Q&A: Sharing a 'Dash' of Nutrition Know-How

Oldways often works with registered dietitians through our various programs and health initiatives.  Our connection to this community of health influencers is invaluable in our work, so when we heard our friend Michelle Dudash, RD was coming out with her first book, Clean Eating for Busy Families, we could not wait to dive in and learn what she had to share.  Not only is Michelle a dietitian, she is a trained chef, media spokesperson, and most importantly a mom, so she is clearly an expert when it comes to a busy family life. The recipes and tips she shares are a perfect combination of simple, healthy, delicious - with a dash of nutritionist know-how.

We caught up with Michelle for a chat about her new book.


OLDWAYS:  For our readers who may not know you, can you share a bit about yourself and the concept of your book, Clean Eating for Busy Families?
MICHELLE:  After the first few months of my daughter Scarlet being born, I was tired of Chinese take-out, frozen dinners and the same old recipes. One day I was trying to figure out what would be yummy, exciting and healthy for dinner--my stovetop chicken curry recipe that requires tending to. Instead, I decided to throw all of the ingredients into the slow cooker at once while Scarlet was napping that afternoon. That's when I came up with the idea for a family cookbook. I knew there had to be other moms out there like me. Plus, any mom I talked to and tasted my food said, “You need to write a cookbook!” I wrote the idea on a Post-It note, stuck it onto the fridge, and my ideas simmered for a few months before writing the proposal.

Clean Eating for Busy Families takes the challenge out of putting delicious food on the table every night by providing readers with a clear plan for dinner success.

I rely on whole foods in their most natural state including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, sustainable seafood and lean meats, lowfat dairy, nutritious oils, nuts and seeds, a variety of fresh and dried herbs and spices, and unrefined sweeteners. As a busy mom, I also take advantage of some convenience foods like reduced sodium or organic broths, spaghetti sauce and canned legumes.

OLDWAYS:  Can you talk with us about your “Five Food Rules for Eating Clean”?
MICHELLE: Sure, they are as follows:

  1. Choose Foods Closest to Their Natural State - The less processed foods are, the more naturally occurring vital nutrients and the fewer harmful ingredients they contain. Also, if you can’t pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn’t eat it. 
  2. Enjoy a Colorful Array of Foods - Each color of the rainbow provides a unique blend of disease-fighting, immunity-boosting antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals.
  3. Go Local and Seasonal - Foods that travel shorter distances to get from farm to fork leave a smaller carbon footprint, making them better for the planet. Start by reading the signs next to your produce and the labels on the backs of packages. Ideally, choose foods from your country rather than the other side of the world.
  4. Choose Humanely Produced Foods that Are Good For the Planet - Learn what you can about the companies you buy food from. Every time you check out at the grocery store, you are voting for who will fail or succeed.
  5. Enjoy Every Bite - Food not only nourishes and fuels our bodies and minds, it also provides entertainment, encourages curiosity, invites togetherness, and rejuvenates the soul. Food should taste good first and then be good for us also. We should feel free to savor flavorful foods until satisfied, rather than eat around cravings and long for something else.

OLDWAYS:  Most moms agree that a picky eater can be a dining downfall.  What are your top tips for dealing with picky eaters? (Kids or husbands!)
MICHELLE:  I have several rules that I live by and would love to share!

  1. “Healthify” favorites. If your child loves fast-food chicken nuggets, try my Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip. Use familiar foods as the vehicle to get kids to eat foreign foods.
  2. Have whisk, will try it. Involving your child in the cooking process will result in them being more likely to try the foods that they help prepare.
  3. Don’t Give Up. Continue to offer, not force, a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it! Eventually, your child will probably surprise you.

OLDWAYS:  Being a working mother requires a special balancing act and you clearly have some experience in this arena considering the many hats you wear!  What advice or strategies could you offer to other busy moms to ensure they can get “meals on the table in minutes?”
MICHELLE:  It isn’t always easy but with some simple steps you can get it all done, I say:

  1. Properly stock your kitchen:  In the time that you would call in your takeout order, drive in traffic, wait in line and get back home, you could have prepared a fresh meal, provided that you had the needed supplies. My book offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists.
  2. Plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal:  Planning ahead can be as detailed as writing out a monthly or weekly calendar of dinner menus, or as free-spirited as simply having three fresh proteins and vegetables on hand for the week. Plan your meals out Saturday, do all of your shopping on Sunday and as soon as you get home on weeknights, you’ll be ready to start dinner.
  3. Make one-dish or make-ahead meals whenever possible:  One-dish meals that contain a vegetable, protein and complex carbohydrate are a lifesaver--and dish saver! Recipes that you can make ahead in the slow cooker or have ready to just pop in the oven open up space during the mad evening rush.

OLDWAYS:  We don’t want to leave this Q&A without a recipe to share with our readers, so would you mind suggesting one to include?
MICHELLE:  I am happy to suggest one, how about my recipe for cucumber quinoa salad.

Cucumber Quinoa Salad with Feta Cheese, Olives, Mint & Oregano
Quinoa is an ancient Incan grain and a complete source of vegan protein, providing all of your daily essential amino acids. Just 1 cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa offers 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 15 percent of your Daily Value for iron, and 6 percent of your Daily Value for potassium, a nutrient for which many people don’t reach the recommended requirement. This salad serves as a refreshing, light, yet satisfying main or side dish. Find quinoa in the natural food section of your grocery store, near the grains.

Ingredients:
1 cup (173 g) dry quinoa, debris and discolored seeds removed
1½ cups (355 ml) organic or reduced sodium vegetable broth
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (1½ cups, or 205 g)
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped (1 cup, or 180 g)
1/ 3 cup (50 g) crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup (25 g) pitted kalamata olives, sliced
2 tablespoons (28 ml) red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (28 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon (6 g) chopped mint (or 1 teaspoon [0.5 g] dried mint)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Directions:
Place quinoa in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and let soak for 5 minutes to prevent stickiness. Stir, then rinse in a colander with cool water, and drain. Return quinoa to the saucepan and add broth. Bring to a boil on high heat; reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes until quinoa is tender and liquid is completely absorbed. Spread quinoa on a plate to cool it quickly.

Place quinoa in a medium bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes, up to 3 days.

Go Green
When domestic cucumbers and tomatoes are out of season in your area, try substituting 1½ cups (360 g)chickpeas, ¼ cup (40 g) minced red onion, and ¼ cup (45 g) sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, drained and chopped.

Total Prep and Cook Time: 1 hour • Yield: 11 servings, ½ cup (approx.60 g) each
Per serving: 126 calories; 5 g total fat; 1 g saturated fat; 4 g protein; 16 g carbohydrate; 2 g dietary fiber; 4 mg cholesterol.

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