Eons ago, in the throes of my teenage angst and adolescence, I graced the pages of many a teen magazine. Laugh all you like, but I was a weekly staple in publications such as “Bop” and “Tiger Beat” (insert a note-worthy cringe and some schoolgirl giggling here). Ahh, those were the days… seeing myself in all of my pimpled glory, sporting faux Seattle grunge attire and wacky Blossom hats, while answering questions such as “If you were an insect, which one would you be?” (God only knows what my response was back then but I can virtually guarantee it wasn’t dripping with quite as much sarcasm as it would be today!) Admittedly, I tend to look back on those times with a small amount of embarrassment, and I would be happy to offer a myriad of self-deprecating jokes to back that up. The 90’s were brutal to most of us, but I think I might take the cake on this one. (To prove it, one need only recollect the flowered hat trend I helped to start…) After all, having your awkward years documented on prime-time television is tough to keep stuffed in a drawer, even decades later. It’s the kind of fodder that friends and family enjoy resurrecting time and time again. And I can’t say I blame them. I’ve provided plenty of comic ammunition over the years! That said, it wasn’t an entirely abysmal decade; I have a file cabinet of kitschy memories to show my daughter in years to come, and I got to know some pretty cool people through the whole ordeal. I recently reconnected with one of them and it was a blast from the “not-so-long-ago-but-definitely-glad-we’re-over-that-stage” past, which brings us full circle to this week’s guest blog! You probably know her as ‘’Hungry Girl,’’ star of the Food Network show of the same name. I, on the other hand, know her as Lisa Lillien, editor of some of those teen magazines I spoke of. Yes, she is largely responsible for the photos of Joey Lawrence that adorned your middle school locker. (Please don’t hold that against her!) These days, she is a successful cooking show host, “foodologist,” New York Times best-selling author, founder of the Hungry Girl brand, and all around girl’s girl. I’m thoroughly impressed with the transition she has made, though I still maintain a soft spot in my heart for the good old days we shared. In case you are curious, check out the fabulous photo Lisa sent over… long live the 90’s!
Lisa Lillien a.k.a. Hungry Girl:
Lisa’s bio states that she’s not a nutritionist, she’s just hungry. In other words, she’s the real deal: a bona fide foodie who just wants to find new and exciting ways to eat, while still fitting into her favorite jeans! As a woman who just had a baby several months ago, this greatly appeals to me. I love that Lisa isn’t boasting about some fancy-schmancy degree that allows her to wax poetic about how I should go about losing those last ten pounds of my maternity weight. Instead, she’s qualified purely based on her obsession with food. A self-declared “mad scientist” in the kitchen, she has created healthy and delicious recipes via the hands-on method. While most of the popular TV chefs fall short in connecting with me, this isn’t the case with Lisa. I think it’s because I know I can rely on her personal kitchen adventures for authentication. It’s gratifying to hear that recipes have been taste-tested by someone with whom you share common ground. There’s no one hiding behind the proverbial curtain. In other words, there’s no college-age, size zero-wearing lab rat/sous-chef flunky back there, whipping up the omelet! Lisa offers a refreshing take on it all.
If you’re anything like me, the only weight you’re losing these days is due to your inability to find a moment to make a meal for yourself. I joke that I found a new exercise regime that works: Squat five times to retrieve fallen pacifier; rock screaming baby for thirty minutes. Repeat until you are exhausted or pass out. I jest, but being a Mommy makes healthy meals difficult. Sometimes the easiest and quickest route is the least nutritious one. Consequently, I’m thrilled that Lisa agreed to let me interview her and pick her brain a bit. She definitely gave me some insight into my own eating habits! Make sure you check out her website, www.hungry-girl.com, for additional recipes and information, and don’t forget to subscribe to her daily e-mail. She’s a Mommy’s nutritional saving grace! As a special treat, Lisa has even offered a chance for you to win her brand new Hungry Girl book, Hungry Girl: To The Max! You’ll find the details after her interview… Bon Appétit!
JENNA: I knew you many moons ago, when you were still working at a teen magazine… This brings back a lot of memories from an awkward phase in my life that involved an abundance of acne, scary hats, endless bad hair days, and posters of Jason Priestley. I’m thrilled to see we’ve both moved on to bigger and better things! Your career has certainly taken a different turn since then; how did you get to this point? What inspired you to make the transition into food?
LISA: Thank you!!! I worked in entertainment for a while — but always had a passion for food… and was basically a food gossip. I loved to share info about food finds — give people advice in supermarkets (sometimes when they didn’t even ask for it!), etc. I’m also a bit of a mad scientist in the kitchen. All of these things definitely contributed to my launching Hungry Girl. It’s funny, though, because my teen magazine writing style definitely helps me write my content today… The writing style is very conversational — and I write about food with that same high-energy “teen mag” enthusiasm…
JENNA: Since this blog is “Mommy-centric,” I have a few questions about food as it pertains to kids. What do you feel a parent’s biggest challenge is these days, where food is concerned?
LISA: I’m not a parent, but many of my friends are parents and they often come to me for advice. The biggest issue I see with moms is that they don’t make time for themselves… They’re always on the go, rushing and not thinking about making good food choices because they’re more concerned with feeding the family, worrying about their husbands and kids — and they end up eating whatever they can grab and quickly eat. As far as kids are concerned — a lot of parents just cave in to their kids’ cravings. And if you feed kids foods that are junky and bad for them early on, that’s what they’ll crave… A lot of parents are total pushovers when it comes to feeding their kids.
JENNA: What is the best thing a parent can do to ensure they don’t raise picky eaters?
LISA: I think it’s unrealistic to think it’s easy to control that… In general, kids are picky eaters. But the parents I know who have the most success with their kids’ eating habits are parents who have been pretty strict about making sure their kids eat whatever foods are served to them. I have one friend that always said, “I’ll never cave in to feeding my kids whatever they want. I serve them food and they eat it — if they refuse it, they’ll eventually be hungry and they’ll eat it.” I know other parents who let their kids eat whatever they want and those kids end up eating hot dogs and chicken nuggets every day… Not the best idea. It’s also a good idea to teach kids fun facts about different foods so they’ll be open-minded about eating new things…
JENNA: You’ve managed to turn healthy, nutritious food into something fun and appetizing. Given the fact that many moms work, leaving little time to plan or prepare elaborate meals for their family, what do you feel moms can do to ensure that everyone is eating healthy and balanced meals? What‘s one thing they should absolutely stay away from?
LISA: Moms need to take time to plan what the meals are. Even if the family is going to be eating fast food — there are ways to plan for it and make better choices. The most important thing moms should stay away from is making uninformed decisions… There are good-for-you options EVERYWHERE — even at quick service restaurants. So moms should be researching and figuring out what those options are and which ones will work best for their families.
JENNA: I’m a big believer in “everything in moderation.” Is there an indulgence you allow yourself, regardless of the fact that it isn’t quite as healthy?
LISA: Oh yes. Many! I live by the 80/20 rule, which means that 80 percent of the time I am paying very close attention to what I am eating and making smart choices and about 20% of the time I’m not quite as strict. One of my favorite indulgences is Southern BBQ. My husband is from Memphis and whenever we’re there I BBQ it up!!!
JENNA: Do you find it tough to eat out at restaurants and still maintain a healthy lifestyle? I know lots of parents who often give in to the convenience of ordering out, since it’s quick and easy. Is there any advice you can give regarding combining the convenience, while still retaining some nutritional value?
LISA: I am a firm believer that there are smart choices EVERYWHERE. I think people tend to make excuses and eat poorly when ordering in or dining out because they can. It’s easy to blame the menu. But the truth is, there are good for you foods at almost all restaurants. Even a fast food restaurant like McDonald’s has a SLEW of fantastic fresh salads, lean protein options, fruit, etc. on their menu. So takeout is easy to navigate. Stick with lean proteins, fresh veggies and fruit when possible — avoid fried foods, lots of creamy sauces, cheesy, oily items, etc.
JENNA: With the number of obese children we have in this country today, as well as teenagers battling anorexia & bulimia, I feel you are a pioneer for the “right way” to introduce young women to the concept of watching what they eat… by making healthy food exciting and accessible. What advice would you give a teenage girl about developing better food habits?
LISA: I am not a medical professional in any way but I do have opinions on this subject. I feel it’s important for girls to not have unrealistic expectations about what their bodies should look like. And in general to definitely NOT look at the teens and women on TV today as role models in that arena. Too many people on TV, in magazines, and in movies are extremely thin — even if they are just naturally thin and don’t have to work hard at it — many simply have body types and frames that are much smaller than the average teenage girl. If teenage girls focus too much on that or beat themselves up about not being a size 0, they can develop eating disorders. I think the more we can educate teens about reading labels, understanding what their bodies need to function and making smart choices based on their needs, the closer we will be to solving the issues that exist with eating disorders and body image.
JENNA: What’s one item in your kitchen that you can’t live without?
LISA: My microwave. I know that’s not the most sophisticated answer — but I’m being honest! I use it to make my HG egg mugs DAILY…. so I love it!!!
JENNA: Any chance we can get a recipe from you that might appeal to moms as well as kids?
HUNGRY GIRL’S BLT-RIFIC MAC N’ CHEESE ~ 227 calories per serving!
You’ll need: large skillet with a lid, microwave-safe plate (optional), medium-large pot with a lid, nonstick spray, microwave-safe bowl.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
¼th of recipe (about 1 cup) ~ 227 calories, 5g fat, 491 mg sodium, 33g carbs, 6g fiber, 4g sugars, 13g protein
3 slices center-cut bacon or turkey bacon
4 ½ ounces (about 1 ½ cups) uncooked high-fiber penne pasta
2 large yellow summer squash
3 cups chopped spinach leaves
1 large tomato, chopped and seeded
2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream
2 slices fat-free cheddar cheese
4 wedges The Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Cheese
Optional seasonings: salt and black pepper
Cook bacon until crispy, either in a large skillet over medium heat or on a microwave-safe plate in the microwave. (See package for cook time.) Crumble or chop.
In a medium-large pot, cook pasta per package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain and cover to keep warm.
Meanwhile, cut squash into pieces similar in size to the penne, about 2 inches long and ½ inch thick.
Bring a large skillet sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Add squash, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, occasionally uncovering to stir.
Add spinach and tomato to the skillet, re-cover, and continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove cover and cook and stir until spinach has wilted, tomato is soft, and most excess liquid has cooked off, about 3 minutes. Drain excess liquid, stir cooked veggies into pasta, and cover to keep warm.
In a microwave-safe bowl, mix sour cream, cheese slices, and cheese wedges, breaking slices and wedges into pieces as you add them. Microwave for 30 seconds, and stir thoroughly. Microwave for another 30 seconds, or until fully melted. Mix until smooth.
Add cheese mixture to veggies and pasta. Stir to coat. Top with bacon. Serve it up!
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
(***This recipe was copied directly from Hungry Girl: To The Max!, courtesy of Lisa Lillen. For questions regarding this recipe, please contact Hungry Girl at www.hungry-girl.com)
A huge thanks to Lisa, for the interview and the recipe contribution! As promised, here’s your opportunity to win Lisa’s newest recipe book, Hungry Girl: To The Max! All you need to do is send me an email at Jenna@cradlechronicles.com, letting me know what your favorite healthy snack or meal is. Please title it “I’m a Hungry Girl.” You’ll automatically be entered into the drawing to win a book! Please make sure to include an appropriate email address, so I can contact you if you are chosen. I’ll randomly select two lucky winners at the beginning of January…
Until next time… Peace, Love, and Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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