Lisa Lillien, a.k.a. Hungry Girl, has been dishing up low-calorie versions of diet disasters for a dozen years now, sneaking in foods such as canned pumpkin, butternut squash, low-fat cheese wedges and high-fiber cereal to replace fatty or starchy ingredients.
Her daily email newsletters reached millions of subscribers who were, well, hungry for more recipes, and in 2008 she released her first Hungry Girl cookbook. Her latest book, the 11th (!) is Clean & Hungry (St. Martin’s Griffin), ditches the low-cal packaged and heavily processed foods for whole, unprocessed ingredients, reflecting her brand’s evolution.
We talked with Lisa about her new book and the clean eating concept.
Fit Bottomed Eats: Do you think Clean & Hungry is the result of an evolution of what people consider “diet food?”
Lisa Lillien: In a way, yes. A lot of people have abandoned traditional dieting/calorie counting and only care about food that’s natural, organic, minimally processed, etc. But calories do count. I came up with the Clean & Hungry concept as a way to give people everywhere a realistic approach to clean eating that can also help them manage their weight. The recipes are clean but they’re also low in calories with huge portions. It truly is the best of both worlds.
FBE: What made you write the book? Was it something readers had asked for?
LL: The Hungry Girl subscribers have definitely started to show interest in more natural foods and recipes. And I’ve personally started to make cleaner food choices in recent years. But I think there’s so much confusion out there around the concept of clean eating. Many approaches are intimidating and even too extreme. I created this book to demystify clean eating and make it much more accessible for the masses.
FBE: Do you think it’s easier to eat “clean” than in previous years?
LL: Definitely. These days, it’s as easy to find kale and chia seeds at the supermarket as it is to find doughnuts and potato chips. And I love that restaurant chains and even packaged food brands are making an effort to clean up their ingredients.
FBE: What’s the Hungry Girl twist on clean?
LL: I like to call it “clean eating in the real world.” It’s not super strict or complicated; it’s realistic and simple. I use a lot of veggies as swaps for processed starches. For example, I make pizza crust with cauliflower crumbles; “pasta” with thinly sliced zucchini; rice dishes with riced cauliflower; and spaghetti dishes with spaghetti squash. It’s all about finding ways to maximize the portion sizes without racking up the calories.
FBE: Do you have a signature recipe from the new book?
LL: I love so many of them! In addition to those cauliflower and zucchini recipes, I make brownies and other baked goods with black beans. It totally works! If I had to pick one, though, it would have to be my Chicken Zucchini So Low Mein. It’s fast, easy, and kicks a craving for Chinese takeout. I love it!
Serves: 2 servings
Serving size: 2 cups
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium/lite soy sauce
- 1 packet natural, no-calorie sweetener
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- ½ teaspoon crushed garlic
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 20 ounces (2 to 3 medium) zucchini
- 8 ounces raw, boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup frozen Asian-style stir-fry vegetables
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup quartered mushrooms
- ¼ cup chopped scallions
- To make the sauce, in a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sweetener, sesame oil, crushed garlic, and ¼ teaspoon onion powder. Mix well.
- Using a spiral vegetable slicer, cut zucchini into spaghetti-like noodles. (If you don’t have a spiral veggie slicer, peel zucchini into super-thin strips, rotating the zucchini after each strip.) Roughly chop for shorter noodles.
- Bring a wok (or large skillet) sprayed with nonstick spray to medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, and sprinkle with garlic powder and remaining ¼ teaspoon onion powder. Add frozen veggies, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. Cook and stir for about 5 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and veggies are hot and tender.
- Add zucchini noodles and scallions. Cook and stir until hot and slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
- Transfer wok contents to a strainer, and thoroughly drain excess liquid.
- Return wok to medium-high heat, and return drained mixture to the wok. Add sauce, and cook and stir until sauce is evenly distributed and mostly absorbed, about 2 minutes.
Are you a clean eater or do you still hang onto some processed favorites? — Gail