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Hungry Girl, PopChips stage a potato chip intervention

July 23, 2009 |  7:43 am

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When I was assigned to do a story about the Hungry Girl phenomenon, I had no idea it would help me break a long-standing potato chip addiction. Hungry Girl is Lisa Lillien, a Valley girl and former cable TV executive who parlayed her passion for calorie counting into a multimillion-dollar business and a role as Internet taste maker. (Her newest recipe book, "Hungry Girl: 200 Under 200," has hit the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.)

I spent the day with Lillien and a handful of her team members at their Woodland Hills "office" -- it's really a unit in a posh apartment complex, chosen for a spacious kitchen that accommodates recipe testing. If you read her daily e-mail blast you won't be surprised to hear that a day in the candy-colored Hungry Girl headquarters feels like one big slumber party. That's because much of their "work"-day is literally spent dreaming up yummy low-cal recipes, crafting them and testing and re-testing them until they're good to go. (On the day I was there, they were working on their fourth try at perfecting peanut butter oatmeal "softies." Not quite cookies, they're not quite muffins either, hence the name.)

Lillien considers it her personal mission to find more healthful -- or at least lower-in-calorie -- substitutes for the foods that people crave most. She asked me about my weakness. Potato chips, the saltier the better, I told her. She told me I should try PopChips. I'd never heard of them, and I jotted it down in my notebook just to be polite. On my way out the door that day, Lillien handed me a bag of PopChips -- turns out they are a staple in the Hungry Girl kitchen. 

I devoured them before I got to my car, and it was like an instant 12-step program. I'll never buy regular potato chips again. The original flavor PopChips offer everything that a regular chip does: They're super crunchy and super salty, and they taste like they're fried. But they're not. There's only 120 calories, 35 calories from fat, in a serving. And it's a generous serving size too -- not one of those teensy little bags. (There is a downside: The chips seem to be a bit pricier than most.) I interviewed PopChips co-founder Keith Belling for my Hungry Girl story, and a few days later, a sample basket arrived. Since then, people keep coming by my desk ostensibly to say hello, or talk work. But I know it's really to swipe a bag of PopChips. My favorite flavors are original and salt-and-pepper.

-- Rene Lynch

Photo: PopChips.com  

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