Aside from being food–obsessed, Lisa is also a respected executive in all forms of entertainment media, including print, online and television. She has held positions in new media, development and production at Nickelodeon, TV Land and Warner bros. Due to the overwhelming response to Hungry–Girl.com, Lisa decided to leave the corporate world in pursuit of more tips and tricks for hungry chicks. In addition to her daily emails which reach over 350,000 die–hard fans, Lisa is also a New York Times best–selling author, with four cookbooks under her belt. Her brand new Hungry Girl television show debuted in January 2011 on The Cooking Channel.
Name: Lisa Lillien / Hungry Girl
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Diet Detective: Hey Lisa, thanks again for the interview. I just love your newsletter (and the name Hungry Girl); it’s packed with wonderful, fun, and truly useful information. I guess the biggest question is how you got into this? What motivated you to start the newsletter?
Lisa: Thanks so much! You know, I have always been obsessed with food, and I have a knack for finding products that taste great and are low in calories and fat. I also am good at finding ways to make food at home that tastes hearty and full–fat, but isn’t. I love to share my findings and ideas with people. One day the idea for Hungry Girl popped into my brain — to create sort of an umbrella diet brand for women that was from a regular person (like me), as opposed to a doctor or a dietitian — and the brand needed to be fun and a little sassy, not boring. So Hungry Girl was born… I decided to make it a free daily email service because I wanted the content to be delivered directly to readers in a very personal way.
Diet Detective: You were overweight at a point in your life — what was it that triggered you to lose the weight? And how did you keep it off?
Lisa: I spent the first part of my life yoyo dieting — I would lose and gain the same 10–15 lbs over and over again. One day I was working with a fitness expert at work — we were producing an exercise video with him (when I was working at Warner Bros.). He said something about not eating carbs after 4pm, and he was going on and on, so I decided the next day, that I was going to give up bread, flour, pasta, rice, potatoes — not just after 4pm — but for 30 days! Well, 30 days turned into a year. I dropped about 25–30 lbs. in three months. It was amazing. Once I had the weight off, I turned to Weight Watchers to help me maintain it — their plan helped me incorporate all the foods I was avoiding back into my diet (in a reasonable way). To this day, I count points in my brain when I eat. I don’t follow the plan strictly, but it’s always on my mind and helps keep my eating under control.
Diet Detective: If you were to invent your own diet/health food what would it look like?
Lisa: It would be a lot of food for a reasonable amount of calories. And come in a very cute package!
Diet Detective: What are you least impressed with when it comes to food offered in the supermarket and restaurants?
Lisa: In supermarkets, there are too many fatty, high–calorie foods targeted at kids — that bugs me. At restaurants, there is way too much sauce and unidentifiable goo. And the portions are typically too large.
Diet Detective: What are you most impressed with when it comes to food offered in the supermarket and restaurants?
Lisa: Supermarkets have a wide variety of products. I love the fact that portion–controlled snacks are all the rage right now, because there are so many options. In restaurants, most of the time, they are very accommodating. I’m the queen of special ordering, and if you ask nicely they’ll be happy to prepare your food the way you like it.
Diet Detective: If you had to pick one healthy cookbook to recommend (or two) which would you choose?
Lisa: Of course I have to say Hungry Girl: Recipes and Survival Strategies for Guilt Free Eating in the Real World. That book isn’t a “health” cookbook as much as it is a guilt–free eating cookbook. You can also check out cookbooks from Weight Watchers. Those are really good!
Diet Detective: What is your all time favorite healthy snack?
Lisa: If we’re talking healthy, I’d have to say an apple, or definitely any chocolate flavor Vitalicious Vitatop — Yum!
Diet Detective: What do you typically eat for breakfast?
Lisa: I typically eat egg whites with fat free cheese and fruit.
Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy ingredient? What’s the one thing you’d suggest people keep in their kitchen if they want to cook healthy meals?
Lisa: It’s hard to say. Again, Hungry Girl isn’t strictly about health so I don’t want to offer any advice about specific packaged foods here because those aren’t necessarily “healthy”, but if we’re talking straight up health, broccoli gets my vote. I put it in everything — soups, stir fries, salads — and I eat it as a snack. I love broccoli! If we’re straying a bit from health, I’d say everyone should keep Laughing Cow Light Cheese wedges in their fridge at all times. They’re the best!
Diet Detective: What activities do you do regularly to stay in shape, if any?
Lisa: I do weight training 2 times a week and I walk on the treadmill 4–6 times a week.
Diet Detective: If you had to choose a specific song or band to get you excited for your workout, what would it be? What other songs are on your iPod?
Lisa: Typically I watch TV while I work out. I have a TIVO in my workout room and I watch the Style Network and The Food Network during my workouts. But I do have an iPod filled with workout songs. I like working out to 80s music — some of my favorite old songs to work out to are “Good Vibrations” (Marky Mark’s version), “Baby Got Back” (by Sir Mix-A-Lot), and “Control” by Janet Jackson. I also love a peppy song called “Happy Hour” by a band called The Housemartins.
Diet Detective: What person do you respect most, or who motivates you?
Lisa: My husband. He’s the smartest person I know and also the hardest working guy around.
Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?
Lisa: I don’t do any of those things. Working out is a huge stress reliever for me. As is shopping!
Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?
Lisa: I’d have to say House Foods Tofu Shirataki noodles. Because they are all natural, super–low in calories, and they taste (to me) exactly like pasta. So I think they’re magical! Because of them I can make a huge bowl of fettuccine alfredo that has about 80 calories. That’s insane! (Insane in a good way!)
Diet Detective: Would you mind sharing a couple of your tasty, favorite healthy recipes?
Lisa: Not at all…
Fettuccine Hungry Girlfredo!
PER SERVING (entire recipe): 81 calories, 3g fat, 242mg sodium, 9g carbs, 4g fiber, <1g sugars, 4g protein
1 package House Foods Tofu Shirataki, Fettuccine Shape
1/2 wedge The Laughing Cow cheese, Light Original Swiss
2 teaspoons reduced-fat parmesan-style grated topping
1 teaspoon fat-free sour cream
Optional: salt and pepper
Rinse and drain Shirataki noodles well. Pat dry. Place noodles in a microwave–safe bowl, and microwave for 1 minute. Drain excess liquid from noodles, and pat them until thoroughly dry. Slice noodles up a bit for fettuccine–length pieces. Add cheese, grated topping and sour cream. Mix well. Microwave for 1 minute, and then stir. If you like, add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 1 Serving
Lord of the Onion Rings
PER SERVING (entire recipe): 153 calories, 1g fat, 379mg sodium, 41g carbs, 16g fiber, 7g sugars, 9g protein
1 large onion
1/2 cup Fiber One bran cereal (original)
1/4 cup fat–free liquid egg substitute
Optional: salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, etc.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the ends off of the onion, and remove the outer layer. Cut onion into ½–inch–wide slices, and separate into rings. Using a blender or food processor, grind Fiber One to a breadcrumb–like consistency. Pour Fiber One breadcrumbs onto a small dish, and mix in salt and any optional spices you like. Next, fill a small bowl (just large enough for onion rings to fit in) with egg substitute. One by one, coat each ring first in egg, and then in the breadcrumbs (give each ring a shake after the egg bath). Evenly place rings on a baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray. Cook for 20–25 minutes, flipping rings over about halfway through.
Makes 1 Serving
Diet Detective: If you could eat one unhealthy food (candy, cakes, etc.) whenever you wanted without gaining weight, what would it be?
Lisa: French fries — no question! But pizza isn’t too far behind.
Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?
Lisa: I never had a bad summer job. One time I got a job at a promotions company. I showed up and they asked me to put on a tight little shirt and hand out samples of cigarettes. I refused to do it. I didn’t even last an hour at that job so does that even count? Other than that I’ve always liked my jobs.
Diet Detective: What was your dream job/life when you were a little girl?
Lisa: For a while I wanted to be a cartoonist, then a lawyer, and then I wanted to host The Muppet Show. None of those things happened.