Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, November 6, 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 salt today, among other topics, as well as staying active. In today's LPC e-mail newsletter, find some great links to recipes for low sodium meals.

In other news, the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge is just around the corner. And yes, as in past years, we are giving away free magnets while supplies last. Also, we're looking for photos this year of some of those meals, buffets and other gatherings that are tempting you. So send me a digital photo of your biggest food temptation. If we use it on our Web site, you'll get a Lean Plate Club pedometer and a cloth grocery bag to help you eat smart and be green! Send your photos to leanplateclub@washpost.com. And please put photo in the subject line.

I'm also looking for a few people to check in with during the Holiday Challenge which runs from Thanksgiving to New Year's day. If you're interested in being one of those folks, please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. Include your name, address, phone number, best times to call and a little bit about yourself. In the subject line, please put HC participant.

And calling all Lean Plate Club members in the Salisbury, N.C., region. Your newspaper, The Salisbury Post, is one of the newest members of the Lean Plate Club. We're looking for a few people to follow in that paper during the challenge. If you'd like to participate, well, you know what to do. Send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please put Salisbury Post in the subject line. Include your name, phone number and best times to reach you. And a hearty welcome!

For those who would like to read the Lean Plate Club in your hometown paper -- and some six million readers can do just that each week -- send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include the name of your paper in the message and we'll follow up from there.

Finally, beginning next week, we'll be able to be in contact daily via a new group. Learn more details in today's newsletter and look for a link at our home-page.

Now on to the chat!


New Jersey: Hi Sally, thanks for your article today on salt. I don't have any specific health problems but I'm concerned about how much sodium is in processed food. When I compare labels, the brands with less sodium are often the "organic" or "gourmet" brands and can cost 2 or 3 times as much as regular brands. I want to eat healthy but have always been frugal and feel guilty if I spend more than I have to. But then on the other hand I feel guilty for buying unhealthy food. Do you have any advice on how to resolve these mixed feelings?

Sally Squires: Ah, ambivalence! As Dr. Freud used to say, it can grip us all from time to time....particularly as we move down those grocery aisles (and that's my add not his!) Moderation can help. But no one that I know succeeds at that all the time either, me included.

So maybe you look for some things that are on sale. And maybe, when you can, you make some things from scratch. And another trick is on a day when your sodium intake is higher than usual, load up on fruit and vegetables. They are rich in potassium, which can help counterbalance some of that added sodium

How about the rest of you? What do you do?


Portland: Sally- Do you have any suggestions on how I can get my two serving of calcium in everyday without using a ton of calories?

Thank you.

Sally Squires: I hate to break this to you Portland, but you likely need more than two servings of calcium rich food to meet the recommended intake. Skim milk can be a great option. An 8-ounce glass has 80 calories and about 300 milligrams of calcium. (Most of us need about 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams.) So that won't get you all the way there.

Nonfat yogurt is another choice. Calcium fortified juice (higher in calories of course) or calcium fortified soy milk might be other options. Also other calcium fortified cereals and other foods.

Nonfat and low-fat cheese are also good choices. And you may need to take a supplement to get to where you want to be. Hope that helps. Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: Is most of the salt intake coming from processed foods? I normally cook at home (old style) and salt things to my taste. I never worried about the amount of salt that I use because we don't eat out of cans/packages. Am I right about not worrying much?

Sally Squires: If your blood pressure is in the healthy range -- check our chart for more on that -- and you don't eat out at restaurants and cook mostly from scratch, then you probably don't need to worry about sodium intake. About 77 percent of the sodium we consume comes from processed food and from restaurant and fast food fare.

Thanks for chiming in.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

Love the chats and hoping you can settle what I think may be some bad advice. My Mom is taking a nutrition class at a local college and was told she should switch from skim milk to 1 percent. Supposedly 1 percent contains folic acid, but the skim doesn't. What's your take on this? Many thanks and keep up the great work!

Sally Squires: Both have roughly the same amount of folate. One percent milk has 15 micrograms; skim milk has 12 micrograms per cup. Either would be a good choice. And there are many foods with more folic acid these days. Technically, by the way, neither contains folic acid. But both contain folate.


Syracuse, N.Y.: When grocery shopping, our family stays away from highly processed foods and I always check the sodium level. More so now that we have a baby who eats table food. We never buy canned soup because homemade is so much tastier and better for you. And forget about frozen foods and meals! The ingredients lists are scary and the sodium levels are way too high.

Sally Squires: Sounds like smart shopping to me Syracuse. Thanks for weighing in.


Palm Springs, Calif.: Salt:

The main strategy we use in our home to lower sodium in our diets is to use as few processed foods as possible. When we do use them we read the labels carefully and try to buy the lowest sodium content available. Also, when we do use high-sodium processed foods I adjust elsewhere in my cooking to try to balance it all out.

Some of the ways I also lower sodium in our diets: I make our own marinara/pizza sauce, chicken stock, yogurt, taco seasoning, bread, ice cream, salad dressings, etc.

Sally Squires: Yum. How labor and time intensive is it to make those foods from scratch at home? Thanks!


Kansas City: I always look to this chat for ideas and motivation, so I'm thrilled to finally have something to contribute.

My most recent grocery store find -- Thomas's 100 calorie English muffins. Not only are they low calorie, but they have 5g of fiber. With a little peanut butter, it's an incredible breakfast that really sticks with you. I used to always be hungry mid-morning, but the combination of fiber and protein keeps me satisfied until lunch.

Sally Squires: Sounds delicious and filling! Thanks very much for the food find Kansas City!


Morganfield, Ky.: I think you are right to point out the percentage of sodium in our diets that comes from processed food. A big part of reducing sodium consumption is educating people to the facts of where it really comes from. I can't tell you how many times people have commented on me adding salt to my steamed vegetables while they are eating a frozen dinner. I think the majority of the population thinks that reducing table salt is enough to make a difference. Educating people on these facts will put the power to the consumer and convince manufacturers to put more low sodium products out there -- much the way that added fiber has become such a trend.

Sally Squires: Well said, Morganfield. And while we're at it, let's make the case for NOT commenting on what others are eating. What do you think Lean Plate Club members? Eat and let eat?



San Francisco: Do you have any thoughts on a good women's triathlon next year? I'm thinking about pairing up with a friend to challenge ourselves to do this...but I'm not sure where to start!

Any thoughts you might have on good ones to do and how to start training would be greatly appreciated!

Sally Squires: We'll post some links in a minute. I found one site that lists women's triathlons for 2007 and two books for training, one by Sally Edwards. (We'll try to post links to those in a minute too.)

And I've been trying to contact Sister Madonna Buder, a Roman Catholic nun who began running triathlons when she was 50 and is still at it some 25 years later. There's your inspiration. I've called her numerous times, but have not yet been able to connect with her. She'd make a great column! Good luck with your efforts. And if Sr. Buder sees this posting, please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com.


washingtonpost.com: Triathlons for Women: Training Plans, Equipment, Nutrition amazon.com

Sally Squires: As promised!


washingtonpost.com: Women's Triathlon Calendar

Sally Squires: As promised...you'll have to wait for their 2008 update, but this 2007 calendar should give you leads on races for women only.


Richmond, Va.: Thanks for the salt discussion. I want to cut back, and know the best way is to cook from scratch. Eating out and prepared food is loaded with the stuff. I'd love a source for slow cooker recipes that DON'T call for a can of "cream of salt" soup or other canned, salted stuff.

Sally Squires: Excellent point. You could substitute low-sodium soups and then flavor as you want. I'll try to check around for some slow cooker recipes that don't involve starting with canned soup! Thanks


washingtonpost.com: Runner's Web for Women (runnersweb.com)

Sally Squires: Also, as promised. And that last note should have been on this posting. Sorry.


Arlington, Va.: This weekend I made chicken and eggplant parmesan but instead of breadcrumbs, I used ground flaxseed that I applied with raw egg whites. Then I browned the eggplant and chicken pieces in a little olive oil and then baked in the oven with fresh mozzarella and cans of chopped tomatoes, and lots of spices. It was great!

Sally Squires: That sounds really good. And those flaxseeds are crunch, flavorful and contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids -- or a triple winner as we might say. Thanks for chiming in.


New Jersey again: Sally -- just a comment. Someone wrote "I make our own marinara/pizza sauce, chicken stock, yogurt, taco seasoning, bread, ice cream, salad dressings, etc." That's very commendable, but we should realize that many people do not enjoy cooking or spending a lot of time planning meals. I have many other concerns/responsibilities/interests that I'd rather spend time on. I think we need practical advice for people who in reality are not going to start cooking all their food from scratch.

Sally Squires: Absolutely. That's why I asked how much time it took that Lean Plate Club member to do those things. And you're right, many people don't want to spend time in the kitchen, even if it's not much time. As always, it's about finding what works best for you.

Also, Mrs. Dash's has a great line of marinades and seasonings that are low sodium. And let me hasten to add that I have no financial connection with the company. But I do like their products. Thanks


Coolidge, Ariz.: Just a quick comment, the pizzas being recalled are "Totino's" not "Tostino's" as was in your newsletter. At least you link was correct!

I am currently in Weight Watcher's and had split a sirloin burger from Jack-in-the-Box with a friend as a quick lunch yesterday. Was I ever shocked when I pulled up the nutritional information on their Web site about what I'd just eaten! For just half of the burger, I'd consumed 35 fat grams and some 935 grams of sodium! Opps! Needless to say, I used my flex points for the week and had lots of veggies ONLY for dinner last night. And here I thought I was being conservative!

A word to the wise, CHECK the nutritional information on the web BEFORE going out to eat. There's LOTS of hidden fat and salt out there!

And thanks again for your column, Sally. It has helped me to at least maintain my weight over the last couple of years and now I'm serious about losing some!

Sally Squires: Thank you for that correction. Sorry about that. Also, we have a growing list of nutrition facts and information for restaurants and fast food establishments linked from the Lean Plate Club Home page. If you have Internet access on your phone or PDA, you could easily access it at the restaurant BEFORE you order! Also, many fast food restaurants now provide that nutrition information also at the counter. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: To cut back on sodium, I find other ingredients that add a LOT of flavor to dishes or sauces: balsamic vinegar, fresh lemon or lime juice, spices, garlic, onion, chili powder, some varieties of Dijon mustard, etc.

Sally Squires: Great ideas -- except for the Dijon mustard which can also be high in sodium depending on the brand. But everything in moderation....Thanks


Re I make our own marinara/pizza sauce, chicken stock, yogurt, taco seasoning, bread, ice cream, salad dressings, etc": Well, some of these are more do-able than others. Making pizza sauce is very easy, and you can use no-salt-added canned tomatoes. Making salad dressing is also really easy, and can be done right before you serve the salad. Making yogurt is probably unnecessary, because you can get yogurt with minimal salt. and making your own seasonings (I assume the poster meant a spice mix) is easy, too -- you can make a lot and keep it. So pick and choose!!

Sally Squires: Well said. Thanks.


Mrs. Dash's has a great line of marinades and seasonings that are low sodium: Fantastic news. We use another brand mesquite sauce as a marinade, so I can switch to the salt free and still keep my finicky husband happy.

Sally Squires: They're not necessarily sodium-free, but they are low in sodium. And they are surprisingly tasty. Anybody else out there tried them? If so, feel free to weigh in with comments.


Flaxseed: Hi Sally,

Can a person overdose on flaxseed? Does it have a taste?

I am going to try to use it more for its Omega-3 oils and possible ability to lower cholesterol, but I am timid.

Thank you.

Sally Squires: You can overdose on anything. But using a bit of ground flaxseed to coat chicken, fish or other meat, won't come close to any overdose. (And I don't know of any research to suggest that there are toxic levels of flaxseed. But we can eat or drink too much of anything if we really put our minds to it.) Moderation in everything. Or at least aim for that! Thanks.


if you don't like cooking: Making a lot at once and freezing it saves time and hassle. If I do a big batch of spaghetti sauce, I'm covered for spaghetti, lasagna, baked ziti. And I make it in my slow cooker while I'm at work.

Sally Squires: That's a great idea. When I make pancakes for the family, I also make extra batches and freeze in individual portions for quick breakfasts. Thanks for chiming in.


Alexandria, Va.: re: Blackberry chicken recipe in the column today -- I love the idea of cooking with fruit because it adds interest in a way that convinces most of us that we do not need the high calorie, high fat ingredients to make food interesting and satisfying. There is suggested that you can eliminate the blackberry seeds from the recipe by straining through a sieve. Do the seeds have any nutritional value at all, or is this just a matter of preference? I know too that some people's intestines cannot tolerate seeds, nuts, etc. Thanks!

Sally Squires: The seeds provide some fiber. And most seeds also have a bit of healthy fats. (Remember that those blackberry seeds are pretty tiny, however.)

As for the idea of avoiding seeds. You're probably thinking of people with diverticulitis -- an intestinal condition. Doctors used to recommend avoiding seeds and nuts if you had that condition. But as you'll see in two upcoming links, there's no scientific reason to back that up.

Thanks for chiming in. Stay tuned for the links.


washingtonpost.com: Diverticulitis diet (mayoclinic.com)

Sally Squires: As promised...


washingtonpost.com: Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis (nih.gov)

Sally Squires: From the National Institutes of Health


Fairfield, Conn.: Hi Sally,

Thanks for the "salty" discussion today. I am in my mid 50s and going through menopause. That's a whole other discussion but one manifestation is my sweet and salty cravings have gone through the roof.

I indulged more than I'd like to admit but when I went for a routine "wellness" exam I had a blood pressure of 150/95!

That is a first in my life and came as big surprise.

I have since eliminated all "snack" foods and cut out all sweets.

I am also monitoring my blood pressure daily and I'll see what happens in the next month.

My belief is that giving in to these salty cravings has contributed to this rise in blood pressure.

Six months ago by BP was fine.

One really has to be watchful of pre-packaged, prepared foods, whether they are organic or otherwise. They are loaded with salt. More and more working people are buying prepared foods and not cooking at home It is a culinary and dietary disaster.

Sally Squires: Sorry to hear about your blood pressure problem, but it's great that you found it and are now doing something about it. You might want to also look at the DASH Diet. It's quite good, easy to follow and has been shown to help lower blood pressure as much as some drugs -- which isn't to say that one should go on DASH and stop medication. Check with your doctor before starting DASH. I included a link to it in today's column. And it is another example of your tax dollars at work since it was developed at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.


Philadelphia: Sally, Thanks for your column today - I'm 25 and I've been sodium-conscious pretty much my whole life thanks to my mother's struggles with high blood pressure. However, my husband is a salt fiend. I'm slowly weaning him off the salt by infusing dishes with more potent flavors to mask the absence or reduction in salt - I'm especially fond of using fresh garlic or red pepper flakes any chance I get. Also we're trying not to eat out as much, which is also helpful to our wallets.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you're way ahead of the curve on high blood pressure prevention. That's great because there's growing research to underscore that blood pressure need not rise with age as it does for so many people these days. Keep up the great work! You're an inspiration. Plus, don't you find that you can eat really well at home for a lot less money -- and calories -- than eating out? Thanks


Low-sodium pasta sauce: I love Trader Joe's organic basic marinara sauce -- only about 2 percent of your sodium (SO much better than most of the canned brands out there) and only $2, too! (No connection with the company.) I make my own when I have the time, but hey, sometimes I don't have time.

Sally Squires: That's a great food find. Commercially prepared tomato products are often loaded with salt. Thanks much!


Cedar Grove, Md.: When I was growing up, my mother used 2-3 pounds of salt every 3-4 weeks. When my father developed high blood pressure, she went to salt-free cooking, and I discovered that vegetables such as peas, broccoli, corn and spinach each have a distinct flavor! Ever since then, about 60 years, I've used very little, or no, salt in cooking. We never salt vegetables, and use one teaspoon or so in cooking rice or potatoes, depending on volume. In baking, I usually cut the salt amount in half. If it is too bland, the next time I add 1/4, ie, 3/4 of the amount specified. We fill our salt shaker about every 18 months, whether it needs it or not!!

We eat no processed deli meats. We do occasionally eat bacon, but get a brand that is low sugar, low salt.

In dining out, I routinely ask for "no seasoning at all" in my food, which usually gets me a relatively low sodium meal. An added perk: the meal usually has to be made separately, and is therefore fresher and less cooked than my companions' meals.

I didn't find the no/low sodium diet hard to adjust to; in fact, from the first meal, I much preferred it.

Sally Squires: What a great example of how we don't need sodium to make all food taste good. But you're absolutely right that we get used to the saltier flavor -- and fortunately can get unused to it too. Thanks much for weighing in.


Long-term effects of salt: Hi Sally,

I am also concerned about the long-term effects of salt. (I tried looking but didn't see any). I don't know if anyone has done studies on excessive salt consumption leading to the development of high blood pressure in old age (after previously having normal or low blood pressure when young).

Since diet in youth can affect health in middle to later age, I would not be at all surprised if excess salt consumption when young could lead to problems later.

What do you think?

Sally Squires: There are several long term studies as well as population research to suggest that blood pressure rises with age, particularly in those regions where salt consumption is higher. There are very few places in the world where sodium is now low, but when scientists looked at those populations, they found that blood pressure did not rise with age.

Also, blood pressure is very much tied to extra pounds -- yet another reason to get to a healthier weight...and stay there.


Washington, D.C.: Another trick -- if you cook from scratch -- is to always salt your starches when they are boiling. You'll get more of the salt flavor than if you salt afterwards. Particularly applies to pasta.

My parents are on a low-sodium diet -- so they say. They won't cook with salt but have no problem buying granola bars and such. It's tough convincing them that the processed food is the biggest culprit!

Sally Squires: Yes, it's kind of counterintuitive since we have been taught to get rid of the salt shaker. But if you make your food from scratch so that you control the ingredients, you might be able to put that salt shaker back on the table. As for salting the pasta water, I'll have to check on that one, but don't think it's necessary....

Thanks for chiming in.


Brimfield, Mass: My husband has been on a very low sodium diet for many years and has successfully been able to keep his blood pressure low through sodium restriction and exercise. The trick -- almost no processed foods. We have found a few low-sodium foods at places we love like Trader Joe's, but for the most part, we make everything at home and rarely eat out. It is scary how much sodium is packed into processed foods!


Sally Squires: And if the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Grocery Manufacturers Association get their way, you may soon see more foods with less sodium. And Lean Plate Club members, if you feel strongly about this, you may want to let your favorite grocery and food company know about your wishes. Most now have consumer hotlines for just this kind of feedback. Thanks.


Helping my husband in Maryland: Sally -- Please help! I need some advice from you and from Lean Plate Club members. Is there anything I can do to help my 42-year-old husband make needed diet and lifestyle changes? He is currently on high cholesterol medication and has been for years. He weighs more than he should and gets very little exercise. He just had a physical and may be diagnosed as pre-diabetic. (The initial results were inconclusive so the doctor is running additional tests.) Even though his doctor talks about diet and lifestyle changes, he doesn't push them very hard and always seems quick to offer another drug instead. I try to set a good example by eating healthy and getting some exercise. I suspect that the answer is that he won't make changes until he's ready, but I am hoping that someone out there has some baby steps I can take with him. Thanks!

Sally Squires: I was going to suggest that you provide an example for him, but it sounds like you are already doing that. There's a fine line to walk between encouraging and harping. But if you can underscore how much you love him and want him around, that may help.

What activities does he like to do? If you can get him do participate in what he likes best, he's more likely to get started. I'll open this up to the membership, but we're almost out of time, so if you have suggestions, please e-mail them to me and I'll include them in an upcoming newsletter.

Also, the Holiday Challenge -- which is designed to help maintain weight, not lose it -- might be something that you could do together. That starts on Nov. 20. Just another thought. A number of Lean Plate Club members have told me that they participated in the challenge and then used that as a springboard to make more changes in the new year. Hope that helps.


sodium and fat?: Sally,

Eye-opening article on sodium today. I took a look at my organic low fat frozen meal that I take to work for lunch and sodium was 400 mg (500 mg with some brands) and the 4 ounces of low fat cottage cheese that I also take was 390 mg sodium. And my high-fiber, low-sugar breakfast cereal has 200 mg. So already, trying to eat a healthy, low fat diet, I hit 1000 mg of sodium before lunch is over. No idea how much sodium is in my dinner, since it's not usually processed. So my question is, is there any link between excessive sodium intake and obesity? Despite my low fat diet, I have not been able to shed a single pound in years (and yes, I exercise 5-6 times per week) so maybe there's another culprit at work here other than fat and calories?

Sally Squires: Obesity can help cause high blood pressure, but other than a little water retention, I know of no evidence to suggest that sodium can cause obesity. Sorry.

You're making some good choices. So you may want to stick with those and focus on portion control, counting calories and making sure you are active when you're not exercising. By the way, those 5-6 times weekly are wonderful!

Have you had a physical exam? If it's been a year or more, it might be worth a getting a physical And finally, are you already at a healthy weight? If so, maybe your body is telling you something.

Thanks for chiming in today.


White Plains, Md.: Hi Sally:

I need to stop tossing so much fresh produce. Today while at Giant, I purchased the smallest size of fresh kale, but it's still a large amount. Can you tell me how to blanch and freeze the kale and what type of container to put it in.

I enjoy reading your articles in The Post and the chat. Thanks for your help.

Sally Squires: To blanch the kale, simply drop it in boiling water for about a minute. Then drain and freeze.

Apples, citrus fruit, Romaine lettuce, celery, cabbage, pears, carrots, dates, sweet potatoes, squash, and broccoli are among the fresh produce that has a longer shelf life. And don't forget frozen vegetables and fruit (without added sugar or seasonings.) They're great too and have the same nutritional benefits as fresh, canned or dried produce. Hope that helps. Thanks.


Silver Spring, Md.: Dear Sally, In reference to today's article in The Post about salt, I was wondering if it is dangerous to use No Salt, potassium chloride. I use a lot thinking that it is harmless. What are the recommendations for use of No Salt.

Sally Squires: Potassium chloride salt is another option. Some people think it has a bitter taste so it may not be for all. And yes, as in everything, too much is not a good thing. But if you're using it to season food and you like the taste then by all means go ahead. If you have any health problems -- particularly heart problems -- do let your doctor know that you are using this type of salt just to be sure that it doesn't interfere with anything else that you might be taking. That's always a wise course of action.



Washington, D.C.: Sally, I just used one of the tools on the MisFits Web page to calculate how many calories I need to maintain a weight of 130 pounds (I'm 5-4, female and 25) and it came up with 1,900!! (This is with light exercise 3x a week). This seems way too high for me -- I'm trying to drop 10 pounds in a month and I'm aiming to eat about 1,200 a day. What do you think?

Sally Squires: I'm not familiar with what tool they provided but that does seem a bit high. Here's the general rule of thumb: most women lose weight by consuming between 1,200 to 1,400 calories daily.

You can also take your weight and multiply by 12 = baseline in calories. So for you that works out to 1,560 calories just to maintain your weight. (And remember this is a rough estimate.) To lose about a pound per week, you need to get a deficit of 3,500 calories. So if you cut back on food by 250 calories and increase your activity by 250 calories you can easily get to that 500 calorie deficit. Figure that about 30-45 minutes of brisk walking will burn about 250 calories. Or you burn about 100-150 calories per mile walked.

Hope that helps.


Washington, D.C.: Hi! So I'd like to lose about 10 pounds, and I'd like to do it by using math, not a fad diet/fitness routine. How do I figure out how many calories I need to burn each day to lose that weight by a certain time? I know there are about 3,500 calories in one pound, so I'd have to burn 35,000 in total, but how can I figure out how many calories I use each day just being alive so I know how many I have to cut through food/exercise?

Sorry it's complicated, but can you help me do the math?? Thanks! (I weigh about 135 and would like to get to 125.)

Sally Squires: Check the posting above. Multiply your weight by 12 to get a baseline number of calories. Then subtract about 250 from what you eat and add about 250 in activity. That should get you to about 1 pound loss per week.


Phoenix, Ariz.: Hi, Sally,

Off-topic from the salt: I need to lose about 30 pounds to be at my ideal weight. I exercise (cardio) for a half-hour every day and have only been maintaining my weight. How much strength training or added cardio do I need to start seeing a decent loss of a pound or two per week? (Current: 4-10, 135 pounds; ideal weight: 105 pounds.)

As for no salt -- I often purchase frozen veggies instead of canned, which eases preparation and also eliminates salt.

Sally Squires: Not off topic at all, Phoenix. And I should also correct my math. That previous poster who weighs 130 need about 1,460 calories to maintain. Now you see why they give us copy editors!

Your baseline by calculation is 1,420 calories. But please re-check my math. It takes weeks to build muscle which could help you boost your metabolism a little. Try doing weight training three times a week for about 20 minutes. Start with small weights and gradually build up over a period of weeks. You want good form throughout and no injuries.

You might consider some tapes or DVDs to help you with this, particularly if you workout at home. If you go to a gym, get a session on the weights with a trainer. Most gyms include at least one free lesson.

Then look for weighs to be active throughout the day. If you can get up and walk for five minutes around your office every hour, you get an extra 40 minutes of activity in an 8 hour day! And consider walking in place or riding an exercise bike or other activity while you watch television. Even fidgeting can help boost calories burned.

And be sure to check portion sizes and record what you eat for a few days at least. You might find some surprises there too. Calorie creep is very insidious. Good luck and hope you'll let us know how it goes.



Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners today are Kansas City, Arlington for the flaxseed, Coolidge, TJ's low salt spaghetti sauce and Philly.

Please send your name and U.S. Postal address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line.

Look for the upcoming Holiday Challenge with details in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club! Cheers!


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