Cookbook Review: Hungry Girl 200 Under 200

From the WebMD Archives

Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: What It Is

Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 is a collection of 200 recipes, all under 200 calories. Author Lisa Lillien, founder of the popular Hungry Girl web site and newsletter, is a self-described "hungry girl" who loves food but doesn’t want to gain weight.

Like her web site and newsletter, this Hungry Girl cookbook is aimed at everyday people who often turn to processed foods for convenience, with advice on how to go about it a little more healthfully. Along with its easy-to-make recipes, Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 features kitschy blurbs, helpful tips, lots of illustrations, and 16 pages of color photos.

Lillien, neither a dietitian nor a chef, has devoted her career to finding tasty reduced-calorie foods and to tasting and creating easy, fun, low-calorie recipes. She launched the "Hungry Girl’ web site and newsletter in 2003, and now has an estimated 700,000 subscribers.

Like many women, Lillien has long struggled with her weight. She tried multiple diets until she finally found success with Weight Watchers (she provides Weight Watchers points tallies for all her recipes).

The secrets to Lillien's success are her everywoman style -- and her taste buds. "I can taste something and know if this will be something everyone will love or only 20% of the people," she says.

Although dietitians would generally recommend a more natural, less processed diet, Lillien says that's not always realistic for everyone.

"I wanted Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 to be fun, realistic, and relatable for all the women who are diet-conscious but need to bridge the gap between the ideal healthy diet and the over-the-top junk food diet," Lillien says.

Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 is loaded with references to branded products, but Lillien says she endorses only products that meet her criteria of good taste plus acceptable calorie levels.

Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: The Recipes

This is an easy-to-use cookbook, delivered in a witty, fun style that might help get non-cooks into the kitchen. Most of the recipes are for simple-to-prepare mini-meals or snacks that combine convenience foods available in your neighborhood grocery store.

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You'll find recipes for dishes like Cheesy Good Cornbread Muffins, Red Velvet Insanity Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Cookie Crisp Puddin’ Shake, Cheeseburger Quesadillas, and No-Harm Eggplant Parm.

The recipe categories include breakfast, eggs, salads, dips, starters, specialty drinks, tortillas, mini meals, cupcakes, sweets. There are chapters devoted to recipes with Fuji apples, Cool Whip Free, Fiber One, and VitaTops.

Many of the recipes are single-serve, avoiding the potential trap of overeating. Lillien points out that even with reduced-calorie dishes, portion size is key to keeping calories under control.

Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: What the Experts Say

For people who like convenience products, Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 demonstrates fun ways to combine low-calorie ingredients into tasty recipes, says Holly Grainger, MS, RD, food editor for MyRecipes.com.

"For the legions of Weight Watcher fans, this cookbook makes it easy to maximize your points in fun and creative ways," she says.

Still, Grainger concedes that she would prefer more of a focus on fresh, natural ingredients, instead of the book's heavy reliance on imitation, fat-free, and other foods that contain hard-to-pronounce chemical ingredients. What’s more, dietitians recommend moderation when it comes to artificial ingredients like no-calorie sweeteners.

Also, experts caution that calories are only one element of a healthy diet.

"Calories count, but making every calorie count is important to make sure you get all the nutrients you need for good health," says Nashville dietitian Sarah Jane Bedwell, RD.

Grainger warns that Hungry Girl 200 Under 200 is not a meal or diet plan. She suggests using the cookbook mainly for treats and the single-serving recipes.

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Hungry Girl 200 Under 200: Food for Thought

In an ideal world, we would all eat a diet composed of natural foods. But with our time-crunched lifestyles, we need quick, easy recipes that taste good without providing lots of extra calories.

Lillien knows more than most cooks about all the new products on the market. Her Hungry Girl web site and newsletter have demonstrated that she knows how to use a wide range of ingredients to create tasty recipes that are lower in calories.

This cookbook can help show you how to slash calories without compromising flavor. You can adapt some of Lillien's techniques or recommended products to make calorie-trimming substitutions in your own favorite recipes.

Still, because so many Hungry Girl recipes rely heavily on processed foods, use them to complement -- not replace -- whole, naturally healthy foods in your diet.

Hungry Girl Recipes

Here are two recipes from Hungry Girl 200 Under 200, for spicy Buffalo chicken "wings" and a frozen yogurt/oatmeal parfait that could serve as a snack or even breakfast.

H-O-T Hot Boneless Buffalo Wings

Ingredients

8 ounces raw boneless, skinless lean chicken breast, cut into 10 nuggets

1/5 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)

1 ounce (about 14 crisps) Pringles Light Fat Free Barbeque Potato Crisps (or another fat-free BBQ-flavored potato chip)

3 tablespoons Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce

Dash onion powder

Dash garlic powder

Dash cayenne pepper

Dash black pepper

Dash salt

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a blender or food processor, grind Fiber One to a breadcrumb-like consistency.

Crush potato crisps completely. In a small dish, mix crushed crisps with cereal crumbs. Add onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, black pepper, and salt, and mix well.

Place chicken pieces in a separate dish. Cover with Frank’s RedHot and toss to coat.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Give each chicken piece a shake so it’s not dripping with sauce, and then coat evenly with crumb mixture. Lay crumb-covered nuggets on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

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Flip nuggets over and bake for 10 more minutes, or until outsides are crispy and chicken is cooked throughout.

Yield: 2 servings of 5 wings each.

Per serving: 175 calories, 1.5g fat, 1,153mg sodium, 14g carbs, 4g fiber, less than 1g sugars, 27g protein.

Fro-Yo'ed Up Oatmeal Sundae

Ingredients

1/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

1/4 cup low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt

1/4 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon strawberry (or any fruit flavor) sugar-free preserves

1/2 tablespoon All Natural Almond Accents in Original Oven Roasted or Honey Roasted

1 packet no-calorie sweetener

1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon

Dash salt

Directions

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine oatmeal with 1/2 cup water. Microwave for

1 to 2 minutes, until desired consistency is reached.

Once bowl of oatmeal is cool enough to handle, mix in preserves, sweetener,

cinnamon, and salt. Top with fruit.

Place frozen yogurt on top of fruit layer, then sprinkle with almonds.

Serve immediately. The frozen yogurt will melt, but it’s delicious as it melts into the oatmeal!

Yield: 1 serving

Per serving (entire sundae): 198 calories, 4.25g fat, 219mg sodium, 38g carbs, 4g fiber, 11.5g sugars, 5.5g protein

Recipes © Hungry Girl 2009. Reprinted with permission.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, is director of nutrition for WebMD. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.

WebMD Expert Review

Sources

SOURCES:

Lisa Lillien, Hungry Girl 200 Under 200, St. Martin’s, New York, 2009.

Lisa Lillien, founder, Hungry Girl web site and newsletter; author, Hungry Girl 200 Under 200.

Holly Grainger, MS, RD, food editor, MyRecipes.com.

Sarah Jane Bedwell, RD, dietitian, Nashville.

© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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