Oldways Q&A: Meal Makeover Moms

At Oldways, we get lots of questions about how to ensure children learn to make the right choices when it comes to healthy eating.  We recently caught up with Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD, the authors of the new cookbook, No Whine With Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms (M3 Press, 2011) and asked them to share insights, recipes and tips to help busy parents.

Oldways:  No Whine with Dinner is designed to give busy parents nutritious recipes the whole family can enjoy. What are some of your most popular recipes?

Liz & Janice: We hear from parents all the time about their favorite “No Whine” recipes, and those favorites are as different as the families themselves. A few, however, come to mind. From the Slow Cooker Creations chapter, our Pulled Pork Primavera, sandwiches made with carrots, red bell pepper, onions, and BBQ sauce, is always a hit at the dinner table, and the Chocolaty Pumpkin Bars, a nutrient-packed snack made with canned pureed pumpkin, is a “treat” parents love to serve when their kids get home from school. When it's warm outside, the Sips & Smoothies chapter gets a lot of use. Our Mom's Mango Smoothie hits the spot every time!

Oldways: Some authors advocate hiding vegetables as a way to get kids to eat them.  You keep them front and center.  What's your philosophy on presenting veggies with kid appeal?

Liz & Janice: We believe vegetables should be highly visible on the plate --- not concealed within the meal. The key is to make those veggies kid friendly. Research shows that kids prefer vegetables when they're cooked until crisp-tender versus cooked to death. Since every child is different, parents should cook their veggies to the texture that appeals to their children. Vegetables are colorful, and their flavors vary considerably, so they provide families with endless tasting opportunities. For parents of picky eaters, consider the “Try It” game.  On your weekly trips to the supermarket, take the kids along and ask them to pick one new vegetable they’ve never tried before. Bring it home, look for recipe ideas in cookbooks or online, and then get cooking! For families who have never tried edamame, consider our Mommy's Edamame for your your first “try it” vegetable!\

Oldways:  At Oldways, we see pasta (very kid-friendly!) as an excellent delivery system for healthy ingredients such as vegetables.  Do you agree?

Liz & Janice: Yes! Pasta is so versatile. Since we're big fans of whole grains, we like to recommend whole wheat blend pastas because they are similar in flavor and texture to white pasta and are often well accepted by kids. Pasta and veggies are a match made in nutritional heaven. Our Cheesy Penne with Chicken and Broccoli, a recipe in our Pasta and Pizza Favorites chapter, has big-time kid appeal because it incorporates many familiar elements: pasta, broccoli, chicken, and cheese. Our Garden Turkey Meatballs and Spaghetti combines the goodness of whole wheat blend spaghetti with savory turkey meatballs, and kids gobble it up every time.

Oldways:  In your book, we love the "50 Moms' Secrets for Getting Picky Eaters to Try New Foods" section.  Can you share a few of those tips?

Liz & Janice: We collected “secrets” from hundreds of our blog readers and Facebook fans and then chose 50 of our favorites for this chapter. We're happy to reveal three of those amazing “secrets":

  • Sprinkle Parsley on Everything (contributed by Kim, a mom of two from New York): Keep a bottle of dried parsley on hand (or even better, chopped fresh parsley) and sprinkle it on every dish you serve your kids. The tiny flecks of “green” help kids realize there is no such thing as “white” food and it gets them used to the idea that it's okay for food to be colorful.  Start when the kids are young!
  • Plan the Weekly Menu Together (contributed by Lisa, mother of two from Melrose, MA): Use cookbooks, magazines, or internet recipe sites to plan the weekly menu as a family. Each family members is assigned one meal per week where they get to choose a new recipe or an old favorite. The weekly menu gets hung on the refrigerator for everyone to see which eliminates the infamous questions, “What's for dinner tonight?” When families plan together, the children look forward to mealtime. (Check out our free Meal Makeover Moms' free 7-Day Meal Planner).
  • Kid-Size Kitchen Tools (contributed by Valerie, a mother of one from Waipahu, HI): This busy mom gives her son his own apron, chef’s hat, and age-appropriate kitchen tools and gadgets. When he helps in the kitchen, he gets excited to try his own creations!

Oldways: You have built up quite a following -- how did you tap into this network to create No Whine with Dinner?

Liz & Janice: In 2004, after the release of our first cookbook, The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers, we launched our websites, MealMakeoverMoms.com. We also created a monthly e-newsletter. Since that time, we launched our blog, Meal Makeover Moms' Kitchen, our free weekly radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms, and our Facebook fan page. Our network of moms grew with every new resource to the website, and now, it's a place where parents can exchange mealtime ideas and find new ones.

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