Ask the Nutritionist:
Answers to Your Questions

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What are some ways I can reduce my sugar intake?

The best way to reduce added sugar intake is by limiting foods and beverages high in added sugars by eating them less often, having smaller portions, or choosing lower sugar options.

You can now find added sugars listed on Nutrition Facts labels on packaged foods and drinks. When choosing foods or drinks with Nutrition Facts labels, look for those that are 5% daily value (DV) or less, which means that food or drink is a low source of added sugars. Visit https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/added-sugars-new-nutrition-facts-label for more information.

The biggest culprits to limit include desserts or baked goods, processed sweet snack foods, sugar-sweetened beverages (pop/soda, fruit drinks, and sweetened coffees or teas), and candy.

Why can’t I feed my baby honey?

While most people older than one year of age can eat honey without problems, babies under the age of one year shouldn’t have any raw honey at all because their digestive system isn’t fully developed. Raw honey can contain spores from the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can lead to a rare, but serious illness called infant botulism. It is generally recommended to avoid all honey for infants, even in processed foods, as Clostridium botulinum spores can be found even in cooked foods.

My kids will eat very few vegetables. How do I get them to eat more?

Most kids, especially young children, go through periods where they may become picky or cautious about food, especially unfamiliar foods. This can lead to refusing to eat new foods, eating only small tastes of foods, food “jags” where they will only eat one or a few foods for a period of time, or even rejecting previous favorite foods. Studies have shown that it may take trying a new food 8-10 times for your child to accept it. So, keep trying! But skip pressuring, as most kids will see through even sneaky pressure, such as bribes. Offer vegetables alongside favorite foods and encourage your kids to explore them with their senses, even if they don’t want to taste them yet.

The best way to promote eating veggies is by modeling that behavior for your kids. Eat and enjoy your own vegetables in front of them! Get your kids involved in the process by letting them help select recipes to try, including them in shopping for vegetables, letting them help prepare meals, and serving them vegetables at meal and snack times, even if they go untouched.

Lead by example, and your kids will assume “someday I will eat vegetables, too.” Visit www.ellynsatterinstitute.org for more information and childhood feeding resources.

I am vegan, so I do not eat dairy. What foods can I eat that are included as part of the Dairy Group?

Fortified soy-based dairy alternatives like soy milk and soy yogurt, which have added calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D, are included as part of the Dairy Group because they are nutritionally similar to their dairy-based counterparts.

Other plant-based milk alternatives such as hemp, cashew, almond, oat, rice, or coconut may be calcium-fortified, but are not included as part of the Dairy Group because their nutrition profile is not like dairy milk or fortified soy milk.

If you are looking for additional sources of calcium that are not included in the Dairy Group, consider calcium-fortified juices, tofu made with calcium sulfate, tahini, and some leafy greens, such as collard and turnip greens, spinach, kale, and bok choy which all provide some calcium. It should be noted that the amount of calcium that you can absorb from these foods does vary.

Are beans, such as kidney beans, in the Vegetable Group or Protein Foods Group? How do I count them?

Beans, peas, and lentils are unique foods because they belong to two food groups. They are part of the Protein Foods Group, and part of the Vegetable Group.

People who regularly eat meat, poultry, and seafood generally count beans, peas, and lentils in the Vegetable Group. People who do not eat meat or seldom eat meat, poultry, or seafood count some of the beans, peas, and lentils they eat in the Protein Foods Group. Visit www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/protein-foods/beans-and-peas for an example of how you can count beans, peas, and lentils.

How long can I keep leftover food?

Depending on the ingredients and storage conditions, leftover foods can stay fresh for a range of time. In general, if a dish was cooked safely and then rapidly cooled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, it’ll likely stay fresh for 3-4 days. If that same food was stored in the freezer, it is technically safe to eat indefinitely though will maintain quality for 3-4 months.

Be sure to reheat cooked leftover foods to a minimum of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. If reheating in a microwave, stir well and allow the food to rest for a few minutes after microwaving to ensure even heat distribution and prevent bacteria from hiding out in cold spots.

FoodSafety.gov is an excellent resource for food storage and safety information. Check out the FoodKeeper App for tips to help maximize the shelf life and for information on how to best store specific foods. You can also find guidelines for storing cold foods using their Cold Food Storage Chart.

For more information on food safety, visit the How to Prevent Food Poisoning page from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


“Ask the Nutritionist” is designed to answer food and nutrition related questions and offer tips to eat healthy. This service has been developed by Michigan Fitness Foundation and hosted by registered dietitian nutritionists for nutrition educational and informational purposes only.

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