Ellie Krieger on healthful eating

Sep 24, 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.

Hello and happy Fall! Thanks for joining the chat today.

Are coconut oil and butter healthy and miracle foods?

While certain foods have more healing power than others, when I hear the words "miracle food" I start to tune out the spiel that inevitably follows.  No one food is a miracle food. Rather a variety of healthy foods work together to make a healthy diet. It is important to look at it all with a wide-angle view. 

That said, butter and coconut oil are high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol, so should be eaten sparingly. The kind of saturated fat in coconut oil may not be bad for us as once thought, and virgin coconut oil has antioxidants. But there is not enough good research to justify many of the claims about it. On the other hand, there are piles of research showing health benefits of olive oil, so continue to stick with that as your primary oil, and use butter and coconut oil for flavor and variety once in a while if you'd like.

Best after dinner sweet treats?

Fruit-based desserts that are not laden with fat and sugar are best bets as a healthy sweet treat. Try sprinkling a  little cinnamon on sliced apples and pears. That treatment makes the simple Fall fruit more treat-like. Poached pears and baked apple are also wonderful. Grapes are also in season now and they always satisfy my sweet tooth. it is fun to keep them in the freezer and eat them frozen. They are like little balls of sherbet.

Also, you can't go wrong with a small piece of high quality dark chocolate as an after-dinner treat. Eat is as-is or melt some and use it as a dip for fruit. 

Thanks for the apple muffin recipe! I can't wait to make it. I have an oatmeal cookie recipe that I love, and as cookies go, it is not so bad. But I was wondering if it would be possible to make it healthier. For example, it calls for 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar, and 1 1/2 sticks of butter, 1/4 cup water, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 3 cups oatmeal, and one cup flour (as well as salt, baking soda and baking powder in amounts I can't remember). Lately I have been subbing homemade no sugar added applesauce in place of the water, which has been a delicious switch. I'm wondering if I could add a little more applesauce and reduce the sugars (either or both) and maybe the butter a little as well. I made a batch last Saturday, and last night we decided it was necessary to finish them as they were getting a bit stale. My question is, what would be most likely successful in this switch--subbing for the sugar or the fat (or some combination?). And what amount is a good place to start?

The apple sauce is a good idea. You could try a few more changes to make them healthier yet just as delicious: first, you could swap half the butter with canola oil for a healthier fat profile (you'd have to take the liquid/water down a tablespoon or so as well) and I'll bet they'd taste good if you reduced the total sugar --try reducing white sugar to 1/4 cup for starters. You might be able to get rid of it entirely. Also, try using whole grain pastry flour instead of all purpose.

I've gotten off track with my diet and fitness and have put on some weight. I don't like it. I've just moved into a new house with a 90+ walk score. Would starting here be good? I love to walk outside and now's a pretty time of year. I have maintained a Weight Watchers membership that I haven't used in a while - should I refocus on that or try something else? Right now, spending the $$ and not going isn't helping me. Any ideas for a quick start to some better habits?

Both starting to walk and taking advantage of your Weight Watchers membership would be good starts. The main thing is to get going in the right direction, one way or another. Besides those actions, one thing that is very helpful to get on track is to start an exercise and food journal. Writing these things down helps you make more mindful choices throughout the day.

All the best to you! Keep me posted on your progress!

Hi Ellie, I know you don't normally cover this, but I didn't see the Going Out Guide today. :( I'm trying to find moon cakes in DC for the Mid-Autumn Festival on Sunday. Do you happen to know where I can find them? Help would be appreciated!

I don't know----does anyone on the chat have any suggestions?

Which protein powder is better, whey or plant based? Do you have a preference?

My preference is to eat less-processed protein-rich foods. Why use a whey powder when you can put naturally nutrient-and-protein-rich milk in your smoothie...and add a scoop of nut butter which balanced with fat and antioxidants as well as plant protein. It is not that hard to get good quality protein that you need to rely on powders which are often laden with additives and sweeteners.

Hi Ellie: I am always looking for protein rich lunches to pack my sons to take along in their backpack or gym bag. Any ideas? Thank You.

Some easily pack-able proteins include individual Greek yogurts; small container of hummus or other bean dip like black bean dip that can be scooped with vegetables or whole grain crackers; small bags of nuts mixed with dried fruit; hard-boiled eggs;  lentil and other bean salads; sliced steak or chicken from the previous night's dinner (I always make extra dinner for lunch the next day) that can be put into wraps and sandwiches....

Is it healthier to stay away from beef? I don't eat that much, but I do eat some chicken and fish.

It really depends on your overall eating pattern, your specific needs and the types of meat you choose, but as a rule, most Americans would be better off if they ate less meat overall and got more protein from seafood, nuts and beans. It doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing proposition though. Enjoy meat in your repertoire, just keep it lean and in sensible portions.

Can we eat carbs/whole grains at every meal?

Sure! (I do!) Just be mindful of portions. If you are not very active you might want to stick to one or two half-cup servings per meal/snack

Is the Mediterranean Diet the best/healthiest way to go?

There is a lot of evidence supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, and it is certainly a foodie-friendly way to go! So I do recommend it. But what is interesting about humans is that there is not one ideal diet for our species. There are many variations of excellent diets around the world. The idea is to eat one that suits you best.

will make any "protein packed" lunch easy to take along. Plenty of stores have an entire area set aside for containers that can be used to pack stuff so it doesn't leak or ways to keep wet and dry stuff separate. Or, be a good parent and tell your 20 year old sons to start putting together their own lunches. They are going to have to do it eventually, and if you offer to buy stuff for them to put together, they might learn enough that they won't default to fast food once they aren't in your house.

So true! Thanks for your input!

Thank you for joining me today. 

Happy, healthy eating!


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.
Recent Chats
  • Next: