Lean Plate Club

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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, November 27, 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.

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washingtonpost.com: Sally will begin answering questions shortly.

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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club Web chat and week 2 of the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge. How's it going? We're eager to hear all about it.

The e-mail newsletters should be in your electronic in-boxes now. Find some lip-smacking recipes there to help you get through the holidays unburdened by added pounds. If you'd like to subscribe to this free weekly service, just log onto our homepage at www.leanplateclub.com. Click on e-mail newsletter and you'll be set.

Also, I've really enjoyed chatting with some of you in our new discussion group. We can now communicate daily there too. We'll post links in a minute.

And here's a suggestion on the table from last week's Web chat: providing an exchange to swap used exercise DVDs. If you're interested, chime into this chat or e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. We're trying to set up this service now...

Now on to the chat!

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Millington, Tenn.: For this year's Holiday Challenge, I am going to at least maintain my weight. I am going to increase my pedometer steps by 1000 per day during the season from 12,000 to 13,000. I am going to also be sure I get my recommended amount of servings of fruit and vegetables and drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you're on to a great start, Millington. Hope you'll let us know how it goes. Thanks!

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appetite suppressors: Hi Sally,

I have found that a small handful of nuts (almonds or walnuts) eaten about 30 minutes before a meal tame my appetite and help me not overeat!

Sally Squires: That's an excellent idea. You'll get plenty of healthy fat and some protein in that snack. Also, I got home last night after a really busy day and little time to eat my normal meals. So on the way home,I planned to first have v8 on ice, then had a two whole wheat crackers with hummus and an orange. That combination sure took the edge off the urge to grab a lot of other much less healthy stuff.

How about the rest of you? How are you doing?

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Dallas: I've started doing this to help with portion control and making sure I don't inhale the contents of the cookie jar because I'm too tired to make dinner. I bought a vacuum packing machine (Foodsaver, Rival Save a Meal, etc., no ties to either company) and I vac pack leftovers so they last longer or spend one afternoon a month and cook 4 or 5 different meals. I then vac pack and freeze them in individual sizes. When I get home from work I just need to nuke them or put them in a pot of boiling water to heat thru. It takes the same amount of time as a TV dinner to heat up but I know exactly what the ingredients.

Sally Squires: This is such a smart move, Dallas. And that planning ahead is really key to not getting caught with ravenous, out of control hunger.

Yesterday, I made a huge pot of steel cut oats and then put a 1 cup servings in individual bags in the freezer. One was breakfast this morning. Another could be a snack if today proves as busy as yesterday was!

Thanks for weighing in.

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Bethesda, Md.: Hi there! Would you be able to suggest a sauce for lobster ravioli that won't break the fat and calorie bank? Would fat-free evaporated milk mimic a cream sauce here? Fat-free half and half? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Either would be good starters. I use evaporated fat free milk to make a lot of "cream" based soups and sauces--a trick that I learned from Bonnie Liebman at Center for Science in the Public Interest. (It's also good for putting "cream" in your tea or coffee, by the way.)

You could add some healthy margarine to that evaporated milk and a little whole wheat white flour. We'll post some low-fat white sauces in a minute.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I rejoined Weight Watchers -- this is my ninth week. I found that I am one of those people who will have to keep a journal of what I eat or else I just eat more than I should. I have been walking and wearing a pedometer all day (most days) for about 6 weeks and getting my 10,000+ steps but just finally added strength training back in last week using free weights.

Sally Squires: Good for you Silver Spring. Knowing yourself well enough to know what works for you is great and a big key to success. And starting a little early to get things in shape BEFORE the holidays is a tip that a number of nutrition scientists have told me they also employ. Continued success to you!

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Red Bank, N.J.: I don't gain any weight during holidays. WHY? I am so busy preparing for the holiday, then cooking and serving everybody that I don't stop to eat what I cook.

Holidays are not the problem. It is after the holidays.

I am sharing this site with other friends.

Thanks

Sally Squires: Yes, that time in January can be problematic too. The weather gets cold (at least for much of the country), the days are short, making it a challenging time. Welcome to your friends by the way!

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Fairfax, Va.: I take no credit for this fantastic wild rice recipe. It's from

the Jane Brody "Good Food" book. She calls it Wild Rice

With Indian Nuts. I made it for Thanksgiving and everyone

raved.

Here is the recipe, quoted from the 1985 book:

2 cups beef broth (I have made it with vegetable broth and

it's just as good)

1-1/2 cups water

1-1/3 cups wild rice (1/2 pound)

1/2 cup currants

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup Indian or pine nuts (pignoli)

1 tablespoon butter or margarine (I make it with just

butter-flavored cooking spray)

1 medium onion, finely chopped (1/2 cup)

1. Bring the broth and water to a boil in a large saucepan

(3 quarts or larger). Add the wild rice, currants, and

pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and

simmer the ingredients for 1 hour or longer, or until the

liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Add more water,

if needed to cook the rice fully.

Notes on Step 1: I made it with low sodium broth and it

needed salt badly, so next time I'll use the regular broth.

Also, it does take longer than an hour but I haven't had to

add additional liquid.

2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the Indian nuts,

tossing them constantly until they turn golden. Remove

the nuts from the pan, and set them aside.

Notes on Step 2: These burn easily -- but I love the flavor

and crunch when they get dark (just don't let them get

black).

3. In the same skillet, melt the butter or margarine, and

saute the onion for about 3 minutes or until it is soft.

When the rice is done, toss the onion and nuts with it, and

serve.

Notes on Step 3: This is where I used cooking spray

instead of butter or margarine. I kept the pine nuts

separate in a Tupperware container until the next day

(Thanksgiving). I added them at the last minute, and

microwaved the dish to serve.

This makes 6-8 servings. I doubled it for Thanksgiving.

We had 9 for dinner and many of us ate leftovers the next

day. It was gone by Friday night!

It's fairly high calorie, but low fat and high fiber. It's

delicious at room temperature, which makes it great for

potlucks.

Sally Squires: I love the flavors in this kind of recipe. And I probably don't need to point out that it's also got some great whole grains in that wild rice. Thanks for also giving credit where credit is due!

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washingtonpost.com: Creamy Low Fat White Sauce (about.com)

Sally Squires: As promised...

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washingtonpost.com: Low Fat White Sauce (Perth Diet Clinic)

Sally Squires: As promised...

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Cannon Falls, Minn.: I seem to have lost a couple of pounds in the past week, but who knows if they will stay off?

I find it a LOT easier to resist temptation in the grocery store than I would at home, so I simply don't buy (or bake) the traditional seasonal sweets. We've been enjoying meals of turkey, salad, wild rice, cranberry sauce (made by combining cranberries with a naval orange, a bit of sugar, and a few drops of brandy in the Cuisinart). If there is no pie around, we can't be tempted!

Also, I have switched to a lunch-sized plate for my main meal, so the portions look larger than they are. That helps a lot with portion control, always a problem for me.

Sally Squires: Those all sounds like very smart moves, Cannon Falls. And in last week's Lean Plate Club Discussion group, I posted part of a message from another LPCer who finds switching to those smaller plates very helpful.

I find using the half cup ramekins a very easy way to also do some quick portion control. And you can see a video on portion control at our Holiday Challenge Web site. We'll try to post a link in a minute if you haven't seen the page.

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First-Time Dieter: Hi Sally,

I am in my early 30s and have suddenly realized that it's not as easy to stay as slender as I used to be. I have gained probably 15 pounds around my midsection and thighs. I am an avid exerciser, running 3 times a week on my treadmill and doing lots and lots of outdoor activities (I also like ice cream and candy unfortunately). I would like to jumpstart some weight loss by changing my eating habits. I know that it will be hard to see dramatic change unless I do something dramatic. I believe I can keep it off later on by cutting out the sweets. Do you advocate that I cut out carbs and dairy for the short term? I am on my second day and realize that it is tough to find foods I can eat. I have already started incorporating more fiber (beans and hummus) but what do you recommend to combat the need for crackers, bread, pasta, white rice?

Sally Squires: Doing something dramatic is not something that I'd recommend, particularly during the holidays when you are going to be faced with a lot of tempting choices. And if you're like most of us, the stress this time of year increases between the holidays and just all the end of year stuff that needs to be done.

So...what could you do? You might cut back a little on the carbs, but what could be even more effective in the short run is to simply switch to whole grain products in all these choices. It's easy to do. And there's growing evidence that it's good to eat lower on the glycemic index scale. So that means reaching for foods that are less likely to make your blood sugar soar. And that means more fruit and vegetables and whole grains.

In simple terms that's shredded wheat, oatmeal and even Cheerios instead of cereals with added sugar. It's plain yogurt where you add the fruit rather than buying it already added in with added sugar. (And by the way, there's nothing wrong with low-fat or nonfat dairy. If you're a vegetarian, look for soy or rice based low fat options with added calcium.)

Switch to whole grain bread. (Ezekiel makes several wonderful loaves, but so does Arnold and a host of other bakeries.)

Think brown rice or wild rice instead of that white rice. Yes, it takes a bit longer to cook, but you can make a big batch and then dole it out in single servings.

And think whole grain pasta instead of regular.

And keep eating those beans. There's a nutritional wonder. Veggies are also a great snack and will also be lower on the glycemic scale than most fruit.

Hope that helps. Let us know how it goes.

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Washington, D.C.: In the Perth Diet Clinic recipe, does "corn flour" = cornstarch?

Sally Squires: Yes, that would be my guess too. We'll post some other recipes in a minute.

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Rochester, N.Y.: Thank you Thank you Thank you! I stumbled upon your column last month and made notes of Web sites that you suggested. I joined Sparkpeople later that day and started the Couch 2 5k program. Since Oct. 12 I have lost 12 pounds and have registered for my first 5k to be run on Saturday. I've never run in my life and I am having a ball. Sparkpeople has been a great resource for information and support. Thank you Sally!

Sally Squires: Congratulations Rochester! You've just given us a great example of how small changes can add up to big rewards. Wishing you continued success! Hope you'll let us know how the 5K goes.

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Ohio Turnpike: Sally: This is the perfect time of year to get out the slow cooker and open the cookbook to soups. For a few years Good Housekeeping ran the "All you can eat soup diet" in their January issue and I think it's better to start it in November to warm up and fill up.

By the way, traveling this past weekend on the Ohio Turnpike I discovered that it costs most to buy 24 oz of water than 20 oz of coke! I guess it's the bigger plastic bottle. That explains on reason why people drink too much soda? It's a better deal for the wallet.

Other food related things I learned on that trip; food stamp programs will pay for frozen dinner entrees but not for one of those pre-cooked rotisserie chickens; McDonalds may have gotten rid of super size in the U.S. but not in many foreign countries and also the size of a "small" McDonald's drink cup is what used to be a "medium" when I worked there in 1978. To get the small that I was used to I had to order a "junior" size drink. There are so many hidden calories out there and much of it linked to people's wallets. What may seem like a good money deal is not necessarily good for your waistlines. You really have to watch. Take good care.

Sally Squires: You really DO have to watch. And it is worth noting that water now costs more than soda pop. Traveling can be particularly challenging. I know, having just spent some 20 plus hours in the car during Thanksgiving weekend. Packing healthful snacks for the trip really helped a lot.

Thanks for chiming in.

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Washington, D.C.: With the gray skies and cold winds, I'm ready to do some baking. But this winter I want to try to stay away from baking cookies and brownies. What are some more healthful foods that I can bake, to accompany dinner, rather than for dessert?

Sally Squires: How about some wonderful whole grain bread, rolls, muffins, pumpkin bread or biscuits? Yum.

Baked fruit is just right too for this time of year. And there are so many wonderful pears, apples and other fruit to use.

Also, I am really enjoying baking squash and roasting other vegetables. I just bought some cauliflower that I plan to roast and then turn into a kind of "mashed" potatoes. I also make pumpkin pie filling in ramekins. They're like pumpkin custard and are quite good.

Other suggestions out there?

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Richmond, Va.: I heartily second the recommendation for Jane Brody's "Good Food" book. Food is tasty and whole.

Sally Squires: Thanks! It's a classic.

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washingtonpost.com: Mussels with Saffron and Leeks (eatingwell.com)

Sally Squires: As promised, here's another recipe that has a white sauce that could be used with that lobster.

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washingtonpost.com: Poached Salmon with Creamy Piccata Sauce (eatingwell.com)

Sally Squires: Also from Eating Well magazine, here's a creamy piccata sauce that might also go well with lobster or other seafood. Thanks to our producer Paul Williams for getting us these links.

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Rochester, N.Y.: I did very well over Thanksgiving. I worked out on Saturday morning (Leslie Sansone's 4-mile Super Challenge tape) to make up for Thursday. I have also started a new class called "Zumba," which I take one evening a week (in addition to my regular workouts at lunch time). It is a combination of African, Latin and belly dancing -- and let me tell you -- it is constant movement for 45-60 minutes. It is a great and fun workout. I also made choices in what I ate. I really wanted a small amount of eggnog -- so I skipped the glass of wine so I could enjoy 1/2 of a cup. I also took less mashed potatoes so I could have more stuffing. And I had two thin slices of dessert that I wanted. I left the table feeling just right -- not stuffed.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you did extremely well, Rochester. Congratulations!

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Bend, Ore.: For easy extra exercise, park at the end of the mall parking lot and walk that extra distance. You will save time by not looking for that spot up front. Use the stairs instead of the elevator, your hips will love it and it increases your lung capacity as well as saving energy.

Just walking at a fast pace for 10 or 15 minutes during a break or lunch hour helps to relieve stress and reduce your waistline.

Add another 10 or 15 minutes after or before work and you can enjoy that extra cookie.

Sally Squires: It's exactly those kinds of smart moves that can really add up big time at the holidays or any other time of year. And I love pulling right into a parking space at the far end of the lot rather than having to hunt for one closer--and often having to wait! Seems like I'm in the store after walking in the same amount of time I would have taken to wait for that space. Do you find that too?

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Sally...I have a workout question; hopefully you or the others in the chat can help me. I bought a strapless dress to wear for two holiday parties. I lift weights twice a week but was wondering if anyone had any special weight training exercises that really target the shoulders and upper back. No matter how hard I try I never can really get rid of the fat around the bra band area! Any suggestions? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Triceps! Ah the bane of most women. We just don't have the strength in them that men do. But we'll post some links to exercises that can help in a minute.

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