Lean Plate Club
Tuesday, October 9, 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 email@example.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.
A transcript follows.
Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club Web chat. The e-mail newsletters should be arriving in your in-boxes about now. Hope that you all had a great Columbus Day weekend, a three-day holiday for many, although not all of us.
We're talking about food-borne illnesses today and mercury in fish among many other topics. And in this week's e-mail newsletter find plenty of links to great tasting recipes for dinner this week.
Now on to the chat!
Phoenix: Good morning, Sally,
In reference to this quote from your article today:
"It's also a good idea to toss sponges and food scrapers into the dishwasher for a full cycle ... Another option: 'Nuke the sponges in the microwave on high for a few minutes to sterilize them.' "
After reading Gerba's advice, many people set their sponges on fire in the microwave because they neglected to first wet the sponges. Please remind your readers to wet sponges before microwaving them! Otherwise, they may wind up with a kitchen fire.
Sally Squires: Thank you for that very excellent caveat. Yes. I can see how dry sponges would be a potential fire hazard -- not what anyone intends. I was writing about wet sponges, so if yours aren't wet, well, you know what to do. And it's always a good idea to be nearby when the microwave is running anyway just to monitor it. Thanks again!
Washington, D.C.: Squash Soup For Those Who Don't Like the Taste of Squash
Fast; easy; only one pot needed.
Chop one onion and two cloves of garlic; simmer in olive oil.
Peel and seed a summer squash. (Possibly works with other types of squash.) (You need to get rid of the stringy bits as much as possible.) Chop into squares.
Peel and chop one or two potatoes into squares.
Toss into the pot, add enough water to cover, and simmer (20-30 minutes) until the potato and squash are cooked (soft).
Use a blender (I prefer hand-held electric food mill - no need to transfer soup out of pot or to clean blender) to blend everything together.
Add chicken broth and/or milk. Salt if needed. Heat and serve (with croutons if you have them.)
Potato and onions take edge off of that "Squashy" flavor, and tastes great even to those (like me) who do not like yellow squash.
Sally Squires: Yum. This sounds great and takes advantage of all that wonderful squash that is now hitting produce sections near you. Last night, I made spaghetti squash in about 15 minutes in the microwave. Then added sun dried tomatoes, a little grated parmesan and some other flavorings. It was wonderful -- and I am a recent convert to the wonders of spaghetti squash. Another yum.
Boston: Submitting early...
Two of my favorite healthy meals/snacks:
- Peanut Butter/Banana smoothie
One banana, a teaspoon of peanut butter, 3-4 ice cubes and 3/4 cup milk - blend until smooth (longer to make frothy). This comes out tasting more like a milk shake than a smoothie to me - it's my favorite breakfast replacement or late afternoon snack to stave off pre-dinner hunger pains.
- Roasted chickpeas
These are just delicious - take two cans chickpeas (drained and rinsed) and spread on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet (only one layer of chickpeas). Add a bit of olive oil (I use the spray to distribute evenly and make sure I don't use too much) Then add lots of spices (my two favorite combos are a lemon pepper mix I found and garam masala + curry powder + cayenne). Roast in oven for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees. They come out crunchy and -great- tasting!
Sally Squires: These both sound good and those roasted chickpeas are a wonderful source of fiber, complex carbohydrates and protein. Now that my ovens are back up and working, you'll inspire me to try making this healthful snack.
And while commercial smoothies can sometimes be quite high in calories, when you take things into your hands, a smoothie is a good snack or meal. Because it's high in volume, it also can help you feel fuller on fewer calories.
Thanks for sharing these.
San Juan, P.R.: Sally -- Dietary recommendations for sodium, cholesterol, fats, etc., are set at certain levels so we know if we are eating low medium or high amounts. Caffeine is a food component that is of concern since it is found in many beverages but most of the recommendations state "don't drink too much."
Is there a good reference value that could be set in mg/day so we might know what are low, medium and high for caffeine?
Sally Squires: I have not seen a good reference for how much is too much coffee -- beyond common sense of course. Barry Popkin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina and colleagues at other well-known institutions, including Johns Hopkins, developed a system to rate beverages. We'll try to post a link to their original commentary in a minute as well as to a chart for someone eating 2,200 calories daily. On that, they list 12 ounces of coffee in the a.m., then decaf coffee and tea in the p.m. Of course, this is not cast in stone, just one possible scenario that may help guide you.
Hope that helps.
Sally Squires: As promised. More to come
Washington, D.C.: Sally, thanks for your invaluable columns, chats, and newsletters. I was reading about the Fat Flush diet/eating plan and was wondering if any of the other chatters had experience with it. I do not at all believe in low/no carb dieting, but I am a supporter of minimizing/eliminating processed and simple carbs. Is Fat Flush the typical South Beach type all-carbs-are-evil plan?
Sally Squires: It's been a while since I looked at the Fat Flush plan, which was published a few years ago. So I'm going to solicit other comments from the LPC membership at large.
And remember with any of these plans, books, diets, etc.: Nearly all work for some people at least for a while. The questions to ask: do they have you do anything that is considered unhealthful? And is what they propose something that you can live with for a long time.
If the answer is yes, then it can be worth a try (provided that you also don't have any pre-existing medical conditions that would interfere. It's always good to run something new past your doctor.)
No one diet or weight loss program works for everyone, which is why it's important to figure out what works best for you!
What say you LPCers about the Fat Flush plan?
Sally Squires: Also as promised...
Double-wash your salad?: I visited a friend of mine who is vegetarian this weekend, and she washed a container of mixed lettuces from Whole Foods in plain water, then spun it out in her salad spinner. She said she was doing this due to recent bacterial scares. My question: would plain water be enough? I've read in the past that a very weak bleach solution is needed to actually kill any e coli or other baddies hiding on vegetables.
Sally Squires: In going through the extensive USDA Web site on food-borne illnesses -- find plenty more about its many offerings in today's LPC e-mail newsletter -- I saw that bleach and detergent is specifically not recommended for use on any food. And as I have listened to teleconferences for reporters on this topic, one question that has arisen is if the E coli infections in plant based food occurs on the plant itself -- which means it could potentially be removed with washing -- or inside the leaves, which may mean that it can't be removed. But that's still being determined scientifically.
So in the meantime, keep doing all the right things and eat a wide variety of food, which also helps lower the risk of contamination from any one source. Hope that helps. Thanks.
Keeping exercise interesting: Although I have never been a runner, I've recently taken up jogging. I've lost a large amount of weight over the past few years and I keep looking for ways to ramp up my exercise routine - also, doing the same thing every day has gotten a little boring. I'm taking it slow -- jogging for 2 blocks in my neighborhood and walking for 1. I've also signed up to do charity 5k and 5-mile walks; I get my exercise for the day and enlist my family's and friends' monetary support for well-deserving causes.
Sally Squires: Very cool. And a number of LPCers have told me that this is a great motivator for them. In fact, I think in last week's LPC e-mail newsletter, I included a site that will let you look for charity events.
Also in today's newsletter, check out the women who are getting their exercise by doing roller derby. It won't be for everyone, of course, but it sure is an interesting way to work out!
Morrisville, N.C.: I have just been diagnosed with hypoglycemia. My endocrinologist is recommending a kind of South beach approach -- no "white food," complex carbs, lean protein, very low sugar intake. I honestly don't know if this is manageable (though I might not have a choice) and am wondering what your take is and whether any of the people reading the discussion have any thing to suggest.
Sally Squires: Sorry to hear that Morrisville. But you have a lot of company these days so there are a growing number of resources to help you.
You will like be very interested in the Diabetes Prevention Program, a large federally funded study that took people just on the cusp of developing diabetes and found what worked in diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes to help prevent them from getting full blown diabetes. (We will try to post links in a minute.)
Also, you can find information about hypoglycemia -- link coming too in a minute -- for those who don't have diabetes.
In the meantime, the more healthfully you can eat, the better. So bean, whole grains and other high fiber foods seem to be very smart choices. Ditto for plenty of non-starchy vegetables and some fruit. Avoid as much as possible more highly processed foods with added sugar and fat, because you want to control your calories and get the most bang for your nutritional buck.
Fish, and lean poultry and meat are other good choices for you.
And so is plenty of activity. Weight-training can be a big help as can simply walking or finding ways to be active at least 30 minutes daily.
Hope this helps. And hope you'll let us know how it goes.
Good luck with your efforts.
Sally Squires: As promised...
Washington Navy Yard: Hi Sally,
I need your help; I know everything there is to know about good nutrition, the benefits of exercise, etc. but I still find myself more overweight than I have ever been in my life. I have no willpower or ambition to do the right things to help myself. I joked with my husband that I need to go to rehab and get healthy again. Is there such a thing; food is a just as dangerous (and much more common) addiction than any drug is. Any words of advice for me????
Sally Squires: Scientists are debating whether food can be an addiction for some people, but you need answers now.
What you might try to do for the short run -- a couple of weeks, perhaps, maybe a month -- is simply to maintain your weight. Yes, I know this is not your ultimate goal. But sometimes taking off the pressure to lose weight can actually help.
Then use this time as preparation for what you really want to do. You might keep a journal to record what you're eating, and how you feel when you do. Where do you do that eating? Standing up at the kitchen counter? In front of the tube while watching your favorite shows? Mindlessly while reading a book? In the car? At your desk? You get the idea.
Figure out your eating habits and I'll bet you a Lean Plate Club pedometer that you'll find some patterns of which you were unaware.
Do you have a kitchen scale and a good set of measuring cups and spoons? If so, use this time to place them strategically where you can use them to see how much you're actually eating. (But don't change a thing right now. Just be an investigator.)
Also, make a date with your husband or a friend or colleague to start walking daily. Set a specific time and make an appt. with yourself. You can start with as little as two minutes. Set a distance or time that you know is so low that you can't possible not meet it. Then give yourself a small reward for doing that. (Non food related of course!)
Slowly build on these habits. If you need to, consider seeking group support--Food Addicts or Overeaters Anonymous may be something for you to investigate. Find a friend who can be a lifestyle buddy. Do this one step at a time.
And if you check back with us next week, maybe you can claim that LPC pedometer. Good luck with your efforts. You can do this, you just haven't figured out all the steps yet, but my money is on you.
Oberlin, Ohio: Hi Sally;
I have learned so much helpful information and so many great tips from your column and readers. Today when I read the part of your column that mentioned the Univ. of Arizona microbiologist who found that 50 percent of grocery carts have fecal bacteria on the seats I realized I was making another mistake. I always put my purse on the seat, even though I put my arm through the strap to secure it from theft. Then I pick it up probably by the bottom. I also bring my own cloth bags and put them on the seat as well. No longer. Thank you.
Sally Squires: You're very welcome. And each week, I am inspired by -- and also learn -- from all of you. Thanks!
Lansing, Mich.: Comment about the Chicago Marathon: I have run 8 now, including 2 in the heat and humidity this summer. It is really hard after running more than 600 miles in training, traveling, spending the money on the marathon and the hotel and then saying race morning, no, I guess I won't go to my race that I've been training for months for! It's hard to give your dream up and every runner has to decide for themselves. I have run Chicago twice and was pleased both times, but what I'm reading about aid stations running out of aid, cups and Gatorade is a disaster. I feel awful for the runners and wouldn't wish having to decide to call the race on anyone, so I have mixed feelings. I hope people who wanted to finish were allowed to, and also hope that all were sensible enough to slow down and not get injured to finish the race. Those medals were REALLY well-deserved!
Sally Squires: Thanks for chiming in on this topic, Lansing. For those who have not yet read today's e-mail newsletter, I included links to reports about the 10 Mile Army race held here in D.C. (and shadow races elsewhere) and the Chicago Marathon, which had extremely high heat. And I asked for comments about the marathon in Chicago which had one death and hundreds who had to receive medical treatment.
Philly: Re the Chicago marathon runner who died - the reason was heart failure, not the heat (a mitral valve prolapse, apparently). Any exercise is dangerous in extreme weather, and I do think the marathon organizers did the right thing closing down early because of the heat, but lots of athletes, weekend or otherwise, have unknown medical conditions that can, and sometimes do, kill them. The man who died in the Chicago marathon could have done so at any point during training for this marathon, or other strenuous workouts. (And it might not have been discovered in a routine check-up - professional athletes in peak condition have died of unknown heart defects. It's scary, but not a reason not to work out or to avoid medical appointments.)
Sally Squires: Thanks for more thoughts on this Philly. And yes, let's emphasize the importance of regular workouts and regular medical checkups. Thanks.
Sally Squires: As promised, this link will take you to information about hypoglycemia -- that's low blood sugar -- for people who do NOT also have diabetes.
Sally Squires: Here's more on the Diabetes Prevention Program, which found that people just one step shy of getting full blown diabetes could indeed prevent the disorder. It's a very good reminder of the power of lifestyle changes and was federally funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Thanks to our intrepid producer Paul Williams who also works his magic to get us these links during the Web chat.
Re. grocery carts: Ew. I put my purse and list/coupons in the seat, too! Two stores that I shop in (Weis and Bloom) have wipes by the entrance, I think I will start to use them!
Sally Squires: Yes, that was exactly my reaction after interviewing Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona. Thanks!
Sally Squires: Here's the link as promised to a recent Lean Plate Club column on food addiction.
disposable steamer bags: I'm all for healthy cooking, and a fan of convenience too -- however, it dismays me to see yet another plastic product on the market claiming to save you time without addressing the fact that here's yet another non-biodegradable landfill clogging item that in reality is not that much of a timesaver. You can achieve the same thing with a reusable microwaveable dish, a little water, or cover with a damp paper towel, which does degrade in landfills.
Please, while you're thinking of your health, think of the planet's health, too.
Sally Squires: It's an excellent point. I use a dated, but tried and true, Corning ware dish in the microwave myself. And our house has recently switched to making our own seltzer rather than buying bottles and carting them home. More on that in a future column.
For Morrisville, Re: hypoglycemia: In high school I was borderline hypoglycemic (I had classic symptoms, including passing out when I didn't eat enough, but my GTT came back negative), so I started altering my diet. I found that oatmeal is a wonderful thing, and adding a protein source with my breakfast (usually a hard-boiled egg or egg white) helped me stay in my chair in class until lunch time. Also, peanut butter. It tastes sweet, but it's high protein. The fat content is a little high, but it's good fat. As a runner, I still use peanut butter to satisfy my even-more-prevalent sweets cravings.
Just a thought to show you that a low-sugar, low-white flour diet doesn't have to be low-carb, and can be tasty and manageable. I love whole wheat pasta -- it holds up better flavor-wise to hearty sauces. And Annie's even makes whole-wheat mac-and-cheese kits! Good luck with the lifestyle change!
Sally Squires: Excellent suggestions. And by the way, beans and oatmeal are sources of fiber that seems to help with blood sugar control and also are good for controlling blood cholesterol levels. Plus, they taste great as you pointed out. Thanks.
St. Paul, Minn.: The combination of reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and the recalls have resulted in my renewed efforts to purchase produce and meat locally. That is not always possible in Minnesota - but I do shop the Farmer's Market weekly in the summer, and purchase meat through a coop that delivers monthly. However, I cannot always afford to buy locally.
Sally Squires: In today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, I asked what effect the food recalls have had in your eating and grocery shopping. (In last week's chat, at least one LPCer noted that he/she is now grinding their own meat.)
Buying locally can be a smart idea environmentally, but I'm not sure that there is any definitive evidence to suggest it reduces the risk of exposure to food borne illnesses. So stay tuned on that one...Thanks for chiming in.
Pregnant women and fish: Hi Sally. I am 17 weeks pregnant. Of course I'd like to do what's best for me and my baby, but my husband doesn't like fish and we rarely (um, actually never) eat it at home. Are we told to eat fish strictly for the omega-3s? If so, then can't I get the same benefits from walnuts and the like? Thanks!
Sally Squires: Congratulations on your expanding family! How exciting!
Most fish is an excellent source of omega-3s and protein, but there are exceptions: Those fried fish filets at fast food restaurants have virtually no omega-3s.
Yes, other foods have omega-3s. But ocean fish in particular remains one of the richest sources. If you don't like fish, are allergic to fish, or don't eat it because you are vegan or mostly vegetarian, yes you can get omega-3s in other ways. Eggs from chickens that have been fed fish meal would be one source. Flaxseed and walnuts are others.
I won't bore you with all the chemical details, but they don't have the full spectrum of omega-3s that fish has.
So you might ask your doctor about possibly taking fish oil supplements as another option.
Hope that helps. And enjoy this very special time of life.
Running in high temps: Of course the Chicago marathon should have been rescheduled. Obviously the organizers of the event were not properly prepared -- according to news stories, runners were not provided water along the race route -- hydration is an absolute necessity when doing any sort of outside activity in hot weather. Even though the temps outside were nowhere near "dangerous" levels, at this past weekend's AidsWalk, walkers were provided bottles of water and energy bars. Obviously someone in Chicago seriously dropped the ball.
Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in.
New York, N.Y.: Marathon runners who feel invincible or strongly competitive or who just customarily push themselves to the limit should stop and think that strong exertion in 90-degree-plus temperatures is just plain foolhardy. The death and injuries that resulted in Chicago were a foregone conclusion under the circumstances and absolutely unnecessary.
Sally Squires: I suspect that this event will be revisited quite a bit. Perhaps there will be some good lessons learned so that it doesn't get repeated. Thanks much.
Scottsville, Va.: How am I moving more? Well, after losing 30 pounds so far using walking, weight training, and a stationary bike (plus lots of yard work!) I have just started hooping. That's right, hula hoops are back.
A year ago on vacation at the Outer Banks I saw a young woman hoop dancing for hours at a time on the beach. It looked like a lot of fun, so I just ordered my own hoop (they need to be made to order, or you can make your own) and started hooping.
It's only been a week so far, but every day I do get a little bit better at it. People who do hooping say they look forward to it, and that's the best recommendation for any kind of exercise.
I have also made my walking much more fun by getting an iPod and putting lots of '70s disco music on it. Yes, "Staying Alive" still gets me moving!
Sally Squires: What fun! Another great example of how it's possible to freshen up workouts in very creative ways. Thanks.
What can I eat?: I'm at the beginning stages of prepping my body for pregnancy. I'm just learning about what foods I can eat and can't, and the list is long in my opinion. I understand some foods can be consumed in moderation, but geez...is any food safe enough to eat? I eat veggies and fruit for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You could say I'm borderline vegetarian. (I like my seafood and pepperoni pizza). But how can one enjoy food during a pregnancy if there's a potential risk involved in just about every food I put in my mouth?
Should I just not think about it? How do I balance my way of thinking without going crazy?
Sally Squires: First, take a deep breath. Now another one. Breathe in. Breathe out. And relax.
You're doing a great thing by prepping for your pregnancy. But as part of that wonderful process ahead, get ready to have lots of things beyond your control. (Remember this when your child turns 2 and also 16.)
So you want to do everything you can to minimize risk. But you also don't want to drive yourself crazy. There's enough stress in our lives. So find that middle ground. Because stressed out moms produced stressed out kids and that's not good either.
Fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains are great places to start. Ditto for soy (which is a good source of protein if you are nearly a vegetarian.) And yes, it looks like it's smart to eat some fish. But if you are opposed to that, you, too, can ask your doctor about those fish oil capsules and seek other sources of omega-3s, which these days are being added to oils, margarine and more.
An excellent resource is "The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating During Pregnancy," by W. Allan Walker, MD. with Courtney Humphries. Published by McGraw-Hill.
Hope you'll let us know when you are expecting!
Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally and chatters.
I am a lifelong emotional eater, grew up being admonished to clean my plate, and am a recovering bulimic. After years of constant diets, I really want to change the way I eat. I would love to be one of those people that eats only when I'm hungry and stops when I am no longer hungry.
I'm hoping you can give me some tips for putting "intuitive eating" into practice.
I am "allowing" myself a few pounds of weight gain while I try to make this transition, as I know I will inevitably eat when I don't need to and will eat more than my previous diet allowed. But I'd stop if I gained more than a few pounds.
Sally Squires: Good for you for taking these steps! Two resources that you may find helpful are: "Mindless Eating," by Brian Wainsink (Bantam Dell) and "Intuitive Eating," by Elyse Resch and Evelyne Tribole. Hope you will let us know how it goes. Thanks.
Laurel, Md.: Sally, I really miss you on the station, WTWP. Your advice was always helpful. Are you on any of the stations now? I listened as I drove to school in the morning. I do not like the new format of WT3 or whatever it is called now. It is so often just banter.
Sally Squires: Aw thanks, Laurel. I really miss all the people at WTWP too. And I'm heard on Satellite Sisters every other Monday which runs on ABC radio and XM. Hopefully, I'll be back on the air in other places too. Radio is really fun! Much like these chats! Thanks again.
Why am I always hungry?: Sally,
Where can I find a reliable way to calculate how many calories I should eat in a day in order to not gain weight? I am 33 years old, female and 138 pounds. Several calculators put my recommended daily intake at 1500 calories, which leaves me feeling hungry despite efforts to shift away from carbohydrates.
Sally Squires: You might need to add a few calories and change the types of foods that you are eating. Mypyramid.gov will help you gauge calories. But a quick rule of thumb is to take your weight in pounds and multiply by 12 = baseline calories for the day. If you're more active you may need slightly more calories. And if you're more sedentary, well, you get the idea.
Take a look at "Volumetrics,"by Barbara Rolls, PhD, for some ways to eat higher volume foods with lower calories. That may also help.
Thanks for weighing in.
Michigan: Do you think some people are just meant to be overweight? I'm about 25 pounds overweight and if I try to cut calories and eat fewer than 2000 a day I'm constantly hungry.
I lost the weight a few years ago by exercising 2 hours a day and eating 1800 calories a day. However, I obsessed about food all day long because I was always hungry, and ended up binging my way back to my starting weight plus 15 pounds.
I exercise more moderately now (6 days a week including aerobic exercise and weight training) and make sure I get 10,000 steps a day, but I can't seem to lose any weight. I eat only whole grains, lots of fruits and veggies, and not much saturated fat. I'm wondering if I'm just meant to be "fluffy." What do you think?
Sally Squires: There are different body types, but 25 pounds overweight may carry some health risks that you don't want to face in the future.
But obsessing about food isn't good either. We're out of time right now, so if you want to want to e-mail me more at firstname.lastname@example.org, I'll be happy to correspond with you further.
Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great, wide-ranging chat.
Winners today are: Phoenix, Boston, For Morrisville, Scottsville and the Michigander who is having trouble with weight loss.
Please send me an e-mail with your name and address to email@example.com and please include winner in the subject line.
For those who live in the Tampa Bay (Florida) area, hope to meet some of you in person on Sat. Oct. 27 at the St. Petersburg Times Book Festival. Details in today's newsletter. I'll be signing copies of "Secrets of the Lean Plate Club."
See you next week!
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.