Lean Plate Club

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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 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

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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club!

August -- and summer -- are quickly coming to a close. So with the start of school right around the corner (and some districts already in session), today's Lean Plate Club column features a snack taste test that can help you choose healthful snacks that kids actually like. See the full results on our homepage at www.leanplateclub.com, where there's an interactive chart.

Many thanks to the 29 students at H.D. Cooke Elementary School for being such willing taste testers. Also thanks go to teachers Kiki Sweigart and Brenda Profit of The Maret School for allowing us to visit the Horizons summer program where the children were students this summer. (You can find more about Horizons -- a summer enrichment program that operates out of New Canaan, Ct. at www.horizonskidsnational.org)

The LPC e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-boxes now. Among other things, you'll find some links to plenty of places to walk, bike and hike whether you're looking for something close to home or when you travel.

If you'd like to subscribe to this free, weekly service, just go to our Web page at www.leanplateclub.com.

Now on to the chat!

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Arlington, Va.: I have a question about exercise. I joined a gym and noticed that if I use a machine (say elliptical or treadmill), I can select different types of workouts. If I choose "Fat Burner," my workout is much less strenuous than "Cardio." I have asked gym employees, my doctor and my Weight Watchers leader. No one can give me an answer because we know that more intense exercise burns more calories which should burn more fat, right? So I ignore those ranges and do as intense a workout as I can handle. I would like to burn more fat than I am, BTW. ... Can you explain this?

Sally Squires: Actually, the lower intensity workouts -- including walking -- are very good fat burners, Arlington, while the aerobic workouts help give your heart and cardiovascular system a better workout. Best bet: mix it up. And by the way, weight training is a good way to tone muscles, which will help you lose inches if not burn fat. Hope that helps. Wishing you great workouts.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Sitting in O'Hare -- flight will be called before chat starts. Bookstore temptation (use your will power on food, you end up having no will power in the bookstore!). Bought a book called "Skinny [Rhymes with Witch]." Hilarious. Greatly motivating. Face it ladies -- we all KNOW what to do. This book is just telling you to DO IT.

Serious question -- why don't the insurance companies give us incentives for getting and staying healthy? After all, we cost them less than the smokers, the overweight, the diabetic, etc. At the end of each year, we could submit letters from our docs attesting to our continued health and good practices, and get a small rebate on our premiums. Wouldn't that be a win-win for everyone?

Sally Squires: Hey Chevy Chase: Book sounds great. Thanks for the tip. Hope that the storms passing through the Midwest don't delay your travel.

As for those insurance companies -- with the rising cost of medical care, it wouldn't surprise me to see employers and insurance companies giving incentives for good health behavior. (And of course, there's already a model for this for non-smokers.) What do you think Lean Plate Club members? And is anyone already getting an incentive out there from an employer or health insurance company for moving more and eating less?

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Shawnee, Okla.: Is the man disabled to the point of being unable to care for a child? If he is unfit physically to provide care he should be denied based on his physical limitations, as should anyone. If he is only being denied because he does not meet the insurance profile he should file a discrimination lawsuit. I would expect that in California where they worship the genetically enhanced "gods and goddesses" of the world but usually normal expectations come out of Missouri.

washingtonpost.com: Check out the "Weighty Adoptions" section: Student Testers Find Healthful Snacks (Post, Aug. 21)

Sally Squires: For those who have not yet read today's LPC e-mail newsletter, I included an item about an obese man who has been denied the right to adopt a child because of his weight. From what I have seen, the man is not experiencing weight-related health problems. Thanks for weighing in.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding weight issues and prospective adoptive parents: I'm not an expert, but I believe the adoption process includes physicals for the prospective parents. If a doctor states that the prospective parent is physically able to care for a child (no matter what that parent weighs), then their weight should not be an issue; however, if a prospective parent has severe mobility or health issues resulting from obesity, I can understand why an adoption agency might be hesitant to place a child with that person. It is the agency's responsibility to make sure that the child's best interests are served.

Sally Squires: Thanks for chiming in D.C. This man is now considering weight loss surgery. It will be interesting to see what happens as the story continues to unfold.

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Washington, D.C.: Hello Sally,

Here is something different I tried a few days ago and love now: a slice of pizza with an egg on top. I know it sounds really strange, but it's common in Italy to crack an egg on top of your pizza. I cook up just egg whites, but I think vegetables would be a great addition, and have on top of the pizza with Tabasco sauce. For me this really stretches a slice of pizza and is quite filling.

Thanks for letting me share.

Sally Squires: Those egg whites also provide some great protein. In fact, the fitness guru Jack LaLanne gets a lot of his protein from egg whites. They're also low in calories -- about 10 each -- and have zero fat. Plus, the best part is that you like this creative pizza. That's what really counts. Thanks for the tip.

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Calories and weight: Sally, I am training for a half marathon and as a result, I have been running more than ever in my life. Because of all the running, I have given myself free reign to eat a lot (I eat pretty healthy, but over-sized portions). I have gained some weight as a result, so I am trying to scale back. Once the race is over, I will not be running as regularly anymore, although I will continue lifting weights and cross-training. I probably won't need to consume as many calories as I am eating now, so how do I figure out how much I need to cut back once I stop running, to maintain my weight? Do you have any easy suggestions? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Yes. An easy rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and multiple by 12. That will give you a rough estimate of the amount of calories you need daily to maintain your weight. So if you weight 150 pounds that's about 1,800 calories (if my quick calculation is correct. Do check me please, LPCers, because my fingers are flying!)

To lose about a pound a week, cut 250 calories from your intake daily and increase activity by 250 calories.

Good luck with the marathon. Hope you'll tell us how it goes. Thanks!

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Snack Tip: I eat a tablespoon or two of peanut butter with a serving size of semi-sweet chocolate chips. It usually hits the spot for the sweet fix, plus it'll keep you sated for a while thanks to the peanut butter. In fact, I think it's a fairly healthy snack all around.

Sally Squires: Yum. For those who have not yet read today's LPC e-mail newsletter, I asked for snack suggestions. This one is filled with protein and healthy fat. Figure that two tablespoons of peanut butter contain about 180 calories. Chocolate chips -- a source of healthy stearic acid -- will add more calories of course. ... But it does sound like a winning combination. Thanks!

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San Mateo, Calif.: Though I can understand why people would argue that the obese may not prove to be fit parents, I have to wonder how much control people want to give the state. Shall we take children away from parents who are "unhealthy" or have bad habits? Why not expand it a bit and say that anyone with bad morals or ideas can't have children here? Why not take kids away from alcoholics? I think the bigger problem is where to draw the line.

Sally Squires: It will be interesting to see how far this debate goes. Thanks for chiming in San Mateo.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Sally. I was eager to read your story on snacks, but was disappointed when I saw the items featured. Many of these contain way too many additives or preservatives, or contain high-fructose corn syrup, white flour, etc. What about natural, whole grain products? Instead of the Nature Valley granola bar, why not Clif's Z-Bar for kids? Instead of fake 100 calorie Wheat Thins, why not whole grain crackers from Kashi or Amy's? I also worry about giving my daughter a packet in her lunch that is emblazoned "100 CALORIES!" I don't want her obsessing too early about calories or thinking that I am putting her on a diet.

Some of my kids' favorite snacks include the Z-Bars, individual packets of apple slices (no caramel), Annie's Bunny crackers and grahams, Kashi cheese crackers, Robert's Smart Puffs, and Van's waffles. Would like to have seen you focus on more natural, whole-grain, higher-fiber, lower-sugar products.

Sally Squires: I understand and it sounds like we ought to do another snack test soon. But these were among the products that I could find easily at a local grocery -- the place that most parents are likely to shop. And believe me there were plenty of others that I passed up because they didn't have a lot redeeming nutritional value!

Thanks for chiming in.

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Egg on pizza: I don't get it. Do you crack a raw egg on the pizza, then bake the pizza? Are we talking uncooked pizza? Or do you cook the egg (and if so, how? scrambled, fried)?

Sally Squires: I think that the eggs are cooked before adding, but I'll post to see if we can get a response.

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washingtonpost.com: Here's an idea from Food Network: Pizza with Prosciutto, Spinach, Truffle Oil, and Egg

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Phoenix, Ariz.: Good morning, Sally,

I usually have oatmeal for breakfast, and take an English muffin with peanut butter to work -- this is my morning snack at 9:30 or 10 a.m. Am I taking in too many carbs? Should I be using something else to hold me over until lunch at noon? Even if I have a large breakfast with protein, I'm starving by 10 a.m.

Sally Squires: Hey Phoenix: Starving at 10 a.m. doesn't sound like a lot of fun. Do you make that oatmeal with skim milk instead of water? That would be one way to increase the protein in it. And is your English muffin whole grain? Complex carbs with whole grains take longer for the body to digest and are less likely to send blood sugar soaring and then plummeting, which is what helps stoke hunger.

You might also try adding a hard boiled egg or string cheese (low-fat) to that mid-morning snack to help tide you over until lunch. And try sipping a cup of tea or other non-caloric beverage with it. That could also keep you full.

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Yorktown, Ind.: Hello, I've just found out (through a visit to the emergency room) that I may have problems with my gall bladder. Could this be caused by bad diet? Can I help it by eating better?

My mother-in-law claims that too much lettuce hurts her gall bladder. Is this possible? What little research I've done online looks as if the problem is fat.

Any advice welcome. ...

Sally Squires: Sorry to hear that Yorktown. Gall bladder problems can indeed be linked to diet and weight. Being overweight or eating a high fat diet are some of the best known culprits. No evidence that I'm aware of to link lettuce, however, to gall bladder disease, despite what your mother-in-law said.

We'll post a link in a minute to information at the National Institutes of Health.

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Morganfield, Ky.: I have a very picky toddler who likes to snack periodically rather than eat a lot at one time. He doesn't like many fruit or vegetables, so I try to sneak things in (he's only 1 1/2). Here are some snack items that have successful for me:

He really likes those Welch's dried fruit snack packs. They have Tropical, Mixed Fruit, and Mixed Berries. Also: Individual packages of yogurt covered raisins; Cheese sticks (especially the mixed cheese, he likes the color contrast); Yogurt to go (squeezable yogurt packs in a variety of great flavors like Banana Split and Strawberry Milkshake).

Lunchables has new "Snack packs" that have different combinations. One has low fat mozzarella, bite size turkey and tiny Ritz crackers. Another has raisins, peanut butter and Ritz sticks. Another has yogurt dip, teddy grams and cheese. Veggie and Fruit chips and V8 Fusion juice (one serving has a full serving of fruit and vegetables) as well.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into this! One caveat: some of these snacks are pretty high in sugar -- particularly the yogurt covered raisins. I've also been surprised at how much added sugar can be in some of the dried fruit. So check those labels. Pineapple and cranberries are two that often have as much added sugar as candy. Thanks for chiming in.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Sally,

I LOVE raw onions. I know that I can count 1/2 cup of onions as a veggie serving, but do onions have any significant nutritional value?

Sally Squires: They do indeed. Allicin is an ingredient of onions. It helps control blood pressure, can help reduce cholesterol and appears to increase immunity. Happy eating. By the way, how's your breath? :-)

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Delaware: I'm trying to cut down on fats/oils -- but what can I use as a substitute for olive oil in dressings or other recipes? Is there some sort of fat free unflavored salad dressing so I can use my own recipes?

Sally Squires: Fat free yogurt, mayo or sour cream can help make a great tasting low fat salad dressing with vinegar and spices. Mustard can also be used. So can avocado, but that's also got fat. But then, you could also use a little bit of oil -- a teaspoon or two -- in your dressing. That fat helps you absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in your salad, which include vitamins A, D, E and K.

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Suggestion for Phoenix: I have also found that if I eat breakfast before work (7:30) I'm really hungry at 10. But, I've found that if I wait until 9:30 or so to eat breakfast, I'm full until lunchtime. Perhaps Phoenix could try waiting until later to eat. Or, I have found that its helpful to split up a meal. I always bring a snack or save part of my lunch for around 4 p.m. when I get hungry again. The same could be done with breakfast.

Sally Squires: Good suggestions! Thanks.

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Philadelphia: For the mother of the picky toddler -- also, I'd suggest checking those "Yogurt to Go" packs. Yogurts marketed toward children are very high in sugar generally; you might have luck getting him to eat plain yogurt with fresh berries and yogurt you stir in -- the berries have natural sugars, but the yogurt itself will be low, and he might have fun picking the variety of colors and swirling them around to make patterns in the yogurt. You can pop these into the freezer, too, so he can have his own "ice cream." And in the process you might be able to convince him to try some of the berries fresh on their own and convince him that he does like them and is "being silly" when he thinks he doesn't.

Sally Squires: Another great breakfast or snack are parfaits made with fresh fruit, a little granola and plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt flavored with a little vanilla. Also, frozen bananas can be mashed and taste very creamy -- almost like ice cream! Thanks for chiming in.

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washingtonpost.com: Gallbladder disease

Sally Squires: As promised. ... Thanks to Bo, our producer for the day.

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Phoenix, Ariz.: I make oatmeal with skim milk, and sometimes have a couple slices of bacon on the side for protein. At work, I eat a whole-grain English muffin with peanut butter.

Great idea re: hard-boiled eggs! I often bring string cheese, but haven't utilized the eggs or tea. Thanks for the suggestions.

Sally Squires: You're quite welcome. That's why we're here! And for variety, you might also try the turkey bacon or the meat substitute bacon. Both are surprisingly good. Thanks!

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Ocala, Fla.: Hi Sally, thanks for taking my question. Is there a way that the food manufacturers could be educated not to add high fructose corn syrup to foods? Take into consideration the facts that this product increases food cravings, yeast and candida and of course cholesterol concerns.

Thank you.

Sally Squires: There's been great discussion about high fructose corn syrup in nutrition and food industry circles in recent years. While there's lots of conjecture about the effects of HFCS, few, if any health effects have been proven to date. Bottom line: HFCS is a sugar, like many other sugars. Too much added sugar of any kind is likely not good for your waistline or your teeth. Everything in moderation. ... And you may be interested in next week's column, which is on food addictions. Thanks to all for the wonderful e-mails last week. They've been really helpful.

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Chicago: To follow up about the whole grain English muffins, I have found that the light regular muffins have way more fiber than the whole grain versions so I tend to choose them. Is it better to choose whole grains and less fiber or more fiber, no whole grains, if the goal is to stay full longer?

Sally Squires: If you're trying to stay full on fewer calories, then fiber may be your better choice. But do an experiment: try one on one day; the other on another. See what effect it has on you. That's the real bottom line!

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Watertown, Mass.: Re salad dressings -- For vinaigrettes, I substitute chicken or veggie broth for all but a tablespoon of olive oil. It tastes great and you don't miss the oil. Actually I do the same thing when making homemade pesto!

Sally Squires: Great suggestion! Others are ground garbanzo beans (or other beans) which will give some "cream" and flavor as well as protein and fiber. Tahini -- sesame paste -- could also be used (although it's not fat free, but it has healthful fats).

Tomato juice or V-8 could also be used for flavor.

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Washington, D.C.: This isn't a ready made snack, but my kids fight over this after school ... dry and cube extra-firm tofu. Shake batches in a brown paper lunch bag with corn starch. Fry in hot canola or other vegetable oil. Drain on paper towels. Serve lightly salted and plain or with any kind of dip. You'd be surprised how kids take to tofu when prepared this way!

Sally Squires: Sounds creative and good. I'll bet that the tofu could also be rolled in whole wheat white flour with similar results or in sesame seeds or slivered almonds. Of course, both of those will add some fat and calories. But everything in moderation!

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi Sally,

For the past few months, I have been working out to increase muscle tone in my legs. However, even though they look great, I have noticed an increase in cellulite! Could my diet contribute in any way to this increase? Help!

Sally Squires: Cellulite is such a chronic problem for so many people. I've even seen marathon runners with cellulite.

This is partly genetically determined. And despite many purported remedies, there really is very little that can be done about cellulite(sans liposuction or some other more invasive procedure.) So keep at that weight training. It will tone your muscles -- and it does take time to do this -- and that toning can help. Sorry not to have better news, but recent diet isn't likely the cause unless you've put on weight from your efforts. Thanks for chiming in.

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Watertown, Mass.: Egg on Pizza: My husband fondly remembers a youthful trip to Spain where he ate pizza lachrima -- a pizza mounded with onions, with an egg in a center well in the onions. Crack the egg in there, then bake the pizza. The yolk should be runny, like tears from the onion (hence "lachrima"). Yummy!

Sally Squires: Yum indeed! Thanks for the explanation.

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New York, N.Y.: Another healthful snack:

18 raw almonds -- just over 100 calories and enough for an enjoyable crunchy snack loaded with protein and "good" fat.

I buy in bulk, multi-pound bag from Indian supermarket, count out the day's supply, and repackage it in small, reusable snack-size baggie, bringing the cost down to less than $0.20 per serving.

Sally Squires: That's a great snack -- and economical too. Plus, don't they taste wonderful? I love putting raw, slivered almonds on my salad. Thanks!

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Breakfast: I usually have oatmeal for breakfast too (bran flakes on the really hot days). I have been riding my bike into work (about 10 miles each way), so I keep frozen veggie sausage patties in the freezer at work for a 10:00 a.m. snack, and microwave for 45 seconds. I buy the Trader Joe's version, which are under 100 calories each, I think. The sodium content may be high, however, because it usually is in packaged foods. I haven't eaten meat for years, so I may not remember what meat sausage tastes like, but these "fake sausage" patties are really good! Would go well as a protein source to supplement an oatmeal breakfast, instead of bacon or an egg.

Sally Squires: Another good mid-morning snack could be a cup of tomato soup. Or a cup of tomato red pepper soup. Again, it's not low in sodium, but it is low in calories and counts towards the daily intake of veggies. Plus, because it's warm, you have to sip it slowly and the water content can help with satiety and fullness. (This chat is making me hungry!)

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

Just wanted to clarify the egg on pizza thing. Yes, traditionally in Italy one cracks an entire egg on a pizza after it's taken out of the oven. The heat will cook the egg. Since I only eat the whites, I cook them separately in a pan and put on top of pizza that I buy or make at home. Hope that helps.

Sally Squires: Duly clarified, D.C. And if one wanted to put egg whites on the pizza, they now sell those in cartons at groceries in the dairy case. Thanks.

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Nebraska: I love edamame as my afternoon snack when I get home from work. I buy them in a one pound bag, microwave about two cups (in shells) for about three and a half or four minutes, shell and eat. They are very good for you and have about 125 calories and loads of vitamins. Little salt helps, too.

Sally Squires: Veggies are an often overlooked snack that are low in calories and high in flavor. What could beat that? Ratatouille would be another great snack, particularly at this time of year. Ditto for hummus, of course, and baba ghanoush.

Thanks!

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Hello Sally --

This was a great idea to have snacks and their ratings, thank you! My kids are picky eaters when it comes to healthy foods, so this is very helpful. I do want to share one snack/drink that my kids actually love! They are always begging for soda and other sugary drinks and I have a hard time finding alternatives that taste good and are better for them. I recently discovered Honest Kids, thirst quenchers that come in fun flavors, have less sugar, calories and are organic. And my kids can't tell the difference! Their favorite is the Berry Berry Good Lemonade. Just thought I'd share the wealth. Thanks for all of your great suggestions.

washingtonpost.com: Snacks That Pass The Test (Post, Aug. 20)

Sally Squires: Thanks Minneapolis. (And please tell me that you have no connection with the company!) I haven't yet tried these drinks, although we have samples that we plan to taste soon. Look forward to trying them.

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Southern Md.: I find that making little lunch characters out of foods really makes a kid happy. For example, I make apple ladybugs, using raisins for the eyes and dots. I also make ants on a log (celery with raisins and peanut butter) and pasta salad with faces made out of pepperoni. The possibilities are endless (and fun)!

Sally Squires: This is a great idea! Also, fruit or veggie shish kabobs can be real winners with kids. Presentation counts a lot. Thanks for weighing in.

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Summer dessert: Slice a peach or take a cup of berries. Add Equal, Splenda or whatever to taste and top with cream. I know, cream is not exactly a health food, but a couple tablespoons is plenty for a cup of fruit and it makes a really decadent-tasting dessert for 200 calories or less. And you're still getting all that fresh fruit.

Sally Squires: Yep. You are indeed. And two tablespoons of whipped cream has only about 25 calories -- of course, it's key to stick with those two tablespoons, so you may need to measure. ... :-)

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Weight Loss Plateau: Hi Sally,

After six months in a cast for a fractured ankle, I am finally becoming active again. The increase in activity combined with a low-fat, low-carb diet has helped me shed seven lbs. gained over the months of inactivity. But I seem to have hit a plateau! I'm not gaining any more, which is good, but can't seem to get any lighter no matter what I do! What could be causing this and how do I get off this plateau? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Plateaus are very, very common -- and can be quite challenging, can't they? (And so very sorry about your broken ankle.)

You might try boosting weight training and also look for ways to be active throughout the day. Even fidgeting helps burn extra calories. Pedometers can be a good reminder to stay active. (For most of us, wearing one shows how incredibly sedentary our lives are unless we take those steps to move more!)

Another option: consider getting up for a five minute walk every hour. Over eight hours, that works out to an extra 40 minutes of activity. Just taking the stairs to go to a restroom on a different floor or walking to a restaurant for lunch that's an extra block away can help.

Finally, be sure that you're getting enough sleep. Most of us give that short shrift and there's good evidence that being sleep deprived has great effects on appetite, insulin levels, blood sugar and more. And if you're not measuring and weighing your food, you might try that for a few days, just to be sure that you aren't experiencing calorie creep -- very common for most. ...

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

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Rockville, Md.: Regarding the obesity restriction for adoptive parents, I understand that obesity can be a predictor of future health problems, but overweight people cannot be denied the option to give birth if they choose (if they are able to do so), so they should not be denied the right to adopt a child either.

Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in.

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Rosslyn, Va.: The Food section had a great bunch of tomato recipes last week. I have made the Tomato Shrimp Delight recipe three times now and it is just delicious and so easy! A great, light summer recipe. (I even got all the ingredients at Trader Joe's, which made it that much easier.) I am definitely going to include it in my regular fare. I am down 12 pounds from a year ago -- little by little adding in exercise and some great, light recipes like this have made a big difference to me!

Sally Squires: Congrats on those 12 pounds, Rosslyn. And yes, those tomato recipes looked terrific. Thanks for reminding us about them.

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Sacramento, Calif.: I don't think weight should be an adoption criterion. My obese brother is a very good parent. Nobody knows how long they are going to live. Just because someone is obese doesn't mean they're going to be a bad parent.

Sally Squires: Well said, Sacramento. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Absolutely! The bigger picture is that if this man can not handle his own nutrition and eating habits he will definitely pass those eating habits on to the child causing another obese child. The man should take time to learn good nutritional habits, he should hire a personal trainer to assist him in a weight loss program and he should find out if he has any medical problems due to his obesity. Then and only then should he consider adopting a child at that point. Good eating habits and a healthier life will make his relationship with this child more beneficial for them both.

Sally Squires: As you can see, this has been a hot button issue. I suspect as the story continues to unfold that we'll hear more. Thanks for chiming in, D.C.

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Hebo, Ore.: Although I am fortunately to live in the coastal range of Ore., and so the heat wave has not been nearly so intense, I still walk in the mountains later in the day when it's a little cooler. Breathtakingly beautiful. When I'm in the city, I have found the library to be a lovely place to walk because there are several floors, and climbing stairs is great for the cardiovascular. Not only am I able to exercise my body, but while I'm there, I can exercise my mind. So much of library research can be found on the Internet instead of in books these days.

washingtonpost.com: Half an Hour for Health (Post, Aug. 14)

Sally Squires: What a great idea! I loved walking in the Santa Monica Mountains this weekend. It was beautiful and quiet. And I was pleasantly surprised at what a wide range of people were doing it too, from a nanny with a baby in a stroller to senior citizens and plenty of canine companions. It was great!

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Bethesda, Md.: Sally,

Thanks for the great tips for back-to-school snacks. I have somewhat of the opposite problem with my daughter. She is very near the bottom of the weight charts for her age (six) and our pediatrician recommends keeping the fat in her diet -- whole milk, full fat yogurt, etc. Any tips on healthy lunch ideas and snacks for her lunch bag? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I feel like we are in a lunch time rut. ...

washingtonpost.com: Snacks That Pass The Test (Post, Aug. 20)

Sally Squires: Total has a wonderful yogurt with honey that is delicious and full fat. It has about 250 calories, which is plenty for your daughter. Nuts and trail mix would be other higher calorie treats that she could enjoy as well as nut spreads, ranging from peanut butter (provided she doesn't have an allergy, of course!) to Nutella (made with Hazelnuts).

Hope that helps.

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London, U.K.: Hi Sally,

I'm submitting my question early because of the time difference. I'm worried that I may not be eating enough. A recent calorie estimate I did on my eating habits (male, mid-20s, 140 lbs) revealed that I average about 1500 calories a day, as I don't have a big appetite and eat small meals. Many of the nutrition Web sites I visited said that for a person my age/weight, I should be eating well over 2000/day (though the actual number differed from site to site). Is that correct? I exercise regularly and walk everywhere, so I guess I would say I'm fairly active.

Besides lack of energy, what are the long-term dangers of not eating enough? I have acid reflux, and I'm wondering if a calorie deficit is actually exacerbating the condition.

Thanks!

Sally Squires: A few more calories sound like they may be in order for you, London. At 140 pounds -- and still being on the young end of the age spectrum -- you need at least 1,700 calories to stay even. Since you're also active, you likely need more. So try boosting your calories to 1,800 or 2,000 a day to see what happens. The trick here is to make these healthy calories. So think an extra piece of chicken or fish, some nuts, whole grain crackers, low-fat cheese, fruit and veggies. You get the idea.

Hope this helps and that you'll keep us apprised of how it works.

Thanks!

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Bailey Island, Maine: When my son began school in kindergarten, he brought home a note from the teacher asking the parents to make snacks for the children. Her suggestions were for cookies, cupcakes, and primarily sweet items. I went to talk with the teacher about the possibility of our making healthy snacks. I brought with me a tray full of sliced apples with peanut butter (the kind with no added ingredients) between two apple slices.

The children loved the snack, and it disappeared in a very short time. The teacher was very interested in healthy snacks. She wrote another note to the parents suggesting healthy snacks for our children, then gave and solicited suggestions. The parents liked the idea also, and began contributing healthy snacks and ideas for more.

Sally Squires: Now there's a great example of the power that one person can have in helping many others to make healthful changes! Congratulations! Thanks for chiming in today.

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Birthday cake: Hi Sally, do you have any ideas how to make birthday cake a little less guilt-inducing? I was thinking of maybe a carrot cake with less oil and less frosting? Also it needs to be fairly foolproof because I am a beginner. Thanks!

Sally Squires: There are now prune pastes and applesauce that can be used in place of some or all of the fat in birthday cakes. Another option: serve a fruit tart. Or since a birthday just happens once a year, have a small cake. Enjoy and then celebrate the same way next year! Everything in moderation. ...

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Washington, D.C.: I have been working with a personal trainer twice a week for about three weeks now. We focus on weights and strength training and I do cardio on my own. I have read in many places that building muscle increases metabolism and helps to burn fat. Is this really true? If so can you explain how this process actually works? I am a woman in her late 20s, FYI. Thanks!

Sally Squires: Building muscle does indeed help boost metabolism -- a little -- because muscle burns more calories than fat. Weight training has many more benefits including toning your muscles and that can produce a smaller dress size as well as strength for lifting your bag into the overhead compartment on the plane (and a thousand other things.)

So there are plenty of reasons to keep up this great regimen that you are doing. For more, see a site called Strong Women.

Thanks.

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Mr. Jefferson's Town, Va.: How does one regain motivation?

I've lost a lot of weight, been injured, even lost weight during that and now that I can go to the gym and do some things -- I've lost my motivation. It's not that I want to regain 60-100 pounds. I love wearing my smaller clothes. I just have another 30-40 pounds more to go and I'm tired. The past six months of rehab and trying to be good has worn me out to a degree. My fellow writing friends on weight loss are seem tired too. I'm not exercising hard enough (yet today my knee is killing me) and I'm having a hard time resisting free food (like the half of a brownie and some potato chips).

Help. I don't want to be fatter.

Sally Squires: Burnout often goes with the territory. So here's what you might consider doing: try just staying the weight you are right now for a month. Weight maintenance is what you'll be doing once you reach your goal anyway. So consider this practice for that time. Set a future date to resume your weight loss efforts now if you so choose. Or decide to continue your weight maintenance. But ... if you start to regain pounds, return right away to weight loss mode.

Good luck. And congratulations on what you have accomplished. That's quite a feat. Hope you'll let us know how it goes. Continued success to you.

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Knoxville, Tenn.: One of our favorite lunch/snack items is peanut butter dip. Just mix 1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky) with one (six ounce) container of vanilla yogurt. Pulse it in the food processor until smooth. You can use this as a dip with carrots, apples, or grahams. It's fabulous, nutritious and a winner with kids and parents alike.

Sally Squires: Yum! Thanks!

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Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a lively chat! Tuesdays are my favorite days because I get to chat with all of you.

Winners today are: Bailey Island,Maine Wt. loss plateau; suggestions for Phoenix and Hebo, Ne. Please send your name, address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please put winner in the subject line. Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club.

Thanks to all!

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