Ellie Krieger on healthful eating

Roasted Cauliflower With Almonds and Golden Raisins.
Mar 12, 2015

Krieger is a nutritionist, registered dietitian and author. Krieger’s most recent cookbook is “Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). She blogs and offers a bi-weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com. She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.
Please be advised that the contents of this chat is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice nor an individual nutrition prescription. Always seek the advice of a physician, dietitian or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. You should never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.

Hi everyone, welcome back! 

Read Ellie's most recent story on raw food here. Though winter’s chill heightens the appeal of hot food, consider the pros and cons of leaving it uncooked.

Have we gone overboard with our emphasis on nutritional eating? Dr. Oz, Dr. Furman, Dr. Weill, and other scolds ad infinitum seem to have taken over the media scaring the heck out of us while enriching themselves. Turmeric, grape seed extract, pro-biotics, ginger root, dandelion tea etc, etc seem unnecessarily exotic and designed to extract money rather than toxins from our bodies.

I don't blame you for feeling frustrated by all the fear-mongering that goes around, especially on the internet. I am frustrated by it too. It seems to get people's attention, so I doubt we'll be seeing less of it any time soon. I don't think we should let that discourage us from improving the way we eat though. Most people could really use to make healthy changes.

It doesn't typically make headlines, but you really don't need to spend a bundle or buy anything exotic to eat healthy. Some of our familiar favorites are real "superfoods" like carrots, spinach, cinnamon, cherries.....etc... Simply eating more produce in general, and using herbs and spices more and salt less, is a smart way to go. Also, its worth noting that some of the ingredients you mentioned are quite familiar to many Americans. Tumeric and ginger root are staples in my kichen, for example. So, also, keep an open mind to new tastes. It can keep eating well interesting. And that brings me to one of my favorite quotes "Keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out." 

What's the difference (nutritionally) between polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat? I think I remember that one raises HDL cholesterol, but I don't remember which one. Are there benefits or drawbacks to favoring one over the other?

Both polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats are good choices and studies show protective health effects for both. They both can improve your cholesterol profile when you swap them for saturated or trans fat.

Monounsaturates come from olive oil, canola oil, nuts and avocado, for example. There are two kinds of polyunsaturated fats, omega 6 (corn, soybean and grapeseed oil)  and omega 3 (fish, flax, walnuts).  Omega 6 and omega 3 are both essential fats, which mean you need to get them in your diet to prevent deficiency. Most Americans get plenty of omega 6 and tend to not get enough omega 3 and monounsaturated fat. So it is best to for most to focus on eating more of those.

I like making stir-fries with soba noodles or other pasta dishes with veggie pieces, tofu cubes, etc. The problem I have is incorporating all of the ingredients evenly throughout the noodles. What happens is the noodles clump together, making it hard to distribute an equal amount of good stuff per serving. It probably is pertinent to mention that I usually make enough to last me for leftovers, so yes, it's getting refrigerated, which probably exacerbates the situation. Also, I do drizzle sesame or olive oil, as appropriate, after cooking the noodles to prevent this, but it doesn't seem to make much difference and I'd rather not drown the noodles in oil. (sorry, that was long-winded)

Have you tried tossing the noodles with the other ingredients before refrigerating?

Lots of chatter about coffee and caffeine recently. I know it can make you jittery if you have too much. Are there really any other health concerns?

Besides making you jittery, too much caffeine can affect your sleep quality and cause intestinal distress. Plus, if your coffee is a double caramel latte, you could be sipping lots of calories along with your caffeine. 

That said, coffee is not as bad for us as we once thought. In fact, it has real health benefits. Sudies have shown that coffee drinking reduces the risk of certain cancers, Parkinsons diease and gallstones, among others.

I recommend keeping it to two cups a day, skipping it in the afternoon/evening if you have trouble sleeping, and keeping an eye on the calories in your coffee drink.

I got one of those pasta-string-type shredders for Xmas. Besides zucchini and yellow squash what else can I shred? Then do I eat it raw or cook the shreds?

These shredders are so much fun! Pretty much any firm vegetable or fruit should work. And you can eat them raw in salads, or cook them up. They will cook really quickly becasue there is so much surface area.

Try carrots, sweet potatoes, white potato, beet root (I like shredded beet in salads) cucumber, apple, turnips....

yes, that's exactly what I do -- i toss ingredients with noodles in the stir fry pan itself at time of preparation. Granted, this is not the biggest crisis in my life... but it's annoying.

Hmmm... Maybe you should shredd the vegetables so they will lay flat against the noodles and integrate more easily.

I use olive oil almost exclusively (it's how I was raised) and wonder sometimes if that isn't optimal? I do get fat from fish, eggs, avocado and some meat/chicken. Thanks.

Sounds to me like you are doing great!

Here in the US, it seems to me we have a confrontational zero sum approach to our food. It's good for us or it's bad. We feel guilty or we feel we're doing penance. We seem to see it as nutrients (or lack of) and calories, not in a holistic, sensual experience to be savored and enjoyed. What happened to a well rounded diet, cooked from real food in good company - and just enjoying your food?

You are really speaking my language! I couldn't agree more! This whole notion of living in the extremes: dieting or binging,  being good or bad, going big or going home, is a huge barrier to our actually finding balance and enjoying our food in a healthy way. Thanks for bringing this issue up here.

I love baking and have always wanted to try using yogurt to supplement/complement fatty butter/etc. Does it work well in certain recipes? Any suggestions?

I have had success substituting 1/4 cup of melted butter or oil in baking with 1/4 -1/3 cup plain regular yogurt (not Greek, which is thicker). This works best in recipes like quickbreads, muffins and pancakes, that don't rely on creaming butter and sugar to incorporate air.

Do you buy canned beans or do you cook your own?

I do both. If I am making a big pot of soup I will use dried beans becasue I like to simmer them with garlic and onions and use the liquid they cook in to form the soup base. 

But I have just about every type of canned bean in my cupboard as well---black beans-pinto-canellini-black-eyed-peas-garbanzos---you name it! I think they are one of the healthiest convenience foods around and I use them in salads, dips, chilis, pasta sauces...etc.. I always buy low-sodium or no-salt-added, and drain and rinse before using.

I can taste the bitterness in broccoli,kale, and similar foods. I don't think I can get past that, and as a result, eat much more in the way of fruits (berries, pineapple, you name it). I'd like to eat more veg (like spinach and green beans, peas). Is there a way to like broccoli and kale and Brussels sprouts that I'm missing? Should I just stop worrying and eat the green veg I do like? Thank you!

First of all, definitely stop worrying. It never really helps :). Besides, it sounds like there are many green vegetable you do like and you are probably getting the basic vegetable nutrition you need from those.

But don't stop trying new ones. You might find that you don't like them cooked, but you enjoy them raw. Brussels sprouts, for example, are much milder tasting when raw---thinly sliced---in salads. Also, build on what you already like. Since you like spinach, maybe try mixing a few kale leaves in your spinach dishes, so they blend in more seamlessly, for example. Also, while you don't want to add too much salt to your food, salt does counter bitterness, so sprinkle some on and see if you like the taste better. It may be worth the trade off.

For the person making stir fries, etc, with noodles. Try not draining the noodles excessively. Leave a bit of the cooking liquid or add some back in as needed to get the consistency you want.

Great tip, thanks!

Hi there. I had my gall bladder removed about 6 months ago and I'm struggling a bit with my diet to keep my systems functioning properly (trying to put it kindly). I would like to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian on what to eat to help with this as well as to lose weight. I'm in the Fairfax, VA area and would like recommendations on how to find a licensed consultant.

It sounds like a on-on-one consultation with a dietitian would really help you.

The website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a dietitian search function so you can locate nutrition professionals in your area. The web address is www.eatright.org 

Wishing you well.

Thanks for joining us, everyone!

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Ellie Krieger
Ellie Krieger is the Food section's Nourish columnist. Her most recent cookbook is "Weeknight Wonders: Delicious Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less." She blogs and offers a weekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com.
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