Lean Plate Club (Updated 7.20.06)

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, July 18, 2006; 1:00 PM

Daily Updates: 7.19.06 | 7.20.06

Confused about nutrition? Wondering how to fit in more physical activity? Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Ask Sally Squires , nationally syndicated Lean Plate Club columnist for the Washington Post, about eating smart and moving more every Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET . Sally draws upon her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to preside over the lively Lean Plate Club web chat. Whether you're trying to reach a healthier weight or simply maintain it, you'll find plenty of tips and strategies.

Submit your questions or comments before or during the discussion.

Share your own food finds, creative workouts and secrets for healthy, great tasting meals. We'll cheer your successes and help with your setbacks. (None of this, of course, is a substitute for medical advice.) E-mail Sally, author of the newly published Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martin's Press) at leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Or just sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter . The Lean Plate Club column appears Tuesdays in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. Find other Lean Plate Club members at www.frappr.com/leanplateclub .

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Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! It's steamy in DC today and a lot of other places around the country as this heat wave grips the nation. So hunker close to the computer screen in the cool A/C and join the chat.

The LPC e-mail newsletters should have already arrived in your electronic in-box. If you've subscribed to this free weekly service--and more than 250,000 LPCers do just that--please let me know if you ever don't receive your copy. Zip me an e-mail at leanplateclub@washpost.com. And if you'd like to subscribe, it takes only a click at www.leanplateclub.com.

Prizes this week are:

Two copies of Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martin's Press), penned by yours truly, but really a collaborative effort with all of you.


FlexPosture a DVD by the FitPrime that uses Pilates, Cardio Yoga and Weights.

Metaboost also by FitPrime, one of the latest collaborations of Anna and Cynthia Benson, the sisters who brought us all the The Firm exercise tapes and DVDs.

As always in making this offering, it does not imply endorsement of any weight loss plan or exercise regimen.It's simply a way of letting you know the wide variety of resources that are available as you seek to instill healthy habits to reach a healthier weight.

Winners are announced at the end of the web chat. You could be a winner for sharing a great inspirational tale of your own habit change with us. Or come to the aid of another Lean Plate Club member on this web chat. Or tell us about a food find--healthy and great tasting, of course--or a way that you're getting activity, despite the soaring temperatures and poor air quality outdoors.

It may be July, but I'm already planning this year's Holiday Challenge. If you have taken past challenges and are willing to share your experiences, please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com and please put Holiday Challenge in the subject line.

Now on to the chat!


Rockville Md.: Hi Sally-

I really enjoy your chats! This is probably a dumb question, but why is it so expensive to eat healthfully? My family and I try to eat mostly fresh, whole foods. When doing our weekly shopping, we tend to stick to the perimeter of the grocery store and stay away from all of the processed foods in the center of the store. However, in doing so, our grocery bills have skyrocketed to the point where I have to question how the average family (that is, us) can continue to make healthy choices on a regular basis. It is so much less expensive to eat at McDonalds, to buy the instant rice, the Sunny D, etc., than it is to make healthy choices. I wonder if there is a connection between the high cost of healthy, fresh foods and the obesity epidemic. If one has a limited budget to spend on food, Oodles of Noodles will go a lot further on a budget than will, say, fresh talapia.

Sally Squires: The Washington metro region has some of the highest food prices in the country, so you're not alone in feeling that pinch at the cash register. Having said that, however, there are lots of ways to eat economically. (In fact, last week's LPC e-mail newsletter included some links to help you do just that.)

Start with locally grown produce at farmer's markets. Not only is it fresh--which means it can have a longer shelf life in your 'fridge--but it's often less expensive because it didn't have to be flown thousands of miles to get here.

Check the freezer sections. You can get some great bargains there. Especially frozen veggies (without sauce), frozen fruit (great for dessert, snacks, baking and smoothies) and frozen fish. (I never used to buy it, but wild frozen fish can actually be "fresher" than some of the stuff at the fish market.)

Look for store brands, so that means the local brand of Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods, TJ's, Costco etc. I buy some store brand boxed mac and cheese at Whole Foods (nothing bad added, great flavor) for 89 cents. Annie's, a similar brand purchased either at Whole Foods or Safeway easily runs $2.49 per box.

And make as much as possible from scratch. No, you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen! Think bean burritos, made with a can of black beans, tortillas, cheese, salsa or fresh tomatoes, guacamole, low fat cheese...yum! I'm getting hungry.

The list goes on and on. Come on everybody, chime in with your bargain healthy foods! We're all ears.


Washington, D.C.: Interesting column today, Sally. One thing I wanted to say is that I found a benefit in "going public" with my weight-loss efforts was that people were more understanding of my not wanting sweets, alcohol, etc. That was really helpful, like when I went out to eat with friends. I felt a little like each person I told became a kind of cheerleader for me. It helped me to lose 30 pounds five years ago -- and has helped me to keep it off, because I am not shy about telling people about my weight-management needs.

Having said that, I also never told anyone how much weight I was planning to lose. That does seem a bit weird.

Sally Squires: Congratulations on those 30 pounds, DC and more importantly on maintaining that weight loss. Very impressive. Thanks for weighing in.


Arlington, Va: Hi Sally, I have a question about emotional eating. I am taking a very difficult exam in Sept. and have been intensely studying for it. However, when I sit down and pop my books open, I immediately want to leave and get something filled with sugar - such as an ice cream cone. I even find myself driving many miles to get this snack. I know that I'm using this as a distraction from studying, and I'm trying to look at alternative ways to deal with this. It's a form of procrastination, but I think and think about the cone until I literally HAVE to go get it. I used to keep ice cream in the house, but it's not the 'same' as going to get a soft serve cone. Help!

Sally Squires: Emotional eating is a common problem. So first, know that you have a lot of company in your struggle. Ah, but that still doesn't stop that craving for the ice cream cone, does it?

Okay, first look at what you've eaten during the day. Are you getting healthy food? If not, you know what to do. That's one way to tone down your appetite.

2. Consider some healthy alternatives. Could be a Skinny Cow ice cream cone. Could be a smoothie that you could slowly sip while you study. Make it with nonfat yogurt, your favorite fruit, a little honey if you choose and plenty of ice. Put it in the blender and get it really, really frothy. That puts air in it, which will help you feel full longer. (I also toss in a banana--or half a banana, plus about two ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice. But the beauty of a smoothie is that you can make it any way YOU want!)

Hot tea with lime and honey would be another sweet option. You might consider sugar free gum. You might consider pudding with nonfat milk. You might consider a "frappacino" made again with lots of ice, some coffee (decaff if necessary) lots of skim milk or skim soy milk and a little bit of sugar or some sugar substitutes. Put that on top of the ice to get a sweet taste first.

These are just a few options. I'll bet others have additional thoughts. And also see if you could take a walk or even do crunches when that urge to eat hits. Might help a little too! Good luck! Let us know how it goes.


Arlington, Va: I need a little help in picking the right words for my wife. We got married about 2 yrs ago and we both dropped 10-15 lbs to look good for the wedding. Since then my wife has added back on the 15 lbs plus probably another 25 lbs. (Note: I added some back on after the wedding but I am now below my wedding weight through a combination of exercise, wathcing what I eat and weighing myself everyday).

I think my wife is beautiful whatever her weight but I am little tired of her compliants on her inability to lose weight. I respond by saying she is beautiful to no matter what but I want to help her. I think she is going about it wrong which I have said discretely but never baltantly. She has tried ever fad diet over the last 6 months like Atkins, some type of French women's diet, grapefruit, now onto the Zone but never changes her life style to incorporate exercise, which for her is to walk around the neighborhood for 25 minutes once month. She still feels that she has the metabolism of a 21 yr old even though she is in her 30's.

I guess is there an easy way to approach her when this diet fails to let her know that her lifestlye needs to change. I am very supportive on every diet but I am at wits end in trying to maker her see that exercise would go a long way to helping her become healthier.

Sally Squires: Your posting reminds me of a couple during the past few weeks, who were nearly the mirror image of you. In that case, it was an unmarried couple. The woman was trying to get her boyfriend to address his eating habits by eating more healthfully herself. They wound up pretty much eating separate meals.

In your case, your wife knows she has a struggle. And it's great that you love her just the way she is right now. But I also hear your concern that she is embarking on a series of various "magic bullet" diets that just leave her, well, weighing more.

This is indeed tricky territory, fraught with lots of emotional minefields. You're clearly already giving her a good example. You may need to have a gentle, but more frank discussion. Or you could just try to get more active together both in the kitchen and in activities, like walking after dinner. Maybe doubles tennis? Or going to the gym together. Browse the cookbook section at a local bookstore or go grocery shopping together. See what you can do to help each other.

The very important thing is to tell her how much you love her just the way she is, but for her long-term health, hope that she can find healthier habits. And by the way, that will also be important if you decide to start a family in the future. Let us know how it goes. Good luck!


Cheap Eats!!: One large container of Safeway Salsa, one 14.5 oz can of (cooked) black beans rinsed and drained, one finely chopped left over grilled hamburger.

Dump all in a a large saucepan. Rinse out salsa jar with 1/2 cup of water. Stir and heat slowly. And season to taste with chili powder ($.99 at CVS) and cumin.

Instant chili can be use straight or on hotdogs for chili dogs!!

Sally Squires: Thanks much!


Alexandria, Va: Cost and eating healthy. 40 pounds lower since January Yippee! I found initially it seemed I spent more money on food. But actually it isn't too unequal. I make my lunch for work, include snacks and that has cut down on alot of change just dissapearing from my wallet since I don't go to the vending machine any more. I don't eat three courses while I'm out anymore. I still socialize with friends --though many of them are getting on the exercise wagon with me-- but I don't have 2 or three drinks, an appetizer, entire, and dessert anymore. Now one drink (rarely), appetizer and salad, and maybe sorbet. I save tons of money and have no guilt. I cook from sorta scratch and freeze the rest that definately helps the budget. Sorry to rattle on I had a tough week--can't exercise on doctors orders (for a week) and I hit my birthday. I keep telling myself it is only a bump in the road and I will be able exercise again soon. It is amazing that exercising is addicting.

Sally Squires: Wow! Forty pounds is awesome, Alexandria! And great penny pinching tips. Thanks!


Eating while studying: Three suggestions: (1) study where you can't eat, like the library, and (2)study with friends so you can't just go traipsing off to get a snack, and (3) reward yourself at the end of the studying day with non-food treats like movies, spa treatments, a summer book etc.

Sally Squires: Those rewards are so important and we often forget to do give them to ourselves. Even taking the time to soak in a bubble bath with candles is a pretty wonderful treat. Thanks for weighing in!


5th time a charm?: Hi Sally!! My husband and I love your work and we're planning on getting your book. Over the last 2 1/2 years we have shaped up and slimmed down. We're now avid runners and gym goers. Nutrition is very important to us which leads me to my question. What does the nutritional label mean when it says "other carbs"? I know that they disclose the fiber and sugar contents, but that sometimes only makes up about 50 percent of the carbs involved. What are the "other carbs" to which the label is referring? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Congratulations on all your great progress! And I hope that the fellow trying to help his wife sees your posting and is similarly inspired. I'm not exactly sure what you mean by other carbs...Sometimes labels will list total carbs and then sugars...Is that what you mean? Or are you talking about "net carbs" which actually don't have an official definition?


For the family looking to cut food costs: Just a suggestion to try shopping some weeks at international supermarkets (there are many in Northern Virginia and Montgomory County...). Some of my best finds on fresh fruits and vegetables and meat/poultry come from Latin American grocers. Very differently priced than say Whole Foods, but good wholesome stuff.

Sally Squires: Those international markets can be great for bargains. Also, I found that Giant had some really good prices on organic foods. But again, the best buy is often to purchase locally grown food whenever possible since the transportation costs are so much less--and easier on the environment too. We're going to post a link to a USDA guide to farmers' markets in a minute...Thanks


washingtonpost.com: USDA Farmer's Market Map


Wesley Chapel, Fla: I love these chats, Sally. Thank you.

I have been watching the news about the heat wave across the country, and thought perhaps us Floridians may have some good ideas about eating in this weather ... We're pretty used to it in the summer!

Anyway - I thought I would share an idea for a quick and cool lunch. I keep lots of fruit around in the summer, so for lunch I fill a bowl with melon pieces, some cherries or grapes, or berries of any kind....... whatever I have on hand. Then I top it with a small (4 oz.) container of low fat yogurt= any flavor though my favorite is vanilla - and sprinkle on some chopped walnuts and even a dash of cinnamon. I usually add a slice of whole wheat toast - and it is SOOO good, I feel as if I am being decadent!

Sally Squires: You're making me hungry! That does sound good. And this is the place where I have to mention Total yogurt. (I have not connection with the company.) But it's rich, creamy and one cup of nonfat yogurt has just 80 calories. Or make your own yogurt in a yogurt maker or in the oven. That's another great way to stretch food dollars.


Re: Arlington, Va couple: For the husband looking to get his wife more active...try to introduce her (and yourself) to biking. Although there is the initial cost of bicycles, it is an easy entry-level activity in terms of skills and you can do it together. You can even approach her with the idea by telling her you want to spend more time with her. Initially it can be more about time together and a destination - pack a healthy picnic or snacks, bike a scenic path or trail and stop to chat and share a healthy treat. It could develop into a great, healthy habit for both of you!

Sally Squires: Great suggestion, Arlington and perfect example of combining a good couple activity with a healthy meal. Plus, we have so many wonderful bike trails in this region. If you go to the Lean Plate Club home page and click on the Family Challenge, you can even get panoramics or some of our parks, plus info on hours, directions, etc. Thanks!


Healthy Eating: Salmon Burgers! They are supper easy and cheap. You can buy a can of salmon at the store for under $2 and it makes 3 good size burgers. I mix the salmon with some garlic, parsley, 1 egg, bread crumbs, some mustard, mabye a little mayo. Form into patties and cook in the a nonstick pan. Buy a nice keyser roll at the store, a little lettuce, tomato and your good to go. Also had the salmon burgers on the top of a sald, wonderful!

Another healthy tip is to buy seafood on sale and keep in the freezer. Whenever fish in on sale at the store I always ask if they have any still frozen in the freezer. They are happy to get it out for you if you want. I take it home and put it in my freezer and just thaw it out when I want to eat it. I just bought some lovely Mahi fillets at Safeway for $4.99 a pound.

Sally Squires: Great idea to ask if the store has more in back! And there was a time when I really turned up my nose at frozen fish, but then I did a story on seafood and learned that when it's flash frozen at sea, it's usually stays farm fresher than the stuff that takes two to three weeks to show up in at the fish market. Plus, it's much less expensive as you point out. And don't forget canned fish including tuna, sardines or anchovies. Thanks!


Rockville, Md: Though this is also a life change, I found that I have dropped 10-15 pounds after getting a dog. Now I wouldn't recommend it without serious thought but having a dog and actually walking and playing with it is a great way to get exercise that doesn't seem boring. MY wife and I rescued a beagle and he is packed full of energy that keeps me moving. I now walk 1 or 2 miles a day instead of sitting on the couch and feel better without thinking of it as a chore since he is so much fun to romp around with!

Sally Squires: We're going to call that dog of yours "Coach!" Sounds like he got a wonderful home and you got a wonderful workout partner. Thanks!


San Diego, Calif: Sally, I have been on a liquid diet for the past 7 months, and have lost about 100 lbs. (down to 220). I now want to transition to eating one meal a day. I'm a vegetarian, and the meal needs to be low calore, high protein. Any suggestions (obviously, tofu is an answer, but I'd like some variety). Thanks!

Sally Squires: Congratulations, San Diego. You remind me of Dr. Nick Yphantides, also from San Diego, who did something similar, although he wound up losing 267 pounds as I recall. He did it by staying on a liquid diet--and treating himself to baseball games across the country. (He also took a sabbatical from his job, which obviously not everyone can do. But he's in this week's column and has managed to keep off the weight for five plus years. Very impressive!)

I suspect that you have been under the care of a physicin with your liquid diet. If not, I hope you will check with one. So you probably want to start with a small meal. Consider: oatmeal with milk and a little fruit. You might try soup, maybe a vegetable broth to which you slowly add more ingredients, such as tofu, pasta, vegetables. You get the idea. A scrambled egg or two might work for you. (You could also use egg substitutes.)

Yogurt would be another ideal food. You could put it in a cold soup. You could make a smoothie. You could add some fruit and some slivered nuts.

The main thing is to proceed slowly. Try to eat a combination of lean protein, a little healthy fat and some healthy carbs--which means nothing that is processed.

Congratulations and let us know how it goes!


re: initial cost of biking: Just to get started, you can rent bikes at Fletcher's Boat House, which is just off Canal Rd. There's free parking and access to either the C&O Towpath or Capital Crescent Trail right at the boat house.

Also see www.bikewashington.org for information about trails and bike routes in the DC area.

Sally Squires: Great tip for all of us! Thanks very much. And while we're at it, let's add renting a paddle boat near the Jefferson Memorial or kayaks or canoes along the canal. That could be another fun outing. Thanks!


Other carbs gal again: Thanks Sally. I guess the best example is cereals. The nutrition on the label can say Total Carbs 40

Sugar 15

Soluble fiber 10

Then the last line will say "other carbs 15" or nothing at all! 10+15 does not equal 40 and I'm just wondering what the "other carbs" are. If you haven't seen this before, check it out. I've googled and can't find an answer.

To the guy who's trying to help his wife: Rather than trying to tell her what to do, ask questions. Why are you upset? What is your goal? How do you plan to never eat bread again? Think long term and start small. Help her think it out herself. My husband is an attorney and inherently a laid back guy but gets stressed at work and had no outlet. So we talked it out and I asked him to run with me for 1 week. Told him if he didn't feel better, that I wouldn't bother him again. I would walk/run with him so he wouldn't get discouraged. Run for 2 min/walk for one min. repeat and increase. That was back in February. He now runs faster and longer than me. We are training for the Army ten miler in October and are now running about 13 mile a week. He tells me all the time how much better he feels. We also changed our eating habits. Fruits, veggies, lean meats, good fats. Portable snacks for on the go eating. He loves it and we both look great. That couple can do it, too!

Sally Squires: Ok. I see what you are saying. There are carbs beyond simple sugars and soluble fiber. So you're just seeing the total carbs, plus the sugars (which may or may not be added sugars) and the soluble fiber. But there's insoluble fiber. The FDA has pretty strict regulations on how foods can be broken down on the nutrition facts labels. I'll check with the agency and report back in the web chat updates or in the next e-mail newsletter. Hope that helps.


Washington DC: I have a similiar issue to the husband and wife. I am always watching what I eat and over the last year lost 50 lbs, I did gain 20 back and have now lost 13 of those 20. My boyfriend has always supported me in my fight for weight lose. The issue is the time I have lost weight he has gained what I lost. I try to support him, when I make dinner I cook the same for him. I do the grocery shopping so I keep "junk" out of the house. He begged for a gym membership and I got him one for his bday and he has yet to go. He now calls himself fat all the time, doesn't like pictures of himself etc...

I try to support him, saying "let's go for a walk" or "I am going to the gym tomorrow" but he says he does not want to. How do I get him to realize that I would like him to be healthy and feel better about himself (without nagging). This is the man I plan to be with for the rest of my life, I love him deeply, I would like to celebrate many years with him, not worry his health will hinder our life together - and yes I have said this to him .

Sally Squires: This is really one of the most difficult weight issues around. (And as we know there are a lot of weight issues!) Ultimately, each person has to make the decision to change their habits for himself or herself. But in both cases, it really sounds like one person is asking for help--and still struggling with how to accept it. And you're right: it's a very fine line between nagging and helping.

The topic is important enough that I plan a future column on it. In the meantime: instead of asking him to go for a walk, how about saying you'd really like some company on a walk? Ask him to help you, since he seems to have been able to do that in the past. Plus, it may take the spotlight off him for a while. And once he gets out there, he may find that he enjoys it more than he thinks.

Let us know how it goes...


Arlington, Va: Hi Sally. I have a couple of comments: First, I find that it is helpful to tell people that you are trying to slim down. People are usually more understanding when you pass up certain foods. It is also nice to get positive praise from people as they watch the change. I think some people are hesitant to comment on weight changes (it can be a touchy subject), but you leave plenty of room for positive feedback when you make it a safer topic by discussing it. That is a definite plus.

Second, with regard to cheap eats: I suggest investing in a can of tahini. I make my own hummus and my own baba ghanoush with inexpensive canned chickpeas or an eggplant. The tahini may not be dirt cheap, but it isn't all that expensive and a can goes quite far. Making my own hummus and BG saves money, allows me to tailor the recipes to suit my taste and provides me with tons of meal and snack options.

Thanks for the chat. Stay cool! It is definitely a scorcher out there.

Sally Squires: It is indeed hot out there. And yes, that tahini can really go a long way. Plus, you get to control how much sodium is in your hummus and baba ghanouj. Thanks!


Rockville, Md: Re The cost of eating healthy. Over the past 2 years we have changed our eating habits and definitely noticed a change in allocation of food costs. I agree with the earlier poster that eating less and equally important, drinking less really lowers restaurant and food store bills. But Sally, I would like to see some hard evidence about the economic advantage to buying from Farmer's markets. It sounds like you have some but it runs counter to my experience. I shop at the farm womem's market in Bethesda, Farmers market in Rockville and the Eastern market. I view getting the fresh produce there as a luxury I owe myself over the summer months. But it's not cheap. It's a lot more expensive than shopping at Snyder's or Costco or Trader Joe's frozen section. How about setting up a comparison shop to see what the real numbers are.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion! I love it. Challenge taken. You're on. We'll do it and see how the numbers work out. And you may be right that with the low cost of places such as Costco--which sometimes also buys local produce, as does Safeway and Giant and Whole Foods--that the stores may be better bargains. Watch this space! Thanks for the suggestion.


Cheap and healthy: I try to buy all the vegetables and fruits from Korean stores. They always turn out to be cheaper than the other supermarkets. I buy organic only when the conventional items have lot of pesticides like strawberry,bellpeppers, grapes etc. And buy only produce that is in season.

Sally Squires: Another vote for those hidden ethnic market gems. Buying produce in season (at least in season for Washington!) is very smart and very kind to the local environment. Thanks.


Arlington, Va: Hi Sally- I love your chat. I enjoyed your column today--- but have a bit of a different experience. I often find that as a person of healthy weight (I do not need to lose) that also enjoys eating healthy that friends and coworkers often try to get me to eat more dessert or go out to lunch with them more (even though I enjoy the healthy lunches I bring from home). I was raised with a healthy lifestyle and this is what I prefer... but often find the "you are so good live a little" reaction. Any suggestions?

Sally Squires: There's that tendency to really draw people into certain behaviors, isn't there. I'm having a cocktail, so why don't you too? I'm having dessert, so how about you? One option: My, that dessert looks great, but I'm just so full and satisifed right now that I don't have room. But maybe the next time I come back I will try it. Another option if you feel like it is to share a dessert with one or two other people. You have a bite at most and call it a day.

Other thoughts out there?


Bartlett, Tenn - Going public: When I decided to get serious about losing weight, I didn't even tell my husband or best friend until I had lost the first 10 or 15 pounds. My reasoning, if I failed, then only I knew that I failed. It would have been easier if I had 'gone public'....no more pressure to eat cake at the office birthday party, etc.

Now that the weight is off, I'm very public about it and not because I'm boasting. It's to ward off 'Please have seconds'. Here in the deep south, food is so important to a hostess, that she/he can get offended when you don't want more.

We just returned from a week's vacation that included a stay in a Bed and Breakfast. After the innkeeper insisted that I have more breakfast, I explained that I spent a long time losing about 50 pounds and that I really didn't want to gain it back.

Her interesting question was "How does someone let themselves gain that much weight?" That's when I realized, that I only gained two pounds for each year of marriage. Yikes! That was an eye-opener for me.

Thanks again for your column and chats!

Sally Squires: That innkeeper needs a lesson in tact! How people gain--or lose weight--is completely their business. Everyone reaches travels a slightly different road. And you are absolutely right in that math: in fact the average adult has been putting on about two pounds every year. (That number may be a little higher now that we have this obesity epidemic.) But it's very easy for weight to creep on. Just 100 extra calories daily works out to 10 pounds per year. On the other hand 100 fewer calories can work out to 10 fewer pounds too! That's the good news. Congratulations on your very impressive 50 pound loss. Thanks for weighing in.


WDC Re: farmer's market and prices: I went to safeway and red peppers were $3.99 a pound. The only cucumbers they had were English cucumbers for 2.99 each. At Eastern Market one guy outside sells all vegetables 1.75 a pound, pickling cucumbers (which I love) are 3 for a dollar and the fruit stand lady inside usually gives you a pice or two of free fruit when you buy from her. The peppers alone make Eastern Market a better deal.

Sally Squires: Ok. We've got one place in mind already for including in this round-up. Thanks for the info and comparison.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

I just wanted to weigh in on eating healthfully on a budget. What used to be a secret since my childhood is now out in the open. Asian supermarkets are some of the best places to find an abundance of fresh produce, fish, soy products for much less than buying at Whole Foods or the big grocery stores. The produce section is usually huge with lots of variety and the fish and meat counter is full of great variety and lower costs as well. I would also urge people to shop at Trader Joe's. Doing my own mental calculations I easily save at least $1 on every one item I purchase at TJ's versus what I would spend at the regular market. I buy the frozen fish there as well as lots of great raw nuts and dried fruits. Also, they sell sorbet for $1.99 which is a lot less than the $3.69 I have seen at other places.

Good luck!

Sally Squires: I find lots of things at TJ's that are much less than other markets. Same thing for Costco, although there you have to buy large amounts. And I don't know how places such as Wegman's, Shoppers Food Warehouse, Teeter Harris and local chains such as Magruders and Brookville Market compare. It will be an interesting comparison to do!


Cheap Eating: Another thing I do to lower the grocery bills is to clip coupons. I know a lot of people don't do that, but I probably save on average $5 a week on the grocery bill -- that ends up being over $250 a year. It is my Saturday morning ritual to sit down with a cup of tea read the paper and clip coupons. My husband and I hardly eat any processed foods, but I can still find coupons for canned tomatoes, mustard, bread and other staples.

That reminds me, a lot of recipies call for fresh ingredients, for example tomatoes. But they are expensive and many times can be substitutes for canned which only cost $1.50.

Sally Squires: We in the newspaper biz love the fact that you clip those coupons! Let me convey a hearty thanks from our advertising department! And yes, canned can sometimes be substituted (and I hope that we have not offended the foodies out there.) I also have used frozen Haas avocados. They not only last longer, but are already peeled. Not bad, eh? Thanks!


Re: Arlington: I know from where you speak -- more on your wife's side though I was less inclined to fads I understand it. One thing my partner did for me as I was struggling was to take over the cooking. Not only did she make dinner, but she portioned out breakfast and made me lunch to go. FWIW she started out following Sugar Busters.... but could be done with Zone too. I don't know if cooking is an option for you. She also made gym dates with me, but if your wife isn't into the gym, pick any outdoor activity, or non-food centered thing. We had a kayak/canoe date at the boathouse off the Crescent trail, went to free concerts at Kennedy Center... There is a fine line -- I think my partner also got carried away with my progress, but we've recovered from that (and I have kept the weight off). Good luck.

Sally Squires: Those activity dates are a particularly smart idea. Even walking around the museums involves, well, walking! So there are lots of physical activity things to do besides EXERCISE in capital letters. Thanks very much.


Alexandria, Va: farmers market pricing. I go to the one in Alexandria and the prices can vary widely and many are higher than the stores. The trick is know what general prices are--ask where the produce was grown. I found a couple of vendors I like and I stick with them.

Sally Squires: Plus, if you go at the very end of the farmers market, they also often mark down produce. Of course, the selection can also be more limited, but it's possible to get some great buys that way. Thanks!


Good Food Finds:: I am not associated with the companies just enjoy their good products. Starbucks frappuccino low fat icecream bars. Only 120 calories, 1.5g fat, no trans fat, 3g fiber, 4g protein, 16g sugar. Very tasty!

Also Kashi cherry dark chocolate chewy granola bars. Only 120 calories, 2g fat, no trans fat, 4g fiber, 8g sugar, 5g protein. Also very yummy and good to slip into your backpack for quick snacking.

Sally Squires: Those frappacino bars are very good. I also like the ice cream sandwiches from both Skinny Cow and Weight Watchers. And Health Choice has some wonderful bars. If you can control portions easily: Dove Chocolate bars in the bite size are wonderful. They have about 60 calories each. Dibs are also quite good. But they can be the kind of food that it's easy to eat a number of...not that I'd know anything about that personally or anything...:-)


Mena, Ark: There definitely seems to be a relation between obesity and lower income. I live in an economically depressed area but the obesity rate is very high. Lack of nutritional education is one factor but also, hamburger helper and a big bag of potatos with gravy will feed a big family. Also, on the subject of going public with your weight loss program. It does help. That's why WW is so sucessful. You know that on meeting day you are going to have to weigh and that your weight loss probably will be announced. That's incentive. My wife & I have been WW members in the past. We no longer go to meetings, but we are following the program with pretty good success because we have weekly weigh-ins at home. So the incentive factor is still there.

Sally Squires: Your governor, Mike Huckabee, speaks very eloquently of this very thing. And he not only grew up poor, but also has managed to lose more than 100 pounds and reverse his type 2 diabetes in the process.

Yes, when you're working two jobs, trying to get food on the table, dead tired and still have lots to do before you put the kids to bed, it become quite tempting to stop by at the drive-in for the best buy. It's cheap in the short-run, but can be quite expensive in the long run. But the USDA also has some healthy meals that can be made on a budget. And beans, rice and grees can be quite economical.

It's wonderful wonderful that you and your wife have been supporting each other in your quest for a healthier weight. Thanks very much for weighing in with us today!


Silver Spring, Md: I plan to channel my inner diva to get more exercise in my weekly routine by going dancing twice this week. On Wednesday, salsa lessons and a couple of hours of dancing and then a hip-hop or swing dance class on Saturday. Dancing has got to be one the most enjoyable forms of exercise - I just have to remember to drink water instead of margaritas! Besides the clubs are air-conditioned, too...

Sally Squires: Dancing into fitness is such a joyful way to workout--and have fun. Plus, you can find some muscles that you may not have used recently. Enjoy!


Washington, DC: More couples activities. My parents walk three miles together every evening - and my 64-year old mother just had her doctor tell her that she was the healthiest 50 year old he'd ever seen!! My husband and I will take a long walk in Rock Creek or Sligo Creek Park on the weekends or make a day trip and go hiking. You can start off easy, but it gets the idea in and you start to look forward to it and want to do more. And it all gets easier as you get into better shape, and she'll start to feel better, sleep better, etc once she gets over that initial hump, which a lot of us struggle with.

Sally Squires: It's really hard to beat walking as an activity that nearly everyone can do. No big costs involved there except the desire to do it and the price a pair of comfortable shoes. Just be careful today everybody, since the air quality is not so great and the temperatures are really soaring! My husband and I often take walks in the summer at night with the dog. The mercury is lower and it's a great way to end the day. Sounds like your parents really have a great thing going! Thanks.


Washington, DC: Sally - if you want to feel decadent without the guilt, have you tried Skyr? It's a fat free cheese with a texture very similar to Greek yogurt (but even creamier and richer). I think it is only available at the Whole Foods on P St. Sometimes you can get it plain, and dress it up however you like, and sometimes you can get it pre-made in yogurt parfaits, with fruit and granola. Yummy.

Sally Squires: Thanks for the food find. Haven't tried that, but will look for it.


Frustrated: I'm at a loss. For about 3 months now I've written down every morsel of food htat goes in my mouth and tracking it all on WW - staying withing my points range. Also working out with a trainer 2x a week and going once more. About a month ago I started going all but one work day.

I didn't lose - in fact I gained. My trainer said it could just be the muscle, so I had her measure me - I'm the exact same everywhere - except my thighs, which have gotten bigger.

Frankly, I hate working out and don't love eating right. If I'm just going to stay the same, why do it? Been to the doc - nothing wrong there. ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Sally Squires: Boy, oh boy, that sure is frustrating. Something definitely isn't right here. As for that muscle, most of us build only about 4 pounds with weight training. Doing that can help a little with boosting metabolism, but if you have not seen any toning, I wonder if you have built any muscle.

Have you had a percent body fat done? It might be interesting to see if that has changed.

Also, I know you say that you've written every morsel of food, but have your measured it and measured it carefully? Eyeballing it can be difficult.

I'm glad that your doctor says that things are okay.

Okay, so when you're not at the gym, what are you doing the rest of the day? Look for ways to boost your daily activity. If you are sitting most of the day, even the gym workouts will not necessarily give you a huge calorie burn. Weight training, for example, burns very little. Cardio is what will get your metabolism revved, also just moving more throughout the day.

Continue focusing on the healthy habits. Do you notice that you have more energy? Do your clothes fit better? Are you sleeping better? Seeing any improvements in blood cholesterol levels, etc.? For the time being, forget what the scale says, stick with the healthy habits--and be sure to find habits that you really enjoy!--and see how things continue to go. Please let us know. We're rooting for you.


Atlanta, GA: Another Grocery Store/Farmer's Market Comparison from here in Atlanta-

Asparagus: $2.99 a pound or more at the grocery store, $1.99 a pound at the Farmer's Market

Red bell peppers - $3.69 a pound at the grocery store, $2.69 or so at the Farmer's Market

Sally Squires: Thanks!


Reston, Va: I do not agree with the suggestion to try farmers' markets, in an effort to keep grocery costs down. In my experience, produce at farmers' markets cost WAY more b/c the producers are so small. That's fine, I understand we are supporting local agricture. I just disagree with the advice that it's a viable way to economize. My suggestion for low priced groceries: Wegman's, Magruder's, and/or Shoppers Food Warehouse!

Sally Squires: You answered one of my earlier questions, Reston. Thanks very much and stay tuned for the results of the food comparison in a few weeks.


washingtonpost.com: Calorie Counter


Sterling, Va: Ms. Squires,

Thanks for taking my question! Being national ice cream month, when will the major ice cream stores (TCBY, Baskin Robbins, etc). start to publish their nutrition information on their dishes? Some of their selections have more fat than burgers!

Sally Squires: I had to look to see who you meant, Reston, because everybody calls me Sally. I did find a link for calorie counts for TCBY yogurt. We'll post that in a minute, along with one for Baskin Robbins. Hope that helps. Thanks.


Kensington, Md: Sally--Whenever the weather heats up like this, I whip up my Mom's recipe for the cold, refreshing cucumber soup. It can be a meal at lunch with crackers and some cheese or salad or a starter for dinner. It's very flexible and one batch usually only lasts a couple of meals because everyone likes it. It probably came off a product package years ago but it has stood the test of time in our house.

Mom's Cucumber Soup

2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded (you can use seedless or regular cukes, larger or smaller depending upon how much fiber you want)

1 quart buttermilk (i usually choose non-fat or low-fat)

12-14 oz. chicken stock (low-salt/low-fat)

1 can cream of asparagus soup

1 small onion or 1/2 large onion

6 drops Tabasco or other hot sauce

Fresh ground pepper (I usually don't add salt as there is quite a bit in canned soup and buttermilk but add it if you like)

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender--Chill until cool. Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives. Serves at least 6.

Sally Squires: Sounds delish! Thanks.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners today are Cheap Eats, the husband who is trying to help his wife with weight problems, the couple from Arkansas who lost weight together, the woman whose boyfriend is struggling with weight and the woman who has gained weight over the past several months. Please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line along with your name and address in the message. (If you can type it like a label, it will really help speed processing time.)

Look for updates to the web chat transcript this week around mid-day each weekday. Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club. You can also listen to Lean Plate Club segments on WTWP on Monday at 6:20 a.m. and a longer segment at 11- 11:30.

Thanks to Kim O'Donnell for serving as today's producer.


UPDATED: 7.19.06

Falls Church, Va: Sally, I love your discussions. You are so kind and encouraging, and I think you hit the nail on the head in giving advice to the husband frustrated by his wife's fad dieting and refusal to seriously exercise: he needs to emphasize the fact that he CARES for his wife's health-- and their health as a couple-- over anything physical.

As perhaps the MOST weight-sensitive girlfriend in the world, I have been most responsive to my boyfriend's comments like "I don't care what you weigh, I just want you to feel comfortable going for a walk/kayaking/swimming/whatever-else in the future." He doesn't want to be alone at the top of the mountain looking at the view, in other words. And he wants me to be able to run after any future kids, knock on wood!

Anyway, definitely tell your wife you're concerned about what fad dieting is doing for her health, and emphasize that her well-being, mental and physical, is #1 to you. And continue being a good example! My boyfriend helps me out a lot, hint hint, by cooking for me ALL THE TIME, bless him-- healthy, meals-- and suggesting activities that are truly ACTIVE-ities! (Like going for hikes, playing tennis, etc...) which I haven't always been keen on but have come to love because, well, I love spending time with him!

Good luck!

Sally Squires: Sounds like you and your boyfriend are really tackling this issue well. And I suspect that Lean Plate Club members could lead the way in helping to reframe this weight issue into not one of appearance, but simply of feeling good, being able to do more, have more energy and be healthier. Thanks for passing along your suggestions. I hope that the concerned husband will see the additional postings to the transcript. And look for more on this topic in a future LPC column.


Washington, DC: Here's an old time favorite dessert for these hot days, which is also pretty healthy and very easy to make. Take two containers of 8 oz. yogurt, and flavor you'd like, and mix with a tub of cool whip (I use fat free varieties of each), pour into a graham cracker crust (I use a low-fat one) and freeze. Let it thaw slightly before serving. Often I'll mix in or place some fresh fruit on top too.

Sally Squires: A quick, no-bake pie, just the thing for the steamy days of summer. Thanks, DC!


Watertown, Mass: Re your first poster (expensive to eat healthy?): In my personal accounting, I have finally come to the conclusion that I'll do or pay what I need to to eat healthfully. Given my family history of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, heart attack, etc., I figure that anything extra I spend at the grocery store (or on a gym membership) is a heck of a lot cheaper than what it will take to tackle those chronic diseases.

Sally Squires: And it will probably be a lot more fun too! Having covered many American Heart Association annual meetings--and watched bypass surgery and angioplasty--prevention is a lot nicer, although obviously if one has to have these procedures, it's great that they're available! Thanks Watertown.


Gaithersburg, Md: Eating on the cheap: don't forget to check the area's Asian markets -- they have fresh fish for REALLY stupendously low prices, and they will even clean and cut it any way you like. Places like Grand Mart Han Ah Reum, etc. They also carry really cheap vac-packed frozen fish, like Tilapia, sushi-grade tuna and salmon.

Sally Squires: More great tips for eating cheap, but well. Thanks Gaithersburg!


Alexandria, Va: I recently lost 23lbs. but changed jobs and am on a different schedule. I use to work out at 9pm. Now, I get home earlier but with kids find that I have less time with less hours at work. Also, my wife wants more time alone so I end wup with more child duties. How can I work a compromise with my wife to get an hour of exercise in n a daily basis?

Sally Squires: Congratulations on shedding those 23 pounds, Alexandria. That's really terrific. And given the stresses of switching jobs, you're very smart to tackle this now before any of that weight creeps back on.

Sounds like a confab is indeed order to work out a new schedule that will work for both you and your wife. And let's face it: parents need to be physically--and emotionally--in good shape to be the best parents they can be.

Okay, so some possible compromises:

Can you get some exercise one, two, or three mornings a week? That way you'd be able to give your wife some relief from kids at night. Any chance that you could squeeze in a workout sometimes at lunch? (I realize that might be hard given a new job.)

Could you and the kids do an activity together? It might not be equal to your full workout, but it will still burn some calories. It could be a trip to the park, playing catch, a bike ride together, shooting some hoops, tossing a Frisbee or even something like Dance Dance Revolution (which you put on your television) could be a great way to workout with your kids. Plus, you show them how important activity is, which is a great lesson for them. (And you're also less likely to engage in extra night-time eating in front of the tube!)

You might also consider some exercise equipment at home: a treadmill, stair climber, elliptical. Both you and your wife could use it. The kids can be playing nearby.

Then there are the weekends. You've got two days to really do some serious workouts with or without your family. Hikes, trips to the gym, long walks, bike rides, even visits to museums where you have to walk from one exhibit to another are great ways to stay active. And you might also take a look at the LPC Family Challenge. It's got a lot of stuff for families just like yours. Hope that helps.

Let us know how it goes!


"Cheaper" shopping/eating: I have found that buying in bulk and carefully freezing (I purchased a vacuum sealer which is awesome)saves alot of money as the larger packages of meats are cheaper per pound. I have also done berries while they are less expensive now to use later.

Sally Squires: It's a great strategy to make your own frozen food. You can also freeze cooked food in individual portions for your own "tv dinners." They're not only cheaper, but also you can control the ingredients, especially sodium.

And in perusing appliances recently, I've been surprised at how inexpensive some stand-alone freezers are. They start at about $125, don't take up much room and seem like they could really help stretch the food possibilities.



Baltimore, Md: Regarding making one's weight loss efforts public...I have found that it is very helpful to have a core group of friends who know that I am on Weight Watchers, In fact, three of us attend weekly meeting together. However, I do not share this with my parents (my sister knows). Like many others, I have weight issues associated with growing up and if I make my efforts specifically known to my parents, they think they have a say in matters. I love them dearly, but you should know that for Christmas one year they gave me two aprons. One said "I'm not overweight; I'm undertall". The other said "Eat dessert first; Life is uncertain". Talk about a mixed message.

Sally Squires: That sure is a neck-snapper, Baltimore, and a great example of the things that are done with the best of intentions. Glad you have found another good support network to help with your new habits. Knowing who can help is really key. Thanks for weighing in. And continued success with your efforts.


Chapel Hill, NC: Hi Sally,

I've been looking for a reliable but not too pricey scale. I've now junked two scales in the past four years, one $60 high-tech model (Thinner Digital), and one $25 (Homemedics) low-tech dial scale, both of which began to act weird within 3 - 6 months of purchase. I'd step on the digital and lose 15 lbs after eating; the dial scale began to register a constant weight no matter what I did (when my husband, who's significantly larger than I am, weighed the same as me we knew we had a problem). I don't jump up and down on them, and I have them on flat, hard floors, so I don't know what's going on! Any suggestions for a good, reliable, reasonably priced scale out there? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Tanita makes a good line of scales, some of which are also percent body fat counters. They start at about $50. Anybody else have some scales that they have found to be reliable? Another option: check Consumer Reports.

 UPDATED: 7.20.06

 Ballston: Here's my tip, Sally. When it comes to fresh produce, I only buy what looks and smells best. Organic / snor-ganic...if it's small and dull and wrinkled, I buy the conventional if it appears fresher. Isn't "fresh" far more important than "organic?"

Sally Squires: What's most important is variety,getting enough fruit and veggies--that's two cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of vegetables for most adults daily--variety, eating what you like (because otherwise it sits and goes bad in the 'fridge), variety, what fits with your budget, and did I mention variety?


Preparing For Surgery/Recovery: What are a person's nutritional needs to recuperate from surgery? I am anticipating a hysterectomy in a few months. Not looking forward to it, but it's a fact. In preparation, I am working on toning my abs, so that I will be better able to recover and move about. I am wondering, though, how to balance (a) the fact that my activity will be somewhat limited in the first few weeks with (b) the need for proper nutrition to help the body (and soul) heal.

I have succeeded in losing 15 lbs recently, and have another 10 or so to go. I don't want to reverse all that after the surgery.

Do you have advice? Are there resources I should consult?


Sally Squires: Sorry that you have to undergo this operation, and very much wish you a speedy recovery. It's quite smart to tone your muscles BEFORE surgery. But do this in consultation with your doctor. You might also ask for a referral to a personal trainer that can help ease the road back from surgery.

As for nutrition: protein needs are often increased for wound repair. So you might also ask your doctor for a referral to a registered dietitian who helps with post-op nutrition. Or when you're in the hospital, there should be an RD on staff who can help.

You might consider stocking your 'fridge and pantry with healthy foods now, particularly if your movement will be limited after surgery.

Soups, frozen veggies and frozen fruit, entrees that you have made and frozen for yourself or prepared healthy meals that you buy. They can all help. And you might find some quiet projects for yourself to do while you're recuperating. You know putting together a scrapbook. Organizing photos. Writing "real" letters to people that you may not have been in contact with for a while. Knitting or mending. Even updating your address book or holiday card list. Busy hands are less likely to reach for food!

Good luck with everything. Hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Austin, TX: Feedback for a couple of LPC members from last week:

For Boulder, Colo., who biked 4x/week: First, congrats on the 60# weight loss maintenance (I believe maintaining it is harder than the initial loss)! You stated that you cycled about 4 days a week, but haven't lost any more weight. As an avid runner and sometime cyclist, I think those trips to and from work may not be getting you into a high enough heart rate that you need for "fat burning". You may want to add a longer ride on the weekend, perhaps with some hills that will get your heart rate higher. Also, you may want to check with your doctor about what weight range you should be for your physique. (I am about 5'5" also, and my physician said my ideal was between 130-140.) I personally have slacked off on strength training, and need to get back into it -- it really helped me with keeping my metabolism in check, as well as tone up overall. Good luck!

For Washington D.C. with insomnia: If you've been suffering with chronic insomnia, have your doctor refer you to a sleep clinic for evaluation. It can be covered by insurance, and you will be monitored to see what is really causing your bad sleep. Remember, knowledge is power! Good luck!

Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in Austin. Continued success with your efforts.


Arlington VA: I feel like I exercise and diet as much as I did in my early 20's, but I'm slowly gaining weight year after year (I'm 30 now). What can I do to jump start my metabolism?

Sally Squires: Many adults gain about two pounds per year as they age, so welcome to "growing" group. What can you do? First track your food for a few days--don't change anything--just get a really good measure on what you're eating and exactly how much. Yes, this does entail finding measuring cups and spoons and probably buying a kitchen scale if you don't have one yet. Record and analyze what you're eating. You may find some calorie creep going on that will help to explain those extra pounds.

Two: Add weight training if you're not doing it already. It's great for toning and for building some muscle. You won't build huge amounts--most people add about four pounds at best--but it will help you be stronger and more toned. Plus, muscle burns more calories than fat, so that's good too.

Third: consider boosting your protein intake. A little. There's good evidence to suggest that it also boosts metabolism, which means you could burn more calories Plus it has a high satiety factor, which means you will feel fuller. And check how many processed carbs and other processed food you're eating. If you're not already doing it, make some small changes too, such as switching from two percent milk to skim, from low-fat cheese to nonfat, from fatty cuts of meat to lean. You get the idea.

And throughout the day, try to find at least five minutes to move each hour, even if you are a diehard desk jockey. It will also help boost your calorie burn. Also, be sure to get enough sleep. See last week's LPC column for more.

Hope that helps.


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