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Cooking with Kids

Janice Newell Bissex, M.S., R.D. (l) and Liz Weiss, M.S., R.D. (r)

Healthy Twists on Old Favorites
Featuring the Makeover Moms

What kid doesn't love tuna casserole, especially when it's topped with crushed potato chips? What if it tasted just as good, but was made more healthfully? Enter the "Makeover Moms." These two busy ladies, who are moms and dietitians, have just revamped over a hundred classic recipes to make them tastier and more nutritious.

"We wanted to take what moms and dads are already doing and make it a little better," Makeover Mom Liz Weiss said in an interview with FoodFit. "We know that those are tried-and-true winners. If you start with a winner, and then you make it better, you can't fail."

Weiss, together with Janice Newell Bissex, recently published the Moms' Guide to Meal Makeovers. It's more than a cookbook. The moms tap their experience in the "mealtime trenches" and their knowledge as dietitians to offer realistic, helpful advice on feeding kids and easy-to-digest nutrition information, as well as recipes.

"We talk a lot about small changes that you can make that really have a huge impact on the diet," says Bissex.

"We don't strip down recipes—low-fat, low-carb, boring. We pump them up," adds Weiss. "We add fiber. We add a vegetable. We chop it up fine if we have to, but we do whatever we can to kick up the good nutrition, the flavor and the ease."

Healthful Suggestions from the Moms

  • Use 100 percent whole wheat and whole grain breads and buns instead of white bread whenever possible, so that kids get the fiber they need.
  • Serve the evening's vegetable as an "appetizer," when dinner is minutes away, and you still have a captive, hungry audience. A few bites of broccoli, sweet potatoes or crunchy raw vegetables are all healthy ways to start the meal.
  • Add shredded carrot to tuna salad the next time you make a batch.
  • Serve children over the age of two 1 percent or nonfat milk instead of whole milk for less saturated fat and calories.

Family Test Kitchen

The moms, who both live in Massachusetts, tried out all the recipes on their families, neighbors and friends. Weiss has two boys, aged five and nine, while Bissex has two daughters, aged four and 12. The recipes are all dad-tested too. For example, Weiss says her husband loves the very kid-sounding Corny Tuna Cakes dipped in ketchup.

"Everything was tested on families, not just kids, because we want families to eat together," says Weiss.

In addition to the book, the moms have set up a free Meal Makeover Moms' Plan on their website. They launched the club in January, and it now has two thousand members. Weiss and Bissex say they get lots of feedback.

Making Eating Well Tasty

The moms hope all their know-how and super-nutritious recipes will help make eating well second nature for families. In their book, they also explore the root causes of the growing rate of obesity in America.

"A lot of parents think it's all or nothing—either we're going to eat a healthy meal, or it's just going to be awful," says Bissex. "But you can take a marginally healthy meal and really kick it up a little by making small changes, and you should feel good about that."

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