Dietitian Ellie Krieger on eating better in 2016

Feb 04, 2016

Hoping to start the year off with a healthier lifestyle? Krieger, a healthful eating columnist for The Washington Post's Local Living section, is here to help. The registered dietitian, nutritionist and author shared her nutrition knowledge. Her most recent cookbook is “You Have It Made: Delicious, Healthy, Do-Ahead Meals,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Check out recipes from her new book here.

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 thanks for joining me today! There are some great questions on deck already, but keep them coming!

Does peeling apples that were not organic apples remove all the pesticides and render them safe?

First of all, this is really important: the benefit of eating produce whether it is organic or conventionally grown far outweighs any risk. So they are already "safe."  

Most of an apple's pesticide residue would be on the outside, but simply washing it, with a vegetable brush, under running water would remove the majority of them. Also, buying apples that have not been waxed, will help with pesticide removal. 

Hi Ellie, can you please suggest some vegetarian snack, meals, and dessert ideas for diabetics. If possible can you write a post on the topic as well. Thanks a ton. I'm a big fan of yours ��

When you have diabetes, it's important to keep track of your total carbohydrate intake, make sure your carbs are fiber-rich (like whole fruit, vegetables and whole grains), space them out throughout the day and balance them with protein and healthy fats. Actually, it's a good way to approach eating whether you have diabetes or not!

Some vegetarian snack ideas in line with this: apple and peanut butter, Greek yogurt and fresh berries, cut vegetables and hummus, a whole fruit smoothie made with milk and nut butter, a cup of lentil soup, an avocado toast with egg, for example.


Purple carrots and blue potatoes count in the blue category, right? But purple kale can be a green?

I do often say to eat the rainbow every day, but that is just a fun approach to encourage eating a wide variety of colorful produce. You can make your own rules here and count each of these in any category that works for you! (PS aren't all these newly available purple varieties delightful?!)

Sugar has a moderate glycemic index, similar to brown rice or wheat bread. Doesn’t that negate the premise of a “sugar high?”

Sugar's GI is 68, lower than that of white bread (73) and white rice (89), but higher than brown rice (50). This doesn't negate the premise of a sugar high, so much as imply that you can get a "sugar" high from eating refined grains too. 

But keep in mind that GI is not a perfect standard- it is just ONE indicator of how a food affects a person, and foods affect each person differently. I consider GI, but also the other values the food offers like nutrient density.

According to USDA data, per capita consumption of total sweeteners has dropped 15.3% over the past 14 years. And while Americans are consuming 500 more calories per day than they were in 1970, only 38 of these calories can be attributed to added sugars. So why are added sugars receiving so much blame for our obesity woes?

Beyond contributing to weight gain from empty calories, recent research has pointed to other negative health effects of sugar, like increasing risk of heart disease and inflammation in the body. 

But there is no single cause of obesity in this country and sugar should not get all the blame.  It  is a multi-pronged, multi-layered problem. But we have to start somewhere.

Hi Ellie, I'm confused about how significant the glycemic index of foods is, particularly when comparing fruit that has sugar. I understand eating whole fruit is better than juice (no fiber, etc. in juice), but should I be concerned if one fruit has more natural sugar than others? Is dried fruit (dried plums) more of a problem? Thanks for your help!

Don't get yourself worked up comparing the GI of different fruits, especially because GI doesn't take portion size into account. If you stick with whole fruit so you get the fiber (which you mention) and keep an eye on total calories from fruit you will be on the right track. One whole apple has about 100 calories, which equals about 4 dried plums (prunes).

I love your smoothie recipes. Can you suggest some smoothie ideas with almost no added sugars. Approximately what would be their carb count per serving?

I add ripe banana (frozen) or dates to my smoothies for sweetness. When you do that you don't need any added sugars. (Total carb counts would depend on the other ingredients in the smoothie and the portion size.)

I try to eat healthy but like most people short on time and sometime a bit lazy. Lately I have been adding baby food to my morning oatmeal. I like the sweet potatoes, carrots, and winter squashes since they also add sweetness. I read the labels the sweet potatoes is only sweet potato and water and adds 4 gm of sugar and 60 mg of sodium. Is there any downside to this other than I should be cooking and pureeing my own vegetables? I feel good starting the day with a serving of vegetables and adding blueberries gives me some fruit.

I think this is a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

I have a six month old baby who is just starting to eat "solids" (pureed stuff). I'm currently making his mashed food myself. Is it a good idea to add any spices or not?

When it comes to feeding your baby solids, it's best to start with one food at a time to ensure they don't have an allergic reaction. Once your baby does well with a particular solid food, feel free to mix in some additional flavor using herbs and spices  that you normally might put in your food (also introducing one at a time so you can monitor any allergic reaction).Breastfed babies are already accustomed to a wide variety of flavors from the foods mom was eating. One thing you may want to steer clear of is anything very spicy like chili peppers, which could irritate your baby's mouth or tongue. 

Do respected doctors think the Atkins diet is even remotely healthy? Even my own doctor has told me to get rid of all these starchy breads and rice dishes but somehow thinks it is okay to have greasy bacon and eggs for breakfast. Has the pendulum shifted in that we are now ignoring the cholesterol war in favor of fighting the diabetes war and then prescribing statins to make up the difference? I realize that the Atkins diet has been around a long time, but I just thought that it was a very unhealthy method for weight loss, and not a diet recommended by respected doctors. (Sorry for the rant.)

There is a wealth of research indicating that an eating pattern rich in minimally processed plant foods: vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts &seeds, healthy oils and whole grains, protects our health and can help with weight management. Many people benefit when they reduce their starch intake because most of us eat way too much of the "starchy bread and rice dishes" you mention. But that doesn't mean it is healthy to eat animal fat instead. Eating fewer refined starches and more vegetables would be my suggestion, and I bet your doc ---and most docs---would agree.

Do you have any favorite healthy winter "comfort foods" - I find I crave the old stand-bys which can be pretty unhealthy (high in calories and fat), and would love some ideas to throw in the mix.

Two of my personal favorite healthy winter comfort foods are minestrone soup, and hot cocoa made with low-fat milk, real cocoa and just a touch of sugar. 

Thanks for joining me today! It was a great, diverse bunch of questions! 

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
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