Ellie Krieger on healthful eating

Cherry Pizza (Deb Lindsey / For The Washington Post).
May 07, 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.

Welcome all to our chat. Thanks for joining.

If you want to read about some healthful eating swaps for spring, read Ellie's recent story for Local Living here.

I really like roasted and grilled vegetables but wonder if there is more nutritional value by eating them slightly steamed or raw. Does roasting and grilling destroy nutrients, and if so, to a substantial degree?

I love grilled and roasted vegetables too! While cooking does destroy some nutrients, still, many are retained and some are even increased with cooking. Steaming is once of the best cooking methods in terms of nutrient retention, but I wouldn't get too hung up on these details. The most important thing is to eat vegetables in a variety of appealing ways. If you enjoy the way they taste you will eat more, and get more nutrients by virtue of that!

A study just came out that said food may contain substantially fewer calories than listed on food labels. What gives? I don't know what to believe anymore.

Thanks for bringing this up. It is fascinating and true---many foods' caloric content have been overestimated because they did not take into account the way the foods are processed by our bodies.

Just because a food contains a certain amount of energy (calories) it doesn't mean our body absorbs them all. This is especially the case for nuts--their calories are not completely absorbed. 

Don't stress about it though. Calorie counts have always been an estimate and our knowledge of how our bodies process food is always growing and changing. Unless you live in a lab,  and weigh every crumb you eat you will not be able to exactly determine the calories you take in. Use calorie counts as general guide and try to listen to your bodies cues of hunger and satiety.

My only question is can you find some interesting changes for our menus that aren't much more expensive than the usual foods? With the exception of maybe the whole wheat bread for pitas, every suggestion you made is much more expensive than the item you are replacing. Anyone can be creative when money is no object so this article was not much help. Next time, give us something we can really work with please! dcdale

Thank you for your feedback. That did occur to me after I wrote the piece. I will try to be more conscientious about that moving forward. 

Funny, but I grew up in a very blue-collar family where money was always short, but my dad would always come home at least weekly with some kind of exotic produce he would buy from street vendors near his work in NYC.  I am amazed even now how if you keep your eyes open, you can get some great deals on more unusual foods.  I recently saw quinoa sold at Costco, for example!

I love shallots when I'm making something like chicken or tuna salad. Not only does it solve the "I don't need an entire onion for this" conundrum, it's a bit mellower than the onion (I never liked raw onions!).

Agreed! Thanks for sharing!

We are told to cut back on salt, but like sugar, I have a hard time measuring/keeping track of what constitutes the right daily amount. I assume the best bet is just to cut back on adding it to my own cooked foods, and to avoid processed foods. Any other tips?

The general guideline for daily intake of sodium is less than 2400mg a day, which translates to about a teaspoon of salt, and the general guideline for added sugars (the stuff put in food to make it sweeter, not sugars inherent in foods) is less than 10 teaspoons a day.

But you can't be expected to walk around with a calculator all day. Use these numbers as a gauge when reading package labels and when you are cooking, but as you mention if you simply cut down on processed pre-packaged foods, choose items that are unsweetened and no-salt-added and use salt and sugars sparingly when preparing your own food, you will be on the right track.

Do you have any favorite cheese that you feel good about eating? I usually see it as an indulgence, which is fine! But if there are types to lean towards, do you have a favorite?

I am a big-time cheese lover too--and I could never pick just one favorite! But I usually go for cheeses that pack a lot of flavor, so a little goes a long way--think extra-sharp cheddar, blue cheese, freshly grated Parmesan.... Also, keep in mind that soft cheeses like chevre and feta naturally have about a third less calories and fat than hard cheeses, so those are especially good options.


Are there easy healthy snacks you recommend?

Have you seen my Nourish column this week in the Food section? I have a healthy and different snack recipe in it called Spring Cottage Peas with Basil. It's a savory cottage cheese bowl with peas, pine nuts, radishes, basil and lemon. Easy, satisfying and healthy!

I've found I can eat healthier if I cook bulk foods on the weekend that will keep for the week. That being said I do things like egg cups (in the muffin tin) with avocado, cheese, spinach, other veg etc for breakfast (get to make 12 so two each day), and roast a chicken or poach some chicken breasts, beef stew and things like ratatouille, steam a head of broccoli or make some smashed cauliflower. I'm not actively avoiding complex carbs, but try to keep them at a minimum. Any thoughts of other bulk items I can prep that will keep for a week. I guess I need a little variety in my repertoire. Thanks.

Sounds like you are doing great! I'll let you in on a little secret, this is precisely what my upcoming (in January) book is about. So I just spent the past year developing over 150 such recipes. It is such a great way to stay on track!

A few ideas that work for the warmer season: gazpacho keeps in the refrigerator for 3-4 days as do most slaws, make a big batch of grilled vegetables to layer on sandwiches or make into salads or as a side for a protein at dinner, and for breakfast I love these overnight oat "muesli" and berry parfaits: http://www.elliekrieger.com/muesli-parfaits#.VUujpvlVhBc

Hello Ellie, I enjoy your columns and chats! Do you have a favorite hummus recipe? (that you wouldn't mind sharing)? thanks!

Hi! Thanks so much! I love making my own hummus and it is so easy to do. I have a recipe for one in my book Weeknight Wonders, but it is not published on-line.

You have inspired me to do one for Washington Post. I will try to get one into my Nourish column next month! Keep an eye out.

Love that the WaPo has added both your chat and Dorie's, but I wish they would move one to another day (e.g., Mon. or Tues.) so those of us who only have a short amount of time during the day to read the chat (esp. if is in real time) can do so. This way all the cooking/food related chats would be on different days.

Thanks for the feedback! We schedule chats based on what works for our guests, but this is helpful.

Do you have suggestions for grilling fruit? I know peaches and pineapple work well - any others you'd recommend?

Grilling fruit is one of my favorite ways to serve it. Pretty much any stone-fruit works---peaches, plums, nectarines, skewered cherries. Grapes are also delicious skewered and grilled, and it is fun to grill slices of watermelon too. 

Simply brush with a little oil and grill for about 2 minutes per side, until the fruit is slightly warmed and grill marks have formed.

You can then use it in savory dishes alongside grilled meats or chopped into salsa, or go sweet and drizzle with a little honey or serve with frozen yogurt.

Just wanted to pass on a tip for making lasagna that tastes rich but is not so much -- I put a container of silken tofu into the food processor, then drizzle in about a teaspoon of olive oil while it's running. Then mix with either ricotta or goat cheese, and use as the creamy layer instead of just ricotta. You'll never know the tofu is there and it actually makes the filling very creamy. I've found the silken tofu in the shelf-stable cardboard containers works best.

Great idea. Thanks for sharing! Good point about the boxed silken tofu. I also find it is less watery and slightly firmer than the refrigerated kind -- better for recipes where you want a custard-y texture.

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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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