Lean Plate Club
Nutrition and Health

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:00 PM

Welcome to The Lean Plate Club, hosted by Washington Post health and nutrition writer Sally Squires. Share your tips on healthy recipes, meal plans, sugar alternatives and resisting overeating with other readers.

Now that the school bell is ringing for many kids, there's a morning time crunch at home that often leaves little time for breakfast. How do you entice your kids to the table -- and make sure that they eat the food that will help boost their performance in school? And what can you eat in the morning to feel sharper on the job? During today's discussion, Sally will share tips to keep your family well nourished as school starts and life goes from the lazy days of summer to the fast pace of fall.

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.

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 "Secrets of the Lean Plate Club" (St. Martin's Press; 2006).

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 .

Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. I've just dashed in the door from a National Institutes of Health conference on multivitamins. A scientific panel is reviewing some of the latest evidence as I write this and is slated to make recommendations for research directions tomorrow. Nestled in much of the discussion are some nuggets about multivitamins, so watch for more in the upcoming days, especially in next week's Health section.

We've got a lot up for discussion today including more on peanut and nut allergies...trans fats..and lots more...The LPC e-mail newsletter should be hitting your in box about now. If you're not yet among the more than 250,000 people who subscribe to this free weekly service, you can sign up at our home-page.

Now on to the chat!


Washington, D.C.: Suggestion for a future column (unless you've already done this): How often do people weigh themselves. I remember one recent column on WashingtonPost.com about someone who weighed himself obsessively, but there seem to be different "strategies" - once a week, once a day, same time every other day, after working out, etc. I'm curious about what other people do.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion. We haven't talked about that topic for a while--probably since last fall. Findings from the National Weight Control Registry--that group of several thousand successful losers--suggests that regularly monitoring your weight is a key to long term weight maintenance.

But you're right: the scale affects different people in different ways. For some, if it goes in the wrong direction, it can make or break the day. For others, it's no big deal. So I'll put it on the list of future topics.

How about it: how often do you weigh yourself? Weigh in on this question.


Alexandria, Va.: Very disturbing trend with most, and I mean about 90 percent, of the young females I know...salt addiction. I don't mean sprinking a lot of salt on food, I am talking about eating salt straight as a "snack". All the new gourmet rock salts: grey salt, Peruvian pink, etc. Obviously this is a health problem, but to be honest I am looking for an answer as to why. Is it just the crunch and salt that is driving this behavior in so many young women today? Is it some sort of dietary problem? Any information you can provide?

Sally Squires: That's a new trend for sure. About 80% of the sodium consumed in the U.S. is found in restaurant and processed food. A surprisingly small proportion comes from the salt shaker, but if this trend grows larger, that could presumably change.

Current recommendation by the way is to keep sodium consumption at 2,300 milligrams or less for those who are up to age 50. After that, recommended intake drops to about 1,500 milligrams per day. Given that many canned soups contain up to 1,000 milligrams per cup, one can reach that level pretty quickly...and that's before sampling that salt as you describe.

Thanks for the tip.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm wondering if in fact the allergy is to nuts or if the real issue is eating nuts in conjunction with other processed foods that folks eat. Case in point, your saying it used to be a mainstay...well folks did not eat processed foods - so are nuts really the allergen?

Sally Squires: Apparently, yes. I won't bore you with all the details, but fairly precise studies have been done to isolate that it is in nuts, peanuts and other foods that accounts for the allergic reaction. In peanuts, there are some proteins that are to blame. When peanuts are dry roasted, I was told that they seem to appear in higher concentrations. But this is still an early line of scientific inquiry.

And by the way, the smell of peanuts does not apparently contain anything that can cause allergic reactions, although it could presumably make those who are allergic a bit concerned. There's been a study done that looked at that question too.

I was quite intrigued by the use of a food called Bamba (spelling?) in Israel. Apparently this is a staple of infants and toddlers. It was described as "cheese doodles" without the cheese. Think peanuts instead. And apparently this food melts in kids mouths. Peanut allergies appear to be lower in Israel than in Jewish communities in other countries.



Annapolis, Md.: Hi Sally.Thanks for bringing a confusing issue "out of its shell". I sent you an email last week about nut allergies, but the system may have malfunctioned, so I'll send this to your office email as well. I'm one of those who has contact issues with nuts. If I touch nut oils, my hands may be fine, but if I don't realize i've done so, and those oils are transfered to ny face or eyes, I really do have a problem. It even works with food, transfering oils to the wrong destination. How can I clalm this? Well, we went out Saturday to a good restaurant (careful, likely to observed good levels of food handling, etc.) to celebrate a family birthday. I gave my usual spiel about "no nuts or nut oils" and was given a lovely sald from which the nuts had been omitted. And I still reacted to nuts. Further investigation by the server & the chef (kudos all round to them) found that the folks doing food prep had not washed their hands after handling nuts & before preparing my nut-free salad. So I could have picked up the allergans transferred to the food from the hands, or possibly from the other tools used in the salad prep (chopping block or knives for the dried fruit and or cheese also in the salad). Thanks for the forum, I'll sit back & read it later, since I can't participate now.

Sally Squires: Sounds like the restaurant management was quite astute and concerned. I'm with you: kudos indeed. Glad that you didn't have a worse reaction.


Kailua, Hawaii: Affected by no-peanut policy?

I am a consultant dietitian for a behavioral hospital. I have an autistic 12-year-old patient who goes to school from the hospital. He is a very picky eater and one of the few things he likes is a peanut butter sandwich. I cannot ask the kitchen to prepare them for him, however, because the school does not allow any peanut products as one of the other children at school has an allergy.--Daryl, RD

Sally Squires: That's too bad. It also provides a good example of how complex these issues can be for those with competing health problems. Are the other kids in the school autistic? Could there be any flexibility? By age 12, it seems like the child who is affected by the allergy could be warned not to eat your patient's peanut butter sandwich, don't you think?


Food Find: Austrailian style yogurt that I found at Whole Food! Yum!

Sally Squires: Sounds very good. Got a brand name to pass along? We're all ears. Thanks.


Alexandria, Va.: After losing 25 pounds a few years ago (by changing a few bad habits), I now rarely weigh myself. Maybe once a month for curiosity's sake, or when I visit a doctor. My weight always stays within a five pound range so why bother? But a lot of my friends who have scales (and "diet") weigh themselves daily and are pretty obsessed with any and all fluctuations, plus their self-esteem is very often tied to the outcome.

Sally Squires: You illustrate a great point: if your habits are in order, it may not be important for you to weigh yourself as often. But if they're not, it's likely key to get on the scale to make sure that things don't go too off course.

Other options: use a belt, a pair of pants or other clothing as an "unofficial" scale. Or track percent body fat.

Thanks and congratulations on maintaining that 25 pound loss.


Lexington Park, Md.: I would like to just comment on the discussion going on about peanut allergies. I suffer from a severe life-threatening allergy to peanuts and was not surprised by the confusion in some of the postings regarding the different levels of reactions. There are some people that only suffer problems if they are to eat peanuts, however others, like myself cannot even be in the same room with any peanut products, including candy bars or health bars made with peanuts. People do not realize how serious this allergy can be and make light of my situation, but with this health issue I am always aware of what people are eating around me, if someone ate a peanut product I can tell just by them standing there talking to me. It makes traveling on a plane very difficult. I basically just wanted to let people know about this problem and say that if someone says they are allergic to something don't make light of the situation as you never know what someone goes through until you walk a day in their shoes.

Sally Squires: Very sorry to hear about your condition, Lexington Park. You must have to be really careful. It was interesting, however, to read the results of Dr. Hugh Sampson's investigations of people who experienced problems while flying. He found that it required opening a lot of peanuts--25 bags at the same time--to put enough allergens in the air to have an effect. And he did note that the smell alone of peanuts will not generally produce a serious reaction. But it would certainly seem reasonable if one is highly sensitive to peanuts or other foods, to be quite cautious when the aroma hits your nostrils. Thanks for posting today.


Newton, Mass.: I've started to make wheat berry salad for my family and its been a great hit. The wheat berries are nutty in taste, have a firm texture even after cooking and are made from whole grains. The wheat berry salad is served cold and can be made with spices and seasonings to suite your taste.

This is how I do it.

Soak - 1 to 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries in cold water overnight or for several hours.

Drain and transfer to a pot, cover with water and cook until tender using low to medium heat - aproximately 20-30 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Berries should be al dente, not mushy and not too hard.

In another bowl make a marinade: I use two tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon tumeric or curry powder (to taste). Whisk to mix.

Add drained, cooked wheat berries.

Add chopped parsley and/or dill - - at least one half cup

1/2 cup roasted pecans, chopped

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Mix and serve.

The wheat berries can be purchased in a health food store such as Whole Foods.


Sally Squires: There's a wonderful whole grain that many people miss. I'll bet those cranberries give it great flavor. Thanks much for sharing your recipe,Newton.


Washington, D.C.: Sally,

Thanks for doing this web chat - I look forward to it every week. You asked in the email today to talk about things we are doing to stay in motion. I recently started training for a half marathon through the AIDS Marathon program. I have never been a runner, but wanted to take on a new physical challenge after losing about 40 pounds this past year. I am really enjoying the run/walk method as well as conquering my allergies and fear of running by being outside. Reading the chats on Washington Post have been really motivational, and I just wantd to share! Thanks.

Sally Squires: Glad you did, DC. And your 40 pounds, combined with the earlier LPCer's 25 pounds, puts pounds lost on this web chat alone at 65 pounds. Very cool! Good luck with your training. Hope you'll let us know how the run goes. Sounds like a win-win. Thanks!


'Weighing In': I weigh every morning that I'm at home (I travel a lot for work). It doesn't really make or break my day but if I'm up a pound, I am more careful about my snacks during the day and portion sizes for meals. I'd rather cut back for a day or two than the several months that it took me to lose 40+ pounds. I really believe that if I didn't weigh regularly and saw a 5 pound gain, I'd start an eating binge that wouldn't quit. So, I know for me, it works to keep me going!

My husband laughed at me at first but now is also a daily 'weigher'. On days that he's up, he's more likely to ask for a low carb dinner that evening.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you have stumbled upon what the National Weight Control Registry members also do very successfully. And with your 40 pounds lost--very impressive!--we're up to 105 pounds shed on this chat by my math. Thanks for weighing in two ways today. (I couldn't resist.)


Washington, D.C.: re: weighing myself

I've found that if I don't weigh myself every day, I gain weight. Even if I feel that I'm not doing anything differently, if I step on the scale after a week or two of not regularly checking, I've gained 2-5lbs. And if I weigh myself every day, I will often lose 1/2 - 2lbs a week (and that's my goal).

Sally Squires: Make that another vote for climbing on the scale in the morning. Point to note (and a tip that you'll also find in Secrets of the Lean Plate Club): be sure to weigh yourself at the same time and under the same conditions. Best time is when you first wake up, au naturel and with the scale in the same place on the bathroom floor (or wherever it resides.)



Children's Food: I was quite disturbed at something I realized today. I usually buy stoney field yogurt for my son, but this past weekend, my husband bought yoplait yogurt aimed at kids, it had pictures of Dora the Explorer on the packaging. On a hunch I looked at the ingrediants and there it was high fructose corn syrup. I told my husband not to bring it anymore, since I avoid those products. He was surprised because the yoplaits he gets (for adults) doesn't have it. I don't have a yoplait in front of me to confirm this, but its disturbing to me that things advertized for children are often sweetened up.

Sally Squires: We'll put up some links to the Yoplait website so you can check on-line. A lot of yogurts that are flavored have added sugar. One way around this: buy plain yogurt and add fruit or your choice of flavorings. Total yogurt still gets my vote. It's really delicious. I've also tried Activia recently. It's flavored but is not quite as sweet as some of the other blended yogurts.

Other yogurts favorites out there? Send them our way...


Framingham, agreeing with "weighing in": I have found that weighing frequently, with the mindset that a pound or two is quite a normal fluctuation, is a great way to keep in control and to avoid future, unwelcomed surprises. For me, it's a sure way of taking, keeping, and monitoring with control.

Sally Squires: That's another vote for regular weigh-ins? Anybody track their body fat or their other numbers, such as waistline, with a tape measure?


washingtonpost.com: yoplait.com: Trix , yoplait.com: Yumsters , yoplait.com: Go-Gurt


Food Find: It's called Wallaby Yogurt.

Sally Squires: Thank you!


Food for the Plane: Hi Sally - Thanks for the chats. I know you're asked this question often, but I'd like to go one step further for food that one can take on airplanes. I have blood sugar issues, so I have to eat 5 small meals a day. I'll be traveling for about 7 hours on Saturday and I have several ideas of food to take with me. I love the idea of string cheese and hummus, but will those foods stay good for 4-5 hours before I eat them in they aren't on ice? I really don't want to have to pack a cooler of stuff due to the fact that I'll have a carry-on and small suitcase. And sandwiches just get squished - I've tried that. Any other options besides veggies and trail mix for more a "complete lunch?"

Sally Squires: The hummus probably needs to stay on ice unless you consume it within two hours of taking it out of the 'fridge. Pasteurized, air tight cheese might be okay longer.

Other options that don't require refrigeration: veggies with individual packets of low fat ranch dressing. Cartons of milk--low-fat--that you can then pour over ice that you get on the plan.

You might also consider some packets of dehydrated soup that you could simply reconsitute with hot water on the plan. Many come in their own cups. If that's too unwieldy, transfer them to single plastic bags, then snag a cup with your hot water on the plane.

Check out the bags of tuna that don't require refrigeration until they're opened. (And don't need a can opener either.) Mix with a condiment size bag of mustard or mayo and relish. And you've got tuna salad. Serve with pita bread, whole grain preferrably, or whole grain crackers.

Peanut butter sandwich would be another nonrefrigerated option. Make it with sunflower seed butter if you have nut allergies or are worried about other passengers.

Finally, I found that Larabars were a wonderful snack on recent plane rides. They range from 190 to 230 calories, have no artificial ingredients and really taste great.

You can also bring along turkey, beef or salmon jerky. No refrigeration required there either. Ditto for dried fruit. Add some nuts or seeds to help balance out the sweetness.

Happy travels.


Alexandria, Va.: I weigh in once a week at WW. I figure their scales have to be accurate. I've been to 2 different doctors appointments within 10 days and had a 9 pound difference! Before WW it would make me upset. Now I tell them I'm on WW and they take that weight. Most scales are too inaccurate for me to trust. I'm nearly 30 lbs down, eat better and exercise.

Sally Squires: Great example of the wide variablity of scales. Reminds me of Al Roker on the Today Show earlier this year. He wasn't very happy that his home scale and the scale on the show were not the same. Understandably so.

By the way, with your 30 pounds I think we're up to about 140 pounds lost on this chat? Is my math correct? Thanks!


Yogurt: I get the Total fat-free yogurt (small size) and add one tablespoon of honey and some chopped walnuts - very filling and yummy.

Sally Squires: It is good, isn't it? I'd like to get a yogurt maker and see if I can duplicate the taste. Total is creamy and thick because some of the water is drained out of it. Another good choice: Trader Joe's Greek Style Cheese yogurt. But it is higher in fat than the nonfat Total.A cup has five grams of fat as I recall.


Washington, D.C.: Sorry, but I can't imagine a more unpopular person than one opening a pouch of tuna in a small space like an airplane.

Sally Squires: You're right! Excellent point! Better bring along a lot of lemon or eat it at the gate and then dump the bag in a trash can far, far away....


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

I've lost 15lbs, primarily through careful eating (working on upping the exercise). In my healthier-diet quest, I want to drink more tea. Does chai tea have the same benefits as regular tea? I prefer black iced tea, home-made, which I think is a healthy choice. Would chai tea be a good switch for my afternoon latte?

Sally Squires: Sounds like a great plan. Chai tea is made from black tea. Both green and black teas are excellent sources of antioxidants, which appear to help prevent everything from cancer to heart disease.

In a minute, we'll post a link to a number of recipes for chai tea. Turns out that it's a bit like soup--you can make it anyway you like. If you're watching calories, however, use skim or low fat milk instead of two percent, whole milk or cream. Enjoy!


re: food on a plane: I recently put some string cheese (sealed in the individual packages) in my briefcase and proceeded to forget about them for over a week. They did not spoil -- just got kind of soft. I put them in the refrigerator for a while and they were fine.

Another possible travel snack is Thomas' mini-bagels. I recently tried the whole wheat variety and they are tasty (and 120 calories per bagel). I think they would travel better than regular bread.

Sally Squires: Thanks!


washingtonpost.com: Chai Recipes


laytonsville veggie: Simple question...why is it just peanut allergies now...I have a friend who is severely to all nuts, walnuts, hazlenuts etc. He accidently ate chocolate with hazelnut paste in it, that we didn't see on the list (It was in Italian!!) and he ended up in the hospital! Are these folks with peanut allergies only kidding, or is it ALL nuts. Peanuts are grown in the dirt, and other nuts on trees, so what is the connection? Also, vegetarians/vegans, and cultures with veggie foods don't seem to have this problem...it must be the way the processing is done....

Sally Squires: All allergies are increasing in incidence in Western countries Laytonsville for reasons still not understand. About one percent of the population is allergies to peanuts, tree nuts (including Hazelnuts like your friend) or both. And it doesn't appear to have anything to do with vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, carinore or flexitarian. It's the proteins in these foods that can cause problems in those susceptible. Hope your friend doesn't have this problem again. Does he carry an Epi-pen? If not, it's something to ask his allergist or doctor about.

And by the way, a review article by Dr. Hugh Sampson published in recent years in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that those who are susceptible to these foods need to seek medical attention as soon as possible when they have a reaction. Sometimes a small reaction can appear to get better, only to worsen suddenly. Recommendation is to stay put in an emergency room for a minimum of four hours under observation just in case.


Spiced tea: Another option is Persian tea - use loose leaf black tea and steep it on the stove with some cardamom pods. It's very good, and no need to add milk (for me anyway - and I love chai and black tea with milk)

Sally Squires: That sounds really good. Thanks!


Thanks from Plane Lady: Thanks so much for the plane food options. And don't worry - I wouldn't take tuna on a plane!

Sally Squires: Well, we're all relieved. And if you do see someone with tuna on a plane, it's not me!


Rockville, Md.: Confession time: I've been making my own Total-like yogurt at home, by taking a few tablespoons of Total for the cultures and adding it to a quart of warm milk.

I've been using the recipe from a book called Curries Without Worries, which does not require a yogurt maker. I use the pilot light in my gas oven instead to keep the yogurt warm overnight, and it works beautifully. The yogurt has the same yummy mild taste as Total. I've tried straining it with good results too. One additional hint: I think Total is whipped to give it a bit of a fluffier texture.

Now, my question: my mom says that it's a bad idea to strain yogurt because most of the calcium is in the whey (the liquid part). Is that true? I have noticed that Total is lower in calcium than other yogurts.

Sally Squires: I don't know the answer to that last question, but I know just the calcium expert to ask. So watch this space. And thanks for the recipe. I'm trying that tonight.


Frederick, Md.: Rice cakes are also a good snack choice for flying.

Sally Squires: Excellent choice. And now you can get them in all kinds of flavors including chocolate and caramel. Thanks much!


Chai: Don't forget Chai traditionally is very sweet - lots of suger. Seems like chai is morfing into all sorts of other teas that go by that name!

Sally Squires: Another good reason to make your own, so that you can control the added sugar content. Or use a sugar substitute. Thanks!


Frederick, Md.: Hi Sally! I don't fly that often but I like to take apples or bananas, which is a great snack. The apples contain a good amount of water too. Low fat Triscuts are good too.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions. Grapes would be another water filled option. And cherries would be pretty lucious too. It's just about peak cherry season. Thanks.


making yogurt: I make yoghurt all the time. I get a canadian starter from Yes and use only farmer's market milk. I'm orginally British and find American yoghurt bizzare and sour. Making my own became the solution.

Sally Squires: Interesting...Do you make yours in the oven too?


Long beach, Calif.: Oh, Sally! PLEASE don't encourage people to whip out tuna fish on planes! If my neighbor did that I'd need my airsickness bag, pronto!

However, The person with the question might invest in one of those collapsible insulated lunch totes that don't take up much space. We use on on every trip cross-country. You can fill it with food for the return trip, or, my fave - pack it with NJ italian sausage for the freezer at home!

Sally Squires: Okay, we'll nix that tuna idea for the plane. Save that for the close quarters of the car with your family. (Just kidding.) And yes, it's a great idea to travel with a collapsible insulate bag and cold pack. That opens up lots of options for the plane,bus, train or car. Thanks.


Baton Rouge, La.: Travel food options that my family enjoys are that don't need to be kept cold are peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers, tiny cheeseits and beef sticks. We usually bring a little insulated lunch bag with a frozen water, string cheese, drinkable yogurt and carrots. We drink the yogurt first as the cheese and carrots stay longer as the ice melts. Enjoy your trip!

Sally Squires: I see we have quite a number of experienced travelers on this chat. Thanks much, Baton Rouge.


Washington, D.C.: As a breastfeeding mom, whose own mom has a yougert maker, do you think you could make yougert with breastmilk? That would have to be healthier than anything I could buy at the store for my babe. Have you ever heard of this?

Sally Squires: No, but when you try it, please let us know how your baby likes it!


Great yogurt: Butterworks Farm nonfat organic, available at Whole Foods. At $2.99 for 32 ounces, it's not only as cheap as the bigger brands, but tastes like real yogurt! Once you've tried it, you won't go back to the fake sweetened stuff.

Sally Squires: That's three, maybe four, yogurt varieties on this chat that get a thumbs up. We've got a list going here. Plus one for travel food. Thanks!


Bethesda, Md.: For the person planning for the long flight: You can also take yogurt on the plane without refrigeration. I have sensitive teeth and can't stand to eat food straight out of the fridge, and I eat yogurt every afternoon, so I usually just leave it on my desk. (If I put it in the fridge, I tend to forget to take it out early enough to let it warm up.) I have never had a problem -- yogurt keeps well. Knowing this, I've also taken it on long flights. Don't forget to take a spoon!

Sally Squires: Thanks Bethesda.


Weigh: Weigh myself each morning naked before I jump into the shower.

Sally Squires: Okay, that's another vote for daily weighing.


Susquehanna Twp, Pa.: Sally -

Will you be doing future articles about the other top 8 food allergies? As an adult who is severly allergic to one of these, I find it very trying to explain that yes, foods other than Peanuts or Shell Fish can make you're throat close. And no, not every child grows out of there food allergies. And for some people food allergies get worst over time.


Sally Squires: Very sorry to hear that you have had problems with food allergies, Pa. You're right: it's nothing to fool with. Some 30,000 people annually have reactions. About 2,000 require visits to the ER and sadly, 200 die.

I'm sure we'll come back to the topic at another time. In the meantime, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network has a lot of very helpful information for people with food allergies or those who love them. We'll post a link in a minute.


washingtonpost.com: The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network


Annapolis, Md.: In response to the question: Why peanut allergies? Why tree-nut allergies? Many years ago I saw an article on TV which covered the work of an allergist at Georgetown, who postulated (or perhaps had proven)that for some people, exposure to the complex amino acids/proteins in peanuts and/or tree nuts at too early an age had resulted in what we see as an allergic reaction. It is my recollection that he further went on to say that if the proteins were introduced after the digestive system was more mature, then the proteins that that particular body could not handle are simply passed through the body - if the proteins can't be handled by the system the whole package of nut proteins is rejected, and histimines, etc. are produced, creating the allergic reaction known to many people. Have you seen/read anything about this theory?

Sally Squires: Yes, when I first reported on peanut allergies about a decade ago, this was very much one of the theories. It's still under investigation. But as I learned more recently, countries such as China and India also have large peanut consumption--similar to ours. But China especially has very little peanut allergies. That's why some researchers wonder if it might be more complicated. Thus, the new studies looking at how peanuts are prepared. In this country, they're mostly dry roasted. In China, they are boiled or fried.

In the meantime, places like England, urge women who have a family history of peanut allergies to avoid foods with peanuts while pregnant or nursing and to not give peanuts to their children until age 3.

Hope that helps. Thanks!


Trans Fat: Sally-Thanks for the great discussion. Last week, there was disucssion about trans fats. I would urge everyone to read labels and look for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. A label can still say "no trans fat" if it is less than .5 percent. That might not seem like much, but it could add up. I would encourage everyone to avoid foods with this ingredient. The only way food processors will remove it is if consumers show them that we don't want this unnecessary addition to our foods.

Sally Squires: Thanks for the very imporant reminder. As Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for the Science in the Public Interest notes, only in Washington could zero equal something more!

It's true, however, that foods that list zero trans fats will be much better choices than those that list a couple of grams or more. But you're right: the lower the better when it comes to trans fats.



Washington, D.C.: A followup from a few weeks ago. You kindly answered this question:

Fried food: You warn against fried food. Is that only because of the fat that fried food absorbs, or is there something about frying that makes foods less healthy? For example, is there any difference between a piece of fried chicken that absorbed three tablespoons of oil and the same piece of chicken roasted and drizzled with three tablespoons of oil?

Sally Squires: Yes, there likely is. And it's not necessarily the calories, which as you point out could be pretty similar. It's the trans fatty acids--an unhealthy type of fat that is known to raise heart disease risk. Current recommendations are to keep trans fat intake as low as possible. So if you can, skip that fried food from restaurants, since they are exempt from the labels that reveal trans fat. Hope that helps.

I'm still a little confused. The comparison I was asking about was between food fried in a given type of oil or simply served with that same type of oil. Does the action of frying make the fats any worse? Or are you just pointing out that many restaurants, especially fast food places, tend to use bad fat?

Sally Squires: It's mostly the concern about trans fats, those unhealthy fats that we're advised to keep as low as possible because they significantly raise the risk of heart disease.

But you make a good point: all fat--whether healthy oil or not--is packed with calories. Figure that a tablespoon has about 120 calories. So while drizzling oil may mean that you get some healthier oil on that chicken, you're still getting added fat and calories. And if you get fried chicken at restaurants or fast food establishments, figure that it has been fried in unhealthy trans fat. Ditto for fries, etc., fried shrimp, fish filets. You get the idea. Here's a new one that I just heard about yesterday: fried cheese curds, which are apparently a favorite food at Minnesota state and county fairs.


Plane food: Take something with protein. After having made 10 transatlantic flights in a year, I learned how to be well-stocked. I packed fruit, which I usually ate first (and take an extra plastic bag for trash), protein bars (I'm partial to Luna), crackers and a spread (I like PB, but for allergies, choose your own), and always a little bit of chocolate because you know you'll want it! Also a big bottle of water. I'd also recommend hand wipes so you don't have to get up and wash your hands each time you eat.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions from a seasoned traveler.I'd also had disinfectant hand lotion (Purell is one variety) and the non food related lotion for your skin because the cabin is often so dry. Thanks!


Gaithersburg, Md.: Sally, here's a quick idea for a really nice rice dish. Start with 2 cups of just cooked, hot rice (white or brown). Add a mashed avocado half and a tablespoon of olive oil, as well as pepper. (Add salt or other spices if you wish).

This is VERY tasty, and filling. I keep Trader Joe's frozen Hass avocado halves on hand for this purpose.

Sally Squires: Yum. Thanks!


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Prizes this week will be a surprise because I am hosting this chat away from the office where I can check my stash of books.

Winners are:

Alexandria for highlighting the salt problem; Newton Mass. for the wheat berry recipe; the seasoned translantic traveler; Rockville (who's making yogurt at home with Total) and DC who is doing the AIDS walk.

Please send your U.S. mail address to leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please put winner in the subject line. Look for web chat updates weekdays at about noon.

Until next week: eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club.



washingtonpost.com: Check right back here on Friday for an update to this week's Lean Plate Club discussion with Sally Squires.


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