No Wonder She’s Hungry, Girl

Once upon a time, I ate fake food, known as “fauxd” around these parts. I drank several Diet Cokes a day, bought sugar-free pudding, and tried every new 100-calorie pack that came on the market. Individually and wastefully packaged, low-calorie, fat-free – I tried it all without thinking twice in the name of saving a few calories. Yes, I lived in Southern California, why do you ask?

Those days are, obviously, long gone. And while I really strive not to be judgmental of others’ eating habits, instead hoping to encourage by promoting delicious, affordable and fun eco-friendly food and lifestyle choices, sometimes I still have to shake my head at what people choose to put into their bodies and into landfills. This article in the New York Times is a perfect example.

Hungry Girl. Have you heard of her? Here, let her tell you in her own words:

“Hungry Girl is like the Forever 21 of food,” she said, referring to the discount clothing chain where the stock is inexpensive, constantly changing and produced under conditions that a conscientious consumer might rather not think about.

That is wrong on so many levels, I don’t even know where to start. Not thinking about where your clothing (food) comes from or who had to suffer to get it to you, caring only about the cost (calories) instead of the quality or environmental impact. Is that really a positive comparison she wants to draw?

Back in my low-cal food days, I frequently read Hungry Girl’s site, but even then I often wondered, “she thinks THIS tastes good? When was the last time she tasted REAL food?”

Another choice tidbit from the article:

“She knows exactly what her audience likes,” said Yoko Difrancia, marketing manager for House Foods America Corporation, a maker of Japanese yam-flour-and-tofu noodles called shirataki that Hungry Girl has catapulted to fame, calling them “life changing” and “amazing” because “You can eat the ENTIRE PACKAGE!”

In the last four years, United States sales have more than doubled, Ms. Difrancia said.

Shirataki, also called “broom of the stomach” in Japanese, pass through the system virtually undigested, making them filling and nearly calorie free. The major drawbacks are the noodles’ gelatinous texture and what the package refers to as their “authentic” aroma, a frankly fishy stink that fills the kitchen when the package is opened (it subsides after cooking, according to Ms. Lillien).

Gelatinous texture! Fishy stink! But you can eat the ENTIRE PACKAGE! Delicious. That sounds so much better than some actual, real whole grains, with, you know, nutrients and taste. No! Those have calories! And carbs! Heaven forbid.

Is it really, really worth eating this stuff in order to be “healthy” and save a few calories? You know what else is low-calorie, satisfying, and way tastier and better for you than gelatinous, fishy noodles or a tiny portion of Oreo-like “cookies”? Vegetables. Air popped popcorn. An apple. Kale chips. Strawberries. With only a small amount of effort, you have so many options, and the rewards are so great. The way to be healthy – and even to reduce your calories – isn’t in the center aisles of your local megamarket. It’s at the Farmers Market and fresh food sections and in your kitchen, where food comes from the ground, instead of from packages. I’m not saying I don’t buy packaged foods – I most certainly, carefully do. I’m definitely not opposed to treats. But if you’re going to buy packaged food (which we almost all do), look at the ingredients. Think about the material the item is packaged in and what will happen to it once you’re through. Make sure you know what’s in there and not just what’s not. TASTE your food. Buy the real thing. When you want a treat, go all the way, and you’ll be much, much more satisfied. If you think lowfat, sugar-free ice cream tastes good, I have a little ice cream place I want to take you to. Single scoop. On me.


Real food from the Bermondsey Farmers Market in London. Photo courtesy of my friend Barney

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “No Wonder She’s Hungry, Girl

  1. Haha, oh Janet! The same thoughts were running through my head yesterday morning while I was reading this article. It’s disgusting!

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  3. “Who cares what’s in it – how many calories (carbs/fat grams/Weight Watchers points) does it contain?” Thanks for this great post. Of course she’s hungry. There’s no actual food in her food.

  4. I feel like I could have written this!!!! I had the identical thought process when reading that new york times article, and come from a similar food background! wow, great minds think alike 😉
    REAL food is what our bodies want and need. Is pretending like fiberone chicken breast taste like deep fried chicken going to help solve your life problems? Why not recondition those taste buds to love fresh vegetables and real food instead?

    Almost everyday people ask me if i feel restrictive by eating a vegan, plant-based diet-if i “miss” dairy, eggs, meat, etc. For me, this switch has been the complete opposite of restriction. By turning away from the staples of my previous “diet” ( slow-churned, sugar-free, ice-cream, coolwhip free, microwaved egg-whites, whey protein up the wahzoo, and spendarific lite yogurt, and lots of hungry girl) I have embraced a beautiful new food world that includes exotic, wholesome, exciting, delicious, fresh, REAL food!

    instead of tricking our hungry bodies, let’s feed it what it wants and needs!

    Thanks for this great post!

  5. actorsdiet

    i used to read hungry girl too, during my heavy eating disorder days. thank goodness i stopped and discovered real food blogs like yours!

  6. Calliope

    Great post.
    I’ll take you up on that single scoop of ice cream. 🙂

    Mimi’s posted this week’s new flavor: olive oil!

  7. I couldn’t agree with you more – although I will admit I was subscribed to her emails over a year ago and I even tried the shirataki noodles once. :/ I got the emails for a couple weeks and realized her “recipes” were not up my alley.

    I’ll take real food, thanks!!

  8. I couldn’t agree more! in fact I posted this article on my FB a few days ago, along with a note on how wrong this lady is in so many levels. Not only is it sad that you ‘need to eat’ stinky noodles because they have less carbs, but has someone taken in account how much crap do packaged diet foods have?
    being a chemist, when I read the labels, I get seriously scared… nevermind the sort of unknown health impact of certain sweeteners and other nasty stuff.

    anyway, thanks for posting this… I really hope it gets to more people! I’m gonna retweet it!

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  10. I couldnt agree with you whole heartily more on everything you stated!!! Its a dying shame {and quite literally so in some cases} what society consumes. I once out of curiosity thumbed through Hungry Girls “cook book” at the book store… what a laughing joke to call many of the things “gourmet meals” with 99.9% of the ingredients being processed packaged chemical laden artificial junk. Anyways, love your blog!! 🙂

  11. holy shit how did I miss this gem o’gems? This is a treasure trove of goodness Janet. You completely nailed the issue down-our culture is so hung up on how much can I eat for as little calories as possible The crap she calls food is just sad and she makes money off it?
    I’ll take you up on the offer for ice cream!

  12. Watching an episode of Rachel Ray with Hungry Girl and all I can keep thinking is why on earth is she not replacing the rubbish with fresh vegetables, fruits, grains etc. Surely instead of using a cake mix and fake pumpkin in a can it would be better to make a cake from scratch not to mention much more rewarding.

    Thanks so much for writing this post, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only one thinking what she is doing was odd.

  13. I agree with you on 99.9% of this, with one exception– I genuinely enjoy the shiratake noodles. I still cook with wheat pasta, but the shiratake noodles have, when prepared properly, a really nice springy texture that goes well with a stirfry or steamed veggies and tofu. If you prepare them properly the smell goes away after rinsing and the taste is really light and refreshing. They’re expensive, compared to regular pasta, but there are times when I’d prefer not to enjoy the denser choice of plain pasta. She also bulks up pasta into a serving that is more pleasing to the eye by adding zucchini ribbons to linguine or spaghetti squash to angel hair, both whole food solutions to just wanting more on your plate even if you know what a serving truly is. On the whole, though, I’d rather have a small amount of the real thing as opposed to a whole pile of fakes, but shirataki noodles are a good product and worth trying in their own right, as opposed to a fake for a different product.

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