Lean Plate Club

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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, December 11, 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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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! We've got a lot going on today, so I'll zip through a little housekeeping notes and then get right to the chat.

E-mail newsletters should be hitting your in-box right about now. Last week, we had major problems with the group that transmits the newsletter, so it wasn't published until Wednesday. My sincere apologies. We hope that these technical difficulties are now behind us.

How are you doing on the Lean Plate Club Holiday Challenge? We're heading into the really fast paced weeks of the holiday season, where the holiday parties really kick into high gear. Also, check out this new report on airport food and see what others are saying about it.

Now on to the chat!

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washingtonpost.com: Most Airports Serve Up Healthful Meal Options (Post, Dec. 11)

Sally Squires: As promised, here's the report on airport food.

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Group

Sally Squires: Here's what some Lean Plate Club members are saying about the airport food report. This is also a way for us to stay in touch on days other than Tuesdays. I'm hoping that we can expand this group to include sharing of healthful recipes, swapping exercise DVDs and more. Hope you can check it out when you get a chance.

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New York, N.Y.: Hi! I love deviled eggs, and so does my family. Is it safe to hard-cook the eggs the day before I plan to make and serve them, and then halve and devil them up the day that I do serve them? I would keep the whole hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator, of course.

Sally Squires: Yes. I cook hard boiled eggs frequently. As you follow the rules for refrigerating after cooking, you should be fine. Also, if eggs are cracked, you may want to wrap those in plastic even while they are in the shell. And by the way, eggs are a rich, low cost source of protein even if they do come with some cholesterol. Current recommendation is to limit dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day. An egg yolk has about 280 milligrams of cholesterol, but those eggs whites have no cholesterol or fat. Thanks!

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St. Louis: Is stone-cut oatmeal better for you than rolled oats? What does stone-cut or stone-ground mean?

Sally Squires: I think that you mean steel cut oats. If you check the nutritional info provided by the Department of Agriculture, there is no difference calorically, or fiber-wise. Both steel cut and quick oats are considered whole grains. Both will also help to reduce blood cholesterol and both taste great. But I do find that the steel cut oats are a bit heartier.

They also take longer to cook--about 35 minutes compared with about three in the microwave for the quick oats. So I make a double batch, then cool and freeze in individual portions for quick reheating in the microwave. It's delicious, hearty and keeps me going from breakfast to lunch.

How about the rest of you? Steel cut or quick oats? What's your preference? And in a minute, I'll also try to post some directions to make steel cut oats more quickly.

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washingtonpost.com: McCann's Irish Oatmeal -- Preparation

Sally Squires: As promised...

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D.C.: Submitting early because of a conference call. I was a little confused by the whole grain article in terms of what is a "serving" of whole grains. It sounds like it is eight grams -- is that right? And if so, how do I figure out how many servings are in a particular dish? Thanks.

Sally Squires: Ah, have I got a Web site for you! Try Mypyramid.gov and then click on inside the Pyramid. Once there, click on grains. In brief, here's what the site ways about what counts as a one-ounce serving of grains. And most people need two to three servings daily.

"In general, 1 slice of bread, 1 cup of ready-to-eat cereal, or ¿ cup of cooked rice, cooked pasta, or cooked cereal can be considered as 1 ounce equivalent from the grains group."

Hope that helps.

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washingtonpost.com: What foods are in the grain group? (mypyramid.gov)

Sally Squires: As promised...

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Lubbock, Tex.: I bake everything with whole wheat flour (our daily bread, pumpkin bread, banana bread, muffins, cookies, pancakes) and add in wheat germ as well. I try to avoid white flour and white sugar, sweetening more with fruit or fruit juice. We get healthier, heartier results and my toddler loves them all. He isn't used to store-bought, white flour products.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you've made some great changes, Lubbock. But if you want to try some whole wheat white flour, it also is now available through King Arthur Flour. It's also quite good and truly is a whole grain too. I'll try to post a link in a minute...

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Rockville, Md.: Re Steel Cut Oats:

I recently discovered that steel cut oats can be cooked in a crock pot overnight (1 c. oats to 4.5 c. water, cook on low about 8 hours or so). Just spritz the crock with cooking spray so they don't stick to the bottom.

My question is, can oats be cooked with milk in the crock pot? (all milk instead of the water or half and half). I read something somewhere which said that milk doesn't cook well in a crock pot. Any info on this or suggestions?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: The crock pot is a great idea! I have made regular oatmeal with milk, but when I tried it with steel cut oatmeal,I didn't like the result. So that would be my only concern. Anybody else try this? If so, what did you think? Thanks!

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Airline Foods: Hi Sally,

You're right that bringing your own food is the best way to go; you save a significant amount of money and calories. Peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, fruit, carrot sticks, and Pria bars all travel well. Also, while you are not allowed to bring bottled water through security, you are allowed to bring an empty water bottle. I've gone through security several times with an empty Nalgene, which I fill up at a water fountain before boarding the plane.

Sally Squires: Now bringing your own water bottle along is very clever! Thanks!

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washingtonpost.com: King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour (PDF)

Sally Squires: As promised...

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San Antonio: A daily favorite whole grain food of mine is Post Shredded Wheat and Bran cereal (eaten with a little Splenda and fat-free milk).

Sally Squires: Sounds great San Antonio. Shredded wheat is often overlooked as a wonderful whole grain cereal with no added sugar--unless you buy the frosted ones, of course :-)

Also, Cheerios are a whole grain. Raisin Bran is a whole grain. Wheaties are whole grain...the list goes on and on. Plus, many popular cereals with added sugar are now whole grains too.

Thanks.

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Indulge: I am trying very hard to not gain weight despite the holiday parties. Well I have found a few things that are working for me.

I am indulging in holiday foods but the healthy ones mainly. Pomegranates and clementines are so very very festive and pomegranates take forever to eat so it tricks me into thinking I ate a huge dessert. I also LOVE holiday lights so instead of driving around different neighborhoods looking at lights I have been driving someplace and then getting out of my car and walking around different neighborhoods looking at their lights. Not a ton of exercise but not bad either.

Sally Squires: What fun to walk to view those holiday lights! And yes, that certainly does count as activity. And don't you love finding healthful foods that are also very much in the holiday spirit, like those pomegranates and clementines. I just interviewed the celebrity chef and restaurateur B. Smith at here DC restaurant at Union Station. She was set to film a television segment and the place was nicely decorated with seasonal fruit--another good reminder that holiday food doesn't have to be high in calories.

Thanks!

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Washington, D.C.: Great info in today's column on exercise while at work; also how to prepare whole grain oats for a quick meal.

Important to note that the less any food that comes from a plant looks like it did when it was growing(that includes grains and fruit), the worse it is for you. Put another way, try to eat as many foods as you can that look like they did in the garden or grove.

Sally Squires: Simple, elegant and excellent advice. Thanks much.

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Fontana, Calif.: Sally, I'm so glad you asked about our favorite whole grains today. I have lost approximately 112 pounds in about a two-year period, with still a bit left to lose. I have been on a very restrictive exercise program for the past 5 months due to a back injury. I too decided to really focus on whole grains as part of my plan to maintain my weight during my recovery period. I have found so many wonderful options. One of my very favorite whole grains is Steel Cut Oats. I purchased a small 4 cup crock pot. I add one cup oats to 4 cups water and cook on low overnight. When I wake in the morning, I am able to enjoy a warm, ultra creamy breakfast. I add a sprinkle of cinnamon and some fresh or frozen berries. Yum! I find that I stay full much longer than I do with other breakfast options and I feel completely satisfied. I put the rest in a container in the refrigerator and enjoy it throughout the week. I could go on to sing the praises of barley and wheatberries as well but I'll leave you with my favorite for now. Thanks again for another exciting LPC Challenge!

Sally Squires: You're very welcome. I can smell and taste those wonderful steel cut oats right now...And how terrific that you have lost 112 pounds! You're an inspiration. Thanks very much.

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Eugene, Ore.: Our Register Guard newspaper ran an article on Frontier Soups which sounded great as they contain lots of whole wheat. I have called all over town to the health stores and regular stores but nobody carriers them. Any suggestions where I can find them? They sounded great and I would like to try them. Thanks.

Sally Squires: Yes, Eugene. You can buy them on the Web. (In fact, there's free shipping right now on orders of $25 or more. And let me hasten to add that I have no connection with the company.)Some gourmet shops also carry Frontier soups. And I love the fact that the Eugene Register is carrying the Lean Plate Club column. If you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your hometown newspaper too, please zip me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com and include hometown newspaper in the subject line.

And if you read the column in your hometown newspaper and feel so inclined to drop an e-mail about it to your newspaper, they would probably love it. Newspapers are evolving. Newsrooms everywhere appreciate all the positive feedback they can get!

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Champaign, Ill.: For breakfast this morning I had hot bulgur wheat cereal (think it was Hodgson brand or something). I mixed in a little brown sugar and raspberries (thawed some frozen berries). It was quite soothing and yummy and a nice change from oatmeal (which I like but can get tired of!)

Sally Squires: Yum. Sounds really good. Can you tell I had a very early breakfast today and no lunch yet? I guess I'm only drooling a little over these postings...:-)

Arrowhead also makes a bulgur wheat breakfast cereal. I'll try to post a link in a minute.

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Lexington, Ky.: Kashi bars and Kashi cereals (and no, I'm not connected with them in any way) are my very favorites. I like every kind that I have tried.

I often have a Kashi bar for a late-afternoon snack -- satisfies me until I get home for dinner.

Sally Squires: I really like Kashi products too. (And like you, I have no connection to the company.) I buy them in bulk at Costco and like the fact that they're not terribly sweet. They're quite good with a glass of skim milk. Thanks!

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Syracuse, N.Y.: Whole-grain foods are definitely what helped me to lose the baby weight after having my son! And now that he is a toddler, I scrutinize every food label to make sure what he is eating is whole grain, from breads to pastas to cookies and crackers. I love to start the day with a whole-grain, high-fiber cereal! And whole-grain breads taste much better than they used to. I also tend to by my whole grain items from the natural foods section so they don't have as much high fructose corn syrup and other not as healthy ingredients.

Sally Squires: Chalk up another benefit of whole grains! And the growing number of whole grain products makes it really easy to make this switch. Congratulations on losing that baby weight, by the way. Thanks for chiming in Syracuse.

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Gig Harbor, Wash.: My favorite whole grain foods are Basmati brown rice, Thomas's Whole Grain English muffins, Quaker Oats regular oatmeal and Irish steel-cut oats.

I served a "white rice ONLY, please" lady I work with the Basmati brown rice in a dish I took to work and she LOVED it!

Good stuff!

Sally Squires: Yes, you're right. That Basmati rice is hard to beat. My favorite is the slightly fragrant Jasmine Basmati brown rice. And I've discovered a brown rice medley at Trader Joe's that includes brown Basmati, wild rice and radish seeds which really gives the whole thing a great flavor. Yum. Thanks for weighing in.

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Phoenix: Good morning, Sally,

I don't know how it happened, but I appear to have lost five pounds since last month. My diet and exercise patterns have not changed, but I noticed my pants were looser and pulled out the scale to confirm.

I do eat a whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter every morning, or alternate with oatmeal. I use brown rice instead of white and eat whole wheat bread but regular pasta. I may not know the reason behind the weight loss, but I'm not complaining. It's another Festivus miracle!

Sally Squires: A miracle indeed, Phoenix. And those whole grains can help you feel fuller because of their added fiber and the fact that they are less likely to make your blood sugar spike. So maybe the combination played a small role. In any case, congrats!

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washingtonpost.com: Frontier Soups

Sally Squires: As promised...

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Lawrence, Kan.: I've read that very few people realize that popcorn is a whole grain. Thirty calories and a gram of fiber in every cup of air-popped popcorn -- and is any whole grain easier to fix?

Sally Squires: Bulgur wheat might be a close second...But it sure isn't as fun as hearing that popcorn start to pop. Makes me want to see a movie...Speaking of which, if you get a chance to see the film Atonement, run don't walk to the theater. It's wonderful and very true to the novel by the same name. Now I'll step down off the movie critic soap box. :-)

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Steel cut oats in the crockpot: Okay, now I'm intrigued!

Where and in what quantities can you buy steel cut oats?

So 1 cup of oats plus 4 cups water, in a Crock Pot overnight. Then what else can you add to flavor them? How much does this yield? How do you store leftovers?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: You've probably seen steel cut oats and not realized it. They're the oatmeal in the cans. But you can also buy them in bulk at Whole Foods and at health food stores. I buy them at Trader Joe's in a cardboard container just like Quaker Oats. One cup of oats in one cup of water makes about four cups of oatmeal. So I double that and get eight servings. (Since I measure out the servings for freezing, this really does work out correctly mathematically.)

I haven't tried the crockpot, but the idea of waking to that wonderful aroma is very tempting...

And this is just a personal preference, but I love to put a little canned evaporated nonfat milk plus slice nuts and a small handful of raisins or dates on top. Yum! (By the way, the evaporated milk is very creamy and you don't need much.)

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Washington, D.C.: A question about steel cut oats. I buy the frozen ones from Trader Joe's, and stick them in the microwave. I love them. Are those just as healthy as the slower cooked oats, or should I add a small Crock Pot to my Christmas wish list? They definitely fill me up throughout the entire morning, and are a great warm start to these winter days! Thanks.

Sally Squires: Those are fine. And already cooked--which may be particularly handy during the busy holidays. That reminds me: my food find this week is cooked brown rice in an individual bowl at TJ's. Not only is this convenient, but they're also shelf stable for those who may not have refrigeration handy...

Hope that helps. Thanks!

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washingtonpost.com: Bulgur Wheat (arrowheadmills.com)

Sally Squires: As promised...

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Minneapolis/St. Paul: As far as my favorite whole grain... I LOVE brown rice! I make a double batch for the week, and then combine it with other items for fast and filling meals. My all-time favorite fast comfort food is some brown rice, with half a bag of frozen veggies (SO many great varieties out nowadays -- no sauces or added butter, though!), a big handful of spinach, a 1/2 cup of black beans and a sprinkle of good parmesan reggiano. Filling and delicious -- salsa is great on the side!

Sally Squires: A great example of how comfort food doesn't have to be unhealthy. And you remind me that in today's LPC e-mail newsletter, I included some links to healthy comfort foods. Thanks much!

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Pearland, Tex.: You asked, "What are your favorite whole grain foods?" Mine include quinoa, which I recently discovered, and most anything Kashi makes. Their TLC bars are tasty AND nutritious. Another source of healthy whole grains for me are Target's Archer Farms Lean frozen meals. They're delicious and also very nutritious, and remarkably low on the sodium count for a frozen food.

Sally Squires: Great choices! I love quinoa. Has anyone tried amaranth or spelt--two other ancient whole grains? Thanks Pearland.

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Winona, Minn.: Check out Bob's Red Mill Baking Book. Lots of whole grain recipes including gluten free, unusual grains, and easy favorites. I got it from the library and loved it so much, I order a "hurt" copy from Amazon.com for an amazing discount. Book includes over 400 recipes; all easy to read and follow. I tried the barley brownies...very yummy! I am not associated with the book or the company. I just love the products and the baking book. Peace and happy holiday baking!

Sally Squires: And that reminds me of our famous black bean brownies, contributed by a Lean Plate Club member a long time ago. Didn't know about those "hurt" copies from Amazon. That's a great tip. Thanks! And in tomorrow's Food section, check out the gluten free cookies--as well as several other healthy varieties. (You heard it here first!) I'll try to include links in next week's e-mail, Web chat or discussion group.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding airline food, one thing to keep in mind when packing snacks is that many people these days have nut allergies. Reactions can be triggered just be being near nuts. I was on a plane once and a child had a terrible reaction because someone in the row across the aisle was eating peanut butter and crackers.

Sally Squires: Sounds scary! And yes, while peanut allergies are rare, it would be quite thoughtful to ask fellow passengers about allergies before diving into those peanut butter crackers. For more on food allergies, you might check this recent LPC column, which we'll link to in a minute.

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washingtonpost.com: The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

Sally Squires: Also, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network is a great resource for those with food allergies.

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King of Prussia, Pa.: Favorite Whole Grains:

Steel cut oatmeal

peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds (fresh & roasted)

multi-grain breads and rolls

sunflower seeds

roasted pumpkin seeds

flaxseed tortilla style chips

humus

black bean dips and sour cream

trail mixes with nuts, dried fruits and carob

Sally Squires: Lots of great whole grain options in that list, King of Prussia. Now, I'm really hungry! Thanks much.

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Solomons, Md.: Hi Sally-

I absolutely love old-fashioned oatmeal cooked with raisins, dried cranberries and cinnamon. It's like eating dessert for breakfast.

Sally Squires: It is, isn't it? And it's packed with great nutrition, proving yet again,that healthful food can also taste great! Thanks Solomons! We love sailing out of your lovely island.

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Denver: I've just had some facial surgery. Are there foods that can help reduce the resulting bruising and swelling? Thanks.

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear about your surgery, Denver. Hope that your recovery is as pain-free and uneventful as possible. Protein requirements increase with surgery to help with healing. So you might boost protein a little. Fruit and vegetables are filled with lots of great nutritive value. And they're high in potassium, which may help a little with that edema, which is fluid retention that occurs after surgery and inflammation. Lactobacillus, which is the healthy bacteria found in yogurt, can also help with inflammation. Whether it will speed your recovery, is hard to say, however.

As for bruising, you probably know that it caused by bleeding under the skin. It takes about 7 to 10 days or so to resolve.

And it goes without saying that it's also wise to check with your doctor about any foods to avoid either because of chewing, swallowing that could harm your surgery or anything that could interfere with your medicine or recovery. Hope all goes well.

Hope you'll let us know how it goes.

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washingtonpost.com: When Food Is A Danger (Post, July 10)

Sally Squires: Here's the Lean Plate Club column about food allergies.

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Yogurt: I was eating some yogurt this morning, and the label said "May naturally support healthy digestion." If they're going to say "May" shouldn't they also say "May not?" If we're going to label products with theories about what they "might" do, where do we draw the line?

Sally Squires: Ah, these words are carefully parsed with the Food and Drug Administration. But you raise a good point. Let me also add that the research on probiotics continues to grow. In fact, there's a meeting this week at the national Institutes of Health on this very topic.

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Washington, D.C.: I'm new at the whole grain game and am enjoying the different varieties, however, I am finding myself to be gassy. Is that the norm for the short or long haul?

Sally Squires: Probably the long haul, sadly. Different people react differently.

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Fairfax, Va.: I'm going to miss the chat because I'm sneaking away to the office gym! But I'll be looking forward to the transcript for motivation.

In response to the newsletter, a few of my favorite whole grains: Lundberg Wild Rice and Brown Rice Blend and my own homemade quinoa-meal: breakfast cereal made with quinoa, some fruit, milk, and slivered almonds (powers me through sneaking to the gym before eating lunch!).

But I'm not just giving today. I need your advice, Sally. I've been entering my meals on the mypyramid site and consistently coming up short on dairy. However, it looks like my calcium intake is above 100 percent of the RDA (without a supplement). Do I still need to be concerned about getting more dairy, or does the good amount of calcium I get from other sources make up for it?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: If you're consistently scoring about the 100 percent RDA from calcium rich foods, then you probably don't need a calcium supplement. And enjoy the gym!

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San Francisco: My favorite whole grain is whole wheat bread, and I like bread too much, it's really a curse.

Sally Squires: Ah yes, it's hard to not love a loaf of hearty, whole grain bread, San Francisco. You've got a lot of company. But everything in moderation, right? Thanks!

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Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat! Winners today are Airline Foods, Indulge, Winona, San Antonio, Lawrence, Kansas and Fontana.

Please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include your U.S. Postal address.

Thanks to all.

Continued success on the Holiday Challenge! Until next week, eat smart and move more!

Cheers!

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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