The Washington Post

Ellie Krieger on healthful eating

Nov 20, 2014

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 She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.

Hi everyone, thank you for joining us today.

If you want to catch up with our recent wellness stories, read about how safe your microwave is here. Also, in anticipation of Thanksgiving next week, get signed up for a turkey trot.

do microwaves sterilize and kill bacteria?

One of my favorite uses for my microwave is for sterilizing/cleaning my kitchen sponge. Make sure the sponge is wet and microwave it for 30 seconds. As far as sterilizing other items, note that microwaves do not heat evenly, so they should not be relied on when you need to sterilize something completely.

If microwave cooking produces foods with similar content to steaming, why is there no comprehensive list available.

Do you mean there is no data for microwave steaming in the USDA nutrient database? That database is not very complete in general. They should add it!

There are many individual studies that compare  nutrients in microwaved/boiled/steamed vegetables and have found microwaving comparable to steaming when it comes to nutrient retention. 

I've heard that skim milk is overly processed and has more sugar than milk with higher fat content. Also, because it is "skim" it is not as filling as 2% or whole. What is the current recommendation as far as the "best" milk to drink?

I am so glad you asked this question. The word "processed" is interesting because nutritionists, including me, recommend avoiding processed foods in general, but what we really mean is highly-processed foods should be avoided. After all, technically chopping a food, or cooking it,  is processing it. 

With that in mind, I would say that skimming the fat off of milk does not make it overly processed. Skim milk has only about 1.5 gram more carbohydrate (sugar in the form of naturally occurring lactose) per cup than whole milk. And that is simply because there is more room for the protein-carb portion of the milk when the fat is removed. So skim milk is also higher in protein than whole milk (by about 1 g). 

While our understanding of how fats effect us is changing, and whole milk is fine once in a while, the research still points to the health benefits of reducing animal fats, so stick with skim for the most part and get your fats from healthier sources like avocado, and olive oil.

Which fat has most calories

All oils have about the same amount of calories, 124 calories per tablespoon. Butter has some water in it and a tiny amount of protein so it has 100 cals per tablespoon. Other animal fats come in at about 117 cals per tablespoon.

We all know that olive oil is better than canola or vegetable oil, but I've heard that when heated, olive oil loses all of its nutritional value. Which oil(s) are best for cooking?

When you heat an unfiltered extra-virgin olive oil you destroy some of its antioxidant properties and unique flavors, plus it will smoke at a low temperature. BUT filtered olive oils can be excellent to cook with and can withstand high temperature cooking. The monounsaturated fats they contain are very stable in the heat.

The bottom line is to save the unfiltered (often more expensive) extra-virgin olive oil for salads and dipping and use filtered, extra-virgin or pure olive oil for cooking.

I just wanted to say that I enjoy reading your column in the food section. You have a great way of describing the food. We will be trying your Autumn soup this weekend.

Thank you! Enjoy the soup!

Hi. I'm always looking for healthy things to pack in lunch. I'm trying to get away from sandwiches and have been doing creative lettuce based salads lately but needs a few new ideas for colder weather that don't require microwaving.

How about some hearty grain-based salads that are also chock-full of vegetables? That could be a little more winter-satisfying than lettuces. Try the Farro Salad I did in my Nourish column--- add some chicken or fish. Also how about making a dip-able lunch with a hearty bean dip or hummus and cut vegetables and a few whole grain pita wedges? Lastly, roasted vegetables are nice in a lunch box the next day with some slices of roasted meat.

I've always mixed fat free milk with granola, then heated it in the mcirowave. My fiend uses water and claims it taste the same. What's the healtiest way to preapre granola?

I vote for milk for the amazing amount of nutrition it provides, including protein, calcium and vitamin D. Not to mention, it makes the breakfast more satisfying.

Good afternoon, Ellie. I work from home, so I vary my breakfasts each day. But I was wondering: which would you say is the most healthy of the three breakfasts most often in my "rotation": oatmeal with apples/berries, a T of brown sugar and walnuts OR 2 farm-fresh eggs scrambled with a bit of water in 1 T of butter with a handful of spinach and mushrooms, and a slice of homemade toast OR good old Total cereal with apples or berries? Thanks!

When it comes to nutrition variety is so important. Each of your options sound good and each provides a different set of nutrients. Continue to mix it  up and even branch out further with different types of whole grain cereals, and changing up your fruits and vegetables with the seasons.

I recently told someone how much I love my new blender and how I'm making delicious smoothies for me and my kids. She told me that when fruit is blended, the fiber in it is destroyed, so it's not good for you anymore. Is this true? Seems like chewing food would ruin the fiber, too, then.

Keep making those blended smoothies! You are right, blending breaks up fiber just like chewing does, and in the process, opens plant cell walls and allows nutrients to be released and absorbed by our bodies. The fiber is broken up, but you still get it. That is in contrast to when you use a juicer. When you juice, the fiber is discarded, and you miss out on that important element. 

Thanks for all for joining us. We'll have a new chat ready to go for Dec. 4 soon, so get your questions ready.

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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
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