Q&A with The Meal Makeover Moms: Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD
To celebrate back-to-school month, we sat down with registered dietitians Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex, aka The Meal Makeover Moms, who are on a mission to help busy families eat better. As mothers, Liz and Janice know first-hand the daily challenges parents face at dinner time and that’s why they created their award winning website, MealMakeoverMoms.com. In addition, the moms also launched a new app, Meal Makeovers, that features nutrition information, recipes, and mealtime tips designed for families. We asked the dietitian duo how they make quick, nutritious meals for their children, how they manage to eat healthy on a budget, and how they regulate portion size in their houses.
1. Your award-winning website and blog, MealMakeoverMoms.com, is a great resource for parents who want their families to live a healthy life style. What inspired you to create it?
As busy moms ourselves (Liz has two boys and Janice has two girls), we understand the daily challenges parents face when it comes to feeding their kids a delicious and nutritious diet. Our number-one goal is to create tasty recipes families will happily eat; our second goal is to make those recipes super nutritious. That’s why we wrote two cookbooks, created an app and a radio show, and launched our blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen.
2. We love your “Supermarket Shopping List” that makes grocery shopping effortless, and replaces the need for a hand-written grocery list. Which foods do you like to always have in the kitchen?
The answer really depends on the season! In summer, you’ll always find fresh produce in our kitchens. In winter, we rely on the freezer section of our supermarkets for frozen bags of petite peas, corn, and broccoli as well as frozen strawberries, mango, and peaches. We both cook a lot with low-fat shredded cheese, pasta sauce, whole wheat pasta and flour tortillas, ancient grains, nuts, canned tuna and salmon, and canned beans.
3. The CDC reports that 70% of Americans don’t meet the recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet especially for children, what advice do you have for parents who want to introduce more fruits and veggies into their children’s diets?
Half of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables, so get creative with produce when preparing meals, snacks, and even desserts for your family. Here are a few tips to help you reach that goal:
- Kids naturally gravitate to sweet fruits, which means berries, apples, oranges, bananas, and grapes are often an easier “sell” than vegetables. So take advantage of your kid’s taste buds! At breakfast, serve sliced and diced fruit before filling their bowls with cereal; top pancakes with blueberries; or blend fresh or frozen fruit into smoothies.
- Add interest to vegetables. Steamed broccoli can be boring, so jazz up the flavor by drizzling with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt; serve crunchy carrot and celery sticks with flavorful dips; and dice up sweet potatoes, toss with virgin coconut oil, and roast in the oven until tender … and sweet.
- Make sure your child’s lunchbox includes at least one fruit and one veggie. Fruit ideas include sliced strawberries, a Clementine, or cubes of watermelon. For veggies, slice up colorful bell peppers, carrots, or pack along snow peas with dip.
- Serve playful pasta dishes for dinner filled with sauteed vegetables including sliced mushrooms, baby spinach, or finely diced red bell pepper.
4. Sometimes it seems like eating healthy can be expensive! What advice do you have for families who want to eat healthy, but can’t do so because of financial reasons?
Eating healthy on a budget is easier than you may think! We recommend you plan meals around weekly supermarket specials (and stock up on pantry staples when they are on sale), buy produce in season, opt for less-expensive protein sources like tofu, lentils, and beans a few days each week, turn to generic versus brand-name products, and cook from scratch when possible, since eating out can be very expensive.
5. According to the CDC, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. Some parents attribute this to confusion over portion sizes. How do you stick to proper portion size in your houses, and what advice do you have for parents who are confused over portion sizes?
The best way to serve meals and snacks is to offer them Family Style versus Pre-plated. When you plate up your family’s meals, you’re actually dictating how much each person should eat. By placing platters and serving utensils on the table instead (AKA Family Style), each family member can decide what to eat and how much to eat. Family style vs. plating allows everyone to regulate their own portions.
6. We love that you enjoy eating pasta as much as we do! Why do you think pasta is important in a healthy diet?
Pasta is the foundation for countless family-pleasing meals and snacks in our households. We love pasta salads for lunch and turn to it often when packing our kids’ lunchboxes. Our Bowtie Pasta Salad with Basil Ribbons comes immediately to mind, made with whole wheat bowtie pasta, red bell pepper, cooked chicken, chickpeas, feta cheese, fresh basil, and Italian salad dressing. For dinner, Janice’s family loves tortellini topped with broccoli florets, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan cheese; Liz’s family can’t get enough of her Mama’s Amazing Ziti.
7. Finally, can you share a favorite pasta recipe with us?
Well, since we mentioned our lunchbox pasta salad and since kids across the country are back in school, we’ll share that one! Click here to see the recipe.
About The Meal Makeover Moms:
Liz Weiss, MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD are The Meal Makeover Moms, and together, the dietitian duo is on a mission to help busy families eat better. For nutrition information, recipes, and mealtime tips, check out their new app, Meal Makeovers, their cookbook, No Whine with Dinner, read their blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, or listen to their free radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms.