Healthful-eating columnist and dietitian Ellie Krieger answered questions.
Q: Could you please help my sister and me with a silly argument? She says that eating a bowl of fruit and yogurt is healthier than drinking a smoothie made of exactly the same ingredients. This has nothing to do with feeling full, appreciation of the food, etc., just the nutritional value (including fiber, which she believes is less effective once whizzed up). Is there a difference?
A: Your sister is right, and wrong. There is really no nutritional difference, but eating the whole food could help you feel more satisfied longer.
Q: I promised my husband some French food, but I’d like to be healthy about it. Any yummy suggestions that aren’t too heavy on the butter?
A: There are so many French foods that are quite healthful …. One thing that makes the French style of eating healthful is the way they approach a meal: in a relaxed manner, with high-quality ingredients and modest portions. A healthful French favorite is poached salmon with a mustard-dill sauce. Also consider starting your meal with a fennel or chicory salad with a champagne vinaigrette.
Q: I’ve been seeing articles about kefir. Is this something I ought to look into?
A: Kefir is like a drinkable yogurt. It is creamy and tangy and is rich in probiotics, the good bacteria that have been shown to guard against illness and keep our digestion healthy. I highly recommend trying it.
Q: What do you advise about using calcium supplements?
A: The daily value for calcium is 1,000 milligrams. Ideally, you want to get that through foods such as milk and yogurt (about 300 milligrams per cup), green vegetables (about 50–70 milligrams per half cup), nuts and seeds (about 100–300 milligrams per one-third cup). You can also get calcium from fortified foods. If you regularly fall short, you may want to take a calcium supplement to get you to 1,000 mg. The upper limit for calcium is 2,500 mg, so it is important to not overdo it.
Be sure to add up all you are getting from food, fortification and supplements. (If you take a multivitamin, there is likely some calcium in that as well.) Also, of course, check with your doctor before taking any supplement.
Q: How do I get more fiber besides eating more vegetables and whole-grain products?
A: Beans, nuts and seeds are some of the best and most satisfying sources of fiber. A half-cup of beans gives you about eight grams of fiber, and one ounce of nuts has about three grams. Toss beans and/or some nuts into your salad, warm up with bean or lentil soup and snack on a handful of nuts mid-afternoon.
Q: What are some ways that I can incorporate flaxseed into my diet, and what are the benefits?
A: Flaxseeds are high in fiber, protein and healthy omega-3 fat. The best way to get all of their goodness is to grind them first or buy ground flaxseed. Then you can sprinkle it in your morning cereal, on yogurt and fruit, or add a tablespoon or two to pancake, waffle or muffin batter.
Q: Can you provide some tips for eating healthfully when you have limited time, such as on the go for lunch or getting home late from work? And go-tos you’d recommend or things to definitely avoid?
A: This is an important question because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel a time crunch when it comes to meal prep. I say, do as much as you can ahead of time. Boil up some eggs and prep vegetables to keep in the fridge. Take [time on the weekend] to prep dishes that freeze well, such as soups, chilis and stews, and have them in containers in the freezer. Keep a stocked pantry with quick-cooking whole grains, low-sodium canned tomatoes and beans, pouches of salmon and tuna. Keep frozen fruit and vegetables on hand. Also, take advantage of healthful convenience foods such as pre-washed lettuce, pre-cut mushrooms and cubed squash.
Q: I’m tired of making the same tuna salad all the time (with celery and mayo). I’ve used ranch dressing instead of mayo and I’ve tried to put other ingredients into the mix (cucumber, tomato) and I’ve even tried chopped apple. Do you have any good suggestions?
A: Try a Mediterranean-style tuna salad with olive oil, vinegar and a little mustard instead of the mayo. Add olives, capers, chopped red peppers and fresh parsley. You can also switch it up by using canned salmon instead of tuna for a change.