Excerpted from The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers
Have you ever run across one of those diet and nutrition books that tell you what you're not supposed to feed your family or make you feel guilty every time your child eats red meat, dairy, refined white flour, sugar, or salt? While the advice may be well-meaning, it's often downright ridiculous!
Let's get a few things straight. To be a Meal Makeover Mom, you will not have to recite the health benefits of niacin and zinc, nor will you be required to plant an organic vegetable garden in your backyard. Improving your family's diet doesn't have to be time-consuming or complicated. In fact, it can be a lot of fun. You just need a starting point.
According to research from the USDA, most children between the ages of 2 and 9 eat a diet that "needs improvement" or is "poor." In fact, only 36 percent of 2- to 3-year-olds and less than 20 percent of 4- to 9-year-olds eat what the USDA would consider a "good" diet. It's easy to see why. At mealtime, children are more likely to eat French fries than any other vegetable, and most school-age kids don't eat anywhere near the recommended minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Today's youngsters consume half of their daily calories from fat and sugar, thanks in part to fast food and soft drinks. In fact, on average, children get 10 percent of their daily calories from fast food alone. Okay, you get the picture.
So where do moms begin? Well, for starters, we suggest you take small steps toward positive change. To do this, we advocate diet additions and trade-offs. Here's an example of an easy addition: Instead of banning frozen chicken nuggets from your household, you can still offer the nuggets, but now you'll be sure to also offer a vegetable or fruit on the side (see No-Nonsense Nuggets, page 276, and Moms' Best of the Bunch, page 54). For a healthy trade-off, swap the soda pop your family may be drinking with dinner with a fizzy mixture of 100-percent fruit juice and seltzer. If your family's diet is currently at "not so good," consider working your way to "not perfect, but better." Take it slow -- one week at a time. Once you nail down one change, move on to the next. By the end, you'll have five new food habits to smile about.
Week One: Add One Extra Serving of Fruit Each Day
Week Two: Add One Extra Vegetable Serving Each Day
Week Three: Add One Healthy Beverage Each Day
Week Four: Include One Healthy Snack Each Day
Week Five: Serve One Extra High-Fiber Grain Food Each Day
Some experts will tell you that high-fat foods are unhealthy and that fat-free foods are the better way to go. In our opinions, nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the healthiest and most flavorful foods on the planet -- nuts, olive oil, salmon, peanut butter, and avocados -- are rich in health-enhancing monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and we wouldn't give them up for the world. We firmly believe that if fat-free foods were really better for our overall health, then obesity and heart disease wouldn't be as rampant as they are today. Take fat-free cookies for example. Because they can lose some of their appeal when all the fat is removed, food manufacturers often replace the fat with more sugar. The result, ironically, is a cookie that contains about the same number of calories as the original. Since fat-free cookies are often perceived as healthier, people tend to eat more of them and hence consume more calories. Fat-free cheeses are another case in point where less is not necessarily better. We recently experimented with fat-free ricotta cheese for our Squishy Squash Lasagna (page 182). The fat-free version was lacking in flavor and had a somewhat grainy texture. In the end, we compromised and went for the reduced-fat ricotta. We managed to eliminate much of the saturated fat but kept the creaminess.
While it's always our goal to cut the unnecessary calories and as much artery-clogging saturated fat as possible, we would never tell you to eliminate foods rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats -- the types that promote good health.
Excerpted from The Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers by Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD, and Liz Weiss, MS, RD Copyright? 2003 by Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD, and Liz Weiss, MS, RD. Excerpted by permission of Broadway, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.