Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Beef with Hungry Girl

When Hungry Girl first started appearing on the Food Network I was curious. I had heard of her cookbooks but I never actually checked any of them out. I've since watched a few of her shows and am not impressed. I know there are many people that follow her food philosophy religiously and love what she does, but I am not one of them. I think she has some good ideas, but overall, I hate how she uses fake food as a way to eat more: frozen veggie burgers, spice packets loaded with sodium, whatever she can do to eat more, she will do.

I am on the opposite end of the spectrum: eat REAL, whole, full-flavored, full-fat foods in moderation.  I know this philosophy doesn't work for everyone, but the idea of pumping my body full of the processed, chemically-induced foods just so I can eat more doesn't seem healthy to me in the slightest.

To give you an example: just look at all the fake food ingredients in her no-nonsense egg nog:
  • vanilla soymilk
  • sugar-free fat-free vanilla instant pudding mix
  • no-calorie sweetener
  • imitation rum extract
  • nutmeg
 None of those ingredients appeal to me in the least, except maybe the REAL nutmeg.

I don't want to knock ALL of Hungry Girl's ideas. She does have a few good swaps that are better and healthier for you (replacing every other layer of noodles in lasagna with eggplant, using spaghetti squash instead of spaghetti, etc.) but I guess I just get irritated that her food philosophy is sometimes touted as healthier eating. It's not healthier eating when you're replacing real food with fake food. And it irritates me even further that even Dr. Oz has gotten on the Hungry Girl bandwagon and had her on his show a few times. What is up with that? 

But I didn't want to knock her food until I at least gave it a try, so I decided to make her "Lord of the Onion Rings" recipe where she uses her faux-frying technique of replacing breadcrumbs with Fiber One cereal and then baking in the oven.

Lord of the Onion Rings Adapted from the Hungry Girl cookbook by Lisa Lillien

Serves 1-2

1 large onion
1/2 cup Fiber One cereal (original)
1/4 fat-free liquid egg substitute (Not gonna lie. I used real eggs. Cuz that's how I roll)
Dash of salt
Optional: black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, etc.

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut ends off onion and remove outer layer.. Cut into 1/2-inch wide slices and separate into rings. 

Using a food processor, grind cereal into a breadcrumb-like consistency. Pour into a small dish and mix in salt and any additional spices you would like. 

Fill a small bowl with egg substitute (or real eggs if you're like me). Coat each ring first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs. Give each ring a shake after  the egg bath. 

Place rings evenly on a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Cook for 20-25 minutes, flipping rings over about halfway through.

My attempt at Hungry Girl's version of onion rings
So how did they turn out? Eh. They were edible, but I wouldn't say they taste "just like" regular onion rings as Lillien often touts. I think this recipe is theoretically a good idea since Fiber One cereal is actually pretty good for you, but in execution, I wasn't impressed. The Fiber One breadcrumbs were dry and gave me a cotton mouth feel when I ate them. The flavor and crunch was decent, but I just couldn't get over that dry mouth feel when I ate them.

After reading through her first cookbook and watching her show, I have to say that Hungry Girl's ideas aren't all bad, but I feel like you have to be discerning with them. Pick and choose what you use. Don't follow her philosophy to the letter. If you read a recipe and it is loaded with processed, chemically-induced ingredients, walk away from it. But also keep in mind that some of her advice is helpful when she's discussing the use of REAL food in recipes (like the layers of eggplant in lasagna I discussed earlier).

So now that I've gone and probably ticked people off, tell me what you like or dislike about Hungry Girl.


  1. I'm actually very much with you on this one. I used to enjoy the idea of swapping things out to make them low calorie -- between Hungry Girl and another cookbook I have that's a low-cal one -- but the problem is how much fake food is involved. It almost seems more problematic to go low cal and eat fake stuff than to just enjoy a smaller portion of the real deal.

    You aren't alone :)

  2. I agree with you as well. I'd rather eat real, healthy food than try to make strange substitutions with fake foods.

  3. I haven't seen her show, but I am all for making more healthful substitutions (bake instead of fry). But I like real food, not chemical food so I'm not quite sure how much I'd like her recipes.

  4. To tell the truth, I hadn't heard of Hungry Girl till this post! I agree with you about preferring to eat real, whole foods.

  5. Those onion rings look delish. And I agree absolutely--fake food is no better in any way from a little fat or unrefined sugar. The Skinny Bitch cookbook is the same way. They make so many recipes with fake cheese, fake meat, etc, I just cringe at all the chemicals you're dumping into your body.

  6. I would never buy this cookbook-I appreciate that not everything needs to be made from scratch-however I resent cookbooks with lots of artificial ingredients and pudding mix-never in a million years.

  7. I've enjoyed her cookbooks to a point. But I end up just using actual ground beef instead of all the fake stuff. There's a few good recipes, I do like the quesadillas that use skinny cow cheese.

  8. Why is there demand for such fake recipes? I applaud you for at least trying out this recipe but... I'm with you on your first point - eat real, whole flavour/fat, just in moderation. Nature will thank you!

  9. I'm with you. Real is best every time. Have a great week.

  10. I'm with you, too. But I worry about advocating the way I cook, averaging close to 3 hours in the kitchen a day, to other busy people. The Thin Commandments by Stephen Gullo makes the argument that processed food might have got us into this mess of an obesity epidemic but that lighter, calorie reduced products can also get us out of it. I didn't buy the argument for myself, but I have recommended the book to others who were clearly not going to cook from scratch.

  11. how about a real food movement instead. I find that I feel much better after a meal loaded with fresh veggies. love the idea of slices of veggies replacing some of the pasta. I did use the vegetable peeler and make fettucini from parsnips and it worked very well. it was the correct colour so my mind easily was fooled.

  12. It's just not that difficult to eat real food in reasonable portion sizes with treats on occasion. Real food makes you full and delights all of your senses. Fake food is just ... fake. It doesn't satiate and just makes you want to eat more. I agree with you on this one.

  13. I'm not very familiar with Hungry Girl (we don't have cable), but I have to agree with you. Real food is way more satisfying.

  14. Fake food = probably my least favorite thing ever. This cookbook won't get a second look from me.

    (thanks for sharing!)