am down 25 lbs. I cook most everything from scratch, including Indian food. I adapt recipes to cut down on the carbs and fat so they are lower in points, but I don't rely on processed foods to help me lose weight. I do eat the occasional Lean Cuisine for lunch at work if I don't have leftovers, but otherwise I prefer to eat the full-fat, full sugar versions of foods and just eat less of them. That's the nice thing about WW -- you can eat what you want, as long as you adjust accordingly. Some of the other plans don't offer that flexibility. Being of Indian descent, I like that I can make indian food at home and not have it be taboo on my eating plan.

                                                  2. re: jujuthomas

                                                    I was on WW for 3 years. -I have recently switched to South Beach. I am always somewhere in a 40 lb swing. I am so tired of it.

                                                    Call the wambulence.

                                                  3. re: rockandroller1

                                                    If you want fake food WW does that but they honestly don't recommend it. The points are designed to have you eat the most real food possible. Besides counting your ouwn calories etc WW is the best program out there for flexibility.

                                              2. recently have been feeling an increased appetite. hmmm, this blog reminds me of the feminine competitive impulse to control our weight. thanks, HG!!!

                                                1. I disagree with these negative reviews about Hungry Girl. Most of her recipes are delicious and filling. I can name a number of them which I thoroughly love to eat. Now a couple of them I have tried are not the very best, but I'm talking like just three or four that I have made out of several.

                                                  Hungry Girl kept me very satisfied while in weight loss mode on Weight Watchers and it still is great now for using in maintenance! Her "300 Under 300" cook book is dynamite, and there are some wonderfully delicious oatmeal recipes in this book along with many others.

                                                  I wouldn't be without Hungry Girl cookbooks in my kitchen. This is what gives me lots of tasty choices, and so what if they are made with Splenda or other artificial ingredients? I find most of these recipes great all the same, and the "Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup," is to die for!

                                                  1. I agree that it's not foodie food. The lo mein seems to be tasty hardcore diet food, but not great for a regular menu. And this is from someone who has tofu shirataki in her reefer right now.

                                                    I will bookmark her site for when I am dieting, tho. Thanks!

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: AsperGirl

                                                      Comfort me with heavy cream and chocolate. Weight issues all my. Love yourself, be happy. I don't believe people who count calories live longer...it just feels that way.

                                                    2. Yes. I think Paul Child (husband of Julia) had the right approach: "Just don't eat so damn much!"

                                                      1. I've unfortunately turned on the TV in the morning when her show is on Food Network. To me she is as annoying as Sandra Lee. Can't stand her over the top perkiness. Blech.

                                                        1. It's not really a blog anymore. Just a list of recipes.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Sandi13

                                                            I just came across the website through this thread, and I think that in general the problem with the "recipe rehab" approach is that it can often make the 'eater' feel as though they're eating a lesser version of an original. Low calorie pizza that significantly reduces how much cheese, I believe, does more to be a sad reminder of traditional (American style) pizza.

                                                            While I don't agree with Mark Bittman's approach (NYTimes food columnist) to everything, I do think that his approach on healthier eating recipes in The Minimalist is really smart. Like his take on pasta - it's not replace pasta with fake noodles, but rather make even more, thick, veggie full sauces so that on the plate the ratio of sauce (that has the veggies and protein) is more than pasta. That way you get the taste of pasta, without a lot of empty calories. Not a classic approach to pasta recipes - but it can be a far healthier one.

                                                            I personally prefer this method of approaching low calorie recipes than trying to find a way to make a low cal bacon cheese burger. And then should you really crave a bacon cheese burger, getting a taste or bite of friend's will give you the full flavor without committing to a full serving.

                                                            1. I'm not a fan of Hungry Girl although I can see how some would be especially if you are on the weight watchers program.

                                                              My main complaint about Hungry Girl is she does use a bunch of processed food items to create a recipe and she doesn't seem to watch the sodium in it.

                                                              Example: Her Honey Mustard Pretzel-Coated Chicken Fingers for 4 chicken fingers has 928mg and for someone who needs to restrict sodium that is about half of the daily intake.

                                                              1. I wrote an analysis of her show on the weight loss site I'm a member of (sparkpeople.com):

                                                                "I'm watching the show right now since I'm home from work due to snow. So far I'm not very impressed. First she made some popcorn that was microwaved kettle corn, graham cereal, marshmallows, and tootsie rolls to make "smores popcorn", then she made slushies that was basically blending up fruit, juice, and ice in a blender. Neither of those two "recipes" involved any actual cooking. Now she's making "nachos" with hot dogs, baked tortilla chips and processed cheese slices. I guess this stuff is low cal but none of it looks all that appetizing or healthy to me."

                                                                I much prefer skinnytaste.com. Her recipes in involve "real" ingredients for the most part.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: juliejulez

                                                                  Exactly what I was trying to say. It's not real food to me. and sure she goes on an on about how one serving is under 300 calories but the sodium, sugar, and processed crap is though the roof.

                                                                  When cooking for people with high blood pressure, 2,000 mg of sodium is what you should be shooting for and I can't do anything she does because of it.

                                                                  The only thing I found helpful was a link to the laughing cow cheese recipes because its low in cal and sodium for my nana.

                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                    Also thanks for the skinnytaste link. I'm going to check that out.

                                                                    Imagine cooking for you 70 something dietetic, grandma with high blood pressure and heart problems.

                                                                    We've done some amazing things with turning her favorite dishes into more healthy dishes.

                                                                    1. re: juliejulez

                                                                      Me too! I am planning an apps NYE party tomorrow with most recipes from skinnytaste! No one will know the difference. :)

                                                                    2. I just started my first structured diet in my entire 53 years and it's HG. I'm sold. The food is delicious and easy to make since I work and have to pack both a breakfast and lunch.

                                                                      You are very wrong about 95% being processed. Apparently you haven't really read the receipes. Right now for breakfast I'm eating plain greek yogurt with an apple and All Bran. Lunch is a huge green salad with high fiber veggies and vinegar and evoo. Dinne will be grilled fish with cabbage mix sauted. Not very processed. I've combined this with vigorous exercising and have lost 4 pounds in 5 days. This is a great jump start.

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: foofoogirl

                                                                        Her food is super carby, for the most part, with low nutrient value. Disgusting in concept and presentation. The nutritious meals you're describing come from low carb diet plans, are not typical of her emphasis at all.

                                                                        1. re: foofoogirl

                                                                          I think she's changed her focus since she first became really popular altho I am not following her now as closely as I was. It seemed, last time I checked, that she was indeed focused more on fresh meats and veggies than the processed stuff of the earlier days.
                                                                          I have one (two) of her cookbooks and a lot of the recipes are more instructions on assembling premade/packaged stuff into something yummy. Her banana bread recipe is really good!

                                                                          1. re: foofoogirl

                                                                            How is yogurt, all-bran and apple a recipe?

                                                                          2. I agree with you.

                                                                            She goes too far with it and then there is my objection of some of the substitutes she uses are not actually healthy.

                                                                            Low cal maybe but not healthy.

                                                                            Some of the substitutes are not made with real food stuff.

                                                                            Here take this fake powder, add in some fake sugar, put in this and that and now you can enjoy something that taste like an apple with only half the calories.

                                                                            Of course that is an exaggeration but come on people. Just reach for healthy snacks that are real food and when you want to splurge do so.

                                                                            1. to me, hungry girl embodies a lot of what's wrong with american nutrition. it consistently mistakes lower fat, lower calorie, lower carb, lower sugar, lower salt, and whatever else is currently on the list of "foods possessed by the devil that ruin your life" according to pop culture, for "better" or "healthier".

                                                                              it ignores the fact that lower X is NOT automatically better, and it skews heavily toward using processed, fake foods in place of REAL foods. it's also basically a shrine to sizeism, pans people who eat normal foods as normal foods should be, and basically idolizes calorie restriction, false food "products", and weight loss - i see no focus on actual health. just a phobia about calories, fat, salt, sugar, carbs, and weight.

                                                                              many may disagree with my opinion, and i'm not here to tell anyone else what works for them. for ME, i choose to avoid places like hungry girl as if they had the plague.

                                                                              (note: i am in recovery from a severe eating disorder. this may skew my perspective; i dropped to a low weight that put me in the hospital, then into residential and intensive treatment for over a year. i'm pretty entrenched in promoting real food, indulgence in moderation, and not using "slimmed down" recipes. that's my story, and YMMV.)