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    Archive for the ‘Hungry Girl’ Category

    You Ask, I Answer: Shirataki Noodles

    noodlesSomeone in my class was talking about this “Hungry Girl diet” and mentioned shirataki noodles.

    Have you heard of them? What do you think?

    — Danielle Ippolito
    (Location Unknown)

    I have indeed heard of them.  FYI: for my thoughts on Hungry Girl and her “diet” (it’s not a diet as much as it is a way of eating), please read this post.

    Onto your question:

    Shirataki noodles are made solely from an Asian root vegetable.  Since they are mainly composed of soluble fiber, they are very low in calories.  Some manufacturers of these noodles claim they are “calorie-free”, which makes no sense to me.  Unlike insoluble fiber, soluble fiber is not calorie-free.

    While a local Asian market may sell shirataki noodles made exclusively from that fiber, the more popular brands sold here in the United States are made from a combination of said root vegetable and tofu (mainly for texture purposes).  In fact, the ingredient list places ‘tofu’ before ‘yam flour’.

    I often see them as touted as “weight-loss food”, which is silly because there is nothing about them that inherently causes weight loss.  They are certainly low in calories, but “weight-loss food” implies that a food has some sort of magic property that results in weight loss.

    A dinner of shirataki noodles may be low-calorie, but if your lunch was a Chili’s quesadilla, don’t expect any weight-loss miracles.

    Here is why I’m not quite as enthusiastic about the “new pasta”:

    • Shirataki noodles are flavorless, and reinforce the stereotype that healthy food must be void of taste and solely consumed “because it’s good for you”
    • While low in calories, they are also low in every nutrient.  I wouldn’t refer to them as “nutritious”
    • Since they have very little flavor, many people consume them in ways that are highly caloric anyway (i.e: rich sauces, stir-frying them in oil, etc.)

    If someone enjoys these noodles, more power to them.  I would never steer someone away from eating them.  They are certainly an excellent source of soluble fiber, and offer some health benefits.

    However, it’s worth remembering that there is nothing inherently unhealthy about pasta, especially whole-grain varieties.  The main problem in the United States is that pasta is eaten in huge amounts and drenched in highly-caloric sauces.

    If you are looking for wheat-free pastas, I recommend soba noodles (look for ones made solely from buckwheat flour, such as the Eden Organics brand), brown rice pastas, or quinoa pastas.

    If calories are a concern, give spiralized zucchini “noodles” a try.

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    Are We A “Hungry Girl” Nation?

    HungryGirlI’m sure you’ve seen the perfectly coifed, sparkling-teeth caricature somewhere.  Perhaps a bookstore.  Or a container of “Hungry Girl approved” yogurt.  You may even subscribe to her newsletter.

    Hungry Girl (real name Lisa Lillien) has been a full-fledged nutrition star for several years.

    Her fans — and there are many of them, as evidenced by her books reaching the top of the New York Times bestseller list — point to her relatability as one factor behind her success.

    Ms. Lillien is not a nutritionist or dietitian.  She is not a doctor, nor is she the star of a basic cable reality show.  She’s simply a woman who lost 30 pounds several years ago, and wanted to share her story — and recipes — with the world.  Soon enough, her subscriber list exploded to half a million people, and food companies learned that a recommendation of one of their products from Hungry Girl equaled big sales.

    I know some Registered Dietitans who see Hungry Girl in a favorable light and publicly support her work.

    While I certainly don’t hold any animosity towards her prototypical “everyday dieter” persona, I truly worry about what her rampant success means.

    Sure, she does not employ the word “skinny” anywhere in her message (the whole “skinny this, skinny that” trend in nutrition books and diet plans is so tired it’s comatose), but Hungry Girl epitomizes Frankenfood dieting.

    Her hyper-popular recipes (featured in books like “200 [Recipes] Under 200 [Calories]”) tend to center around “Franken-gredients” like fat-free whipped cream, sugar-free syrups, and artificial sweeteners.

    There is no emphasis on health.  It’s not about cooking vegetables in a tasty sauce, eating healthier fats, or whipping up quick and simple recipes rich in phytonutrients and fiber.  It’s simply about the calories.

    As one colleague of mine brilliantly remarked when discussing this issue with me, it emphasizes the erroneous idea that nutrition equals weight management.

    Granted, Ms. Lillien does not profess to be a health expert.  “I’m just hungry,” is her trademark response.

    These, however, are the main things that I dislike about the Hungry Girl phenomenon:

    • The often-repeated “guilt-free” idea.  What makes a bowl of strawberries with Splenda and sugar-free syrup less “guilt-inducing” than a Lara bar?  And why must we always associate guilt with great-tasting food?  This goes well beyond the scope of this post, but why is it so hard for some people to realize that there are plenty of decadent, delicious, healthy foods?  Why the “either or” mentality?
    • The allusion that healthy eating is not tasty.  The unspoken idea behind a lot of the recipes is that they are not necessarily mega-healthy, but they are tasty and low in calories (because apparently “healthy” and “tasty” are opposites?)
    • The idea that the only way to lose weight successfully is through artificial sweeteners, chemically-laden processed food, and foods that didn’t exist thirty years ago.  Fat and sugar substitutes proceeded rising obesity rates!
    • The perpetuated gender stereotype that it is solely women who care about weight loss, and have “uncontrollable” sweet tooth urges that must be indulged ever so carefully (again, an issue way beyond the scope of this post, but still worth mentioning)

    Agree?  Disagree?  Want to add a new angle to the discussion?  Please comment!

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