Liz Weiss gives us some hints on how to go about cooking more at home.
Host: Gloria Tsang, RD
Guest: Liz Weiss, MS, RD
Eating healthy is usually one of the top 3 new year’s resolutions. And yet, it’s hard to eat healthy if you don’t start cooking more at home. Dietitian Liz Weiss just released her family cookbook No Whine with Dinner. She is here to give us some hints on how to go about cooking more at home.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Welcome to the Nutrition Tidbits podcast. This is Gloria Tsang, Editor-in-Chief for HealthCastle.com. Eating healthy is usually one of the top 3 New Year’s resolutions. And yet, it’s hard to eat healthy if you don’t start cooking more at home. Joining me today is dietitian Liz Weiss. She just released her family cookbook No Whine with Dinner. She is here today to give us some tips on how to go about cooking more at home. Thank you for joining me Liz.
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: It’s good to be here. Happy New Year.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Happy New Year. I often hear from readers “I want to eat no packaged foods so I should learn cooking” or “I should cook more at home.” Why does it seem so hard for so many people to cook at home.
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: Well people think. And I want to say think, that cooking at home require lots of time, lots of energy, lots of money and advanced cooking skills. It really doesn’t if you make a plan. If you find a few recipes that you like, write down a shopping list, hit the grocery store and come home. Keep it simple. You don’t have to go with the most gourmet recipes, just keep it simple. If you have plans, you can come home and cook healthy meals for yourself and for your family. In the end, you save a lot of money because it cost a lot of money to eat out. And you also end up, and as a dietitian, this is what I love, you end up eating a much healthier diet. Because restaurant meals tend to be high in sodium and saturated fat and calories. You don’t know what you are eating! When you cook at home, you have much more control. You can get more fruits and veggies on the table; more whole grains. The opportunities are really endless when you cook at home.
Gloria Tsang, RD: What exactly do you mean when you say “have a plan”. I think that is the hardest to grasp for most people. What do I do? What is step 1 to make a plan?
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: Right. And I was not born with the organizing gene, my husband will tell you that. But if you can try to get even a little organized… here is one thing. Say you go to a grocery store typically on a Sunday, sit down and plan out what you are going to make that week. And then make a grocery list. Actually, on my website mealmakeovermoms.com, we have a free downloadable supermarket shopping list. You can just fill that out or make your own list. And then go to the grocery store knowing what you are going to buy and what your plan of attack is. And then when you get home, you can start cooking. Some people like to do all their cooking on a weekend, other people don’t mind doing a little bit of cooking everyday of the week. But find those recipes, make that grocery list, go to the store and also have a well stocked pantry. Because for people who are not planners and want to do the last minute thing, if you have a well stocked pantry, you are more likely to be able to whip up quick meals at home.
Gloria Tsang, RD: So what do you say to those that say they don’t have time to cook. I think time is the number 1 reason that people tend to go out and grab take out. It seems to be less to do that than to try to cook something, serve and wash dishes. So what do you say to those people who say they don’t have time to cook?
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: Well, I actually think it takes more time to order from a restaurant or order take out. What happens is sometimes we are just tired and don’t really feel like standing over the stove cooking a meal. So when time is obstacle, don’t kid yourself, it’s going to take more time if you do take out. Look for recipes that are easy, look for shortcuts. So for example, if you don’t want to take a head of lettuce and wash it and cut it up. Even though it may only take 5 minutes, it feels like it’s too much. You can buy a bag of pre-washed greens already prepped and ready. There is your instant salad. Mushrooms. I am a big mushroom lover but I don’t necessarily like to take the time to slice them up. So you can buy them pre-sliced. There is a lot of short cuts you can take by just looking around the supermarket. The good news is that in the produce section now, there is a lot of veggies, carrot sticks, celery sticks, things that are already prepped for you (including broccoli florets). Even in the frozen food aisle, which is one of my favorite aisles, you can find lots of vegetables that are already prepped for you. I am a huge fan of the frozen chopped spinach. You can get that brick or block of that frozen chopped spinach and it’s very. I’ll buy pizza dough and make a quick pizza at home with pasta sauce right out of a jar and even pre-shredded low fat mozzarella cheese. You don’t have to shred it yourself. So we are really lucky in that our supermarkets are pretty packed with convenient items that are also nutritious.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now Liz, you mentioned about kitchen staples. So what are some of the must-have items that we should stock in our pantry or perhaps also in our freezers to start with?
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: Well, in our freezer, definitely having a lot of frozen veggies is key. The other day, I made a quick soup by mixing together some frozen mixed-vegetables, chicken broth (and I buy a nice all natural chicken broth), and some rice. You want to hear my short cut? I don’t like making rice. I will go to a place like Trader Joes and I will buy the frozen packets of rice. That’s really when you don’t want to spend the time. Three minutes in the microwave and I have got beautiful brown rice that is ready for my soup. So having all these great things in your freezer, frozen veggies, frozen fruit, you can make a quick frozen smoothie with frozen leftover bananas that you have put in your freezer; some frozen strawberries, blueberries or mango. And then in goes some low fat, fruited-yogurt and 100% juice. So having the freezer stocked is great. Also in your cupboard, you can have canned, boneless, skinless pink salmon; it’s a great boost of heart healthy omega-3’s. Pasta sauces, salsa, whole grain pasta or whole wheat blend pastas. So these are things you can quickly grab and you have got dinner.
Gloria Tsang, RD: For our readers, Liz actually has a list of pantry staples in her book so that totally helps. Can you recommend some of the delicious or fool-proof dishes that our readers can start with?
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: Now my cookbook is No Whine with Dinner. W-h-i-n-e. No whine with dinner. I co-wrote the book with Janice Newell Bissex and she is also a dietitian. Between us, we have four kids. She has two girls, I have two boys. And we know that in order to get kids to eat a healthy diet, we need to make sure that the healthy stuff that we are giving to them are really kid friendly and really appealing. You know what? Because picky eaters who whine and complain, it’s a big obstacle to getting healthy meals to the table. That’s why parents order the pizza or make the mac and cheese. So in the book, we have many recipes. Everything from the slow cooker chapter, which is one of my favorites. We have a wonderful pulled pork, primavera sandwich recipe, which is pork loin and some onion and bell pepper and barbecue sauce. After shredding it all up and all of this gets cooked in the slow cooker all day, it goes on a whole grain hamburger bun. The slow cooker chapter is a real big favorite. We also have a smoothie chapter, desserts and snacks and soups. One of my favorites which takes 5 minutes to make is a quick apple, sausage quesadilla. You sauté up apple sausage with some bell peppers, add some frozen corn kernels with shredded cheese and barbecue sauce, and you have got a quesadilla. So you can use convenient food, just use them wisely.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Now I read on your release that you actually involved your readers when putting together this cookbook, tell us more about that.
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: You know in this age of social media, a lot of us have Facebook fan pages and blogs. It’s really become a wonderful two-way conversation, between, say me and Janice the dietitian and all of our moms and dads out there who really want to feed their family a healthy diet. So this two-way conversation we have been having on our blog and Facebook has really helped us create some nice relationships. So we asked our mom and dad readers out there if they wanted to test the recipes. Because we felt that with our cookbook, if we did not prove all the recipes were whine-free or complaint-free, we wouldn’t be living up to the title of the book, No Whine with Dinner. So we had all the recipes tested. Folks would send their feedback right back to us and we would tweak our recipes as a result. We threw a few recipes out Gloria, I must admit. If people did not love it, we were moving on. We also have a chapter in the book called Fifty secrets from mom for getting picky eaters to try new foods. And these are fifty different secrets from fifty different moms around the country and a few of them are from Canada and Europe and they are very cleaver and creative. We have one mom in Hawaii and her tip was to go out and buy you kid a little chef hat, some aprons, tools and involve them in cooking and make them feel like they are your little sous chef.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Great idea.
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: We want to keep it proactive and we want to keep it fun. So the book is playful and fun and filled with lots of practical ideas and great recipes.
Gloria Tsang, RD: Excellent ideas. Thank you for joining me Liz.
Liz Weiss, MS, RD: It was really great to be here.
Gloria Tsang, RD: We have been talking to Liz Weiss, co-author of the latest cookbook No Whine with Dinner. For more healthy tidbits and information about this show, go to HealthCastle.com.
Gloria Tsang is the author of 5 books and the founder of HealthCastle.com, the largest online nutrition network run by registered dietitians. Her work has appeared in major national publications, and she is a regularly featured nutrition expert for media outlets across the country. The Huffington Post named her one of its Top 20 Nutrition Experts on Twitter. Gloria’s articles have appeared on various media such as Reuters, NBC & ABC affiliates, The Chicago Sun-Times, Reader’s Digest Canada, iVillage and USA Today.