Meal Makeover Moms made not just the top 50 Food Blogs of 2011, it came in at the #18 spot. The title was well deserved. Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss are great sources for moms (and dads) looking for reliable sources and tips on keeping the family healthy. They are registered dietitians working to help you find “healthy meals with kid appeal”. They offer cookbooks, tips, recipes, how to videos, podcasts and a wealth of knowledge for busy moms and dads. It is no wonder they made our list. If you have not stopped by Meal Makeover Moms, we think you should. In the meantime, read on to learn a bit more about Janice and Liz.
Interview with Janice Newell Bissex and Liz Weiss: Meal Makeover Moms
FriendsEAT: What inspired you to start ”Makeover Meal Moms”?
Janice: When our children were small, friends frequently asked us how we managed to entice them to eat healthy foods. We knew many parents who struggled with feeding their kids and decided that we had the knowledge to help. Our first book, The Moms’ Guide to Meal Makeovers, was released in 2004 and focused on how to take family favorite recipes and give them a healthy and tasty makeover. Liz and I quickly became known as the Meal Makeover Moms and we created a website to share recipes and mealtime tips for busy parents to help them feed their families. Our blog, Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen, followed in 2007 and our weekly radio podcast, Cooking with the Moms began in early 2008.
FE: For those who are not familiar with your blog, how would you describe it?
Liz: Meal Makeover Moms’ Kitchen is a family food blog written by two dietitians who also happen to be moms and cookbook authors. The recipes on the blog are healthy and kid-friendly and include lots of makeovers of family favorites — things like Hamburger Helper, sweet potato casserole, chocolate whoopie pies, and rich lasagnas. From time to time, we share our culinary adventures from events such as Food Day 2011, nutrition conferences, and food blogger outings.
FE: How did the two of you meet and come to work together?
Janice: Liz was a health and nutrition reporter for CNN and I was the dietitian for the U.S. Senate, so we met professionally when CNN wanted to do a story on what Senators ate. We kept in touch, and when she moved from Atlanta to Boston she used me as a “sound bite” for various freelance health and nutrition stories. One day she mentioned that she wanted to write a book to help busy moms feed their families and asked if I wanted to partner with her. The rest is history!
FE: We have a huge problem with child nutrition in the US. If a mom was to ask you for advice on one simple change to make her children healthier, what would that be?
Janice: Foster a love of cooking and enjoyment of real food by getting your kids involved with the meal planning and preparation. Let the kids pick out a new food at the grocery store and then look online and in magazines for new recipes to try. They will be more inclined to eat the food if they have had a say in the selection and preparation.
Liz: Make small changes so you can sustain them over time. Those small changes should be changes that make sense for your family. To make kids healthier, there are dozens of simple things parents can do: Add one more fruit or vegetable serving to your family’s diet each day, reduce soft drink consumption or eliminate it altogether, encourage your kids to get outside more and play, switch from white bread to whole wheat (or white wheat), eat at home more often, cook with your kids, plant a vegetable garden or even a few pots of herbs, and so on and so on!
FE: What is your favorite dish to make now?
Liz: Right now, I’m on a lasagna jag. I love using the no-boil noodles and building from there. My current favorite is a makeover recipe we created for Sweet Apple & Squash Lasagna. It’s made with no-boil noodles, a box of frozen pureed winter squash (thawed), a thinly sliced apple, part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated Parmesan, and a roux of basil pesto, extra-virgin olive oil, flour, and low-fat milk.
FE: How difficult was the publishing process?
Janice: Wow, the learning curve is pretty steep! After using a publisher (Broadway Books) for our first cookbook, we decided it would be fun (ha!) to self-publish our second book. I’m glad we made that decision, but in the midst of figuring out who would edit, design, print, warehouse, distribute, and help promote our book, I might have had a different opinion! We did end up working with Favorite Recipes Press, and they helped sort out the printing and distribution issues, and we are happy we went this route.
Liz: Very difficult, but rewarding. We self-published No Whine with Dinner: 150 Healthy, Kid-Tested Recipes from The Meal Makeover Moms (M3 Press, 2011) which meant we had to take control of every aspect and detail of the book. We had to create and test all the recipes, write every word of copy, hire an editor and designer, worry about distribution and marketing, and coordinate the P.R. for the book. I’m sure I forgot to mention 100 other details, but you get the gist.
FE: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in starting a food blog?
Janice: First, I would suggest visiting and reading other food blogs. Decide what format you like and pick a topic/niche that is uniquely you. It’s important to build relationships with fellow bloggers and show some “link love” to support them. Learn how to take decent photos of your food. You don’t need a fancy camera but you do need to read the manual to learn about the features that work best for shooting food. Then, research and pick a blogging platform and get blogging!
FE: How do you manage the videos, podcasts, blog, books and social media?
Liz: Wow. It’s like juggling dozens of balls at once! But we manage. Between us, we work a lot, but it’s rewarding given all the amazing and positive feedback we receive from our online community. We try to streamline things when we can. For example, for every Cooking with the Moms radio podcast we record, we create one or two new recipes and then those recipes end up as a blog post. Right now I should be sitting on the couch watching the Patriot’s football game, but alas, here I am working on my Q&A for Friends EAT. (LOL!)
FE: What has been the most exciting thing that has happened as a result of you starting “Makeover Meal Moms”?
Janice: Hmmm… being featured recently on the cover of American Profile magazine (goes to 9 million homes) was a kick, as was having our book nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals cookbook award. But I have to say that the biggest thrill is the multitude of emails we receive from moms telling us how we have changed their lives and how appreciative they are of the healthy family-friendly recipes and mealtime tips we offer.
FE: Where do you see food blogging in five years?
Janice: We’ve witnessed a huge increase in food blogging since we started in 2007 and I see no reason to believe it will slow down. I hope that more food blogs will focus on sustainable eating as well as easy, healthy recipes that home cooks can make without a lot of effort.
FE: Liz where do you see “The Meal Makeover Moms” in ten?
Liz: In ten years, I see the third cookbook from Meal Makeover Moms. I also see a newly designed website and blog (we’re on version #2 right now), and I see a shift in our cooking focus. Our kids will all be in college or out of college, so I suspect our cooking and blogging priorities will change.
FE: Outside of child nutrition; what do you see as the most important issue facing foodies today?
Liz: The most important issue I see facing foodies is the issue of local and sustainable. We need to change the way we raise food and distribute it in this country and we certainly need to find a way to make nutritious fruits and vegetables more affordable than junk food. Huge reforms are needed, and with outspoken individuals like Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, and Jamie Oliver as well as millions of concerned citizens, I think we’ll see many positive changes in the years to come.