Expert Q&A: Meal Makeovers

Simple Ideas for Better Eating

Question: Janice and Liz, as the authors of The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers, what can you tell us about why today's busy moms should make over their tried-and-true dinner recipes?

Janice and Liz: Many family recipes are high in saturated fat, sodium, and calories, and low in fiber, calcium, and other important health-enhancing nutrients. We're concerned about the growing epidemic of childhood and adult obesity in this country and equally troubled by the overall poor quality of today's fast-paced, grab-and-go convenience diets. The family dinner table offers an excellent opportunity for weaving "super" nutrition into the diet. The trick, however, is in knowing how to do it. That's why we wrote The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers with its 5-Step Meal Makeover Plan, Makeover Pantry, and 120 super-simple "makeover" recipes.

Q: How does your 5-step plan to meal makeovers help families eat better?

J&L: Our plan offers simple strategies for improving the family diet. The plan begins with, "You Have to Start Somewhere." With this first step, we show how small changes, like switching from white bread to 100-percent whole wheat or adding a shredded carrot when making recipes with sauteed ground meat, can bring a burst of great nutrition (and taste) to the table. Another step in our plan, "Market Good Nutrition to Kids," tells parents how to compete with fast food companies -- who successfully market burgers and fries to kids -- by marketing the good stuff instead.


Q: Childhood obesity is one of the biggest health problems families face. The number of overweight children in the U.S. has tripled in a generation. How do your program and book help parents help their children overcome obesity, lose weight, or even prevent their children from becoming overweight?

J&L: Poor eating habits, super-sized portions, and lack of physical activity all contribute to obesity. To tackle poor eating habits, we encourage parents to limit fast food, soft drinks, and other highly caloric, nutritionally devoid foods, and instead make "fast food" at home. For example, rather than driving to a place like Taco Bell, we offer a recipe for Quick Quesadilla Pockets. This recipe is easy, filling, and incredibly delicious, with a fraction of the sodium and fat found in fast food.

To deal with the problem of super-sized portions, we encourage parents to super-size the good stuff like fruits and vegetables and go easy on the calorie-laden junk foods. The suggested portion sizes of our recipes help with this issue as well. Our pasta dishes, for example, typically call for 2 ounces of dried pasta per person (a reasonable portion) versus half a box!

Finally, we remind families to get moving and limit TV and computer time. Given the fact that children, on average, watch more than three hours of television a day, physical activity is a must.

Q: What is the single best thing parents can do to help their children avoid becoming overweight, now and later in life?

J&L: The best thing parents can do is to teach them to fuel their bodies with fruits, vegetables, and other minimally processed, great-tasting foods, and to incorporate walking and other physical activities into their everyday lives.

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