Clean Eating for Busy Families Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
This feel-good cookbook is something that the whole family will love.
In Melissa’s kitchen, we had the pleasure of hosting Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu certified chef, and author of “Clean Eating for Busy Families, revised & expanded.” Dudash is all about simple and satisfying real-food recipes that you and your kids will love, and her new cookbook includes 30-minute recipes to make clean eating a no brainer. These meals include easy-to-find ingredients, are fast and efficient, and are satisfying yet calorie-conscious. The book even offers easy substitutions at your fingertips. The result: more nourishing family meals together. Did you know that people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and consume fewer calories?
According to Food Marketing Institute, the data on why family meals matter is positively overwhelming:
- Regular family meals are linked to higher grades and self-esteem.
- Children who grow up sharing family meals are more likely to exhibit prosocial behavior as adults, such as sharing, fairness and respect.
- With each additional family meal shared each week, adolescents are less likely to show symptoms of violence, depression and suicide, less likely to use or abuse drugs or run away, and less likely to engage in risky behavior or delinquent acts.
- Adults and children who eat at home more regularly are less likely to suffer from obesity.
- Increased family meals are associated with a higher intake of fruits and vegetables.
After the kitchen event, we caught up with Dudash to ask her some questions and get more insight into her new cookbook, “Clean Eating for Busy Families, Revised & Expanded.”
Q&A With Michelle Dudash, R.D.N.
Q: How can produce prevent or help aid against diet-related diseases?
Michelle Dudash: Produce is brimming with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, which are plant compounds that have been studied and show that may reduce the risk for heart disease, certain types of cancer, Alzheimer’s and more. Produce is also rich in fiber, which is great for helping to reduce cholesterol, aid in digestion, help keep blood sugars more even keel, and keep you fuller longer, among other benefits.
Q: How can we look at produce like a nutritionist?
MD: Choose the in-season US-grown produce whenever possible. It’s going to have better taste and texture, be more tender, and be higher in nutrients because it wasn’t in transit for so long. You won’t see me eating Brussels sprouts in July. Some produce, however, like tropical fruits, you have to buy from outside the country, and that’s okay. These countries excel in growing these fruits, and they are delish and nutrish, so enjoy them. There is no such thing as vegetables or fruits that are “bad” for you, like being too high in natural sugars. I’m sure carrots do not cause the obesity and diabetes epidemic in this country. Crunch on a carrot. It’s good for you. Just don’t load your carrots up with tons of added sugar every time you eat them. And eat a variety of colors of produce, including white, which is also brimming with nutrients.
Q: What produce items would you recommend using to create a supply of healthy pantry and freezer staples?
MD: Fresh produce that I always have on hand:
- Snacking fruit (this time of year its grapes, pears, apples and oranges)
- Cooking aromatics: one onion, one head garlic
- Dinner vegetables: this time of year, its Brussels sprouts and broccoli
- Salad mix that’s pre-washed and ready-to-go. I love arugula and spinach because it lasts longer.
- Strawberries nearly year-round because my daughters love them.
I always keep a “cantry” of tomatoes, beans (like black, chickpea, cannellini), vegetable and lentil soup. For frozen produce, I keep edamame and strawberries for my daughters’ smoothies. Year-round, I always keep dried fruit for easy sweet grab-and-go snacks and salads with no added sugar: California figs (client), raisins, and dates, plus some other rotating dried fruits.
Q: What are your five food rules for eating clean? And how did you come to this conclusion?
MD: The clean concept boils down to eating whole, minimally processed foods made with natural ingredients that are good for your body and good for the planet.
- CHOOSE FOODS CLOSEST TO THEIR NATURAL STATE
- ENJOY A COLORFUL ARRAY OF FOODS
- GO LOCAL AND SEASONAL
- CHOOSE HUMANELY PRODUCED FOODS THAT ARE GOOD FOR THE PLANET
- ENJOY EVERY BITE
Q: What’s some advice you have to get picky eaters to try a new produce item? Kiwano melon anyone?
MD: 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 (or more!) before a child decides whether she likes a new food or will even try it! Eventually, your child will probably surprise you. Scarlet continues to surprise me every day!
Q: What are some of your favorite produce-centric busy-family tools to have on hand?
MD: I love the spiralizer for making zoodles (zucchini noodles). Love my y-shaped vegetable peeler, and the girls love to use that, too. The apple slicer — it really is just so convenient. My husband even uses it. We definitely eat more apples because of it. Other than that, I mostly rely on good, sharp knives to cut through produce quickly but without excessive force, therefore no finger cuts (knock on wood).
Q: We love that the weather is cooling down and that it’s officially fall. What are some seasonal fall produce picks that you’re excited to start cooking with again?
Q: We’re obsessed with your 7-layer lemon hummus and pesto yogurt dip from the book. What are some other recipes from the book that you’d recommend making for tailgating or hosting a football viewing party?
- Crowd-Pleasing Fresh Spinach, Red Bell Pepper & Artichoke Dip (p. 34)
- Creamy Avocado, Tomato & Black Bean Dip (p. 35)
- Guy-Approved Buffalo Chicken with Celery & Greek Yogurt Dip (p. 43)
- Steve’s Famous Tailgate Chili with Kidney Beans (p. 93)
- Dark Chocolate Whole-Wheat Brownies (p. 142)
Q: At this point, we’re making soup at least once a week. What’s your go-to soup recipe from the book?
MD: Creamy Butternut Squash & Apple Soup with Pepitas (p. 46). The apples add natural sweetness, and the soup is a gorgeous bright orange.
Q: Lastly, we’re loving all of these innovative produce trends that have been popping up, like cauliflower rice and spiralizing veggies. What produce trend is on your radar that people might not know?
MD: Plant-based protein takes on dishes that are typically very meaty. Like blending beans into chili while leaving half the beans whole. I use this technique in my White Chili with Chicken and White Beans in the book. Yes, there is chicken, but there are also three cans of beans!
Watch the live cooking demo from Melissa’s kitchen!
Rosemary Sweet Potato Oven Fries with Spicy Aioli
For the fries:
- 2 sweet potatoes cut lengthwise into long batons (like French fries)
- 1 tablespoon expeller-pressed grapeseed or canola oil + 1 teaspoon
- 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
For the aioli:
- 1/4 cup light olive oil mayo
- 1 tablespoon low-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/8 teaspoon curry powder
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C, or gas mark 8) and line a large sheet pan with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper coated with canola oil spray.
- To make the fries: Toss sweet potatoes with oil, rosemary, pepper, and salt and spread them out in a single layer on the sheet pan. Bake on the bottom rack of the oven until golden, about 30 minutes, turning them and rotating the pan after 15 minutes.
- To make the aioli: Stir together mayonnaise, yogurt, lime juice, curry powder, and garlic powder in a small bowl. Serve the fries with the aioli.