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Lean Plate Club

Nutrition and Health

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, November 30, 2004; 1:00 PM

Welcome to The Lean Plate Club, hosted by Washington Post health and nutrition writer Sally Squires. On Tuesdays at 1 p.m. ET, Sally leads a discussion for people who want to eat healthier, move around more and otherwise get better but not bigger. We're not about fad diets or crash weight-loss plans; we're about eating wisely and living healthy for the long haul.

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

Washington Post columnist Sally Squires

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

Sally Squires has covered health and nutrition for The Post since 1984. She holds masters' degrees in nutrition and journalism (both from Columbia University), is co-author of "The Stoplight Diet for Children" and covers heart disease, cancer, psychology and many other health topics in addition to nutrition. She usually eats a salad for lunch, sits unluckily close to the Health section's legendary cookie depository and (for this phase of her ongoing battle of the bulge) swears by "The Firm" series of exercise tapes.

Health section editor Craig Stoltz will join Sally sometimes. Stoltz has none of Sally's impressive credentials but labors under a decade-long medical directive to control his weight and eat wisely, takes a statin to lower his blood cholesterol and keeps track of everything he eats on a Palm handheld computer, a fact most of his acquaintances no longer find interesting.

Sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter.

A transcript follows.

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 and of course to week three of the Holiday Challenge. For those new to the challenge, it's never too late to join. The goal is simply this: keep your weight steady from the time you start the challenge through New Year's Day. What you do after that is, of course, up to you.

The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter should be in your in-box right about now. If you'd like to subscribe to this free, weekly service, just log onto www.washingtonpost.com/leanplateclub. You'll find a box there with information that is just two clicks away from a subscription.

In today's newsletter, you'll find some quick links to easy, fast recipes to help you get through the holidays plus some tips on fitting in workouts.

Today's freebies are:

Low-Carb Cocktails by Dr. Douglas J. Markham (Pocket Books)

Your Daily Diary and Health Journal (Basic Health)

The Diabetes Holiday Cookbook by Carolyn Leontos, MS, RD, Debra Mitchell and Kenneth Weicker (Wiley)

Yoga for the Hands by Sabrina Mesko (Andrews McMeel)

Here's the deal: Tell us how you're meeting the Holiday Challenge. Share a great way to fit in more physical activity. Tell us about a healthy food find or a wonderful great tasting recipe. Do one of those things and you could win one of the volumes above. Please note that in making this offering we are not endorsing any volume, exercise regimen or weight loss program. It's just a way to show you the wide range of information available as you seek to instill healthy habits.

Now on to the chat!


Grand Rapids, Mich.: Does fit trump fat? Even the experts disagree. Dr. Claude Bouchard from Canada would probably vote "fat" and Dr. Steve Blair of the Cooper Clinic would probably vote "fit". Both have done extensive work on the topic. My vote is for fit.

Sally Squires: That's vote number 1. And for those who haven't yet received today's e-mail newsletter, this was a question asked there. Thanks Grand Rapids!


Rockville, Md.: Hi Sally-

I just wanted to let you know that I will be brining my turkey from now on (I used the recipe you provided in a Lean Plate Club email before Thanksgiving). I standardly grill it, and it is wonderful, but the extra step of brining is like an insurance policy, especially if I don't have time to track down a Butterball or other known turkey entity!; Cooking Light's current issue actually has an apple cider brining recipe that I think I will try next. Anyway, the turkey turned out moist and delicious - so, thank you.

Sally Squires: Oooh, that apple cider brining sounds really good. Thanks for the feedback Rockville. I confess that I did not brine my turkey this Thanksgiving, but you may convince me to do it for Christmas. Thanks!


washingtonpost.com: It's never too late to join the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge! If you're new to the challenge, read Holiday Challenge 2004 and see what you need to get started!


Washington, D.C.: Sally: In response to one of the late postings about how to fit in more exercise at work: a few weeks ago I picked up a "Mini Stepper with Resistance Bands" at The Discovery Store, and I love it!; I tried it out in the store first, and I was impressed with how solid and durable it seemed (I have burned out two lesser-value steppers in the past). I'm pretty tall, so the resistance bands give me a REAL workout since I have to pull them up so high. It has an eletronic reading for time and steps (so you can see how close you are to your 10,000 a day). Even tho it is heavy, it's portable (i.e. you can take it to the in-laws for the holidays). I have it sitting out in the den, and everyone who walks in jumps on for mini-sessions. I could easily see this in an office. It's about $100, but worth it--be careful about lesser priced models. This is one of those items where you get what you pay for.

Sally Squires: Sounds like a wonderful--and perhaps early?--present for the holidays for those who want to fit in a little extra calorie burning. Thanks very much for the tip.


Gaithersburg, Md.: Sally,
Do you have any suggestions for a quick nutritious meal after an evening work-out in the middle of the week?

Sally Squires: Sure do, Gaithersburg, and my hunch is that LPCers will chime in with more of their own in a minute. Soups are a great fast food. Add a salad from fixings at home, a few whole wheat crackers, some yogurt or fruit for dessert and you're good to go.

A bean burrito. Open a can of your favorite beans. Drain. Fill a tortilla with beans, some salsa, hot peppers (depending on how hot you like this!) and some nonfat or low-fat shredded cheese. Fold and pop in the microwave. Voila! Dinner.

Eggs. I can make a frittata with leftovers in about five minutes, maybe 10 tops. Sometimes I use frozen veggies such as haricot verts. Lately I've tossed in leftover spaghetti squash. Sautee with garlic, some grape tomatoes, a few olives, you get the idea. Take a couple of eggs--or egg substitutes, or a whole egg and a couple of whites, your choice--mix, toss on top. Let settle then finish in the oven about 350 degrees.

Other suggestions out there?


Austin, Tex.: I have a suggestion for using today's tip on Prepackaged frozen meals. I occasionally like to bring them to work (we have a fridge and microwave), but they usually don't fill me up. I buy a bag of frozen veggies or greens to add to my entree and microwave them together. The result is lots more volume and flavor, very few additional calories, and I get more veggies in on my daily requirements!;

Sally Squires: Great idea, Austin. When I was in the grocery this weekend--am I the only one who made multiple trips there?--I looked at the wide array of possibilities. And there really are a lot. I loved the suggestion from an expert to re-use the dishes for easy portion control, didn't you? Thanks!


Rockville, Md.: I'm just sharing to say how proud I am of my hard work this weekend. I stuck to my plan of taking a little bit of each item that I really wanted, and not taking anything that simply wasn't worth my while.

I balanced that with fitness. I started running for weight loss this year, and decided to toss my hat into the ring for a race this weekend. I did TWO!; I ran in a Turkey Chase on Thursday and a Turkey Burnoff on Saturday. Nothing too huge, but enough to feel accomplished in many ways.

One of the best fitness motivational statements that I've learned to say to myself when I don't feel like working out is "you'll never regret a workout". It's so true, I have never gone to the gym, or taken a walk, and said "I wish I hadn't done that". I can think of countless times in the past where I can say that about poor food choices or workouts NOT taken...

Sally Squires: Congratulations, Rockville! And that's so true about the workout. Lately, with extra busy schedules, we've still been taking a long walk with the dog, even if it's 10:30 p.m. It sure feels good. And forgive a personal moment here, but that dog is undergoing surgery today, so we're hoping for the best.


Washington, Mich.: This has been a great motivation for me and I am happy to report that I weigh 8 lbs. lighter since November 1!;

Sally Squires: Wow! Did I say Wow! Of course, let me also hasten to add that this is great, but it's also not the purpose of the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge. But let me also say that you're not the first to notice that by holding the line, you can inadvertantly drop a little weight, which is a nice extra. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Fit v fat--What about the other way around? Can a very thin person be very unfit?

Sally Squires: You bet, DC. In fact, Stephen Blair, CEO of the Cooper Institute, talks about that very thing. As I recall, being thin and unfit was a worse health risk than being fat and fit. Thanks!


Takoma Park, Md.: I am trying to eat healtier but am having trouble, especially in the late afternoon at work.

I have a decent breakfast (toast with cream cheese) and lunch (protein, starch, some veg and a bit of sugar for desert), still by 3pm I am hungry and craving sugar. I have tried sugar free or low sugar snacks (pudding, granola etc) but I still find myself in front of the candy machine getting a chocolate bar. Any suggestions? Thanks

Sally Squires: Yep. Sounds like you may need to eat a little more during the day. If you're feeling hungry by 3 p.m., odds are you didn't eat enough at lunch and breakfast. (Let me add, that some folks also find stress to be an appetite enhancer too.)

Your food choices are good. But how about more fruit and vegetables. And you don't say what the protein or starch is or how much you're eating. Absent those details, some thoughts on snacks that would be healthier than what you're likely getting in the vending machines:

yogurt and fruit--which could help with your sweet cravings;
hot chocolate--madewith skim milk. I've been fixing my own at night with 1 cup of skim milk, 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa (15 calories by the way!); 1-2 tsp. sugar (although you could use a sugar substitute.);
trail mix (made with your favorite unsweetened whole grain cereal, some slivers of nuts, maybe a few soy nuts, some dried fruit, pretzels--you get the idea.)
A half peanut butter and jelly sandwich on a whole wheat bread.
veggies sticks with yogurt or low-fat Ranch dressing.

Other suggestions out there?


The Hill, Washington, D.C.: I love your Holiday Challenge!; It is helping me stay "moderate" throughout the deluge of high-fat, high sugar food in this holiday season. I am really looking forward to waking up on Jan. 1 not feeling like I suddenly have to "repent" for a couple of months of overindulgence. I, and the pants I will hopefully be able to STILL fit into on Jan. 1, thank you!;

Sally Squires: You're welcome, DC! Glad you're joining us. We're all in this together. Thanks.


Evansville, Ind.: Regarding keeping fit during the holidays...My Monday evening ritual is combining fitness & shopping. I walk the mall first, then shop a few stores, take those bags to the car, walk the mall again, then shop, to the car and one last walk of the mall. I get some window shopping in while I'm walking and making my plans for the next stop. It sure beats constant shopping!;

Sally Squires: It sure does Evansville, and those multiple trips not only get your more activity, but I bet they also clear your head a little too. Sounds like a great plan. And it also probably helps you avoid the holiday back problems that were highlighted in last week's e-mail newsletter.Thanks!


Westwood, Mass.: For fast nutritious menus check out Jacques Pepin's website at KQED.ORG, he has all the menus posted from his new book fast cooking my way, it is great for ideas. When you get to the website KQED.org type in a search for "Jacques Pepin" or "cooking fast"

Sally Squires: That's a great source, Westwood. Chef Pepin has some really delicious fast food recipes. Thanks for the tip.


New York New Yawk: I gained a pound last week - ugh. I have been dying to get an elliptical machine for my home, but don't want to break the bank. Any suggestions for a gym-quality, reasonably priced machine?

Sally Squires: Hey New York. That pound could easily be water weight. Go back to your healthy habits and see where you are later in the week. As for that elliptical trainer, around DC, we have some places where you can used gym equipment for pretty reasonable prices. Have you also checked Ebay?

Other thoughts out there?


Gaithersburg, Md.: Fat vs. fit --

My vote: fit trumps fat. But - fit and thin trumps fit and fat.

I've been both -- fat/fit and thin/fit. When I was fat/fit, I stalled out in terms of my ability to improve my cardio level. When I lost weight, my fitness almost automatically kicked up several notches. I can't say whether it was because I was dragging 80 fewer pounds around, or because my blood lipids and general health improved further.

Also, I still had metabolic syndrome as a fatty, even after I got fit again. Losing the excess pounds kicked me out of the syndrome -- I lost my spare tire and reacquired my hourglass figure (a thrill at age 50+, you better believe it!;).

And -- very important -- carrying 80 fewer pounds around is a lot easier on my knees and other joints. Less wear and tear.

My recommendation: go for fit first. After you've done that, consider making a run at being thin (or thinner), also. It is possible to keep the weight off -- even if you've been fat for many years. And being fit and active makes staying thin a whole lot easier.

Sally Squires: Hey Gaithersburg: You raise a really important point. Lots of people get interested in losing weight for appearance sake, rather than for feeling more energetic and simply being able to do the things that they used to take for granted--like climbing the stairs without being winded or chasing after their kids--and actually catching them! Thanks for your note. You are an inspiration.


Washington, D.C.: I always have a standby when I am feeling super-lazy in the kitchen.

I make a bit of pasta, heat up a veggie chicken patty (which can be very spicy and flavorful!;), throw in some sugar snap peas, and then toss it all up with some heart-healthy olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

It's all done in about 15 mintues and hits all the food groups as well as the spot!;

Sally Squires: Sounds great, DC. And there's a good example of a really fast meal for that LPCer who needs one when coming home after a workout. Vegetarians could re-heat a veggie burger the same way. Thanks!


Reston, Va.: Sally, just a quick question about fruit servings. I often eat fruit spreads with my biscuits or toast in the morning (or in smoothies when in a rush). If these are labeled as "100% fruit," do they count as fruit servings? What about 100% juices? Thank you!;

Sally Squires: They do count towards those 7 to 9 servings per day of fruit, Reston. So does that juice. A serving of juice is 6 ounces. (And if you look in your grandmother's china closet, you'll probably find that she has some 4 ounce glasses for juice. You don't need that much because it's quite concentrated.) A while back, there was a Lean Plate Club column on hidden sources of fruit and vegetables. I'll dig it out and put a link to it in next week's newsletter. I believe that it included an estimate for that fruit spread. In the meantime, you can figure that it's certainly less than a serving, probably more like a 1/4. Hope that helps. Thanks!


Richmond, Va.: A few suggestions for the worker looking for mid-afternoon snacks: one of those great 100-Calorie packs of Wheat Thins with Laughing Cow cheese; Skippy peanut butter Squeez Stix; fresh (or are they called dried?) dates; sugar snap peas, baby carrots and dip (yogurt and blue cheese is delicious!;); Kashi GoLean Crunch and yogurt... Just some ideas that I've used over the years.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions, Richmond! Thanks for mentioning Laughing Cow. And by the way, it's not low-cal, but some cheeses such as blue cheese or Shropshire can go a long way with a very little amount (just 1/2 ounce) because they are so flavorful.

And a salad is also not a bad afternoon snack...


Washington, D.C.: Ok, this can't sound any dumber, but since this is anonymous, and maybe I won't be the only one it works for...

At work, when I feel like I need to ferret out someone's chocolate stash or hit the candy machine, I get up, go into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror (my face, that is, not my body, though maybe that'd work too). I find it hard to look at myself in the eye, so to speak, having lost 30 pounds (with 15 more to go) and agree that I shoudl go eat candy. I learned this quite by accident one day when I stopped in teh bathroom on my way to the candy machine and saw myself in the mirror and realized I just couldn't do that to myself.

Sally Squires: Doesn't sound dumb at all, DC. Sounds quite reasonable and rationale. Great idea. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: For Takoma Park, who is getting hungry mid-afternoon: My advice is to try to eliminate all refined suger during the day--it makes you more hungry. If you want something sweet, have some fruit or maybe a drink with a sugar substitute. My personal favorite snacks are carrots and soynuts. When I am hungry, I snack on those and the fiber fills me up. Another good choice right now in the stores is clementines.

Sally Squires: Hear, hear, DC. And since most people never get enough fruit and veggies, they are indeed a wonderful snack. And it is nice to see those Clementines reappear. I also brought part of a fresh pineapple for a snack today, figuring that at some point, something sweet may seem quite appealing...


Washington, D.C.: I think the whole fat vs. fit debate is a red herring. Of course, people should focus on being fit, not on meeting some kind of aesthetic standard. Certainly, people can be "fat" according to Hollywood standards and still be fit.

But the fact remains that very few people will remain clinically obese if they eat healthy food in the correct portions and meet the recommended minimum guidelines for exercise - which is at least 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular exercise (meaning you are getting your heartrate up) most days per week. Doing tai chi is great, but it isn't going to get you fit. and that's just the minimum. Plus, to be fit, protect bone health, and maintain muscle mass as we age, people should also be weight training.

Since most healthy individuals will not be obese if they follow these guidelines, being "fat" in the sense of having a body fat percentage that puts you in the obese range is a good indication that a person is either NOT fit or has some kind of health problem affecting their weight that should be treated by a doctor.

Sally Squires: I'm glad you mentioned fat percentage, DC, because some people would argue that body mass index doesn't take into account higher muscle mass of athletes. Although, let me also hasten to add, most of us are kidding ourselves to think that we fit into that group. Thanks!


Holland, Mich.: I have been crazy busy lately, but slowed down
enough over the holiday weekend to develop a nasty
cold. I packed a workout bag today, but my energy
level is incredibly low. Does exercise while you're
sick speed recovery, or do the opposite?

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear that you're not feeling well, Holland. Hope you feel better very soon. Answer depends on how sick you feel and how you feel if you try working out. If it's a minor illness, there's some evidence to suggest a workout (mild) may help. But if you're really feeling crummy, bag it. And if you can't decide, then try a walk and see how that goes before proceeding...Wishing you a speedy recovery. Thanks!


Durham, N.C.: Just wanted to pass along some well wishes to you for your dog-- they're family, and we all suffer when they do. I know we're all hoping everything goes well and she/he is back on his/her paws soon!;

Sally Squires: Thanks Durham. Much appreciated!


Rockville, Md.: Sally, I took your suggestion of snacking on raw vegetables while cooking on Thanksgiving and it really worked for me... I supplemented it with a quick tzatziki dip with whole-milk yogurt, grated cucumbers, garlic, and dill. For vegetables I had baby carrots and jicama. I had just the right amount of appetite for dinner, and though I had seconds and two desserts, all in all I felt pretty good at the end.

Sally Squires: Isn't that tzatziki great? Sounds like you really paced yourself well. Thanks!


Downeast Maine: I'm a 55 year old male with a desk job and I'm having trouble losing weight. I'm pretty active but have hypothroidism and take synthroid. Might this have a negative impact on my body's ability to metabolize and shed pounds?

Sally Squires: Welcome, Downeast! Sorry to hear about your thyroid problem, which can indeed affect weight loss. That synthroid helps replace what your thyroid doesn't produce, which conceivably should help boost your metatbolism a little. But this is one area where a chat with your doctor is in order. And you might ask for a consult with a registered dietitian who specializes in helping those with thyroid problems. Do know, however, that desk jobs, age, etc. also contribute...Let us know how it goes.


Alexandria, Va.: You asked how we did... Weeelllll, I found myself with way too much time on my hands over the Thanksgiving break--and way too much pie, too. After doing really well for a long time, I "binged" on pie and ice cream and pumpkin muffins over the four-day holiday. I did do the Turkey Trot in Alexandria (a 5-mile race on Thanksgiving Day) but the rest of the time I was sedentary because my gym is near my office, not near my home. End result? I gained 9 pounds in one week.

I am getting back on track now by writing down what I am eating and counting my intake (points).

Sally Squires: I'm sure you are not alone in over-enjoying the holiday, Alexandria. (Not that any of us at the Lean Plate CLub would have any personal experience with that!)But you're doing the absolute right thing. Thanksgiving is over. There are still four weeks of holidays ahead and you're already getting back on track. Way to go! Let us know how you do. Thanks!


washingtonpost.com: Looking for a recipe for low fat chicken fingers? Check out this little goody that only takes 10 minutes to prepare.


Bergen, Norway: Hi Sally,

I am new to the Holiday Challenege and to your column and chat. I am so excited I found you!; I have a suggestion for Gaithersburg, MD. I think the best fast food is fish. I take any kind of fish (wild salmon, when I was in the states. Cod here in Norway) and just put it in parchment paper with a little salt and pepper, fold the paper around the fish to make a little package, put it in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes, steam some frozen veggies or make a salad and you have a perfect, light after-workout meal.

I also have a question. My husband and I are going to his parents for 2 weeks around Christmas. His mother is the greatest cook in the world and loves to really go all out and make delicious elaborate meals from appetizer to dessert. That's fine if it were just Christmas or just a weekend, but two weeks could really add up. Any thoughts on how I can handle this without insulting her wonderful cooking?

Thank you for your great work!;

Sally Squires: Welcome Bergen! We're delighted that you found us. And I know of your great city from the work of Dr. Hansen--the scientist who discovered that leprosy is caused by a mycobacterium.

Anyway, I digress. You want to know about Christmas and all those wonderful things that your mother-in-law is about to make. Portion control is going to be really important here. But of course for the sake of family harmony and future generations you want to partake of some of these goodies too. So work to fill up on the lower calorie food and allow yourself a small treat per meal. Sounds like you already have an idea of what your mother-in-law is likely to make so you can start planning ahead.

Maybe you can also help her in the kitchen and learn more about how she does her cooking to pass on to future generations. That could help keep you busy and presumably not eating, but still appreciating what she's doing.

Activity will also help. So be take a walk where you can. Offer to be the one to run errands as a helper to your mother in law. That will also give you an opportunity to get burn some extra calories.

Good luck and let us know how it goes! Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: I have the lean plate club newsletter open and I can't get the recipe for the low fat chicken fingers to come up. It goes to a yahoo link. Is there another way I can access that recipe?? Thanks!;!;

Sally Squires: Thanks for letting us know, DC. We're working on getting a link up in this chat now...


Re Frittata: How long do you cook that in the oven?

Sally Squires: It depends on how firm it was before going into the oven and how gooey you like it. Usually I have it in the oven for about 5 minutes, but if it's particularly thick, it may take 10. A little parmesan on top is also great, by they way. And any fresh herbs you have can also add a lot of flavor. I've tossed in cut up leftover potatoes, olives, the works...


Silver Spring, Md.: renting ellipticals?

I will be home on maternity leave for three months starting (hopefully) in February. I was wondering if there are any places that rent decent elliptical machines for short periods of time. I belong to a gym, but its near the office, so I plan on freezing my membership and would like to put that money towards renting some equipment that I can use during the new one's nap times.

Any ideas???

Sally Squires: That's a great idea, Silver Spring. I'll bet you can. You might start with a company called Leisure Fitness and see if they offer rental equipment. I'll see what else I can uncover and will put info in next week's chat or newsletter.


Washington, D.C.: A previous poster mentioned "metabolic syndrome", what is that?

I've been working out for 5 months and still look way too much like the Pillsbury DoughBoy for my liking.

I'll keep on working out, for one thing the water pressure at the gym is much better than in my Capital Hill home, but I need to lose some serious weight as well.

Sally Squires: Great question, DC. The metabolic syndrome is characterized by a constellation of factors that includes excess abdominal fat, elevated blood pressure and triglycerides, and low levels of the high-density lipoprotein, the "good" cholesterol. Having the metabolic syndrome puts you at increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Hope that helps. Thanks for asking.


Albany, N.Y.: Sally,

I just wanted to send you a hug and wish your dog a quick recovery. Our family dog had a tumor removed last Wednesday and so, unfortunately, Thanksgiving was cancelled. I didn't have to worry about eating too much, but its not a weight loss plan I would recommend. I'll be sure to use all your great tips for Christmas though!;

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear that, Albany. Sure hope your dog recovers quickly. Thanks!


Thanksgiving: I am a terrible over-snacker. Put me in the kitchen and rather than waiting for the meal to be done, I have one while I wait, and one when it comes out (not cuz I'm hungry, cuz I'm embarrased to let on how much I ate while cooking). Resolution this year? We went out for T-giving, and then went bowling. Didn't pre-eat, didn't overeat, and moved, even if just a little, afterwards. Hanukah and Christmas will be a little harder, but at least 1 out of 3 was a success.

Sally Squires: What a great idea! My money is on you to make it three for three--and improve your bowling handicap. Thanks!


Chicago, Ill.: What are some of the foods to eat to boost good cholesterol? I can't seem to get it to 40 or above (37 right now, overall 196, LDL 149).

I lost 30 pounds since last spring, so my other figures are in good shape (no more blood pressure medicine, blood sugar from horrible to normal). I did it through portion control, exercise, and eliminating soft drinks.

Sally Squires: Hey Chicago: Boosting the so-called good cholesterol, high density lipoprotein, seems to be tougher than reducing the bad cholesterol, low density lipoprotein.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institutes suggests that these things can help boost HDL:
1. Quit smoking if you smoke
2. Lose weight, if you're overweight.
3. Get active. There's a slow steady rise in HDL with activity.

Hope that helps. Let us know how you do. Thanks!


Silver Spring, Md.: For Takoma Park's mid-afternoon munchies, I would suggest more frequent mini meals. That works great for me--and I never feel quilty. Because I never allow myself to get overly hungry I don't have trouble with making unhealthy choices (99% of the time.) I also don't eat anything with NurtiSweet. Yucky stuff in my opinion. If I want something with sugar, I have it but I don't do that very often except for 1/2 tsp raw sugar in my coffee. I figure my pancreas sees nutrisweet as sugar anyway so I may as well have a little of the "real" stuff. I believe some studies have shown that people who rely on artifically sweetened products have more trouble losing and maintaining their weight loss. I, for one, just think it is unnatural--sugar isn't all that great either but I definitely limit the amount I eat.
I eat lots of small mini meals such as WW Matza or Baker's whole grain flax bread w/1/2 T Peanut Butter, 1/2 c. plain yogurt with chopped up fruit and/or cereal, 6 almonds or small amount of walnuts. I eat a lot of high fiber goodies like Kashi Go Lean cereal, oat bran, etc. They are very filling and stick with you. Are you drinking plenty of water throughout the day, too? I always keep lots of fruit around and usually balance fruit with protein, such as FF cottage cheese/pear, apple/Lite Laughing Cow or Peanut Butter, etc.
Also, if possible, when you grab that quick snack, how about a bathroom trip that takes you outside the building for even a couple of minutes of fresh air. Amazing how rejuvenating that can be. Speaking of which I am going to do that myself in a few minutes....
Sally, I hope your puppy is feeling better, too.

Sally Squires: Those mini meals can really be a great habit, Silver Spring--provided of course, that people who eat them keep them mini. Some have trouble doing that. But it's a great suggestion and as you prove it really can work well. Ditto for that fresh air. We really do become creatures of stagnant habit, don't we? Thanks very much.


elliptical at home: Having been through the home elliptical search, I will say this: If you want a decent piece of equipment, it'll cost you at the very least, $1500. I have a Nautalus, which I absolutely love. I got it on sale for around $1700. It's VERY big and sturdy - not for someone who wants a cheapie fold-up, but it takes a beating as it's club-quality. The cheapo ellipticals are jerky and may just cause you more harm than good. It's worth the money for a really good one.

Sally Squires: Great feedback on this device. Thanks very much!


Silver Spring, Md.: Downeast Maine,

Until I switched from synthroid to Unithroid I couldn't get better. I don't take the generic either--only Unithroid. It made all the difference. I have lost 130 lbs.!; Now I give WW a little of that credit but without the Unithroid it would have never happened.

Sally Squires: Wow, Silver Spring. That's wonderful. Sure hope that Downeast is reading this. Thanks very much!


Washington, D.C.: Sally,

A month or so ago you mentioned a under-the-desk type of exercise bicycle. I don't recall the details of how to track it down, can you remind me, please?

Sally Squires: Yes, indeed I can get you that. It's called the Eloton SimCycle. You can find reviews of it at epinions.com


Ealing, London, UK: Hi Sally

Over here arugula is known as Rocket, and in some places Roquette.

Still tastes great though!;


Sally Squires: Thank you for adding that to our growing list of common foods with different names in different places. And yes, sometimes here, we call it that too, but mostly it's arugula. Thanks!


For Downeast, Maine: Hi, it's Gaithersburg again --

Everybody's different, and it may depend on how much Synthroid you take, but --

I also have hypothyroid, and have just been kicked up another notch on my dose. I did not found my thyroid condition a barrier to weight loss and maintenance -- in fact, my resting metabolic rate is pretty high.

I found that changing my attitude from "can't" to "can" had a lot more to do with my eventual weight loss, than did my thyroid condition. Where weight loss is concerned, your brain is far more important than your glands.

Sally Squires: More good feedback for Downeast. Thanks very much.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally. I found that whenever I made cookies, my husband and I would eat several throughout the day. Now, whenever I get the urge to bake cookies, I only bake enough for my husband and myself to satisfy our sweet craving. I shape the rest of the cookies and line them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and then put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes or until frozen solid. I then put the cookies into a large freezer bag and stick them back in the freezer. Whenever we get a sweet craving, we pull out a couple of frozen cookies, put them in the oven (or toaster oven) while it's preheating to defrost and then bake them for the normal time. I find that most of the time, I forget about these cookies, until I find myself craving something sweet. It also makes it easier one of us to have a cookie, even when the other person doesn't want to.

Sally Squires: What a great idea and great example of having your Christmas cookies and eating them too. Thanks very much!


New Carrollton, Md.: For the Gaithersburg member in search of late, light after-workout meals.

I have evening classes two nights a week, so we're always looking for quick, light supper ideas. One that works well for us is veggie burgers. We prefer Boca with Garlic or Onion but it's a matter of taste. Martin has some high-fiber, low-calorie buns that are small, but work well with veggie burgers.

Another suggestion is tofu. Cube it, toss it into a pan of sauteeing veggies - I love the baby blends Safeway offers in its store brand line - with seasonings and a light, fat-free dressing or marinade. Satisfying, crisp and good for you.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions! Thanks New Carrollton.


Washington, D.C.: Could you provide the recipe (or an active link) to the Low Fat Chicken Fingers you mentioned in today's newsletter. The link doesn't seem to be working, and this could be a healthy and easy alternative for my finicky 7 year old. THANKS!;

Sally Squires: Appreciate the heads up DC. Link has been posted in this chat. Sorry there was a glitch. We'll figure out why.


Bristol, Va.: Hi, Sally:

I'm trying to lose weight AGAIN. My main problem is that if I don't see results right away (maybe 5 pounds the first week), I feel like giving up. How can I see results more quickly (yet healthily) and not get discouraged?

Thank you!;

Sally Squires: It can get discouraging, can't it Bristol? That's why it's important to focus on the habits--not the weight. (And plus, this time of year, we're really focussing on maintaining weight because it's a difficult season to try to lose weight with all kinds of temptations around.) And also look at it this way: odds are you didn't add those unwanted pounds overnight. Odds are that you won't lse them that way either. Hang in there. Let us know how you do. You'll find lots of company and encouragement here.


Burke, Va.: I did great over Thanksgiving and had everything I wanted plus one glass of wine. I exercised, decorated, walked on my treadmill and drank lots of water. I have been measuring my food and cutting down on carbs or only using true whole wheat carbs. I also have oatmeal with blueberries almost every morning. My goal is to lose 5 pounds per month and as of Nov 30 I lost 4 this month, not bad for Thanksgiving (and leftovers) this month. Next month (COOKIES) will be the challenge!;

Sally Squires: They sure will, won't they, Burke! Sounds like you had a great plan! And those four pounds are a nice surprise. Thanks!


Winchester, Va.: I suffer from malnourishment due to malabsorption and pernicious anemia. How can I get the most nutrition and protein in every bite? I have NO appetite and often don't think about food until my sugar drops to a low level.

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear that you have been ailing Winchester. I urge you to consult with your doctor and get a referral to a registered dietitian. Do you eat your meals alone? Having company may also help you increase food and appetite--or just help you to remember to eat more regularly. Good luck and let us know how it goes.


Glendale, Ariz.: I read your weekly column with great interest. I prepare a quarterly newsletter at my place of work and always include a health page with updates on diet and exercise. Is it OK to use information from your Lean Plate column? I often find that in addition to articles on current research, your readers' suggestions are perfect for the Health Page. I have used this information in the past, but feel I should really ask for your permission. Perhaps you could let me know. Thanks.


Sally Squires: Thanks Glendale. I'm very honored. Our Lean Plate Club material is copyrighted by the Washington Post and by www.washingtonpost.com. So you may want to check the copyright notices at the bottom of the web page for more information. Or just e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com and I'll help you get in touch with the right people to ask. Links to our material is usually "kosher," but I'm not an expert in this so we ought to chat off line.


K Street, Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

Here's an idea my husband and I came up with for exercising over Thanksgiving. From Wednesday through Sunday, we alternated selecting a different form of exercise each day -- jogging Wednesday, a long walk while the bird roasted Thursday, biking on Friday -- you get the picture. It kept us motivated and not bored. In fact, it worked so well we're trying to fine one new activity each day between now and Christmas. The challenge is half the fun!;

Sally Squires: Great idea, K Street. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Won't be able to make the chat, so submitting early.

I wanted to recommend a wonderful cookbook called "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen" by Jack Bishop (known to many as the taste testing guy on PBS' America's Test Kitchen). It's got a number of fairly simple, healthful recipes, including a wonderful cream- and milk-free but very creamy tomato soup (a hit with my tasters) that involves roasting canned tomatoes. Fantastic!;

Another idea adapted from the book -- I've found a great way to eat tofu as sort of a pan-fried meat substitute. Take a block of extra firm tofu (must be extra firm) and drain the water from the package. Slice into 8 slices, each will be about a half inch thick. Place the slices between a few layers of paper towels for about ten minutes -- no need to weigh them down, they will cook fine.

Put a little olive oil in a nonstick pan (must be nonstick). Add the tofu slices, and cook on each side for about 7 minutes. Then add your choice of sauce -- Jack Bishop's cookbook gives a few recipes using vegetable broth mixed with balsamic vinegar, cayenne pepper, and other tasty things, but you can also just use bottled marinades (Trader Joe's makes a very nice black bean and ginger bottled marinade).

Cook for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is a little thickened, turning the tofu slices once to coat them. Serve plain or over rice. Yummy and lowfat, low calorie (the tofu by itself has only 250 calories per serving).

Sally Squires: This sounds really good. Thanks for the tip and for submitting early.


Westwood, Mass.: Hey Sally and fellow LPCers, tis the season to be careful about too much holiday calories. I have found the best breakfast, a third of a cup of oatmeal made with some craisins and skim milk a minute and a half in the microwave, then let it cool to room temp, cover with a cup of low fat fruit yougurt, and wow, you think your eating an oatmeal cookie with icecream on top. Use a different flavor every day and you won't get bored. The meal stays with me all morning and I have a soup or salad for lunch. Dinners lately have been asian with lots of stuff from the Super 88 market, bokchoy, sprouts, oyster sauce, lots of legumes in curries using low fat plain yogurt for sauces, no wonder people from that continent stay so slim.

I was thrilled to see folks looking for my healthy oatmeal cookie recipe, they really are the greatest, especially when made with bananas in them.

The pedometer is clicking away at about 10-13k each day and the lbs are slowly but surely going bye, bye.

Stay the course fellow LPCers there is a new you around the corner just don't look back.

Sally Squires: Well said, Westwood. Thanks!


Reston, VA: Sally - Thanks for all that the LPC does to keep us motivated. I've lost 28 pounds this year and have maintained during the Holiday Challenge....so far!; Went to my dentist for the first time since starting my new lifestyle and the hygienist complimented me on having very little plaque and tartar -- and obviously no cavities. She asked what I was doing differently - and the only thing that had really changed is my diet. Is this a nice 'extra' side benefit of changing how I eat (less sugar, more fruits and veggies, plenty of water, fewer processed foods) or just a coincidence?

Sally Squires: Don't know Reston, but it is an interesting coincidence. I'll see what else I can find out about it and report back. Congratulations on what you've accomplished. That's awesome.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners are:

Bergen Norway; DC (for the mirror question);Rockville (never regret a workout) and WDC. Please e-mail me with your snail mail addresses to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please put winner in the subject line.

Next week, look for a free offer for Holiday Challenge magnets. Continued success to all.

Next week also: Energy boosters to help you get through the holidays.


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