Dietitian Ellie Krieger on eating better in 2016

Mar 10, 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! I hope you are having a great day. Thank for joining the chat!

I'm 46 and work hard at eating (mostly) right and stay in shape (runner). Around this time each year I go the extra mile with diet and exercise to drop whatever over indulgence I did at Christmas and get rid of any gut. This includes avoiding booze. Obviously alcohol contains calories, however, other than the calories in the drink (wine), is there something extra in alcohol whereby that 2 glasses of red 3 or so nights a week packs on the pounds other than the calories inherent in the drink? I can't drink beer because that does seem to pack it on but on the fence about wine. Hope that made sense!

I'm with you in that I like to have a glass of wine with dinner. And it is certainly something that can be integral to a healthy lifestyle. There is nothing, per se, beyond the calories in it (120 calories in 5 ounces) that would make you put weight on, BUT, it it easy to drink waaaay more than a 5 ounce glass, especially with the goblets that pass as wine glasses these days. Next time, measure and see how much your glass really holds. And if you get a little too tipsy from wine, it could lead you to be more impulsive in your eating.  I suggest keeping it to one 5 ounce glass a night if you are trying to lose weight.

Hi Ellie. When does your new show start on PBS?

Thanks for asking! My new show Ellie's Real Good Food will start to air nationwide on public television this Spring (late May). As the time gets closer I will have exact channel and schedule info to share.  

The shows are all shot and are now being edited and they are looking great! I cannot wait to share them with everyone.

Hi Is there a way to have a healthy eating plan without fruit? My teen is struggling with her weight but I cannot seem to find a eating plan that will suit her likes and dislikes. She refuses to eat any fruit so I worry she is getting too much protein or carbs. Can I replace fruit snacks with other snacks of similar calories as fruit without worrying about having too much of one of the other food groups ?

As long as she is eating vegetables she should be doing fine. Fruit and vegetables have many of the same nutritional assets. For snack she could have cut raw carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers etc.... along with some nuts or nut butter (I love peanut butter and celery---remember ants on a log?!) or to dip into black bean dip/salsa/hummus, for example.

First of all, thank you for your tips and books. I've lost a significant amount of weight thanks to you and have changed my eating habits. I own and use daily your recipes. I have mostly lost my sweet tooth and am looking for ways to have specifically, chocolate that is less sweet. Any tips on ways to make chocolate treats that are less sweet? My preference is milk chocolate but it's too sweet for me now. Thanks! Looking forward to your new show.

I like to have small squares of individually wrapped dark chocolate as a treat. Sometimes, just that little bite to savor does the trick perfectly. Look for chocolate that is about 70% cocoa solids for the perfect balance of taste and health benefits. Also, you cannot go wrong to melt a little dark chocolate and use it as a dip for fresh fruit (strawberries/orange slices/banana). 

For years I've preferred Yukon gold and red potatoes to the traditional Idaho. That is until a daily farm-to-market grocery store opened in my neighborhood and I have never eaten such tasty Idahos. That said, are all potatoes equal when it comes to nutrition?

Nutritionally speaking, all potatoes are packed with potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber and antioxidants. Where they can differ is in their antioxidant content. The two major antioxidants found in potatoes are anthocyanins and carotenoids. You can find higher amounts of anythocyanins in purple and red potatoes and more carotenoids (like beta carotene) in sweet potatoes and red potatoes. Where potato varieties can really differ is in their culinary function. Russets are good for baking, whereas red potatoes and Yukon golds work great in soups and stews and potato salad. Purple, Yukon and fingerling potatoes hold up well to roasting. Every variety of produce has its own unique strengths so mix it up to balance both taste and nutrition.

Sometimes it feels like everyone I know is on some variation of a diet or a very specific eating style. Some are into paleo, others obsessed with locally grown seasonal foods, another advocates for eating whatever you want as long as you're hungry. I get side eye for saying that in fact I need carbs to feel full, that protein alone doesn't do it for me. For me, the absolute old school counting calories has been the most effective way to manage my diet (I'm overweight and trying to lose some.) How do you recommend dealing with all the opinions out there? I'm exhausted by it.

We live in a world today that is practically tribal when it comes to dietary preferences, and I agree it can be exhausting. The best way to deal with this, to borrow the slang, is "you do you." In other words, there is more than one possible path to health---there are multiple, very different ways of eating that humans can and have been thriving on historically. Do what is working for you and don't be made to feel like you have to defend yourself. At the same time, know that that another person's ideal diet may be quite different. 

Can you explain carbohydrates to me? Specifically, on food nutrition labels, under "Total Carbs," dietary fiber and sugars are listed, but what makes up the rest? And is the rest something that needs to be monitored from a health standpoint?

There are 3 different types of carbohydrates that fall into the "Total Carbohydrate" category: starches, fiber and sugar. The fiber and sugar are listed separately and the remaining grams would come from starch. Ideally, you want to choose whole grains foods so the starch component would be full of vitamins and minerals. Check the ingredient list on the label to make sure whole grain is the first ingredient, and also be mindful of serving sizes.


Also alcohol can change the way we metabolize , especially carbs. We think of wine as high-carb (it is grape juice, after all!) but as a Type 1 diabetic I do notice that alcohol can drop my blood sugar in surprising ways.

Yes, as a rule, alcohol reduces blood sugar. Thanks for sharing.

There's a photo of a shrimp dish in the latest WaPo "On Parenting" column that's part of a photo gallery of your recipes. However, this shrimp dish is not identified nor is a recipe given. Going by the photo, it seems to be a salad involving shrimp, avocado, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and some kind of noodle. It looks delicious -- where can I find this recipe?

I could not find the "on Parenting" column you were referring to, but this shrimp and snow pea salad is the recipe of mine that comes closest to your description.

Hi Ellie - I'm trying to get rid of added sugars and I see that my go-to jar of pizza sauce has a lot! What is the easiest and least processed way to make pizza sauce? Is there a brand that you use? How about a can of crushed tomatoes - will that work, do you think?

There are many brands of pasta and pizza sauce that have no added sugar, out there, but they are sometimes more expensive. Regardless, here is an easy no-cook pizza sauce: in a food processor puree one 14 ounce can of whole tomatoes with 1 clove of garlic, 1 tsp oregano and 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil. Simple as that.

Does food made in a blender (such as a smoothie or pureed soups) make it less healthy? For example, a smoothie made from fat free greek yogurt, fruit, and ice, or soup made from squash, onion, apple, and vegetable stock. I am asking because the weight watcher point value jumps dramatically when something is pureed in the blender - but just wondering your take on this. Thanks!

Blending up food does not change it's nutritional value. I am not a Weight Watchers expert, but from what I understand, the plan counts whole fruit and vegetable as zero points, but when you enter them into the system as a recipe it counts all the ingredients as having points. To get around this you can record any fruit or vegetable separately in your tracker rather than put it into the recipe builder.

I have three of your cookbooks and love them all! I confess I bought the first (The Food You Crave) partly because of the healthful recipes but mostly because of the gorgeous food photos. All of your books are beautiful to look at as well as easy to use. I assume that you and your publisher use a professional food photographer/stylist? Are you actively involved in working with them and choosing which photos are used in the book? I would imagine that would be one of the more rewarding and fun parts of the publishing process--seeing your dishes presented in such a beautiful and appetizing way on the printed page.

Thanks for your feedback. I am thrilled that you love the books. And yes, we use an incredible team to style and photograph the photos. Quentin Bacon is the photographer who shot my past three books (ironically named!) and Suzanne Lenzer was the food stylist. There is also a prop stylist on the set who brings in a vast array of stunning dishware, cutting boards and linens. I am there for the whole shoot, more in an advisory, overseers role, and I do choose which recipes get shot, in consultation with my editor. It is a pretty involved and amazing process. Most people are surprised to learn that the food is cooked exactly according to the recipe and is shot without shellac or other inedible enhancements. It's the real food. And yes, it is absolutely amazing and gratifying to see it come to life that way. 

Thank you for joining me today and for all the great questions. Please join in again next time, Tuesday March 22nd at noon ET.

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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