Ellie Krieger on healthful eating

May 21, 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 and welcome! Thanks for chatting with me today!

Everyone seems to be going gluten free. What do you think is the impact (positive or negative) of cutting gluten out of your diet regardless of an intolerance?

Gluten avoiders these days can be divided into three catagories 1) Those with celiac disease who must avoid gluten completely 2) Gluten-sensitive people who can tolerate some gluten but too much will make them sick, and 3) Fad followers who think a gluten free diet is healthier and can help them lose weight. 

Groups 1 and 2 have good reason to avoid gluten, but group 3 is not on the right track. Gluten is not inherently unhealthy. In fact, many gluten free foods are less healthy than their regular gluten containing counterpart because gums and starches are often added to gluten free products to compensate for the texture lost when you remove gluten.

Many people feel better when they avoid gluten simply because they are eating more fruit, vegetable and protein foods. You can do that anyway, without going gluten-free. 

Phytic acid found in legumes, grains, and nuts/seeds reduces the absorption of many minerals. I usually soak dried beans and peas overnight before cooking, and I recently started to rinse all grains (not just quinoa). Is that sufficient? What do you recommend for raw unsalted nuts/seeds?

Phytic acid, which is found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds do bind with minerals in the gut and prevent their absorption to some degree, but there is another side to the story: phytic acid also has benefits. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity, and help lower glycemic index (the rate at which a food raises blood sugar).

As you suggest you can get rid of the phytic acid in foods by soaking them, and you can do that with nuts and seeds as well as with grains and beans. But if you are eating a balanced, varied diet and you do not have any known mineral deficiencies, you don't really need to.

Is there any nutritional difference between "baby" kale or spinach, and the mature varieties? What about baby carrots or other baby veggies? There are plenty of them.

Baby vegetables seem to be everywhere now! From what I have read they are comparable in nutrition value to their "adult" counterparts---so no significant nutritional differences. But microgreens, which are teeny-tiny lettuces and leafy greens that you often get on your plate at fancy restaurants or can find in some high end stores, have been shown to have significantly more nutritional potency than full grown greens. 

A question on today's baking chat reminded me of this. My mom used to make a variety of vegetable dishes with Bisquick called puffs, most frequently with broccoli or squash. I'd like to duplicate them. Any suggestions? Or am I being unfair to Bisquick by assuming it's not healthy?

Bisquick is made with partially hydrogenated oil, which is trans fat, and you want to avoid trans fat as much as possible because they are the most damaging kind for heart health. You can however make your own version of the mixture to use to replicate your moms dishes. I found this recipe on food.com which I have not tried myself, but looks like a good alternative: 


Let me know how it turns out!

Do you have a good homemade granola recipe? I'd like to give it a try over the storebought kind.

I just did such a yummy simple granola in my upcoming book, but I am not allowed to give out the recipe yet! What I can tell you is what I think is a winning formula for good granola:

3 cup rolled oats and 2 cups your choice of nuts and seeds tossed with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 cup maple syrup and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add some vanilla, cinnamon or other warm, sweet seasoning like cardamom if you'd like and bake on a sheet pan in one layer at 300 degrees for 40-60 minutes. Add dried fruit at the end, if you'd like.

Or is that an oxymoron? I recently bought a small deep fryer and am looking for vegetarian things to make in it (have already thought of tempura and falafel). Also, do you have any tips for using a deep fryer to make it more healthy -- or is that just not possible?? PS I also love cheese, and will not buy lowfat cheese. I would much rather eat a smaller amount of a good, strong cheese than settle for lowfat.

Healthy deep-frying is a bit of an oxymoron because frying temperatures create free-radicals in the oil which may be harmful to health. But that doesn't mean you can enjoy it once in a while.

To make frying healthier make sure you use fresh oil (each time you reuse oil, more of the bad compounds accumulate) and use an oil that takes the heat well like canola or peanut oil. Also, make sure you fry at the right temperature so the food does not absorb too much oil.

Hi, Ellie, Thanks for being here! What do you think of low-carb diets? More specifically, the 17-day diet where carbs are fairly restricted in the first phase. I am 51 and have gained about 10 lbs. over the last five years. Calorie restriction and exercise are not working like they used to. I don't eat meat, do eat fish and shellfish occasionally, and am a fairly clean eater in general. I do have a sweet tooth, but keep it in check. I am just wondering if at this stage in my life, I need to try a different approach to taking those 10 lbs off. I do love carbs. So much. Thanks for any advice.

I am not a fan of the word diet mainly because it puts you in a quick-fix mindset. Rather, I encourage you to think about changes you can really live with over the long term. When it comes to starches/grains, it is important to watch portions carefully especially as you get older. They are so easy to overeat. Pay close attention to your portions, limiting yourself to 4-6 servings daily with a serving being 1/2 cup cooked grain, 1 slice of bread., and keeping them whole grain. Shift your intake to less concentrated forms of carbs like non-starchy vegetables and whole fruit. Also, get out and be active as much as possible to keep healthy and keep your metabolism fired up.

Hi Ellie! Love your cookbooks, particularly "the Food You Crave". Recently I have lost 60 pounds, and to get the last 10 off I finally gave up all soda, even diet soda, which I hate. I drink almost exclusively water now, but there are days when I have just had enough! I was drinking some tonic water (flavored) and ZeroWater, but I was unsure of the ingredients in ZeroWater. Any suggestions for me when I have had enough water? I do drink coffee with 1% milk, no sugar, and enjoy it iced. Help! Sometimes water almost makes me gag, I have had so much. Thanks!

Hi! Thanks so much for sharing your success story! Way to go! I am so glad my books could help you on your journey. 

You are not alone when it comes to wanting more tasty beverage options! Iced coffee and teas without sugar are good choices (just be careful not to overload on caffeine). Many herbal teas have a natural fruity sweetness. SometimesI will mix the tiniest bit of honey in to enhance it.

I also love to make fruit and herb waters. Try putting chunks of melon and sprigs of mint in a pitcher of water and let it steep and the fruit and mint flavor infuse the water. It's also good with orange slices, lemon slices and cucumber.  mango chunks and some sliced ginger is delicious too!


I read that I need to soak chia seeds first before consuming them. But if I'm putting Chia seeds into a fruit smoothie, do I still need to presoak them, or will they get what they need from soaking in the juice?

When you soak chia seeds they absorb the liquid you soak them in, so they act as a thickener in recipes and become so soft you can easily slurp them. But if you are not needing that thickening quality for your recipe, you can certainly eat chia without soaking at all. When they are un-soaked they are almost like poppy seeds, slightly crunchy and nutty. You can just sprinkle them on cereal or on top of yogurt, or, as you suggest, simply add them to your smoothie as is.

For the water drinker... I find the generic store brand flavored carbonated waters to be delicious, especially if you put a bottle in the freezer to chill it to just about to freeze. They have zero calories, and yes they're flavored, but actual food has chemicals in it. The flavor of a natural banana comes from a type of chemical called an ''ester'' for example. Enjoy with confidence.

Thanks for this. Yes, chemicals are all around us---we are made of them! However, it's a good idea to avoid additives like artificial colors and artificial flavors in foods. But, as you note, there are many sparkling waters with natural fruit essences. I recommend them too.

Get some of your favorite frozen berries - and add to your glass of water they keep your drink cool and you can 'muddle' them and enjoy the flavor. Blackberries are my favorite for this.

Yes! I love this!

So soaking them is strictly for aesthetic reasons? It's not because they need to be soaked in order for your body to absorb their nutritional benefits?

You will likely get more of their nutritional benefits when you soak them, but if you chew well, you will also get benefits from eating them un-soaked.

Thanks so much for a great chat! Have a wonderful long weekend!

In This Chat
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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