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Lean Plate Club: Holiday Challenge

Nutrition and Health

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; 1:00 PM

Welcome to The Lean Plate Club, hosted by Washington Post health and nutrition writer Sally Squires. This week, Sally talks about the holiday challenge -- ways to maintain your diet during the course of the holidays. Share your tips on healthy recipes, meal plans, sugar alternatives and resisting overeating with other readers.

On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET, Sally, who has a master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University, leads a lively discussion for readers looking for new ways to eat smarter and move around more throughout the day. The Lean Plate Club is dedicated to healthy living whether you're trying to whittle your waistline or simply maintain it.

Washington Post columnist Sally Squires

_____Today's Column_____
To Lose Well, Think Positive (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
The Lean Plate Club

We want to hear your tips, strategies, meal plans, successes, setbacks and more. Of course Sally will be happy to answer questions and turn others over to the Club. None of this, however, is a substitute for medical advice.

Squires is a veteran health reporter for The Washington Post. She is co-author of "The Stoplight Diet for Children" and author of the upcoming "Secrets of the Lean Plate Club" (St. Martin's Press; 2005) Sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. The Lean Plate Club column appears weekly in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! Today we kick off the fourth annual Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge. In today's Health section and on the web at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub, you'll find a weight chart and a checklist for week 1.

For those of you who are new to either the Lean Plate Club or the Holiday Challenge--and I understand from e-mails that an article about LPC has now hit the newstands in Woman's Day magazine--the Holiday Challenge is not about dieting. That would likely be a program for guilt--and probably disaster--while everyone else is celebrating. So the Holiday Challenge is simply this: flat line your weight from now until New Year's Day. That's it.

Here's why:A National Institutes of Health study a few years ago found that healthy weight people put on about a pound during the holidays. That's not such a big deal. But overweight and obese people--that's now more than two thirds of us--put on five pounds and don't usually take it off in the spring. So you can imagine how this adds up over a couple of years.

This week's Holiday Challenge goal is simply to prepare for the weeks ahead.

So tell us today how you're doing that. We're also always on the lookout for inspiring tales of instilling healthy eating and physical activity habits.

We love food finds. (One of last week's was Croatian olive oil. In today's e-mail newsletter, you'll find a source to buy this oil in Alexandria, Va., thanks to assistance from the Croatina Embassy here in D.C. If you'd like to subscribe to the free, Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, you can sign up at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub)

We also love to hear about fresh new ways to burn more calories with physical activity even on the busiest of days. And we're always looking for great, healthy tasting recipes.

Do one of those things and one of these prizes could be yours.

Low-carb cocktails by Dr. Douglas J. Markham (Pocket)

Your Daily Diary & Health Journal (Basic Health)

The Step Diet Book by James O. Hill, John C. Peters, and Bonnie T. Jortberg (Workman)

The Purple Kiwi Cookbook by Karen Caplan (of Frieda's Inc.)

Winners are announced at the end of each chat.

Now on to it!


Minneapolis, Minn.: A few weeks ago someone submitted a Healthy Oatmeal
Raisin cookie recipe. Could that recipe be reposted? I
copied the text into a word document to print and all the
fractions came out as underscores. This time I will fill in
the missing information!; If this is possible, I would
appreciate it. Thanks!;

Sally Squires: I'll bet we could manage that Minneapolis. Did you also know that all Lean Plate Club transcripts, columns and more are available free, 24/7 at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub.

Do you recall approximately how long ago the recipe was posted?


Flagstaff, Ariz.: Use applesauce when baking muffins or cakes in place of the fat or oil that is asked for. Substitute spelt flour for regular flour when baking muffins.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions, Flagstaff. And you know that a lot of people are going to be baking in the coming weeks. 'Tis the season...Thanks!


Wheaton, Md.: You mentioned in this week's lean plate club email that fortified cereals were a good source for vitamin e. Would any fortified low fat foot, e.g. vitamin e fortified orange juice, also be ok as a vitamin e source? I am concerned about the implications of the potential dangers of vitamin pills -- whether that would apply to fortified foods as well, as opposed to foods naturally high in vitamin e.


Sally Squires: Hmm, Wheaton. I haven't seen any vitamin E fortified OJ. I have seen calcium and vitamin D fortified juice however. Do you know the brand?

And for those of you who don't get the LPC newsletter, today's issue has some vitamin E rich foods that could be good alternatives if you're concerned about last week's troubling report about vitamin E dietary supplements.


Fairfax, Va.: I am an active, healthy 22 year old woman who seems to add the pounds on very easily. I am by no means overweight, I just seem to gain those few extra pounds too easily! I eat healthy and exercise, what are the foods I need to stay away from this holiday season with a metabolism as slow as mine!

washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge

Sally Squires: Foods are important, Fairfax, but so are portion sizes. And since you're already doing some great things, you want to keep up those habits during the holidays too, and possibly even boost activity a bit. That's what a number of experts have told me they do, to help stay in balance.

One place to start: how many calories do you need just to maintain your current weight? Check out the formula and sites in today's Health section or on-line for more.

But you asked about foods, so let's think a minute about that. Since LPC is based on what you add--rather than on avoiding food--how about we start there? You may want to fill up on high volume, lower calorie foods, so that by the time you get to parties you could splurge on a few holiday treats. This is, after all, a time of celebration.

So you want to think soups and stews, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. You may also want to take a look at Volumetrics a book by Barbara Rolls, PhD. of the Penn State, who has done a lot of the research on this topic.

And of course, you want to carefully watch portion sizes on high-calorie holiday foods, which are going to be available everywhere soon. So that's the pecan pie, cookies, egg nog, other alcoholic drinks, you get the idea.

Let us know how you do. You're smart to think about this now. Thanks!


Boston, Mass.: I buy groceries for just myself, and oftentimes the strawberries, blueberries & raspberries come in plastic containers and tend to go badly quickly before I can eat them.

I eat them, but as they get to the point of being "squishy" I freeze them. Then I put them in a blender, add sugar-free fat-free vanilla yogurt, fresh orange juice, and POM Blueberry (just a touch, pomegrenate juice with more antioxidants than red wine) with ice and blend.

I end up with a huge amount of smoothie, so I have a small glass and I freeze the rest in a large tupperware container and I have a healthy, fruit laden, calcium enriched frozen yogurt.

It's great for my budget, a great sweet snack that doesn't leave me feeling guilty, a way to get in more fruit and yogurt and a great way to not let food spoil!

Sally Squires: Yum! Sounds great, Boston. And what a smart way to get some great tasting fruit rather than letting it go bad in the 'fridge--not that I've ever experienced anything like that myself, or anything. No really! Thanks.


New Orleans, La.: Hi Sally,

My strategy is to focus on all the healthy, seasonal foods available this time of year rather than on the cookies and alcohol. I look forward to roasted turkey, clementines, new varieties of apples, sweet potatoes, kale, chard, seckel pears, and Japanese persimmons. In South Louisiana, we also have the most wonderful citrus called satsumas and fresh oysters. Mirlitons (known as chayote squash elsewhere) are also in season and are delicious stuffed with shrimp and a some soy "sausage." With all of this to enjoy who has time brownies?

Sally Squires: Well said, New Orleans. And having spent Thanksgiving in Vacherie a couple of years ago--not too far from New Orleans--I know how many great options you've got down there. Thanks.


Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: Sally, I'm excited for the Holiday Challenge, but before I start, I want to clear something up. I am confused about the glycemic index of certain foods - I work out first thing in the morning and then for breakfast have a bowl of oatmeal and a banana. I thought that the oatmeal would cancel out the effects of the banana - is that correct? What about oatmeal and yogurt?

Thanks for your help, I love the chats!


Sally Squires: Hey Dupont: Don't get too hung up on the glycemic index numbers. That's not my advice, but that of David Ludwig, a researcher who studies the glycemic index. And Eleanor Hong, our producer, is going to put up a link to a recent LPC column on the glycemic index.

Two quick tips: experts now say that it's great to have just a little food before exercising in the morning. If you can stomach that, it may make your workouts even more productive. Consider making the oatmeal with skim milk instead of water, for a little added protein. Or yes, have it with that yogurt. Nothing wrong with the banana either. You could sprinkle a few slivered nuts on top if you want to add protein and a little fat--oh yeah--and some vitamin E. Hope that helps. Thanks!


Arlington, Va.: I love to sweat. Especially when I am working out. Is it true if I wear a sweat suit vs. a T-Shirt and Leggings, I will sweat more and more importantly burn more calories. I drink lots of water during my workout therefore I will not dehydrate.
Thank you for such a great club!! Happy Holidays.

Sally Squires: Hey Arlington: You'll likely perspire more, which means greater water loss, not fat. (And you'll regain as soon as you replace the water.) Higher intensity exercise will help burn more calories in the same amount of time. So will simply being active throughout the day...Happy Holidays to you too!


washingtonpost.com: The Glycemic Index, Simpler (Post, Sept. 7) Sally Squires: Here's the glycemic index column for those interested in learning more.


Weatherford, Tex.: My husband and I have teamed up in an effort to actually lose weight this holiday season. We've been keeping each other on track, watching our portions and planning menus that feature lower-calorie options. When we go to our parents' homes for Thanksgiving, we'll continue to keep up our good habits and not pig out. No way do we want to gain back the weight we've already lost!

Sally Squires: Go for it Weatherford. Supporting each other in your efforts is a great idea. Good luck to you and your husband. Let us know how it goes.


Anonymous: Just in time for the holidays! I found out I am lactose-intolerant!
Help! I already had eliminated sweets from my diet, but what about hidden dairy in things like soups, baked goods, etc.?
This is rough because I LOVE cheese, yogurt, real cream in my coffee.

Sally Squires: Sorry to hear that Anonymous. You can find some good information on this very topic at the National Institute of Diabetes Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

You can access info at
www.niddk.nih.gov and then do a search for lactose intolerance. We'll also try to post the actual URL in this chat in a minute. (If I do it here, I could mess up the formatting...)

You may also want to check out the Food Allergy Network. www.foodallergy.org, which has a lot of information on all kinds of food related problems.

And by the way, check with your doctor and consider asking for a referral to a registered dietitian who could help you sort through some of this stuff. There are a growing number of dairy foods that are designed for folks like you. You may be surprised what's out there... Good luck and let us know how it goes....Thanks.


washingtonpost.com: Lactose Intolerance (Nat'l Digestive Diseases Web Resource)


National Mall, Washington, D.C.: Good afternoon,
I'm worried about all the holiday parties coming up. Not only will I be eating more, but more after-work parties mean less time at the gym. What can I do to avoid this?

Sally Squires: That's why you're going to plan now for this very thing! Lifestyle exercises--that's walking more, taking the stairs, fitting in few biceps curls at your desk--can be a surprising help for cutting time short at the gym.

Also plan now to make some of your holiday celebrations active, as in ice skating, caroling, maybe even just walking at the mall...

And we'll offer more food and activity tips each week during a challenge, but in the past, experts and a number of LPCers have found that having a small snack before a party is a great way to take the edge off--and avoid eating the buffet and the tablecloth that is underneath it!


Vienna, Va.: Help!
I need some healthy choices for grab and go breakfasts in the morning. I am always running out the door and end up eating junk from the deli downstairs. I am trying the LPC way...low fat and whole grain.

Sally Squires: Have you come to the right place, Vienna. Okay, so if you're going whole grain, try this: the night before, measure out your favorite whole grain cereal in a bag. Add some dried fruit (if you like) or pick up a banana at the office. Add some skim milk and maybe a few nuts--and voila! a great breakfast on the go.

Some LPCers make a big batch of oatmeal and then put portion out in individual containers. Reheat at the office and along with some milk, or juice or some fruit. Or yogurt.

Those are just two suggestions...but I'll wager that LPCers have plenty more....


Tallahassee, Fla.: I find myself being really hungry almost anxious when I walk in the door at 5ish and still wanting to eat (before and after dinner) up until about 8 and then it shuts down. So besides dinner what can I snack on and why do I keep wanting to eat after dinner (and this is regardless of amount at dinner)?

Sally Squires: Hey Tallahassee: A lot of people share this habit with you. Take a look at what you're eating during day? Are you having enough calories at lunch? How about a healthysnack BEFORE leaving the office? That's another option that might keep you from feeling ravenous when you walk in the door.

A little preparation might also help. You know you're going to be hungry, so what can you have handy to take the edge off? Fresh veggies already cut up and strategically placed at the front of the fridge is one option. You might also want to have either low fat ranch dressing, salsa, even a little guacamole (a source of vitamin E and healthy fat) waiting nearby.

If carbs are more your style, you might want to have some whole grain crackers--Ryvita are one variety--ready with some low fat cheese. (Light Laughing Cow is great and only has 35 calories per wedge.)

Fruit ready to chomp is another option.

Enjoy your dinner and then consider maybe getting outdoors for a walk after dinner. Sometimes distraction can work wonders...

Other thoughts out there? Let us know how this goes. Thanks.


Rockville, Md.: This is my second year to take the Holiday Challenge. I was heartened to see that on average normal weight people gain less than a pound during the holidays in contrast to overweight and obese folks who gain an average of 5 pounds. I am hoping to start thinking like a thin person. Starting with Thanksgiving, my plan is to make some strategic substitutions: squash instead of sweet potatoes, green beans with portobello mushrooms instead of the traditional mushroom soup style green bean casserole, a salad dressing of 2 parts TJ cilantro dressing to 1 part olive oil and one part balsamic vinegar. One of the pies this year will be crustless pumpkin pie made following the recipe on the Libby's can but using non fat condensed milk, egg substitutes, and half sugar /half Splenda. I am eating white meat turkey, no skin, no dark meat. The stuffing, potatoes, gravy will be portioned controlled. I know from last year if I provide delicious healthy options I won't be tempted to take just one more spoonful of the stuffing and gravy. I'm looking forward to seeing what plans other lean platers have.

Sally Squires: Way to go Rockville. Sounds like a great plan. My only suggestion is that unless you're having a sweet potato casserole filled with butter and lots of other high calorie ingredients, that you could have a roasted sweet potato too. It's quite healthful. Enjoy!


Oatmeal Cookie recipe: I copied this from a previous chat. Haven't made it yet though.

Healthy Oatmeal Raising cookie recipie
Preheat oven to 375, spread 3 cups rolled oats and 1/3/ cup chopped walnuts on an ungreased baking sheet and toast for 5 min, set aside to cool.
Combine 1 cup raisins with 1 cup water and simmer over low heat to plump raisins for 5 min, drain, set aside to cool.
In a lg mixing bowl, beat 1 ½ cups sugar, ½ cup applesauce, 2 lg eggs, 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I substitute 2 ripe bananas) and 1 tsp vanilla extract with mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 min.
Sift 2 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking soda, ½ tsp baking powder, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp cinnamon, and ½ tsp ground cloves into another bowl.
Combine sugar mixture with flour mixture, stir in the reserved oats, nuts, raisins, and ½ cup chocolate chips, mix well.
Drop the dough by rounded tsp full mounds about 2 inches apart on baking sheets sprayed with nonstick cooking spray or use your silpats that dont need the spray they are great. Bake for 8-10 min, until lightly browned, cool cookies on racks. Store them airtight; if you want to keep them very soft and chewy.

Sally Squires: Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Alexandria, Va.: I saw the post last week about making flavored olive oils. You have to be careful about how you do this, because olive oil can become a breeding ground for the bacteria that causes botulism. The danger comes when fresh herbs or garlic (or anything containing water) are placed in an oxygen-free environment such as olive oil. Here's a link that has some suggestions for safe ways to flavor olive oil.

Sally Squires: Thanks for the excellent tip, Alexandria! It's a really good reminder that once you open a bottle or can of any oil, that the "clock is ticking" as an expert told me last year. Exposure to air does take an effect. So store all oil in a cool, dark place. And do check it from time to time. Thanks for the great reminder!


Denver, Colo.: I'm looking for a good vegetarian recipe for a stuffed squash for Thanksgiving dinner - perhaps something with wild and brown rice. The cookbooks I've consulted tend to have squash casseroles, but my friends and I enjoy tasting and appreciating the beauty of a colorful squash dish.
Exercise hint - I have an exercise partner and we've made a vow to either fit in the health/fitness club or a brisk walk outside each day thru the holidays. We get work clothing, healthy breakfast, and lunch items ready the night before to allow for our exercise time in the morning. I find it helps me through a long day at work to have the exercise time in front of my day rather than following it.

washingtonpost.com: What's Cooking Thanksgiving Planner
Transcript: What's Cooking Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Sally Squires: Hey Denver: Sounds like you've really put a lot of thought in this. Our producer has already kindly provided a couple of links. Also check out The Vegetarian Resource Group, www.vrg.org for more.

And if you'd like to see a comparison on the nutritional aspects of wild rice, cultivated brown rice and wheat, I've got one that I'll post a link to in next week's LPC email newsletter from Purdue University.



Silver Spring, Md.: for the past 18 months I have eliminated all flour and sugar from my diet. However, at lunch I do prepare a meal replacement drink consisting of 1 scoop of Kashi GO Lean and one scoop of 40-30-30 Balance Meal Replacement. I get my carbohydrate, protein and dietary fat from this drink. I wanted to know your opinion of this program. Carole

Sally Squires: My opinion doesn't matter, Silver Spring. Question is: how do you like this plan? What effect is it having on your weight (depending on what your goals are?) And is this something that you can keep up for another 18 months--or 18 years--to come?

There's nothing wrong with what you're doing. There's also nothing wrong with eating either flour or sugar in appropriate amounts. If this is working for you--and obviously not causing any medical harm--you've answered your own question. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: I make sure that if I want something, I eat it, but I just eat less of it.

If I really want every appetizer at a party, I mentally rank them and then figure out which I REALLY want. From there I'll have a few bites of a few things. I end up feeling far more satisfied than either eating none of it, or worse, all of it!

Sally Squires: There you go, DC! Another great example of finding what works best for you. I'm looking forward to all the various tips that I know Lean Plate Club members have figured out for themselves. We all--me included--learn from this. Thanks!


Sherwood Park Alberta Canada: Hi Sally, as a long time reader and a person who lost 50 pounds with the help of LPC and WW's bulletin boards for its support 24/7, I find myself at the 2 year mark in an odd place. Over the last few months I have regained 18 pounds, and though at its heart my belief in everything that LPC has taught me is still there, I am missing the internal power to do it as well as I used to. I seem to keep coming up against simple fact that even after all I have learned about myself in my efforts to be a healthier better me, even after I have really truly accepted that I must live a new lifestyle, and cannot simply eat and live like I once did, I resent deeply, strongly what I have to do to get there. There is a store of anger that I cannot be just a person who goes out and eats what I want when I want, and where I want. The silly thing is that I like eating healthier because it makes me feel better. I like being a fit and active person because I simply enjoy the ability to breathe and do without feeling like I am going to pass out. The more I think about this the more I know that this hidden place of resentment and anger is the source of my recent self sabotage. And its not going to go away till I get it out of my system. So its back to basics once again. The only way I know to get me off this track is to just practise being better, using the simplest most basic tools. Its wonderful to see the Holiday challenge again, because working through your everday challenge is what got me started in the first place. It will be my most valuable tool as I work this through, yet again.

Sally Squires: What a thoughtful and insightful message, Sherwood. What you've done is wonderful. I'm putting my money on you to figure this out. If you haven't already read it, you might also want to take a look at a column called the Big Backslide, inspired by a Lean Plate Club member who faced the same issues. It ran on August 31, 2004 and is available at www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub

Good luck with your efforts. Let us know how it goes...Thanks!


Alexandria, Va.: Last week I tried substituting 1 wedge of light Laughing Cow cheese for butter & sour cream on my baked potato; it gave me the creamyness without the calories!!

Sally Squires: Great! And I've noticed that you can now buy Laughing Cow cheese at the Alexandria Trader Joe's for half of what I've been paying at my local grocery. Another food find this week: Goya Maria crackers. A mere $0.33 cents per package, low in fat, high in fast, great with Laughing Cow cheese. Thanks!


Rockville, Md.: Should I be concerned with the vitamin E report? I currently take a multi-vitamin and a vitamin E supplement because it helps my acne...

Sally Squires: You might want to take another look at the report, Rockville. (There's a link to it in the Lean Plate Club newsletter today.) Study was conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers and presented at the recent American Heart Association annual meeting in New Orleans. Researchers reported that daily vitamin E supplements in excess of 400 I.U. are linked with an increased risk of mortality.

You can also read more

Or likely at the AHA site:


Hope that helps. Thanks.


Greenbelt, Md.: To burn calories (and stress) on a busy day- I have a small step stool that I drag around the kitchen. As I prepare dinner and wash the dishes I step up and down off the stool (like in step class). Just be careful around the stove!

Sally Squires: Yeah, carefull indeed, Greenbelt. But creative suggestion! Thanks.


Richmond, Va.: recently, an LPCer submitted a wonderful quick recipe for a faux cheesecake pudding (with yogurt, ff cool whip and white chocolate pudding mix). It's delicious! it tastes very much like cheesecake, and with some lite cherry pie filling and Kashi GoLean Crunch - it makes a great parfait. Thanks to all who've shared recipes - that's one of the best parts of this group. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Thanks Richmond. I like that part too, particularly when we got the recipe for black bean brownies....still one of my favorites!


The Hill, Washington, D.C.: Do you burn more fat running for 35 minutes or briskly walking for 35 minutes?

Sally Squires: It depends on the pace. Faster pace-more intensity--will generally burn more calories in a shorter amount of time.

Okay, let's do the numbers, courtesy of www.caloriesperhour.com

A 140 pound, 45 year old woman would burn 141 walking (3.5 mph) in 35 minutes. If she jogged, she would burn 259 calories in that same 35 minutes.

You can plug in your own numbers at the above URL.


Greenville, SC: Hi, Sally,

My biggest downfall is wine and other alcoholic beverages. Recently, though, I have discovered that if I make my first drink a fancy bottled water--especially Perrier, with all the bubbles--I feel like I'm having a 'special' drink, so I don't feel left out of the drinking ritual, and I am likely to have fewer 'real' drinks later.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion, Greenville. And it's just that kind of tip---and pacing---that will get you and the rest of us through the holidays unburdened by unwanted added pounds! Thanks!


Boston, Mass.: I have fallen in love with trader joe's organic, creamy vegetable soup purees. They are both low fat and low cal, as well as a wonderful way to fill up and get in some vegetable servings. To amp up the veg quotient, I often add in fresh veg (sauteed fresh mushrooms for the cream of shroom, broccoli goes great in potato leek, spinach in the roasted red pepper/tomato; you can either further puree or leave chunky).

If I have a cup of these soups when I get home from work, I'm less hungry when I sit down to dinner. Or, with a side salad and whole wheat roll, this is a great, quick dinner.

I also highly recommend cauliflower puree. The same texture as mashed potatoes, but lower on the calorie scale. Saute a large onion in a bit of olive oil until light brown, add a few cloves of crushed garlic, a few chopped turnips, florets from a head of cauliflower and a cup of water. Steam until the cauliflower is soft, drain the water, add a pinch of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Puree with a hand blender. I eat it as is (and often eat the whole pot!), but you could add butter or olive oil...

Sally Squires: Thanks Boston. And let's also add things like spaghetti squash--boy is that good--ratatouille and other vegetable based dishes. Great suggestions. Thanks!


Springfield, Va.: Our Thanksgiving is always with casts of hundreds it seems. New people, old people and regulars. We always go for a 10 minute walk after the "bird" comes out of the oven to give it a chance to rest. Then another 10 minuter between main course and dessert. Then another 10 minuter after dessert. It gives us a chance to talk with someone we may have missed during the meal.
Happy Holidays.

Sally Squires: Great going, Springfield. And that's 30 minutes of activity, which really helps burn off some of those delicious calories. Plus, it sounds like you have some great conversations along the way. Thanks!


Arlington, Va.: Hi Sally,
I'm normally a participant of your Challenge, but I just found out that I have mono, which means zero exercise for several weeks. I have a slow metabolism, so I normally eat little and exercise quite a bit, which I enjoy. However, now I have to eat even less to compensate for the lack of exercise, which is going to be really hard, especially from a nutritional standpoint as well as the holidays. Any advice?

On a different note - medjool dates are fantastic sweet treats. The kind that are sold in bulk (I get mine at Giant) taste like honey.

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear that, Arlington. Sure hope you feel better soon. Does you doctor make walking off limits too? Doublecheck, because even a slow-paced casual stroll around the block may do a lot for your spirits.

Soups, smoothies (made with nonfat yogurt, fruit and maybe a little wheat germ) are nice comfort foods that are also loaded with good nutrition. That wheat germ also has vitamin E which seems to help boost the immune system. Nuts--which are high in calories, of course--are also high in vitamin E. Citrus fruit is a great source of vitamin C, another good immune booster.

Mostly you want to have as much whole, healthy food as possible. So go easy on the processed stuff which is likely to have added sugar, salt and fat. And reach for fruit and vegetables, whole grains, some sources of healthy fat, avocados, nuts, peanut butter, eggs, lean meat and poultry. You get the idea. Sure hope you feel better soon.

Let us know how it goes.


Philadelphia, Pa.: My husband's family has discovered the secret to limiting consumption at Thanksgiving. We eat the main meal at lunch and then play a family football game right after doing the dishes. During the whole meal, you're envisioning yourself running around after the ball and that keeps everyone's portions lighter. I'm all the excercise from the game helps too!

Sally Squires: Hope you make the winning touchdown, Philadelphia! It really sounds like fun. Thanks!


Chantilly, Va.: Hi,

I have some breakfast suggestions. Sometimes on Sundays, I make a fritatta - a baked omelette. I use water instead of cream to loosen up the eggs, just a small amount of grated cheese, and lots of chopped up vegetables. You can pack a small wedge for breakfast - takes about 1-2 minutes in the microwave to heat. I also buy whole grain breads at the health food store - rice bread and whole rye. We have a toaster at work, so I toast the bread, add leftover chopped vegetables (broccoli, asparagus and zucchini are personal favorites), and a small slice of cheese. Can you tell I don't like traditional breakfasts?

Sally Squires: Great suggestion, Chantilly. And it for those who are watching cholesterol, this could be made with egg whites or egg substitutes. Thanks!


Bethesda, Md.: Health tip: I do ALL of my holiday shopping by walking the 4 mi. roundtrip to the mall. That way I can eat a few extra goodies without packing on the pounds. I don't buy anything for holiday gifts that would require me to take the car to the mall.
MM Mapp

Sally Squires: Great suggestion, Bethesda. Just think what wonderful activity you're getting in those four miles. For those who don't have this opportunity, you could simply park in the far end of parking lot and make a lot of trips back and forth from the car to the mall...Thanks very much.


Re: Vienna Grab-n'-go: A couple of grab & go's that I use: Luna bars (I like the less sweet ones, like toasted somthing & cranberry, but there are many varieties, 170-190 calories); I make a peanut butter and jelly or ham & cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast. I also keep a box of favorite cereal in my office and skim milk in the work fridge.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion. Pria makes a pretty good bar too, although as we learned during a taste test of energy bars this summer, there are wide preferences in these meal replacement bars. I also have tried Larabars, which are uncooked, made with organic dates, nuts and other ingredients and are quite satisfying. Not low calorie however.


Washington, D.C.: Re: Sherwood

I think Sherwood has hit the nail precisely on the head--why PERMANENT weight loss is so very difficult. There is something in our very souls, I think, that determine what our natural tendencies are. I don't mean to be pessimistic, but I think the basic fact is: it is a lot more difficult for some of us to maintain a "normal" weight (or even only being "slightly" overweight) than others. Kind of like how some people like to read and others don't...and how do you get around this?

Sally Squires: By working on healthy habits every day,by finding new ways to keep these habits fresh. Because, yes, while there are certainly gradations of overweight, the statistics suggest that many people are cutting their lives short with too much food and too little activity. So yes, there's a balance. I also caught a little of Jame Lee Curtis on the Today Show this morning. She talked about how more of us need to get away from the "perfect" skinny body image and focus on healthy, but sane body weights. All good food for thought! Thanks!


RE: Breakfast on the go: Oatmeal Bars

These bars are kind of crumbly but pretty tasty. Makes 8 servings.

1/2 Cup natural peanut butter
2 eggs or egg sub
2 cups milk

Whisk together (easier if all at room temp)

4 Cups old fashioned oatmeal
Approx 1 Cup dried fruit
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 packets of splenda (or sugar)

Blend dry ingredients, add the peanut butter mixture and combine. It will be kind of soupy. Pour into greased 8 x 8 pan and spread out evenly. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces, after it has cooled, individual pieces can be wrapped and frozen.

Sally Squires: Thanks very much! Sounds delicious.


Washington, D.C.: OK, this may be a silly question, but here goes. I see you suggesting having yogurt with oatmeal . . . is that in addition to, or stirred in? When it gets cooler, I generally replace my yogurt for lunch with oatmeal. But mixing some yogurt in with a smaller portion of nice, hot oatmeal (along with the nuts and raisins I add) sounds delicious. Is it OK to mix yogurt in and have it get warm to hot? I wasn't sure if this could allow bacteria to grow or what . . .

Sally Squires: No, I'd say have that yogurt in addition to the oatmeal, not in it. But then, I'll bet there's someone out there who has tried it the other way. Last week, we talked about putting some olive oil on oatmeal. Thanks for asking the question.


Vienna, Va. - LPC Holiday Challenge: Last year I made sure that I paired a healthy entrees with every unhealthy ones. When I has the host, I filled the table with 2/3 healthy choices and then a few select unhealthy ones. Mostly my guest either did not notice or thanked me for having healthy selections.

I do the same when I go to a party. 3/4 of a plate is healthy and 1/4 is the holiday favorites. I also make sure every other drink is a water or diet soda. When possible I make sure I exercise every day before I go to a party to remind myself to be "good". The other hint I have is that many goodies look better then they taste. If something really is not what I expected, or is not worth finishing, I simply leave it on the plate and dispose of it. I also make sure my guests leave with all the sweets or goodies on the table!

Hope this helps everyone!

washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge

Sally Squires: Thanks Vienna!


Boston, Mass.: Here's my stay healthy tip:

I'm in law school and live by myself, so to help myself avoid cravings and eat healthy all week, on Sunday or Monday i'll make a huge pot of something on i enjoy to eat off all week. Last week it was lean ground turkey chili (with lots of beans, tomatoes, and veggie), and this week it's pasta sauce with vegetarian meatballs (the meatballs are from trader joes). Then, I make some side dishes ahead of time (whole wheat pasta, couscous, etc) and put those in the fridge too.

A little planning ahead means that when I get home starving from class and have lots of homework to do, it's easy to grab a healthy (and inexpensive) dinner rather than succumb to snack food or take-out... it also means that I'm better able to resist all the temptations around school because I know that at home I have something good waiting for me.

Sally Squires: Great going Boston. This is a wonderful example of having a game plan and shows how much it can help. Thanks!


Rockville, Md.: My holiday plan is the same plan all year - PLAN AHEAD!
So often we blame that there were so many tasty options and there were no healthy ones at holiday parties or dinners.
I offer to bring something tasty that no one would know was healthy - such as a modified pecan pie recipie or a fresh vegetable appetizer.
I also plan out my day to include exercise. We all make excuses for not working out, but even getting up and moving for 15 minutes before I get ready for the day is more than I would do if I hadn't planned it out. Sure it's cold out, but when I think about working out when I get up as I get ready for bed, I tend to better follow through the next day. That mind-body connection really works - and will you really remember that you lost that half hour of sleep when the day is done - I bet not!

Sally Squires: Another great example of having a plan of action. Thanks Rockville!


St. Louis, Mo.: Sally -- I have been reading your column on the web for several years now, starting around the time I joined Weight Watchers in 2001. During that time, I lost 65 pounds, started running and after reaching my goal weight in 2002 have kept the weight off. Your column and the chat are always a help. And now, after reading many chatters suggestions about good food choices which can be found at Trader Joe's, one opened two weeks ago here in St. Louis. It's fun to see what you've all been talking about in the

Regarding a question in this week's newsletter about nutritional content of food from restaurants, I frequently used a site called Dottie's Weight Loss Zone, or DWLZ.com. Click on restaurants, and you'll find listings for most of the chain restaurants around the country. The lists are updated frequently.

Thanks for your column, the newsletter and the chat.


Sally Squires: Congratulations on those 65 pounds. Way to go! Thanks as well for the tip. Sounds like it will be very helpful for the holidays. Thanks very much St. Louis.


Hull, Mass.: I have several strategies that I use to limit the damage at holiday dinners and parties. To do well takes a little planning and effort, but the results -- over 70 pounds gone in 14 months -- have been worth it!;

First, I make sure I have a sense of how many calories I've already consumed or going to consume during the day and how many I've burned. You can count calories or points on whatever works for you. I always try to get in a good workout before a party. If I can -- the reward is more party food!;

Then, I give myself a budget for the event. I typically allocate my budget between alcohol and food, and I know my limits before I get to the event.

Once I'm there, I survey the food choices and figure out how I want to "spend" my budget. How that happens depends on the event. I limit myself to small servings or tastes of richer food, and try to fill up on lighter choices. I also try to make sure I get at least tastes of things I really like. If you make good choices, you can eat well and feel full.

On alcohol, I usually stick to wine and champagne, take small servings, and nurse my drink. Depending on the event and my budget, I alternate a glass of wine with sparkling water. It fills me up, and keeps party after-effects at bay!; It also looks enough like a "real" drink that no one bothers me for not drinking.

Finally, when it comes to dessert I've found a little goes a long way. Often a friend will be willing to share a serving, or I can leave a portion of what I'm served on my plate.

This may sounds like a lot of work, but it really becomes part of retraining myself how to eat more healthily. These strategies work at dinners and parties throughout the year!;

Sally Squires: Wow, 70 pounds. Very impressive. Thanks very much Hull!


Overland Park, Kan.: Here's another (yes, intense but doable) way to keep moving at the gym--head back to the neglected rowing machines. Concept2 (www.concept2.com) has a holiday challenge to row 100,000 or 200,000 meters between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. I accomplished it two years ago and got the holiday pin for 200,000 meters (yeah! my Christmas present). Last year I didn't plan well enough, plus I was away for Thanksgiving, so I only got 50,000 meters completed. However, I plan to be on the machine again this year. It does take effort-especially it seems for women, who are so busy multi-tasking in December and time is at a premium (nearly 2/3rds of rowers who met their goals were men!). But I felt so satisfied when I did achieve the goal, especially because I was then really primed for January exercise. Plus, rowing alot helped mitigate extra eating. It's a great workout!!

Sally Squires: Thanks for the great tip, Overland. What a wonderful way to fit in some really good exercise--which not only burns calories, but helps promote sleep and aids in stress reduction. Thanks. Good luck with the challenge.


Arlington, Va.: This might be more appropriate for the moving crew, but I wanted to relate a problem that I had earlier this week, as sort of a warning for people looking to join a gym. I, sort of on impulse, and against my gut, joined the Bally's in Pentagon Row last Thursday. On Sunday I had buyer's remorse, and realized that I'd made a mistake, and didn't want to actually have the memebership. On Monday when I called, I was told that I'd missed my window for cancelling out before the membership went through, and I was in the thirty day trial period, which required me to visit the gym 12 times in a thirty day period. I'd already visited twice, which had lead me to realize that I'd made a mistake, and I don't particularly want to work out there. So I thought, well, I could just go and sign in and not work out there (and continue to go to my old gym), just to get out of the contract. When I did this, the girl at the desk said, "well, you didn't use the facilities, and I'm going to go into your record and say that you didn't use the facilities." I will admit that I didn't react gracefully to this, because she was really very rude to me. I can't figure out why she cared whether or not I actually used the facility or not (I mean, it's my work out time. Is she going to have a problem if I only use the treadmill for ten minutes?) Her bad attitude, coupled with the general vibe of the club, really drove me out. It's terrible customer service. And I wonder how gyms like that retain anyone? Why do the contracts have to be three year contracts? It just seems like a way to separate people from their money, because a lot of people might be enthusiastic the first six months or year, but then drop off due to work, or changed cirucmstances, and now they're socked into $50 a month that they can't get out of. Any chance Bally's had of retaining me was absolutely lost. Because now I'll go and work out the ten more times I'm "required" to to get out of it (and I might as well take advantage of what will be a free month at the gym), but they would have a much happier client base if they weren't so restrictive in their terms. And I certainly feel that their customer service needs a lot of work.

Sally Squires: Hmm, Arlington. I'd say it's worth another call to the management. Also check your contract again and you might check with the consumer affairs department and Better Business Bureau in the county or in Pentagon City.

We're out of time, but if anyone else has had a similar experience, please e-mail me at leanplateclub@waspost.com


New Haven, Conn.: My strategy for the holidays?

1. Define my motivation and keep reminding myself of it. I achieved my goal weight during the summer through wise eating choices and increased exercise. It was hard work. My motivation is to avoid having to repeat that hard work!

2. Plan my approach to the key events that will lure me to overeating. In particular, all those office and neighborhood parties. I am promising myself one thoughtfully chosen plate of food. No seconds, no grazing, and I will put my plate down immediately after finishing the food.

3. Family meals. Get the family to help me. Not including the gravy (can't change that or there would be WWIII!), I'm encouraging my extended family to consider healthier versions of all of our favorites. I'm even offering to cook many of them. So far I've gotten the cranberry relish and the pies revised. Working on the dressing, now. Wish me luck!

4. Exercise. I'm trying to add one exercise event for each dining indulgence. My family is considering a long walk after T-day dinner. Hope the weather holds.

Sally Squires: Good luck indeed, New Canaan, although I'm betting that with all your planning, you won't need it. Thanks!


Sally Squires: We're way out of time, but thanks for a very lively chat. Sounds like it will be a very interesting Holiday Challenge. Winners today are:Boston, the LPCer who found the oatmeal recipe and posted it; Alexandria for the tip on oil;and Sherwood Park.

Please e-mail me with your snail mail address to leanplateclub@waspost.com. And please include winner in the subject line.

Thanks to all. Remember, eat smart, move more and oh year, start planning now for a healthy holiday--and no extra pounds--season.

Until next week, cheers!


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