When did feeding ourselves become so complicated? For thousands of years, people managed to adequately nourish themselves without the assistance of nutrition experts or strict dietary guidelines. They ate what tasted good and what provided fuel for the bodies; or, more likely, they simply ate what was available to them. Today, we have more food options than ever before, and yet it is harder than ever to know what we “should” be eating. Enthusiasts from a spectrum of diets – from Veganism to the Paleo Diet – tell us that their way of eating is best, and a cacophony of experts is constantly spouting out conflicting advice regarding what, when, and how we should eat. Even the most conservative sources seem to waiver in their recommendations: first they told us that fat was bad, but now it’s good – but only healthy fats! In the nineties it was all about the grains; then we were told that what we actually needed were healthy whole grains . . . and now we are being told to eschew grains altogether. Talk about confusing!
As an adult, I have a hard enough time wrapping my brain (and fork) around what my diet should look like, and (as I mentioned in my last book review) the idea of feeding another person – a growing and potentially picky child, no less! – is completely overwhelming! Fortunately for moms everywhere (and even not-yet-moms, like me!), Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss are here to help. They are the Meal Makeover Moms, two registered dietitians whose blog, podcast, cookbooks, and iPhone app offer a wealth of information for families looking to “eat healthy meals without complaint.” As nutrition experts, Janice and Liz emphasize healthy, nutritious food, but their attitude toward nutrition is a balanced one. They never sacrifice taste or convenience for the sake of nutrition, and instead of advocating the elimination of any food group, they focus more on adding healthy ingredients to their recipes. Janice and Liz know that the nutritional quality of a recipe is completely irrelevant if the food goes uneaten, so in addition to offering sound nutritional advice, they instruct parents on the best feeding strategies and practices.
I first discovered the Meal Makeover Moms through their bi-monthly podcast, Cooking With the Moms. Each episode is centered around a theme (such as tart cherries or beauty-boosting foods), and every episode incorporates at least one healthy, family-friendly recipe. Janice and Liz have a wonderful chemistry, and their information-packed podcasts are infused with humor and relatability. Janice and Liz are themselves moms, and they openly share the challenges and triumphs they have with feeding their own kids. Not every show is just Janice and Liz; they frequently invite guests onto their podcast, which adds another fun dimension to the show.
In addition to their podcast, the Moms have a beautiful website featuring an extensive recipe archive, helpful video tutorials, and several mealtime tools, such as a 7-day meal planner and recommended grocery shopping list. You can also follow their blog, on which the moms post additional recipe makeovers and host frequent giveaways. There is also blog post to accompany each podcast that incorporates additional show notes, photographs, and a written copy of the recipe discussed on the show.
Not long after I began listening to their podcast and following their blog, I decided to purchase the Moms’ first cookbook, The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers. In addition to several chapters about their approach to nutrition and feeding, the book is filled with recipes for nutrient-dense, easy-to-prepare versions of many popular dishes. While the recipes are written with kids in mind, my husband and I found that these dishes were tasty enough for adults, and this quickly became one of my most-used cookbooks! When the Moms came out with their second cookbook, No Whine With Dinner, I purchased that one as well. This second book features 150 excellent recipes, including some written by other dietitians in the blogosphere. Many of the recipes in No Whine have accompanying photos, which I always find helpful when following a recipe.
The Meal Makeover Moms are an excellent resource for parents looking to nourish their kids in the best possible way, and they provide wisdom and clarity for everyone trying to find their way through the murky world of healthy and nutrition. I am thankful for the work they are doing to stamp out nutritional confusion and help all of us eat just a little bit more healthfully.