NOURISHMENT – Stoke the Fire

Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien Gives Diet Anxiety a Rest

By Linda Childers

Lisa Lillien, creator of the Hungry Girl brand, insists it’s possible to have your cake and eat it too without feeling the slightest bit of guilt.

Case in point: her two-ingredient chocolate cake, a recipe that tastes amazingly decadent but is also low in fat and calories. Made by mixing one box (15.25- to 18.25-ounce) devil’s-food cake mix with one 15-ounce can of pumpkin, Lillien has created a high-fiber chocolaty cake that weighs in at only 152 calories per slice.

“You can maintain a healthy lifestyle without depriving yourself,” says Lillien, 49, who admits to being a yo-yo dieter for many years before finally overhauling her eating habits 16 years ago. “It’s easy to find satisfying substitutions for the foods you love.”

With her free daily newsletter (hungry-girl.com) that reaches more than 3 million subscribers, magazine, cookbooks and podcast (“Hungry Girl: Chew the Right Thing,” available on iTunes), Lillien makes eating healthy easier than ever. After discovering that many of her “guilt-free” foods had twice as many calories as they claimed, Lillien launched her Hungry Girl empire in 2004. Today, she has published 13 cookbooks, including her latest “Hungry Girl Simply 6: All-Natural Recipes With 6 Ingredients or Less” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019).

“I want people to know first and foremost that big portions of delicious foods can be healthy, help to kick cravings, and also be low in calories,” she says. “In addition, fantastic recipes can be super simple and require only a few ingredients, allowing anyone to feel like a chef in the kitchen.”

Become label smart

After losing 30 pounds in 2003, Lillien became a self-described “food sleuth” by learning to read labels. She even had the calorie counts of some of her favorite “guilt-free” treats tested at a food lab and learned they had twice as many calories as she thought they did.

“I learned that the Food and Drug Administration has a rule that nutrition facts on packaged foods can be inaccurate by up to 20 percent,” Lillien says. “So a protein bar that says it has 250 calories could actually have 300.”

When reading labels, Lillien also recommends looking at portion sizes.

“One of the traps people fall into is not realizing their so-called healthy snacks have two or three servings in a package that looks like one serving,” she says.

Beyond weight loss

Once Lillien had lost 30 pounds, she turned to Weight Watchers to help her maintain her weight loss, and she continues to include Weight Watchers Freestyle SmartPoints values on all her recipes.

“People usually want to know what foods they can eat and still lose weight,” Lillien says. “They also are very interested in feeling satisfied and not getting bored eating the same old things.”

Lillien emphasizes the fact that she’s not a nutritionist or dietician but rather a “foodologist” who enjoys finding the best-tasting foods and using smart substitutes. Two of her favorite strategies include using Greek yogurt instead of sour cream because it offers more protein and lowering calories by swapping unsweetened almond milk for regular milk.

“My focus is on real-world eating strategies and helping people to make smarter food choices when it comes to foods they crave,” Lillien says. “The main focus of my recipes is calories, fat and taste. More and more, I am being asked for easy recipes with few ingredients, which is how the new book “Hungry Girl Simply Six” came to be.”

On the move

Lillien shoots for 30 minutes of exercise each day, and on days she finds herself swamped, she turns to a concept called “housewalking.”

“The idea originally came about when I was on a trip to Chicago and wanted to go for a walk. It was freezing out, so I ended up walking around the hotel for about two hours,” Lillien says. “Now I try to housewalk every day to hit the recommended 10,000-step mark.”

Drink up

While drinks such as coffee, tea and smoothies can seem innocent, Lillien says the calories from sugary beverages can really add up.

“I’m a big fan of staying hydrated to avoid imaginary hunger pangs,” Lillien says. “I prefer regular water at room temperature to anything flavored.”

For people who don’t enjoy the taste of water, Lillien recommends purchasing a pitcher or water bottle that allows you to make spa water by adding things like lemons, oranges, strawberries and cucumbers.

When she makes smoothies, Lillien turns to healthy ingredients such as unsweetened almond milk, powdered peanut butter (which tastes like regular peanut butter minus most of the fatty calories), vanilla protein powder, fat-free plain Greek yogurt and Dole frozen mango chunks.   

Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien’s Latest Recipes

Here are three of Lisa Lillien’s favorite recipes from her latest cookbook, “Hungry Girl Simply 6: All-Natural Recipes With 6 Ingredients or Less” (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019).

INSTANT-POT CHUNKY BEEF SOUP

MAKES 6 SERVINGS
⅙ of recipe (about 1½ cups): 294 calories, 9.5 g total fat (4 g saturated fat), 678 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 5.5 g sugar, 35.5 g protein

Prep: 25 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Cool: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds raw boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed of excess fat, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 2½ cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1½ cups chopped onions
  • 8 ounces (1 small to medium) russet potato, peeled and cubed

Seasonings:

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground thyme

Directions:

Spray an Instant Pot with nonstick spray. Press “Saute” and add beef and seasonings. Cook and rotate until evenly browned, 6 to 8 minutes.

Press “Keep Warm/Cancel.” Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Seal with lid. Press “Manual” and set for 20 minutes.

Press “Keep Warm/Cancel.” Let sit for 10 minutes.

Vent to release steam.

BLUEBERRY-LEMON BLENDER PANCAKES

MAKES 2 SERVINGS
½ of recipe (2 pancakes): 194 calories, 2 g total fat (<0.5 g saturated fat), 446 mg sodium, 29.5 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 8.5 g sugar, 15 g protein

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • ⅔ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup (about 4 large) egg whites or fat-free liquid egg substitute
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup blueberries

Seasonings:

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • dash salt

Directions:

In a blender, combine oats, yogurt, egg whites, baking powder and seasonings. Add 1 teaspoon lemon zest and 1½ teaspoons lemon juice.

Blend until smooth.

Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Form a large pancake with ¼ of batter (about ¼ cup). Top with 1 tablespoon blueberries. Cook until bubbles form and it’s solid enough to flip, 1 to 2 minutes.

Gently flip and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 1 minute.

Remove pancake. Remove skillet from heat, respray and return to medium heat. Repeat to make 3 more pancakes.

ROASTED VEGGIE EGG POWER BOWL

MAKES 1 SERVING
Entire recipe: 288 calories, 12.5 g total fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 657 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 9 g fiber, 13.5 g sugar, 11.5 g protein

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (about ¼ of a medium) peeled butternut squash cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¾ cup (about 1 large) peeled carrot cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ½ cup (about 1) peeled beet cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1½ teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 large egg

Seasonings:

  • ⅛ teaspoon plus a dash each salt and black pepper
  •   teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon onion powder

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine squash, carrots, beets, 1 teaspoon oil and ⅛

teaspoon of each seasoning. Toss to coat.

Evenly distribute onto half of the baking sheet. Bake 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, mix kale with remaining ½ teaspoon oil and dash each salt and pepper.

Flip veggies on baking sheet, and add kale to the other half. Bake until kale is slightly crispy and other veggies are softened and browned, about 10 minutes.

Transfer veggies to a medium bowl.

Bring a skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Cook egg sunny-side up, 1 to 2 minutes (or cook to your preference).

Place egg over veggies.

Video credit: Maridav, Shutterstock
Photo credit: allensima, Adobe Stock; Siam, Adobe Stock; Sebra, Adobe Stock; St. Martin’s Griffin

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Author

Linda Childers

A San Francisco Bay Area native, Linda Childers loves nothing more than taking a hike with her two rescue dogs. A journalist specializing in health, fitness and celebrity profiles, Childers has been published in Arthritis Today, O, Allure, Playboy, Health Monitor, USA Today, The Washington Post, NBC News, CNN Money and many other national media outlets.

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