Hungry Girl-approved noodles are taking over the diet aisle

Spaghetti-shaped noodles made of tofu and yam flour – and packed in water in a refrigerated plastic bag – have rather suddenly started showing up in U.S. grocery produce aisles.

They smell sort of odd and look a bit curious (at least to American eyes), yet there has been a rise in demand. It traces directly to a small but growing diet franchise run by Lisa Lillien, better known to calorie-counters as the obsessive food lover behind the Hungry Girl Web site, recipe book and e-mail newsletter.

With only 40 calories in a bag weighing 8 ounces, or 225 grams, Tofu Shirataki noodles are a favorite product of Lillien, who has put her Hungry Girl seal of approval on the bag, at no charge to the Japanese company that makes them, House Foods. She calls them “crazy-low in calories but a bit slippery” and suggests serving them with various low-fat cheeses as a kind of faux pasta Alfredo.

Though she is neither a professional nutritionist nor a dietitian, Lillien’s endorsement has become a brass ring for manufacturers of healthy foods. Her logo and recipes grace the packages not only of Tofu Shirataki, but also items like Fiber One and Vitalicious Vita Tops, a type of muffin that comes in several flavors developed by Lillien.

I don’t know if this qualifies for Web 2.o or not. After all, Lisa Lillien hasn’t yet sold out her site for a bushel basket of money. But, she certainly has done a professional job of developing a money-making web presence.

“Monetizing” is a geek Shangri-la.

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