Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, July 24, 2007; 1:00 PM

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.

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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Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! We've got a heaping plate up for discussion today.

First, for an upcoming Lean Plate Club column, I'd love to hear from those of you who have either gained weight--or lost pounds--with friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, you get the idea. Please e-mail me about your experiences and please include your name, address, phone and best times to call. Please put upcoming column in the subject line.

Also, anybody out there drinking raw milk? I'd like to know about that too. Same deal as above, but just put raw milk in the subject line please.

Today's prizes are:

Joining the Thin Club: Tips for Toning Your Mind After You've Trimmed Your Body by Judith Lederman

The Volumetrics Eating Plan by Barbara Rolls, PhD.

The Ultimate Omega-3 Diet by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

Everyday Cooking with Dr. Dean Ornish

Winners are announced at the end of each chat. We're looking for great ideas, great inspiration and great tips for healthier habits.

Now on to the chat!


Scottsville, Va.: Re: eating bulky low-cal food to fill up -- this isn't rocket science, and I've been using this approach for a while. I eat a LOT of salad, and have invented my own low-cal, no fat salad dressing. I also eat lots of fruit and other veg, and have cut way back on the grains and other carbs, plus fat of course.

I'm losing weight (18 pounds in 4.5 months -- about a pound a week) and I am feeling full. Of course, the quality of the food isn't so wonderful, but once you can accept that, it works.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Scottsville. Sounds like you're really in a groove. Want to share that salad dressing recipe with us? We'd love to know more. Thanks.


New Haven, Conn.: I had no idea that I wasn't eating enough food to "lose" the weight that I wanted to get rid of. Now that I've added the extra caloric intake, I've lost 33 pounds over the past seven or eight months. I'm convinced ... it really does work!

Sally Squires: Congratulations to you too, New Haven. That's fantastic.


Omaha, NE: I could not agree more with today's column. I am one of those people who gained weight on the Weight Watchers diet because my body needs a lot of good food to lose weight. I would eat my 22 points a day and still feel hungry. I follow my own diet of fish, whole wheat pastas, lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and if I crave ice cream, I add a 1/2 scoop of frozen yogurt to my bowl of fruit, yummy! My diet was a success and making that life change has helped me keep off the weight.

I would, however like more yummy recipes and food ideas. Is there a popular web link that I can check out so that I have a larger variety for my sweet tooth?


Sally Squires: There are a lot of Web sites that can help, although not one specifically geared to low energy density food that I know of. If anyone has found such a site, please send it our way.

Cooking Light and Eating Well magazines are two great resources. So is Shape magazine. Ditto for Family Circle and Woman's Day. Real Simple also has some great, healthful recipes.

And I often go to Epicurious to search for soups, stews, salads, etc. Once you think high fiber, plenty of veggies, whole grains, water filled foods, etc., you can really have a lot of options.

Hope that helps.


Bridgeport, W.Va.: I've been successful in losing 30 pounds over the course of a year, using the FitDay.com Web site to track calories consumed vs. those burned.

I didn't follow any particular diet, but did try to eat more protein than usual because I was lifting weights while losing the pounds.

Is a high protein diet also effective in helping a person boost his metabolism, and thus in keeping the weight off? I heard that on television just the other day and was somewhat skeptical.

Sally Squires: Congratulations to you too! Sounds like we have quite a successful theme going on with this Web chat. And note that everyone has put their own personal twist on their new healthful habits. That's the idea behind the Lean Plate Club--finding what works best for you.

As for protein...gram for gram, it has the same number of calories as carbohydrates. But protein is a little harder for the body to digest so it does rev metabolism a little. Or as the other familiar saying goes on the Lean Plate Club, everything in moderation....

Continued success to you and the others who have posted. Thanks.


Arlington, Va.: I had my metabolism screened at Arlington hospital (highly recommend!); to maintain my weight, my target calories is 2000 a day. My question is, if one day I eat 1800 and the next day I eat 2200, does that balance out ok? What the "day" is a week or a month? (ie average 1800 calories a day one month and 2200 the next). I seem to eat more on the weekends so just wondering if eating a bit less (without going under 1500 cal) is the right strategy to maintain my weight.

Sally Squires: Yes, if you eat 1,800 calories one day and 2,200 the next, your average is about 2,000 calories.

But none of this is perfect. Use these numbers and measurements as tools that guide you towards your goals. A compass is another good analogy. You know you are going in the right direction, but there could be several ways to get to your destination...Hope that helps.


Minneapolis: Hi Sally I'm finding it very difficult to eat the right things. I'm so confused. I don't know if I'm eating enough of the good things and I don't know what those good things are anymore. I recently tried to find a food pyramid chart to help me see what the basics are and found they are know longer being used. What has replaced the food pyramid?

Sally Squires: There are two on-line Web sites by the Department of Agriculture that provide just the help you seek. One is My Pyramid. The other is My Pyramid Tracker. We'll post links shortly.

When you get to My Pyramid, click on Inside the pyramid. That will give you the new food groups, what counts as a serving and much, much more. You can even tailor these sites to your needs. My Pyramid Tracker will even let you record your food and activity on-line.

Watch this space for more shortly.


washingtonpost.com: MyPyramid.gov

Sally Squires: As promised...More to come...


washingtonpost.com: MyPyramid Tracker

Sally Squires: Thanks to our producer Paul Williams for being so fast on the keyboard!


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

Not only do I eat lower density foods now, I've also increased my fiber by eating Kashi Go Lean Crunch for breakfast. Instead of eating a lot at one meal, I've also started to eat four smaller meals per day, and that seems to keep my blood sugar at a more constant rate and I don't feel as ravenously hungry.

The combination of lower density foods, higher fiber, and frequent small meals has allowed me to lose 15 pounds in 4 months!

Thanks for the chats.

Sally Squires: Another successful loser! Congratulations and thanks for chiming in.


Buffalo, N.Y.: What's the difference between energy density and nutrient density? Are they the same?

Sally Squires: Energy density refers to calories. It's technically the calories in a serving divided by the grams (weight) of the serving. The lower the energy density, the more satisfying food you can eat with fewer calories.

Nutrient density refers to how many nutrients a particular food has. For some foods, they could be quite similar. Think of a thick, vegetable soup, for example. But for others--think cake for example, it is an energy dense food that is also not particularly filled with a healthful nutrients.

Hope that helps. Other guidance from Barbara Rolls, PhD, Penn State and author of Volumetrics, is to eat foods that have fewer calories than grams per serving.


washingtonpost.com: Food Pyramid Gets New Look (Post, April 20, 2005)

Sally Squires: As promised, here's the information on the new Pyramid.


washingtonpost.com: Secrets of the Food Pyramid, Revealed (Post, Jan. 16)

Sally Squires: As promised.


Boston: Please tell us more about the energy density diet and where we can learn more about the specifics.

Sally Squires: Barbara Rolls, PhD., professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State, has written two books about energy density. The latest is called The Volumetrics Eating Plan.


Burke, Va.: Any clue how many calories are in those little creamer cups? How about the flavored ones? Measurement?

Sally Squires: They have about half an ounce as I recall. But read the label if you're not sure. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, one of those individual servings of half/half contains 20 calories. If it's an ounce, it has 39 calories. Flavorings don't likely affect the calories. Hope that helps.


Washington, D.C.: Sally,

Returning to work after maternity leave. Managed to lose all the pregnancy weight plus 5 pounds by eating healthy foods and avoiding junk...however, I am afraid my sweet tooth will come back and I will be tempted by vending machine, office goodies, etc. How can I keep up my healthy habits?

Sally Squires: Ok. It's official. This is now our congratulatory chat. How terrific that you are now celebrating your new baby, your return to work and your svelte new body. Fantastic!

To stick with your healthy new habits in the face of the inevitable stress that comes with juggling work and family, you need a plan. And maybe some provisions. So stock some of your favorite healthful foods that have gotten you to this point. You might keep snack packs of soup, whole grain cereals, trail mix, veggies, dried fruit, canned fruit or fruit "sauces," gum, tea, coffee. You get the idea. You want stuff that you can reach for when the going gets tough.

And figure out how to stay active while you're working. You might consider getting a pedometer if you don't already use one. It's a good reminder to stay active.

Another tip: stock some healthful frozen dinners in the office freezer if there's room. Kashi has a great line of products (and I have no affiliation with the company.)

Also, get sleep whenever you can. It's great for many things, including holding the line on appetite!

Congrats again!


Watertown, Mass.: A little off topic, Sally, but I'd love to get LPC members' take on 100-calorie packs. There are so many out there these days. And I find that when I DO want something rather more energy-dense than is good for me, it helps that someone else has done the portion control for me (even though it's way more expensive). Saves me from myself!

Sally Squires: Not off topic at all. In fact, I've tried both the Mini Teddy Grahams and the Alpha Bits Mini Cookies in recent weeks. They're good. And are even better with a cup of hot green tea. Of course, for some, the trick will be to stick with one bag--not the entire box of these 100 calorie treats. (Not that any of us would know anything about doing things like that, right? :-)


Syracuse, N.Y.: Hi Sally,

I'm new to your column...love it!

After college, I lost all the weight I put on (freshman 15, sophomore 15, etc...) by eating every two hours and eating the dense foods you describe...I also keep away from processed foods...natural foods seem to almost always fit the bill. Now I'm starting all over after having a baby and feel confident it will work again.

Sally Squires: Welcome! And congratulations on your baby too. My money is on you. And you illustrate a great point--this is a life-long process, not a one time deal. The habits you develop really can--and as you illustrate--do make a difference. Thanks for chiming in.


Bowie, Md.: I saw Dr. Oz on "Oprah" yesterday and the discussion really got me thinking. Is the book "You on a Diet" worth purchasing?


Sally Squires: I have skimmed Dr. Oz's book,but have not read every page yet. What I saw looked good. And for the sake of full disclosure, Dr. Oz wrote a very nice jacket blurb for Secrets of the Lean Plate Club, which is my latest book.

If you've read Dr. Oz's book--or Secrets of the Lean Plate Club--feel free to weigh in on either one.


Penfield, N.Y.: I have just been diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 68. I would like to go low carb and lose some weight ( currently 5-11 and 192 pounds). I like fruit and veggies...please recommend low carb on both items.

Sally Squires: You've got a lot of company. There are some 17 million people these days with diabetes, most with type 2 diabetes like yours.

The American Diabetes Association publishes many wonderful books and has new volume that you might enjoy by Holly Clegg. It's called Trim and Terrific Diabetic Cooking: Over 250 Recipes that can be on your table in 30 minutes or less.

Do also check with your physician about a referral to a diabetes nutrition educator. Most health plans--and if I remember correctly Medicare--cover these visits. In any case, it is quite valuable to get this one-on-one help with your diet. And if you're not the primary person who cooks meals in your household, consider inviting that person to the appointments too.

There are a huge number of great vegetable options for you. You'll have to be careful with portions of the starchy veggies, such as potatoes or sweet potatoes.

As for fruit, again be guided by what your physician or diabetes nutrition educator advises. Dried fruit will have a higher sugar content than fresh,frozen (without added sugar) or canned fruit (avoid those in syrups.)

Also, pay attention to the types and amounts of fat that you consume. Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. So you want to limit saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat as much as possible in addition to achieving a healthier weight.

You might enjoy former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's book: Quit Digging A Grave with Your Knife and Fork about his diagnosis with type 2 diabetes and the 100+ pounds he lost to control it.

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


Re. 100 Calorie packs: They're not bad, however the new ones (Lorna Doones and chocolate Animal Crackers) are very, very tiny. I guess they feel the need to make them smaller to fill the pouch otherwise you'd probably have 2 cookies. At least the Cheese Nips look like the "real" thing. The Oreo ones are a good chocolate fix if you can get past the fact that there's no cream. Also, the Hostess cupcakes are very small. I think they're playing with your mind since they give you three.

Sally Squires: There may be some eye tricks going on here. Thanks for chiming in.


Syracuse, N.Y.: I loved "YOU: The Owner's Manual" and gave it to others as gifts. I am now reading "On a Diet" and think it's great. It's such an easy read and the tips are practical and easy to follow. It's all common sense...no tricks or gimmicks.

Sally Squires: Thanks!


Lake Monticello, Va.: Hi Sally,

Using the approach of Volumetrics, my husband and I have been keeping gazpacho in the refrigerator quite often during the summer season and will have a cup or so as our first course for dinner. It fills us up and is good for us, plus we find that we don't overeat for the rest of the meal. Here is my recipe:

Mexican Gazpacho

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped (2 cups)

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (I use red or yellow peppers)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 tablespoons minced green chilies or jalapenos

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 cup tomato juice (I use low-sodium tomato juice. Low-sodium V8 also works)

2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

teaspoon salt (optional)

teaspoon pepper

Mix together and chill

Note: I always use more vegetables that the recipe calls for and also use more tomato juice.

Sally Squires: Perfect! A wonderful --and need I add tasty?--example of the energy density approach. Thanks much.


La Jolla, Calif.: What is your opinion of the "Volumetrics" diet approach? I think it makes a tremendous amount of sense by focusing on energy density. But, it seems to attract people much less than, say, low carb diets. This makes me wonder if there is something fundamentally weird in the way diet plans attract followers.

Sally Squires: Nothing weird, unless you consider how publishers spend their marketing dollars. Also, there are many people who are eager to find the next "quick fix" that will (allegedly) help them drop those FILL IN THE BLANK number of pounds for the FILL IN THE BLANK event that they want to look their best for.


Boston, Mass.: This sounds similar to Weight Watchers CORE program which includes "whole" foods vs processed foods. I have had tremendous success doing the CORE program. On another note, I find that I am purchasing more and more organic food items, especially fruit, vegetables & meat to counter the increasingly scary stories coming out about foreign foods (think chicken & shrimp from China) and the recent info about botulism in chili sauce.

Sally Squires: In today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, I included links to the latest on some of the food recalls--as well as links to great tasting healthy recipes and more. You're right: the food recalls do give pause and do underscore that when you control the ingredients in your food, you can have a lot more confidence about what you're really eating. Thanks!


Metropolis, Ill.: As far as energy dense foods go, does it make a difference what times of the day that you eat fruits, or carbs? I find that if I start my day off with carbs, that I crave carbs all day. And what about protein? How does that figure in with the Energy Dense foods?

Sally Squires: Protein is very much in the mix of energy density. Fish, for example, is a low-energy density food. Sausage, bacon, fried chicken, Porterhouse steak would be much higher energy density foods. Beans are another low-energy density protein rich food.

As for starting your day with carbs: what kind of carbs are you eating? Are they more highly processed? Or whole grain? Are you eating oatmeal or Frosty Flakes? You get the idea.

If you consume more processed carbs that are higher in sugar, they could help to fuel that rollercoaster ride of high sugar, insulin production, low sugar and then return of appetite.

Just some food for thought (pun intended!) Thanks for chiming in.


Washington, D.C.: I feel stupid for asking this...but do you have any tips for getting oneself to stop binging at night?

Sally Squires: Not stupid at all. In fact, let me underscore this: you're very smart in wanting to get night time binging under control. It can be a huge fueler of weight gain and is a problem shared by many.

Since we're short on time, here are a couple of quick thoughts:

1. Make sure that you eat enough calories throughout the day. Binging often occurs after being too restrictive. When you appetite finally rears its head, it's hard to pull in the reins.

2. Have a healthful dinner and you can even plan a healthful snack. But then close the kitchen. Remove yourself from the places where you tend to eat, be they in front of the tube, at the computer, or standing at the kitchen sink. (Not that I'd know anything personally about that or anything...;-)

3. Find another activity to keep you occupied. Knit. Do Sudoko. Go for a walk. Clean your bathroom. Brush your teeth. Write a note to a friend. Call a friend. Chew gum. Just do something that keeps you from eating your way through the night. Sleep is also a very good option and most of us cut that short too. Listening to good music is another soothing activity. So is sipping a hot cup of tea.

And when you're sipping, you're not likely eating...

Since books are on our minds today, you might check out Mindful Eating by Brian Wainsink, PhD., an excellent volume about over-eating.

Good luck with your efforts. Hope this info helps.


Altadena, Calif.: I have read and tried to use this approach to some extent. I find eating fruits and vegetables as suggested fills me up, but eating soup does not fill me up, although it is low density. I'd like some readily available lunch suggestions following this approach.

Sally Squires: Wraps made with whole grain flatbreads and loaded with lettuce and other veggies, some lean luncheon meat, beans or hummus. You get the idea.

Fill whole grain pita pockets with tuna or chicken salad made with plenty of veggies and a little mayo.

Smoothie and a half sandwich. (I make my smoothies with Total Greek nonfat yogurt--and I have no connection with the company--plus a banana, a cup of fruit, 2 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice and plenty of ice. Place in blender and sip when done. Yum.)

Those are just a few suggestions....


Sally Squires: We're out of time, but thanks for a wonderful chat. And special congratulations to all those inspiring stories today. How cool is that?

Winners today (you know you're all winners in my book) are:

Lake Monticello, Penfield, Syracuse and the new mom from Washington, DC. Please send me your name and address and please put winner in the subject line. E-mail leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club. Thanks to all!


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally -- do you know of any web sites or free software that will allow me to put in recipes & then calculate the nutritional info? I'm trying to keep track of what I eat, using fitday.com, but I often get stumped on the homemade stuff which isn't in their system at all. Thanks!

Sally Squires: P.S. Yes. Nutrition Data does this. Link to come.


washingtonpost.com: Nutrition Data

Sally Squires: As promised!


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