Talking To The Experts: Clean Eating Cookbook Author Michelle Dudash

Registered dietitian Michelle Dudash, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families explains how simple it is prepare simple, clean meals for your busy family.
clean eating for busy families

Clean eating has been around since the 1960s but has been gaining popularity recently. Registered dietitian Michelle Dudash author of Clean Eating for Busy Families explains how simple it is to follow.

Q. Could you explain what clean eating is?

Clean eating is the lifestyle of enjoying foods in their most natural and least processed state, including fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts and seeds, lowfat dairy and expeller-pressed oils. For example, instead of eating white bread, seek out sprouted wheat bread, which is a true whole grain. Also, if you can't pronounce an ingredient on the label, you probably shouldn't eat it. Instead of components that sound like things from lab experiments, opt for foods with ingredients found in home kitchens. Clean eating to me also means opting for in-season foods—not just produce, but seafood, too—whenever possible.

Q. So many foods marketed to kids are processed -- how can you eliminate or minimize processed foods, and how can you tell which packaged foods are clean?

Unfortunately, many foods marketed to kids can be deceiving. You must look past the healthy images on the front of the package and go straight to the ingredient label on the back. If you see sugar in any form (yes, even evaporated cane juice and brown rice syrup) as the first ingredient, put it down. If it's a grain product like a bar or cereal, whole grains like oats or brown rice should be listed first. If you see more than a few ingredients you can't pronounce, it's probably been manipulated and is highly processed. Despite the widespread availability of processed kids' snacks, remember, kids still love fruits and vegetables or whole-grain crackers paired with dip.

Q. What are 3 tips for parents to help them prepare healthy, wholesome meals in a flash?
  1. Properly stock your kitchen. In the time it would take you to call in your takeout order, drive in traffic, wait in line and get back home, you could have prepared a fresh meal, provided that you had the needed supplies. My book offers weekly, monthly and quarterly shopping lists.
  2. Plan meals ahead and have a go-to recipe arsenal. Planning ahead can be as detailed as writing out a monthly or weekly calendar of dinner menus, or as free-spirited as simply having three fresh proteins and vegetables on hand for the week. Plan your meals out Saturday, do all of your shopping on Sunday and as soon as you get home on weeknights, you'll be ready to start dinner.
  3. Make one-dish or make-ahead meals whenever possible. One-dish meals that contain a vegetable, protein and complex carbohydrate are a lifesaver--and dish saver! Recipes that you can make ahead in the slow cooker or have ready to just pop in the oven open up space during the mad evening rush.
Q. Many parents complain that their kids are picky eaters. What are ways to help parents overcome their frustration?
  1. "Healthify" favorites. If your child loves fast-food chicken nuggets, try my Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with Dill Dip. Use familiar foods as the vehicle to get kids to eat foreign foods.
  2. Have whisk, will try it. Involving your child in the cooking process will result in them being more likely to try the foods that they help prepare.
  3. Don't Give Up. Continue to offer, not force, a variety of foods, namely vegetables, with most meals. It can take eight to ten exposures before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it! Eventually, your child will probably surprise you.
Q. What 5 items are most essential to stock up on regularly?

My top five weekly grocery items are fresh in-season vegetables, fresh in-season fruit, hummus, Greek yogurt, and fresh proteins like seafood and chicken. If you’re not a "hummus family" then low fat milk is my next essential ingredient I buy almost every week.

Q. What are your favorite kitchen tools that you'd recommend every parent have to help make cooking a little easier?
  • Good-quality, 12-inch frying pan with ovenproof handle (the workhorse of the busy family kitchen) for quick sautés and griddled sandwiches
  • Good, sharp knives
  • Small, medium, and large cutting boards—flat ones, not warped ones
  • Lemon and lime presses or reamers
  • Good pepper mill (I always use freshly ground pepper instead of the bottled dusty stuff.)
  • Parchment paper and silicone baking mats for easy pan cleanup
  • Salad spinner for washing, draining, and drying fruits, vegetables and herbs
Q. Could you share a recipe from your new book?

Pistachio and Whole-Grain Tortilla Crusted Tilapia With Chili Lime Sauce

For tilapia:
1 large egg
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

½ cup crushed whole-grain tortilla chips (from about 12 large whole chips)

¼ cup finely chopped pistachios
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound tilapia fillets, cut into at least 4 portions (or cod, haddock)

For sauce:
¼ cup light mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 pinch chili powder
1 pinch salt

To make the tilapia: Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C, or gas mark 7). Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Whisk egg, cilantro, mustard, and 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of water together in a shallow dish. In another dish, combine chips, pistachios, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Dip fish in egg mixture, coating on both sides, and then coat fish well in breading. Place fish on pan with rounded side up. Bake for 14 minutes until golden on the outside and opaque and slightly firm in the center.

To make the sauce: Blend all sauce ingredients. Serve the fish immediately with the sauce.

Total Prep and Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, 1 large or 2 small pieces of tilapia each (with 1 tablespoon of sauce)

Nutrition information per serving: 264 calories; 18 grams total fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 25 grams Protein; 12 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams dietary fiber; 97 milligrams cholesterol.

Reprinted with permission from Clean Eating for Busy Families: Get Meals on the Table in Minutes with Simple and Satisfying Whole-Foods Recipes You and Your Kids Will Love, by Michelle Dudash, RD (Fair Winds Press, January 2013).

Michelle Dudash is a registered dietitian, Cordon Bleu-Certified chef and author of the cookbook Clean Eating for Busy Families. As a food writer, healthy recipe developer, television personality and eating coach, she has spread her message to millions of people. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and her blog for clean eating recipes and tips.

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