The LA Times Approves of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien's Crimes Against Food


Left: H-o-t hot boneless buffalo wings using Fat-free Pringles and Fiber One bran cereal as crust. Right: Bacon-bundled BBQ shrimp using extra-lean turkey bacon. Photographs via

What the hell, LA Times? We thought we were all supposed to grow gardens and buy local and seasonal and everything. Why are you giving Hungry Girl aka Lisa Lillien any press?

Lillien is a lot like Sandra Lee, but worse: Lisa Lillien's "Hungry Girl" brand is a burgeoning empire of low-calorie recipes and dieting advice preying on people's insecurities and food issues, all built around her advertisers' processed food products. Blurring the line between editorial and advertising, she leverages a quid pro quo relationship, claiming that "she recommends or accepts advertising dollars only from products she personally uses." To get the idea: A mac 'n cheese recipe from her website calls for: "1 package Green Giant Family Size Cauliflower & Three Cheese Sauce (freezer aisle), 2 cups uncooked Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Rotini Pasta, and 3 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Original Swiss cheese."

So why was she in yesterday's LA Times' food section? At first we hoped the article to be a critical look, maybe an expose on her ethical stance and shady business practices and how unhealthy her "low-cal low-fat" recipes truly are. But as we read on, it was just a puff piece with glamorous photography — the test kitchen even adapted her recipes.

You know we're in trouble when the article starts "Lisa Lillien considers the bowl of cocktail wieners simmered in a quick-fix barbecue sauce as if she were appraising a fine wine."

The numbers are disturbing: 750,000 subscribers to her email newsletter, her first book Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt-Free Eating in the Real World shipping 600,000 copies, her second book Hungry Girl: 200 under 200 opening at the number one spot on the New York Times' bestseller list back in May, countless appearances on television, etc.

Some say she's a realist, but her reliance and fandom of industrial, processed, and frozen foods (and the their advertising dollars) is so severe that she even hates on the Michael Pollan-types: In an interview with the Washington Post, Lillien responded to her critics: "People are hypocrites... They say 'shop the perimeter of the store, never eat anything that's not organic,' but it's B.S., because people can't live like that forever."

The recipe for "H-o-t hot boneless buffalo wings," as adapted by the LA Times, includes the ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)
  • 1 ounce (about 14 crisps) Pringles Light Fat Free Barbecue Potato Crisps (or another fat-free BBQ-flavored potato chip), finely crushed,
  • and 3 tablespoons Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

For real? Fat-free Pringles? Instead of advocating healthy eating, exercise, whatever, Lillien is only perpetuating bad habits and a reliance on unsatisfying, synthetic low-cal low-fat junk. As to why the LA Times is promoting Lisa Lillien and her crimes against food, even becoming a willing participant in her corporate shilling, we'll never know.

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Comment Feed

  1. mach5

    I totally caught this article yesterday and couldn't believe they were printing recipes with processed food ingredients! I have no idea how this equates to healthy eating.

  2. Em

    Barfpants. This woman's endorsements of "healthy eating" are deceptive and harmful. Lillien should be wearing a NASCAR-esque suit emblazoned with the logos of her advertisers, and the LAT should be ashamed of themselves.

  3. I can understand the want for cheap, healthy eats, but the idea of slapping together processed foods like this disturbs me. Good, healthy food is simpler to put together than many people realize.

  4. Paula

    I'd be ok with this in the business section. Also, I'm a big fan of the articles that come up under the "WTF" tag.

  5. kim

    I've been wanting to do a blog post about her for a while because I think she's a great example of how the processed food industry gets 'experts' to shill their products under the guise of 'healthy'

    Her food is gross and her website is awful!

  6. Suz

    Jealous much? LOL!

  7. beth

    You guys are on crack. Hungry Girl is fantastic for people who want to eat in the real world of Cinnabons and Buffalo wings without becoming obese. Get off your high horses...

  8. Jenna

    Here's hoping she's wrong about this:

    "People are hypocrites... They say 'shop the perimeter of the store, never eat anything that's not organic,' but it's B.S., because people can't live like that forever."

    As someone who was recently diagnosed with celiac, I really don't have a choice anymore about shopping the perimeter of the store. I can either make everything fresh (and organic when I can) from real ingredients... or look forward to a colostomy bag one day like my grandmother. And frankly... no amount of fat-free pringle covered ANYTHING is worth that.

  9. Christina

    Hungry Girl is for people who are overweight, or obese, or dieting and need a break from typical 'diet' foods.

    I'm very much aware of how to make fresh, healthy foods and I do on a daily basis. But, when I want something that tastes like full fat macaroni and cheese, or something that tastes like a full-fat milkshake, I go to her site. It's easier to do this and to satiate the craving rather than turn to the full fat foods and feel like I'm blowing my diet.

    I admit that her site may seem like a fix for those who do not know how to cook or those who have absolutely idea how to eat. I think one would find that a lot of her readers are people who love to cook, love to eat healthy, but once in a while just need a break from it and just need to indulge in something different. I don't see anything wrong with that.

    I don't worship the site, I don't cook everything I see on the site blindly. I'm just a normal person who sometimes wants to eat a blueberry muffin or chips while trying to lose weight. Lisa Lillen just gives an option. It's not a way of life.

  10. Sammy

    I think most of the people here are just negative haters and food snobs. Hungry Girl is fantastic, otherwise she would not have such a dedicated and loyal following. I actually find it pathetic and funny to hear all these negative, snobby comments. She is onto something big and you all need to "buck up"! I got tired of staying fat with fresh organic pasta and fresh organic cheese, beans, rice, tofu (yuk)... etc.

    With Hungry Girl, I eat all the things I truly love; Hamburgers with whole wheat bread, onion rings, mashed potatoes and fried chicken....and it's all low-fat, low calorie and I'm losing significant weight, fitting into my old clothes again and feeling great!

    So as far as I can see you guys are just a bunch of food snobs.
    Get off your high-horses! I guarantee the editors won't approve my reply! It's not in their interest.

  11. Lily

    Amen, Christina and Sammy! I'm a professional chef and getting my MPH in nutrition - and I like Hungry Girl. I probably won't be serving any of her recipes in my fine dining restaurant, but believe me - when I'm at home and tired and hungry and craving comfort food ... I'd rather know that the mac n cheese I just whipped up has some veggies and whole grains in it, rather than sky-high calories and fat because I went to the trouble to use organic whole milk in the bechamel and four kinds of imported, small production cheese.

    All those critics who are enraged that Hungry Girl even exists apparently missed the parts of the website and books in which she stresses that her meals are not meant to be a diet or a way of life, but rather a healthier substitute for fatty Americana foods. Very few people tuck into an organic, macrobiotic meal each time they eat. While these critics would apparently like us to think they would never, ever let an onion ring pass their refined lips, I highly doubt they always think about the nutritional content of their meals. Oh, it may be so processed, but for those of us who don't always have time (or money) for the organic, homemade versions, Hungry Girl's substitutes are far better for us than, say, the original versions.

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