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Hungry Girl, PopChips stage a potato chip intervention


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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I learned to read labels but I wish I didn't because I do it all the time now heh

Looking up their nutrition facts, pop chips list their servings as 1 oz, about 22 chips or so. That is indeed 120 calories. Does the bag come in 1 oz sizes? I guess it may be

In any event, I always break it down by weight. Looking up Doritos they also list serving size as 1 oz, this works out to 11-12 chips. But remember it's the weight we need to keep any eye on. For their regular chips they range from 140-150. If you are seriously counting calories and need super precision, then yes 20-30 calories may make the difference. But is it that much of one? Yes the fat calories are higher however (I know this is about potato chips so looking up Lays its about the same), so therein lies the difference.

How does it compare taste wise to say, the reduced fat kettle cooked lays? That's slightly higher in calories and higher in fat but not by much (I believe about two grams more fat - 15 calories). A decent alternative if popchips are not easily available

Journalist asked a good question! We do have a very strict policy on accepting gifts. If it were something pricey, I would indeed have to refuse it or return it. In this case, we’re talking about 12 or so small bags of chips, but I still decided it was best to just give them away. -- Rene Lynch

I'm surprised that you accepted the basket. As a journalist, aren't you required to return or decline free food from sources?

Bye bye frito lay!!

I like the Original a lot, everything you need. But Salt and Pepper tasted kind of weird, I did have a cold.

Wish more places carried them.

I've never even heard of these until yesterday (via Twitter). MUST TRY!


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