Welcome to the first edition of Ask the Nutritionist – a highly anticipated new series in Healthy Habits. Today I am thrilled to feature Michelle Dudash, RD, who I introduced to you last month when I gave away a copy of her new book, Clean Eating for Busy Families.
If you haven’t gotten your hands on her cookbook, add it to your shopping cart – you won’t be sorry when you feast your eyes on all of her delicious, easy and family-friendly meals.
Name: Michelle Dudash, RD
Day Job: Registered Dietitian and Chef working in food and nutrition communications at Chef Dudash Nutrition.
Bio: Michelle Dudash is an award-winning registered dietitian, Cordon Bleu-certified chef, healthy recipe columnist for The Arizona Republic‘s “Healthy Dish”, television nutritionist and recipe developer. Michelle is cookbook author of Clean Eating for Busy Families Fair Winds Press, December 1, 2012, which has already earned spots on Amazon.com’s top 100 lists for “Quick & Easy” and “Natural Living”. She is nationally recognized by the media as an expert in teaching people how food and health can deliciously co-exist. In her 18 years of food business experience, her recipes have appeared at A-list celebrity events, she cooked at a Mobil Five Star restaurant, and was a private chef serving guests including English royalty. As a busy working mom, Michelle understands what millions of families face every night as they struggle to put a healthy meal on the table in minutes.
How did you decide to become a Registered Dietitian?
As a competitive runner in high school, I began to realize how nutrition had an impact on performance, but I had no idea I could make a career out of it. The summer before freshman year at college, I was figuring out which classes to take. My grandmother asked, “Why don’t you take a nutrition class? That’s all you talk about!” She was the one who had to put up my crazy requests for low-fat everything (pardon me, it was the 90s) since she cooked dinner for my family many nights. So I signed up for a basic nutrition class. It was love and first sight. That same first semester I met with the chair of the nutritional sciences department (lucky me) and she put me on the right path to graduate in dietetics, do the internship and take the RD exam.
What is a common nutrition myth that you can dispel?
Many people think that eating fat will make you fat. I see how people are afraid to eat nuts and avocados and are afraid to use a little fat in their cooking. As long as the fats have a good nutrient profile, fear not. Mono- and some polyunsaturated fats found in these plant foods provide a wealth of beneficial nutrients, plus fat keeps you satisfied longer. And hello–fat adds flavor! As long as you stick to a reasonable portion size of these foods, calories will remain in check. In fact, I always make sure to always have some sort of fat at every meal, so I know that nutrients will be best absorbed and my tummy will stay satisfied.
What is your favorite go-to healthy week night dinner?
We enjoy pasta dishes frequently in my house—every 1-2 weeks. I use Barilla Plus pasta (the brand that even my husband and 3-year-old will eat!), a natural brand of marinara sauce or whole canned tomatoes, and sauté some vegetables, like onions, mushrooms and spinach or arugula. As for the protein, we usually opt for shrimp or natural chicken sausage. Then we serve it with a big green salad topped with a vegetable, some nuts, avocado and a simple vinaigrette.
What services do RD’s offer their clients?
Oh, wow, Registered Dietitians can be found working wherever food is! School food service management, clinical patient counseling, research labs and food sales reps is just a small sampling of the services offered by RDs.
Can you clarify good vs. bad carbs?
Good carbs are those that are the least processed and come largely from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The plant-based good carbs contain natural sources of fiber, which aid in digestion, lower cholesterol, reduce cancer risk, provide feelings of fullness, along with a plethora of additional benefits. All of these foods provide the body with important vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals.
Milk and yogurt also contain carbohydrates and fall into the good category because they are so nutrient-rich naturally.
Bad carbs are the processed carbs, with the worst being refined added sugars. Bad carb sources include typical regular soda, candy, cakes, cookies, sugar-added fruit drinks and sports drinks (unless you do some serious exercise). Any “white” refined grain like white bread, pizza crust, crackers, and the like I put under the “okay on occasion” or “neutral” category. These are usually fortified with nutrients. Refined grains lack fiber and other nutrients that are lost when the outer bran and germ are discarded. When you have the choice, definitely go with the whole grain.
My kids love vegetables but they don’t enjoy eating meat. How can I be sure they are getting proper nutrition?
If your kids don’t enjoy eating meat, you need to make sure they get proper nutrition via beans, peas and legumes combined with grains in order to provide them with a complete protein. My daughter can be hit or miss when it comes to meat and poultry. I find that dicing it into small pieces will pique her interest more so than a big slab of meat. And provide a dipping sauce to go along with it, like my Yogurt Dill Dip for my Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders.
What oil is the best for you, specifically for high heat cooking?
For high heat cooking I use expeller-pressed canola oil. Expeller-pressed oils rely on mechanical pressing, rather than added potentially harmful chemicals. Canola oil is a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids and has a mild flavor so it doesn’t compete with any other foods. It can withstand the high temperatures of searing and grilling. I also like grapeseed oil, but it tends to be more expensive and not as easy to find in stores. So sometimes I have it on hand and sometimes I don’t.
When it comes to reading nutrition labels, how can I be sure I’m consuming whole grains? The labels can be confusing.
Look for the terms “whole-wheat” or “whole-grain” and before any other refined grain (if any) on the ingredient list. Use caution when you see the terms, “enriched wheat”, “multi-grain”, “7-grain” because this is no indication of being a whole grain. And it probably isn’t.
Want to find a Registered Dietitian in your area? Visit www.eatright.org
Do you have a question that we didn’t cover today? Leave a comment and let me know! This will be a regular series and I am always looking for new questions!
A huge thank you to Michelle for being the first RD to visit The Lemon Bowl!