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No Whine with Dinner

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No Whine with Dinner

Liz Weiss MS, RD & Janice Newell Bissex MS, RD

Mealtime can often be a struggle for parents and kids. While parents put the time into cooking up healthy dishes, kids may refuse to try even a bite. The duo from Meal Makeover Moms Meal, Liz Weiss MS, RD and Janice Newell Bissex MS, RD have “been there, done that”. They are offering some practical advice and kid-tested recipes to make mealtime more enjoyable for everyone. Super Kids Nutrition chatted with Liz about their book No Whine with Dinner and their approach to providing families with nutritious meals.

In the book, you mention that you don’t believe in “kid foods.” Can you elaborate on what you mean by that?

When people think of “kid foods”, they often think of chicken nuggets, mac n cheese, pizza, and French fries. These foods are usually low in nutrients but high in sodium and fat. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to prepare separate meals for kids and adults: It’s more stressful, more money, and more time spent on preparation.  Instead, we should think of “family foods”—just one healthy meal for the entire family. Besides, adults enjoy “kid foods,” too! We just have to make sure we prepare them in healthy ways.

Moms often have to juggle many responsibilities.  What are your top three suggestions that you can offer to help moms find time to make healthy meals?

Cooking healthy family meals doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Here are some time-saving tips.

  • Use convenience foods but choose them wisely. They’re a big time saver. For example, in our Mile High Spinach Lasagna recipe, we use frozen chopped spinach. It’s a nutrient-rich convenience ingredient, and it reduces prep time tremendously.
  • Always have a well-stocked pantry, including refrigerated foods. Things like frozen corn kernels, canned beans, and low-fat pre-shredded cheese can quickly become the star ingredient in many kid-friendly, quick-fix meals.
  • Have the right equipment on hand. For example, a sharp knife can help cut veggies a lot quicker; kitchen shears are great for snipping fresh herbs or taking the skin off chicken. Other useful tools are a blender and a durable non-stick skillet.

You’ve included many useful tips for getting picky eaters to try new foods. What are three ways parents can help overcome their children’s picky eating habits?

Many moms and dads contributed their own tips/secrets in the book. Their tips are very positive and proactive, and to our pleasant surprise, very few parents suggested ways to sneak in veggies. We’ve included 50 tips in the book—because every child is different!

  1. Take your kid to the supermarket and choose a “try it” food. The only rule is that the “try it” food can’t be junk food. Kids are often more excited about a new food if they help choose it. It doesn’t mean they’re going love it, but at least they’ll . . . try it.
  2. Sprinkle parsley on everything, and start when the kids are young! This helps children learn that foods come in different colors and reduces the chances that they reject a food just because it’s green.
  3. Hire your kids to be recipe testers. You can give the children rewards such as a soccer ball or Frisbee after 10 tries. This simple tip can really motivate kids to “buy” in to nutritious foods.

For even more fun ideas, read 25 Tips for Your Picky Eater.

Kids love to snack, and snacking on the wrong foods can cause excess weight gain. What’s your approach to, or guidelines for, kids’ snacking?

I once heard that children eat a whopping 850 snacks a year on average. That’s a lot of between meal-nibbles! Instead of letting snack time be a junk food opportunity, treat it as a mini meal and a chance to fill in the nutritional gaps in a child’s day. One rule I stick by is that each snack has to include either a fruit or a vegetable.  Also, keep snacks small so kids will still have an appetite when mealtime rolls around. Here are 50 awesome healthy snack ideas. 

You’ve even included a desserts section! That goes to show that sweets can be part of a healthy diet when offered on special occasions. In schools today, with weekly birthday celebrations and other holiday gatherings, balance is often lost. How can desserts still be part of a healthy lifestyle?

If desserts are moderate in calories and saturated fat they can fit into a healthy diet. Also, be sure to incorporate whole grains and healthy fats into dessert recipes as well as veggies or fruits when possible. Adding ground flax seed or wheat germ can boost fiber content, which is often missing in desserts. Stick to good-for-you ingredients and moderate portion sizes, and desserts can definitely be part of a healthy lifestyle. Have you tried Fruit Whip? It’s one of our favorite healthy desserts made with 100% whole fruit.

In one of the recipes for brownies, you subbed in black beans for flour. How did you come up with clever ingredient substitutions that still taste good?

The inspiration for our recipes come from a lot of different sources. Sometimes they’re from readers who are looking for healthier recipes. We love giving popular recipes a healthy, playful and kid-friendly makeover. Take our Smiley Face Casserole for example. It’s a healthier spin on tater-tot casserole which can be pretty high in fat and calories and low in fiber. Check out even more healthy swaps!

Many people say it’s expensive to eat healthfully. How can healthy eating actually save you money?  

When families eat out, they can end up spending a lot of money. From a nutrition perspective, eating out also means a lot more calories, sodium, and saturated fat. It actually costs much less to eat at home. Some of my favorite go-to, inexpensive ingredients that I always keep on hand are things like canned beans, frozen vegetables, lower-sodium pasta sauce, carrots, and eggs. These items are versatile and you can certainly stock up when they’re on sale. Another growing trend for eating healthfully is planting backyard gardens. Seed packets don’t cost a lot, and it’s a fun way to get kids involved. If you have a small space or the weather isn’t friendly for planting, window boxes are great alternative for growing some herbs.

Of the 150 recipes featured in your book, do you have a favorite one that you find yourself going back to time and time again? Would you share that with our readers?

My family really loves the Quick Apple Sausage Quesadillas.

Quick Apple Sausage Quesadillas
Makes 5 Servings

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into ¼-inch dice (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 2 fully cooked apple chicken sausages, casings removed and meat coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • Five 8-inch flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes.  Stir in the sausage, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the cooked bell pepper and sausage, cheese, corn kernels, and barbecue sauce. Spread the mixture evenly over half of each tortilla. Fold over, press down gently, and set aside.
  3. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat (you may want to wipe out the skillet first). Add 2 of the quesadillas and cook, pressing down occasionally with a spatula, until the bottoms are crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Flip them, and cook until the other sides are golden about 2 minutes.
  4. Repeat with the remaining oil and quesadillas. Cut into halves or quarters and serve.

Nutrition Information per Serving:  320 calories, 15g fat (3.5g saturated, 0.5g omega-3), 710mg sodium, 30g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 17g protein, 35% vitamin A, 100% vitamin C, 20% calcium

The book married traditional media (a cookbook) and social media (Facebook, Twitter, our blog, etc.). No Whine with Dinner was a community effort because we had each recipe tested by at least one “fan,” and all the tips were contributed by moms and dads from our social network.

For even more great books, check out our Recommended Reads!

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About the Author

Picture of Elizabeth Lee, MS, RD

Elizabeth Lee, MS, RD

Elizabeth is an outpatient dietitian in the greater Los Angeles area. She is also the Strategic Co-director and a co-founder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity and runs a blog, HEALing Foodie.

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