Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 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're talking deception today--that is nutritional deception--and what you think of this idea to help your loved ones eat more healthfully.

Also, calling all Tampa Bay, Florida Lean Plate Club members. I'll be visiting your fair region on Saturday, Oct. 27 as part of the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Books held at the University of South Florida. And yes, like other authors featured there, I'll be signing copies of my latest book, Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (which all of you actually helped me write.) Hope to see some of you there. Details are in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter which should be in your electronic in-boxes now.

Also, in today's issue, find links to healthy recipes in What's for Dinner Tonight! as well as new findings about chocolate cravings.

And here's a shout out to Lean Plate Club members in Houston, Brownsville, San Antonio and Corpis Christi Texas, Also, Providence,RI, Sprinfield, Mass and in Ohio in Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton. Please let me know if you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your hometown newspapers. Zip me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com and plus put hometown newspaper in the subject line. (And yes, ditto for anyone else who would like to read the column in your hometown paper. Some six million readers do that each week right now.)

Prizes today are:

Anyone Can Cook: Step by Step Recipes Just for You by Better Homes and Gardens

Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food by Jessica Seinfeld

Ending the Food Fight: Guide Your Child to a Healthy Weight in a Fast Food/Fake World by David Ludwig, MD, PhD with Suzanne Rostler, MS, RD

Dancing with the Stars: Jive, Samba and Tango Your Way into the Best SHape of Your Life by Guy Phillips

Here's the deal. Assist a LPC member on this Web chat. Share a food find (I'll include mine this week below.) Tell us how you're getting more activity. And one of these volumes could be yours. Winners are announced at the end of each Web chat. And in making this offering we are not endorsing any book, just showing you the wide range of information that is available.

Now on to the chat!


Fort Worth, Tex.: Hi Sally,

I've found Organic Bistro frozen dinners that are about as close to unprocessed as you'll find in a frozen meal. They're fairly expensive at around $5.99, but could easily make 2 lunches for me or a very hearty dinner. One of them has an amazingly low 20 mg of sodium. You can just google Organic Bistro to find the Web site. I buy them at Whole Foods. Their Web site lists Sprouts as another source. You can also order directly from the company.

Sally Squires: Thanks Fort Worth. Sounds great. (And as always on the Lean Plate Club, we ask that no one with a financial interest to the company or product, submit postings.)


Washington, D.C.: RE: Jessica Seinfied's food plan: Though it may seem like a great way to get those veggies into your kid, by putting it in an already desired and "safe" food, you're perpetuating the child's fear of healthy food. You're not teaching them that they need to eat these healthy things to grow strong, you're just reinforcing the junk food. What happens when they are growing up and out with friends and think they can just eat mac and cheese and brownies and be healthy? While the idea is nice, it's not addressing the real problem. Kids need to have at least 10 opportunities to try foods before they really accept them. It's important they are given this opportunity and not just "tricked" into eating them, because at the end of the day, this just means that one meal was healthy but their mindset on eating is anything but.

Sally Squires: That was my reaction too, DC. And let's also note that there are plenty of healthful foods, from salsa and guacamole to bean dip (hummus) and soups (split pea, tomato) that are loaded with veggies and flavor without being "hidden."

Also, I wonder if kids get involved in making food--in age appropriate ways, of course--if that would also help them get more adventurous. Some studies suggest that, but what's the experience out there? We'd love to hear....



Woodbridge, Va.: I often slip flax seed and oat bran into my baked goods. It goes undetected. So far none of my children or grandchildren have complained. I put in 1/3 cup of oat bran and then fill up the cup with regular flour, and then add a little flax seed. Or sometimes I use 1/2 whole wheat flour in my banana bread or Amish Friendship Bread. It changes the color somewhat but my husband and kids think it is the nuts. I substitute unsweetened applesauce for 1/2 of the oil with no ill effects, and I add a little powdered milk into mashed potatoes for some extra calcium.

Sally Squires: Sounds like it's working well for your family Woodbridge. And of course, it's easy to also switch gradually to whole grains in baked goods too. Thanks much.


Colorado Springs, Colo.: Hi Sally! I have a great way to sneak veggies into red, saucy foods, like sloppy joes or pasta meat sauce. I put carrots and red peppers into my food processor, and grind them up so small that they aren't recognizable. Then I mix them into the sauces, and people don't even realize they are there. Works every time!

Sally Squires: This reminds me a meatless recipe that I make with eggplant instead of ground meat for spaghetti sauce.But in these cases, you're enhancing already good foods with added ingredients. What do you think about slipping beets into chocolate cake? Others out there?

Thanks for chiming in.


Bethesda, Mdl: Since I want my kids to learn to eat healthily, I don't try to sneak foods past them. Instead I keep fresh fruit on the counter in plain sight so they grab it when they are hungry, put cut up fruit and veggies on the table as a first course while I make dinner because then they are hungry enough to eat anything, and serve lots of veggies raw since most kids seem to like them better that way.

Sally Squires: Those are really great strategies. And Jessica Seinfeld notes in her book that she now also serves a first course of veggies and dip. It's a great way to get kids to eat a course of healthful foods at their most hungriest. (Also works for adults too!) Thanks.


Severna Park, Md.: Hi Sally -- love the chat!

This is a hot topic among me and other mom friends. I was initially interested in the concept and then after some thought, was concerned that "sneaking" veggies into my son would never teach him to learn to appreciate the actual veggie. He is a typical toddler that goes on food jags and won't touch a veggie for weeks. I still give them at lunch and dinner -- he eventually comes around and will eat them for a few weeks and around we go.

Basically, I think continuing to offer healthy foods, even if they are not eaten everytime is the way to go. Otherwise, I'd have to resort to mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets!

Sally Squires: It seems like we have all struggled with this question. We want to make sure our kids, spouses and other loved ones eat well, but also realize that sometimes they don't eat what they should.

Ellyn Satter's approach seems to be a good one. It's the job of parents to decide what, when and where to eat. But once that food is on the table, it's the kids' jobs to decide whether to eat and how much. Kind of takes the pressure off, as you have also found. Thanks!


Richmond, Va.: I don't think it's deceptive or bad. I put spinach in my lasagna and everyone knows it's there. It's good and it's another way to get a serving of veggies. I think it reminds kids that veggies do taste good. Then ease into having less hidden or adorned veggies. But as a starter and transition, it's fine. It doesn't teach kids that veggies are bad, it shows them that there are endless ways of having yummy veggies.

Sally Squires: Absolutely right. And same could be said about chili with beans and a bunch of other meals. But some experts, including David Ludwig at Harvard and Children's Hospital in Boston, also said that the sneaky approach may be a first step for some families. And that could well be the case. As always, it's finding what works best for you and your family. Thanks for weighing in.


Richmond, Va.: As a child, my mother would tell me that boiled turnips were actually new potatoes. I fell for it every time. To this day I won't touch turnips.

Sally Squires: Great example of why the sneaky approach may not always be the best approach. Thanks for chiming in, Richmond.


Madison, Wisc.: Comment:

I cook wild and brown rice (together) in broth in the oven ahead of time...instead of white rice.

Then "stir fry" with chicken and add a bag of frozen, chopped spinach. They hardly know it's in there.

Sally Squires: That sounds like a great meal, Madison. And as you probably know, brown and wild rice are whole grains--something that we are being encouraged to eat more of. I also like making a pot of wild or brown rice and then either refrigerate it or put it in a few servings and freeze. It defrosts quite quickly and can be added to soups, stews, served as a side dish. And now, I'll try it with stir fry. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Over the last five years or so, I'd managed to settle into a food and exercise routine that keeps my weight at a stable, healthy level. Three months ago, though, I moved into the city, and now I find myself walking a whole lot more, especially since I sold my car. This is all well and good, but I find that the amount of food that used to keep me filled no longer satisfies. I'm starving at certain times of the day, particularly mid-afternoon and after dinner, and I'm filling up on unhealthy junk food at times. (One of my best food accomplishments had been learning to stop snacking, especially on junk food.) I feel like I can't eat any more fruits and veggies -- I eat so much of these healthy foods during the day already. So how do fit in the extra calories I need (I know people are going to hate me for saying this, but I'm not gaining any weight even with the junk food snacks) in a healthy manner? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Ah yes, there will probably be a few envious groans, DC, but just ignore those. Trail mix might be an option for you. And you could either make your own, or buy one of the many varieties now available. This snack was designed for mountain climbers and campers, so it's very concentrated in calories and should help keep you full.

If you don't want trail mix, nuts would also be a good option. So would cheese and whole grain crackers.

For a way to fill up--but with fewer calories--you might try soup. And that lead to my food find of the week: the Progresso soups that happen to only have 60 calories per serving. I ate vegetable and noodles as part of lunch yesterday. It had great flavor (and for those who happen to participate in Weight Watchers, the label notes that it has zero points.) Sodium wasn't terribly high for soup either, although you can certainly get lower sodium soups. I found it satisfying and good for the long haul of the afternoon.

Ceral and milk with fruit might be another healthful option for you.

Hope you'll let us know how these suggestions work. Thanks!


River City: I think people are getting caught up on the "sneaking" aspect. I think most people who say they "sneak" veggies into casseroles, etc., don't mean they literally lie and deceive their kids.

They mean they find a less objectionable way to incorporate more veggies into the diet. It isn't about deception, lying, hiding, paying later. It's about using veggies in MORE varied ways, which IS what we want to teach our kids.

Sally Squires: Variety is absolutely important. And you're right, in some cases, these recipes aren't that sneaky. But I do wonder if slipping beets into the chocolate cake and then serving it, gives kids the wrong message. Why not just serve beets and then serve chocolate cake when it's appropriate? I fear that some kids will then think that chocolate cake (with those hidden) beets are okay. And of course, most chocolate cake doesn't come that way.

What do others think?

Thanks for chiming in.


Paulding, Ohio: More of a statment

As a chef it is quite obvious that no matter what you slip into food to supposedly make it "healthier" it still has the same after efects of what it would otherwise be to or for you.

If ther is colesteral no matter what you slip in the food ther will still be colesteral.

it's like the idiot attack some people have who think they can eat a really large meal but if they drink a diet coke then none of the calories are going to affect you.

Chef E.

Sally Squires: Good points. (And hope you won't mind if I make one tiny spelling correction in your posting--this is why reporters are grateful to the unsung heroes of the newsroom, copy editors who so often bail us out in journalism!--but cholesterol is the proper spelling.)

Thanks for weighing in from a chef's perspective.


Anonymous: What are you cooking tonight? Brown rice, baked chicken (skin removed) with a tomato sauce and fresh kale.

Sally Squires: Yum. Now I'm really getting hungry! Thanks.


Bethesda, Md.: My mother knew I loved tomatoes as a child, so she named her squash casserole "Tomato Surprise" and I absolutely loved it (especially with sharp cheese grated and broiled over the top!).

Sally Squires: Smart mom!


Wrong way to do it: Why is it a good thing that they "hardly know it's there"? Why aren't these moms taking the opportunity to let their kids know that they are eating vegetables and LIKING them? Tell them there's spinach or carrots or whatever in there, especially if they're enjoying the food. That's so misdirected.

And yes, I am a mom and I have dealt with all of this. You're not teaching your children by tricking them.

Sally Squires: You've got a very good point. Giving your kids an example of eating vegetables, fruit, whole grains and other healthful foods, is one of the very best messages that you can convey. As the oft-quoted wisdom goes, actions really do speak louder than words. Plus, they don't involve that awful nagging which takes a toll on both parents and kids!


On the other side in Philadelphia, Pa.: I was one of the deceived, if you will. When I learned to read I found the box on the counter that said spinach, and realized my mom was not feeding me broccoli, which she had told me it was because I had decreed I didn't like spinach (at the age of 4). I was so upset by the lie on her part that I didn't touch either broccoli OR spinach for a few years.

Don't deceive your kids folks, this was almost 30 years ago and I STILL remember it.

I have a husband who never met a veggie he liked. Little by little, he's come around, but I do what one of the earlier posters suggested and sometimes hide other veggies by pureeing them into a sauce...

Sally Squires: That's exactly what Ellyn Satter noted when I interviewed her for this column. She said that kids are very smart and they WILL eventually figure out that they've been deceived--as you did. And once that happens, it erodes trust. And in your case, it also backfired, didn't it?

For that reason, you might also consider treading carefully with slipping those veggies in your husband's food. Just a thought...Thanks for chiming in.


Washington, D.C.: Pancakes are a great opportunity to sneak in some food value -- not only fresh (or dried) fruit or nuts, but also whole grains, like a handfull of oatmeal!

Sally Squires: Yep, and as the kids grow older, you can show them your ingredients as they help you make them. And then you can call that a trade secret of a special family recipe handed down from generation to generation! Thanks


Reston, Va.: I am horrified that this faux celebrity-endorsed approach to nutrition gains acceptance. Serve crudite as a snack, leave different types of fruit (following the seasons) out in an attractive bowl, prepare healthy soup and provide nuts and fruit as snacks...Teach your children about nature, health, nutrition, how to cook and the value of shared mealtimes! These are life lessons to enhance the experience, not some "dumbed-down, quick-fix" approach to parenting.

Sally Squires: It will be interesting to see if this celebrity trend takes off, don't you think? Thanks for chiming in.


Organic Bistro: I looked up their Web site and the meals do look good. I can't find any nutritional information though. I wonder if the person who posted about it knows where I might be able to find it? There is a heading about nutrition, but the specific calories/fat/etc., counts don't seem to be included. Thanks

Sally Squires: After the chat, we'll try to call the company and if we get that info on-line, I'll include a link to it in an upcoming newsletter. Also, this reminds me that we are updating our list of links to fast food nutritional info. Yesterday, we got one for California Tortilla Kitchen and are in the process of asking Fuddrucker's for theirs at the request of an Lean Plate Club member.

If you've got others that you'd like us to add to the list, please send me an e-mail to leanplateclun@washpost.com and please include fast food request in the subject line for faster response.



Found the box on the counter that said spinach, and realized my mom was not feeding me broccoli, which she had told me it was because I had decreed I didn't like spinach (at the age of 4). I was so upset by the lie on her part that I didn't touch either broccoli OR spinach for a few years: Yeah, but she was right, you DID like spinach! You ate it and liked it, so she was right that it was just an attitude of yours.

As for not eating brocoli or spinanch as an adult, that's on you, not your mom.

Sally Squires: Fair enough. And you're right, many kids are put off by foods that they think they won't like. It often takes those multiple tries to get them to try them when they know that they are. Thanks!


Omaha, Neb.: I puree a little of everything in my meatloaf and shakes. Meatloaf hides everything and they think my shakes are made of ice-cream!

Sally Squires: Okay, so what do you REALLY put in them? And here's my other concern with hiding ingredients in food: for those who have food allergies, it could be disastrous. I realize that parents will be aware of their children's allergies, but it's probably a good idea to let others know what the real ingredients are just in case someone is allergic.

Other thoughts out there?



London,On,Canada: Yes, I put one over on my husband all the time. I add extra healthy ingredients, hide vegetables he thinks he does not like in dishes, look innocent, and he eats and likes it.

Lately, after he celebrated his 86th birthday and everybody raved about his vitality and he started to boast about how well HE took care of himself, I came out of the closet and piped up. Now he eats everything I put in front of him with demurring. And I don't hide anything any more.

Sally Squires: Another example of how we all need to find what works best for us. Happy Birthday to your 86 year old young husband! And to you for helping him to stay so healthy.


Washington, D.C.: I agree that 'sneaking' foods doesn't teach kids that veggies are yummy. Sure, you can put pureed squash into mac and cheese, and it will taste good. But then how do your kids (or spouse!) know that they like butternut squash? And how will they know, at a friend's house or when they go to college, that mac and cheese is normally a high-fat meal? You may get them to eat more veggies at the time, but you're not teaching them any habits or attitudes for the long term.

In our household, I 'trick' my fiance and then tell him: It's okay to have these 'french fries' because they are baked, not fried; we don't buy burgers but veggie burgers are okay, etc. Then, he knows how to prepare healthful meals on his own, and we can eat delicious, good-for-you foods!

Sally Squires: That's a very good balance of expanding culinary horizons and not being too sneaky. Thanks for chiming in.


Palm Bay, Fla.: I think using the sneaky approach wisely could be useful -- you just have to present it right. My mom always added extra cheese to boxed macaroni and cheese to add more calcium (I hated milk), and to this day I make the boxed stuff with extra cheese because that's how it tastes right to me. She tried all sorts of substitutions, and let us know once we told her if it was any good. Once kids are ready for the truth, let them know what you're putting in, and explain that it's a special way of making it. If they already know they like the food (and aren't likely to be stubborn just for the sake of being stubborn, which depends on personality) it might actually get them interested in why you eat healthier. I think disguising food, as long as it's in addition to and not in place of presenting vegetables on their own, is just fine. (I do sneak whole grain pasta past my husband sometimes)

Sally Squires: There's the example in practice of this idea of adding ingredients to a recipe and then telling those who ate it why they may like the extra flavor.

By the way, that switch to whole grains seems to be widely accepted by even picky eaters. That's according to some presentations I heard at a conference earlier this. Both the San Francisco Bay area Veterans Administration and the University of California system have made that change with apparently no complaints.



Springfield, Va.: I use this recipe as a main dish with many different vegetables (they recommend zucchini, but I also use well dried spinach, carrots, broccoli or a mix) and my young children really like it. I usually shred the veggies instead of slicing them. I have used egg substitute successfully in the recipe as well.

Veggie Appetizers

3 cups thinly sliced unpeeled zucchini (4 small)

1 cup Original Bisquick¿ mix

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano leaves

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1. Heat oven to 350¿F. Grease bottom and sides of rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches.

2. Stir together all ingredients. Spread in pan.

3. Bake about 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into 2-inch squares; cut squares diagonally in half into triangles.

Sally Squires: Sounds good, but do you mean dried or frozen spinach and other veggies? Also, I suspect that those who don't want to use Bisquic could experiment with flour (whole grain white would be a good choice) and other ingredients to make this. Thanks for sharing.


Eat your spinach!: This past Sunday I made quesadillas for my husband and me -- you can't go wrong with spicy melted jack cheese, right?

I loaded mine with spinach and snuck a few leaves in my hubby's. He doesn't like his spinach, and when I told him I put only a few leaves in, he winced but ate willingly. He said he barely noticed the taste. On the second quesadilla round, I added much more than he would normally eat in one sitting; to my surprise, I ate and enjoyed his spinach quesadilla. Mind you, the salsa and cheese hid the leafy flavor, but he still had his greens for the day. Victory!

Sally Squires: Victory indeed! Thanks for weighing in.


Re: organic bistro nutrition facts: All that information is found directly on their Web site: The Organic Bistro. You click on the link on the right that says "Nutrition Facts." Then click on a meal and it will give you the food label.

Sally Squires: Perfect! Thanks very much.


No lies: My parents told us to taste everything once. No threats, but no giving in to kids who are illogical and manipulative at young ages. Just take a bite and then you're done. They didn't cater to us and give us chicken McNuggets or pbj; we ate what they ate and learned to eat good food.

Sally Squires: That also goes back to that Ellyn Satter idea: parents provide the food, the place and when to eat. Kids decide whether to try the food and how much to eat.

That latter part is particularly important because studies clearly show that parents generally give kids larger portions than they need to eat. That's one way to inadvertantly undermine a child's natural ability to control portions. Thanks.


How will they know, when they go to college: Okay, let's give the kids some credit. They are going to grow and learn some between the age of 3 and 18! If the kid can get into UVA, he can know that veggies are good.

Sally Squires: Well, one can always hope...Thanks!


Ha Ha: Makes me think lovingly of an ongoing argument between my mom and dad. Mom would tell us a recipe had sour cream, but don't tell dad, he doesn't like sour cream. We all eat in silence, the kids probably making funny faces. Then at the end of the meal dad would announce he'd know all along there was sour cream in the meal. Then mom would say he just figured it out cuz we all acted so funny and that proves he likes it. To this day I can't open a tub of sour cream without smiling. He did teach us to love food. Sour cream was the only thing he didn't like. He taught me to savor raw oysters, sushi, tongue, squid, octupus, kale, I could go on and on. We learned to love food because my dad taught by example. He was savoring his food and we wanted in on it, so we tried adventurous food!

Sally Squires: That's a great example of the power of parents to show by example. Thanks very much.


Flax: Any creative ideas for incorporating flax into my diet? So far I've used it in baking.

Sally Squires: Sure. You can put in a grinder--coffee grinder (cleaned out well or used just for flax)--or in a pepper grinder. Sprinkle on cereal, soups, salads, sandwiches. The sky's the limit. And that flax is a good source of some healthful omega-3s fatty acids, which are good for your heart, your joints, your brain and maybe your mood. Hope that helps and that you'll let us know how this works for you. Thanks.


Lewellen, Neb.: Health snuck in....zucchini has no flavor of it's own so shred or blend it to a pulp, freeze it and then break off chunks to add to cake or brownie mixes for much of the water and even some of the oil! It makes them much moister and no one knows why!

I also chop left over celery and freeze it in zip lock to take out handfuls later to add to chicken meals or soup for a fresher taste.

Sally Squires: More good strategies. We also have had black bean brownies featured on previous chats. But again, it's probably important to eventually let people know about these "secret" ingredients, don't you think?


Kids and Food: I have a toddler, who is a good eater. I also have a sister, who suffered from bulimia in high school and family members with unhealthy relationships with food.

I think the best approach with kids is not to make a big deal about food and eating. Case in point: I watched my sister-in-law say to my neice "You're not going to like it" every time the poor kid asked for a taste of something. I don't care if she hated it previously -- let her try it again! Coincidentally, my neice is a terribly picky eater.

Food is fuel. You eat when you're hungry and don't when you're not. Boil it down to basic physical needs. Give kids what you are having for dinner. If they eat, great. If they don't, they'll eat more at the next meal. Have good snacks on hand. Hummus, carrots, trail mix, nuts, low fat animal crackers. (As a mom, I know this is easier said than done, but sticking to this approach for most meals can work.)

Sally Squires: It's so easy for parents to inadvertantly sabotage their kids meals in the way your sister-in-law introduced new foods by saying "you won't like it." It's a great reminder of what we can try not to do. Thanks for chiming in.


Michigan City, Ind.: Hi Sally: My kids are now 14 and 17, and I have never tried to "hide" healthy foods into other foods. Sure, they had food ruts (PB and J or mac and cheese for what seemed like months at a time), but they also had access to baby carrots, apples, grapes, berries, yogurt and other good stuff whenever they were hungry.

If I know there's something for dinner that someone really doesn't like, I give them a heads up. But I don't stop serving it. Because some time, they might try it again and realize it's not so bad.

Sally Squires: Well said. And we also found in our house that sometimes the kids challenged each other to try new foods--a kind of peer pressure that didn't involve parents. Also, if family members really don't like what we serve, they could make a peanut butter sandwich or get fruit and milk or cereal. It didn't happen often, but it was available if absolutely necessary.

Anybody else ever try these approaches?


Baltimore, Md.: Thanks so much for your very practical and nutritious ideas. I don't consider myself a veggie person, but taught myself to adjust my habits now that I have two toddlers who I feel responsible to feed well, as well as a husband who loves his veggies. You've given me some great tips and encouragement to help me out! P.S. I hide veggies in food all the time!

Sally Squires: Well, you're quite welcome. I must say that I always learn something new both in reporting these columns and in hosting these chats. It's interesting for me too. Thanks!


Landaff, N.H.: As a mother of four, two of whom are picky eaters, I understand both sides. I wonder why it has to be all-or-nothing? Why not sneak the veggies in...while at the same time, continue to offer the veggies "out in the open" on their plates? Seems you get the best of both worlds this way. They're eating their hidden veggies...but are also being offered -- and hopefully will eventually try and learn to like -- the vegetables. As for the experts who think sneaking the veggies in creates a mindset of mistrust? What about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? If those don't throw kids over the edge, I highly doubt sneaking their veggies into their food will.

Sally Squires: Again, another good example of what works best for you and your family. That's really the key. Sounds like you've doen just that. Thanks for chiming ing.


Arkansas: Down here in the south our gardens are still making so we still have fresh veggies. I like to brine and bake a breast of turkey and then cut into bite-sized pieces and mix into stuffing. (I like Zatarain's cajun style for a boxed mix) Try adding about a cup and a half of cooked squash to the dressing. It makes it moist and doesn't really effect the final taste. Spinach also goes well in stuffing. Also, try 1/4" slices of squash or eggplant, mist with olive oil, add a little garlic powder, and toast under the broiler until done. Sprinkle with parmesan for the last minute or so and enjoy.

Sally Squires: I love that Zatarains seasoning, which I was introduced to by friends from Louisiana. (And let me hasten to add that I have no connection with the company!)

Also, your posting reminds me that I should have welcomed a new newspaper to the growing number of Lean Plate Club column subscribers. So let me rectify that and give a warm welcome to you and the other readers of the Daily Citizen in Aearcy, Arkansas. We're delighted to have you as part of the Lean Plate Club!


Vienna, Va.: I saw the Seinfeld wife on the Today Show last week and I don't really have strong opinion on whether sneaking fruits and vegetables into kids food has value or not. As a mother of 5, including a set of multiples, and a preschool teacher the one thing I do know is that you cannot make kids eat, sleep or poop, so don't ever put yourself into a >position to battle those 3 things out. I have had good luck both in my classroom and in my own family with the tried and true method of setting kids up to have good eating habits by being a good example myself and offering fruits/veges and all kinds of different, healthy foods at most meals and snacks. For dinner I always offer a fruit, a hot vege, a salad and the main course, really some kind of protein (chicken, pork, beef, fish).

Each kid gets a small amount of everything to taste and can have seconds of whatever they want. WE NEVER FORCE FOOD EVER! My kids have tried everything: sushi, calamari, salmon, broccoli, squash, potatoes, asparagus, berries, pineapple, spinach, soft-shell crabs, stuffed flank steak, beef wellington etc. Recently my 13- year-old boy who didn't like potatoes for 13 years, did the usual try-it for dinner and decided tht now he does like potatoes! For school lunches, that I pack every day (and I know that they all trade once they get to school sometimes, so don't fool yourself), they get one fruit or veg, a pre-packaged snack like rice cakes, pretzels or goldfish and a sandwich/bagel/ham/turkey slices/salad/soup. In my classroom, where we cook as often as allergies and time allows, the rule is "You never have to eat anything that you don't want, but it would be nice to try it since you made it" 99 percent of my 2-3-4-year-olds try everything we make. The moms usually are shocked that their child ate asparagus wrapped with ham or vegetable tea sandwiches with goat cheese. I am convinced that having a laid-back attitude about food, keeping only healthy, fresh food in the house/classroom and having the kids prepare stuff is the way to go. That is not to say that we don't eat junk once in a while (everyone needs skittles for breakfast once in a while), but my kids know that fast food, candy, chips etc. isn't healthy to live on. Good, healthy food can be yummy, too.

The only complaint that I have is that eating correctly/healthy is NOT cheap, no matter how you slice it. My food bill is shocking and we very rarely eat out/order out. I essentially fix Thanksgiving dinner 5 nights a week, one night we have leftovers (if there are any) and one night we have something quick (tacos, pizza etc.) It does take time/effort/money to get to where we are with the kids eating well, but if I can do it with 5 kids it would be much easier to do it with 2-3.

Sally Squires: Wow. Five kids--and being a preschool teacher--certainly has given you some great food experience. Thanks very much for weighing in on this topic. And for those who are looking to stretch food dollars, you might be interested in a feature that we did a few months ago on eating on a budget. It's still posted on the Lean Plate Club home-page.


20782: Hi:

I'm late getting into the conversation so I apologize if someone already suggested this. I'm listening to a wonderful audiobook by Barbara Kingsolver called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about a family that adopted eating locally grown foods for 1 year. No tricks, just a resolve to do it. I highly recommend this book and careful thought about giving it a try in your household as well. It opens our eyes to how much junk is injected into foods that seem healthy.

Thanks for this wonderful chat.

Sally Squires: Sounds like an interesting read. I was thinking of local eating when I made a recipe called gumbis for the Food section last night. It's rich in cabbage, which lasts a long time. And if we are to eat locally, then we have to get used to using the vegetables and fruit that are available locally in the winter.That can be a bit challenging, so it will be interesting to read the Kingsolver book.

Thanks for letting us know about it.


Anonymous: My husband and I made a conscious effort not to "dumb down" our eating once we had kids and they could eat solid food. We eat a lot of bistro-inspired food and international food. Our thought was if toddlers in India and the Mediterrain and France have been eating it for generations it can't hurt our kids. Our kids are still picky eaters, but they have wide and varied palates. Our 4-year-old won't touch curry, but our 7-year-old loves spicy curries (he asked to have a curry theme for his last birthday party). The 4-year-old is obsessed with roasted red peppers, but won't touch other bell peppers, garlic hummus, feta cheese. The 7-year-old won't eat roasted red peppers but will eat raw bell peppers. So we deal with the issue of pickiness, but not nearly as bad if all they would eat is chicken fingers and fries. Steak au poivre is the preferred comfort food in our home!

Sally Squires: And this reminds me of our youngest son, who loved caviar, much to his parents chagrin at its cost, when we visited the old Russian Tea Room in New York and he was a toddler. Like you, we explosed him to all foods, although he did go through a pretty long stage of not eating many of them! Patience is another virtue that parents have to cultivate...



Ridgefield, Conn.: Comment on whethter I sometimes slip a fast one on the children with food.

When they were little guys I would slip in pureed veggies all the time. But I thought it would be better in the long run if they learned to trust their food to be what it is. No tricks for the older children (over 5) fully able to make healthy choices. I just don't buy the garbage food and they only have healthy food to select.

Sally Squires: That's another smart way to find a good balance between nourishing your kids--and educating them about nutrition. Thanks.


Kids decide whether to try the food and how much to eat. : Well, we didn't get to decide whether to try the foodl We had to take ONE bite. Then we were done, or we could eat more. But we had to at least try it, logically we couldn't say we didn't like something if we hadn't really tried it, so we had to always take one bite. The beauty is, once that battle of trying it was rendered moot, we were free to eat more, we weren't caught up in that battle or pride. There was no battle, the agreement was just one bite.

Sally Squires: Another smart strategy. We had the three bite rule when I was growing up. And that could sometimes be a bit gagging...


Boyds: Though I know guacamole isn't too bad for you (the avocadoes are okay at least, maybe not all the sour cream). I recently was given a sample of guacamole made with avocado and peas. The peas were to add fiber to the snack (which we all can use more of in our diet). I could not tell the difference. If I come across the recipe, I'll submit it offline or next week but I thought it was a crafty idea.

Sally Squires: That is a smart idea. And in fact, those avocadoes are great, since they are filled with healthful fat (not to mention flavor.) But there's nothing wrong either with enhancing their nutrition with peas--or other healthful stuff. Thanks!


Totally agree!: We do the same thing in my house, e.g, letting cereal or PB and J be a final choice if the kids have eaten a couple of bites of a food and don't like it. I also sometimes use two different half meals that you can make at Corner Cuisine, Let's Dish and Dinner Done to accomodate different people's tastes.

Sally Squires: Another smart idea...Thanks!


Re: kids and food: To piggyback on a previous comment, the -way- you introduce new foods to kids makes a huge difference. It's important not to let your feelings get in the way, whether you are trying to enocurage them to eat something, or not.

I dislike peanuts and my toddler loves them. They are a healthy snack for her, so when she asks why I don't eat them, I just say that I don't like them much, but daddy does and so do lots of other people. "I like other nuts, would you like to try one of those?" It's a great way to converse with your kids aboutfood, without being preachy.

Sally Squires: Yet another wise approach. This chat is filled with them today. Thanks much!


"Dried" Spinach: I just meant whether you use fresh or frozen spinach, make certain that it is well dried in a colander before you use it or else it has too much moisture and makes the dish soggy.

Sally Squires: Got it! Thanks for clarifying.


Medford, Oregon: I should have mentioned in my last post that I really don't get to "hide" ingredients in the things I cook. My kids work in the kitchen with me all the time and have since they were about two so they know that not all ingredients in a dish have a distinctive taste. I think working side by side in the kitchen does help them become more adventurous with their foods too. It's hard to resist sampling something you've helped to make.

Sally Squires: Thanks for clarifying.


What a good way to put it: ADDING FOOD VALUE, not sneaking in veggies. All in the open, no lies -- just learning ways to add nutrition to our diets!

Sally Squires: Lots of people seem to feel that way too in this chat. Thanks!


Cooking with Kids: As a frequent babysitter, I find that cooking along with the kids I babysit for and sitting down to eat with them are the best strategies for promoting healthy eating. This past week, I was taking care of 3 children who spent the day at a fall festival and came home loaded up on sugar and other processed foods. Mom asked me to give them "anything healthy" for dinner. We ended up making pasta together and "fruit smoothies" (milk, ice, strawberries, bananas) for dessert -- from a recipe I found in a kid's cookbook they had. The kids (who tend to be picky eaters and balk at fruits and veggies) loved it.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you are a great sitter! Thanks.


For the snacker: I keep a box of Kashi granola bars and tasty little crackers in seven-grain in a filing cabinet in my lab (we don't have hazardous chemicals to worry about). That way I can grab a handful of crackers instead of eating cookies when we have 4:30 coffee time. I also have rediscovered cold grapes as an awesome keep-the-hands-busy snack. I often work 12-hour days, and dislike having to take all my meals with me, so I eat a lot of little snacks in addition to my main lunch those days. Today I grabbed a bottle of Vedge juice (less sodium than V8, but more than the yucky low-sodium variety) when I got a falafel sandwich at the cooperative market, so that, with a baggie of grapes, will be my 5-6 p.m. pre-dinner snack.

Another thing I like are baby carrots with hummus -- I know you said no more veggies, so maybe you could use whole-grain pita, but the carrots are just so yummy with the dip.

Sally Squires: All good suggestions and let me add Larabars to that list. (And I have no connection with the company.) They're not cooked but are loaded with nuts, dried fruit and flavorings and are quite good. Thanks!


Pittsburgh, Pa. : Happy Tuesday, Sally!

I have heard several people talking about the Seinfeld book, and while I think it is a useful strategy for some things, I think it is a long term loss for short term gain.

My DH is notoriously picky about his food, some of which is easy to work around, some is frustrating. For instance, if 'I' want cauliflower, I am basically cooking it for myself. (he has discovered a love for fresh asparagus, fennel, and surprised me this spring with the declaration that he loves steamed artichoke!)

While I don't like to say "I blame his mom," I do know that she had a very short rotation of foods and a limited budget to work with.

Exposing the kids at a young age to fresh, well-made vegetables is really the only way to go. Have them help prepare them, and find different ways to cook them as well. Have them find interesting things in the cookbook collection, and make eating and cooking an adventure for everyone.

I am willing to concede a short, specific list of things that people don't like, and past that I have little patience.

Sally Squires: This reminds me that if I want Brussel sprouts, I too, eat them alone in my house. And I only learned to eat them when a college friend surprised me by serving them. It was just the two of us for lunch, so I was stuck and much to my surprise really liked them.

So we can all learn about new foods at any age.



Phoenix, Ariz.: Sally,

Re: substituting whole grains, etc. -- I am allergic to barley (in all-purpose flour), so I am forced to use whole-wheat flour whether I want to or not! When I bake anything, I just add 1/4 C. of applesauce, oil, or butter for every 1 C. of whole wheat flour. This compensates for the flour's greater density. Applesauce works quite well and does not affect the finished taste; its flavor magically "disappears" in the baked good, although you can taste it in the uncooked batter.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion! Thanks Phoenix.


Seinfeld: I thought that program with Ms. Seinfeld on Oprah was a lot of hooey and designed only for keeping the Seinfeld's in the public eye.

No one can tell me that pureeing some vegetables and dipping some meat in them is going to give the nutrients that a child needs.

What a laugh, I can just see Ms. Seinfeld in the kitchen doing all that pureeying, maybe the maid. What a silly publicity stunt. Certainly not worth my time watching.

Sally Squires: It did sound from reading the book that Jessica Seinfeld does a lot of cooking. But I understand your skepticism about celebrity chefs.


Shingletown, Calif.: I would like to thank Seinfield for her creative way of passing veggies onto her children and every household should this book of "Deceptively Delicious" on their Christmas list. I, for one, will pass it on to every relative I can find with children and a few adults who don't eat veggies. Bravo! to healthier thinking way of life.

Sally Squires: And this is why I love the Lean Plate Club Web chat and having all of you participate every week. We can have lots of different opinions about many topics near and dear to our hearts, our heads and of course, our stomachs!

Thanks to all of you!


Alexandria, Va.: Yeterday at Harris Teeter I found packages of tiny bananas. The first one I ate was only three bites. At last I have a way to eat a whole banana since I have never liked the taste of bananas enough to enjoy eating all of a regular size one. They will be great for children's lunch boxes.

Sally Squires: Thanks!


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. I only wish we had more time to keep going, but they'll get the hook for me any minute.

Winners today are:

Vienna (mother of five); the supplier of the Organic Bistro web site; Ridgefield, Kids and Food and the Mom/Dad poster.

Please send your name and address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line for quicker handling.

Thanks to all and hope to see some of you on Saturday, Oct. 27 at the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Books.


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