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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, January 15, 2008; 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.

This Story

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 up for discussion today, from the glycemic index and the National Body Challenge to more on meat, milk and other products from cloned animals.

Also, look for updates on our Successful Losers feature. And we plan to start a year of change. So if you've got a habit related to eating or physical activity that you'd like to change this year--and you'd be willing to let us follow you as you do it--zip me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com. And please put change in the subject line.

The e-mail newsletters should be in your electronic in-box now. If you'd like to subscribe to this free, weekly service

you're just a click away from doing that at www.leanplateclub.com.

Now on to the chat!

Now on to the chat!

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Chatham, Ill.: I don't see the big deal about GI. I just try to eat minimally processed things like fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Those are all essentially lower GI and they usually have a low calorie density.

Sally Squires: Good point Chatham. But I must say that in reporting this column--and it's not the first time that I have written about the glycemic index--there seemed to be a lot of nuances that were quite interesting. And I know that there are more studies slated for publication later this year. So I suspect that we may be talking about the GI for some time to come.

Thanks for chiming in today.

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Alexandria, Va.: The Glycemic Index is the easiest, most "portable," most effective weight loss tool I've found. Counting calories doesn't work for me, nor does reducing fat. Whenever I need to lose a few pounds, I pick up my copy of "Sugar Busters," review the guidelines on how to eat according to the Glycemic Index, and get disciplined. (That, of course, is the most difficult part!)

Sally Squires: Yes. Funny how that discipline part also seems to rear its ugly head no matter what way you try to change eating, exercise or other habits, don't you think? Thanks for your update.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi,

I'm hoping you or some of the chatters can help me out. The governor of Virginia has announced a program where state employees get discounts and a partial reimbursement for Weight Watchers. I'm trying to decide whether it would be better to try going close to home or to work. Do you or the chatters know what kind of information participants talk about during the session? It could be that I wouldn't want to talk about certain things among my co-workers, and that may make my decision for me.

Thanks!

Sally Squires: Sounds like an interesting program. I'm going to open this up to the membership. But from what you write, sounds to me like you may be more comfortable with attending a WW group that doesn't involve co-workers. The flip side, of course, is that if you go to a group at work you may be able to find some "buddies" that can help with your efforts. But only you can decide if that possibility is worth the trade-off of sharing some personal info with them.

What say you Lean Plate Club members?

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St. Louis: Comment: Dr. Barry Sears started talking about glycemic index 12 years ago and few wanted to listen. Some said there was no such thing. He turns out to be right, you feel better when you keep your blood-sugar level even. No sugar highs and no lows. I'm a believer.

Sally Squires: Sounds like it has really worked well for you, St. Louis. And for those who are not familiar with Barry Sears, he is the founder of The Zone Diet. We will post a link in a minute. Thanks.

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Mesa, Ariz.: About four years ago, I was told I was borderline diabetic, which really scared me. It was then I found out about the Glycemic Index and it helped me see that most of my favorite foods, (potatoes, breads without much fiber, soda) needed to be eliminated. It was then I really understood the role of fiber and how it affects our blood glucose levels. My last blood tests were normal. Bottom line is I eat low fat and every meal has to include 3-7 grams of fiber. When I go off and have a high glycemic feast, I really do feel lousy afterwards.

Sally Squires: Good for you for making these important changes. An estimated 20 million Americans now have diabetes. The vast majority have type 2 diabetes which is very much linked to body weight. Another really good source of information for those who find themselves on the cusp of developing diabetes is the Diabetes Prevention Program, which has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of full blow diabetes. We'll try to post a link to this federally funded program in a minute.

Again, congratulations Mesa. It's really great what you have been able to do.

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washingtonpost.com: The Zone Diet

Sally Squires: As promised, here's more on The Zone Diet for those who are not familiar with it.

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Arlington, Va.: I think the Glycemic Index is useful in general but cannot be taken literally. Carrots, for example, have a relatively high GI. But I understand that when combining foods (which is how most of us eat!) the whole GI is not the sum of its parts. So if I eat steamed carrots as a side dish with lamb and wild rice, what is that actually doing to my blood sugar?

Sally Squires: That's where it gets very complicated. And that's where many scientists, including Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer of Columbia University, question the use of the GI approach in every day life. Rarely do any of us eat a one food meal. So yes, that lamb and wild rice will very much affect the GI of those carrots. Plus, I was quite intrigued to learn from Dr. Jenny Brand-Miller that some types of white parboiled rice actually have a lower GI index than whole grain brown rice. And again, that's why it seems that the jury is still out on the widespread use of this approach.

But it will be interesting to see what the upcoming studies say too...So we'll likely have lots of food for thought!

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Alexandria, Va: I'd go to a WW meeting away from work. The topic of work food comes up a lot in our meetings. I don't think I'd open up as much if I was at work. Also, I have met some very nice people at my WW meeting. People I am very happy to have met. That wouldn't have happened at work. You can still find a walking buddy at work. A walk at lunch does wonders.

Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in on this topic, Alexandria.

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Washington, D.C.: Comments:

I have and do use the glycemic index to choose foods to plan my meals. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes about 9 years ago and I have found that when I eat low glycemic foods my levels stay consistent as someone who does not have type 2 diabetes. I have not had to take any medication thus far. I eat healthy, exercise and eat small portions.

Sally Squires: Congratulaions, DC. Sounds like the GI approach has really worked well for you. And it sounds like you have made some really important habit changes. Thanks for chiming in.

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Toronto Canada: I started out on Atkins after New Years and weight started dropping quickly (mostly water at first I understand). I got interested in the Glycemic Index and it seemed a better choice than Atkins, so I eased over, carefully (still keeping carbs low) into GC. I have oatmeal for breakfast most mornings, and a generous serving of various veggies at dinner. Bread, whole grain of course, is kept to one slice per day.

I was delighted to see my weight keep dropping steadily, and the Atkins induced constipation has cleared up! One nice side effect is that the evening munchies have almost completely gone!

Sally Squires: That is good that you have been able to tame not only your evening munchies but also that your weight is dropping. Very cool. And by the way, you're not alone in finding irregularity a side-effect of Atkins. Fiber does work...

Thanks and hope you'll let us know how it goes.

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Philadelphia: Aren't all of these diets gimmicks in a sense? For the most part, I've found that my problem comes because I don't eat only when I'm hungry, so all of the diets that tout you won't be hungry, miss much of the point of weight problems -- emotional eating, eating when you're bored, because it tastes good, etc. Where is the diet/therapy that will change that bad habit?

Sally Squires: Emotional eating certainly can play a strong role in weight problems, Philly. And with that in mind, you might enjoy taking a look at Mindless Eating, a book by Brian Wansink, a Cornell nutrition researcher who has recently become the head of the US Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy Promotion. It's a good read.

Also, Yale psychologist Kelly Brownell let me use some of his measures for determining if you are an emotional eater in Secrets of the Lean Plate Club.

Another good book is Changing for Good by James Prochaska, Carle DiClemente and John Norcross.

Hope both these resources help you and hope you'll let us know how it goes.

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WW at Work: At my WW at Work program -- and I can't believe they differ much -- participation is voluntary. Nobody has to reveal anything personal. The counselor queues people up far enough from the scale to maintain the confidentiality of whatever The Number is, and people are quite respectful in keeping their distance. Sharing success tips is quite spontaneous. Of course this is a 5000+ company, so the odds of actually KNOWING somebody in the class are quite small. Sally is correct that it's easy to fit in to the day and to find a workout/walking buddy.

Sally Squires: Size may count here. If the poster is at a small company or office, then she/he may not want to participate at work. A large company/office could be a different matter. And let's also note that you can do WW on-line too, although you will miss some of that group support.

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WW Meetings: Most of the meeting is the leader discussing the topic of the week. Most of the sharing people do is just their trigger foods or new food finds. I think it is perfectly fine to do with your coworkers and it will give you a built in support system. Plus that way you all can be strong together in resisting the treats people always bring in.

Sally Squires: Thanks!

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Zone Diet Link:-- does not work.

washingtonpost.com: Thanks. It should be fixed now, it might take a few minutes for your browser to reflect the change.

Sally Squires: Sorry. Looks like it should be working now.

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Colorado Springs,CO: This week I found a way to cook frozen cod loins that my husband likes. He had complained that they were too bland when I cooked them with just lemon juice. So I made MidCountry ciopinno using crushed tomatoes, basil,garlic, sweet onions, celery, green pepper, few splashes of wine, canned clams in juice chopped up cods loins, shrimp and frozen mussels served with homemade sour dough. He gave that the thumbs up. Great when it is really cold outside.

Sally Squires: My mouth is watering! That sounds great. And let me add that last night, I poached salmon which I bought fresh and then froze for reasons that I won't bore you with. We eat frozen fish, but I frequently worry that it may taste a little fishy. Not last night. I poached the salmon in nonalcoholic Ariel chardonnay, plus a little juice from Meyer lemons and some fresh dill.

Then I served this with some re-heated spaghetti squash and sauteed mushrooms with chopped leeks. Yum. We were surprised at how well it turned out.

Are there other food finds and recipes out there? We'd love to hear about them!

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Washington, DC: In India, there is no term for vegetarianism, instead those who eat meat are considered non-veg. Just a different way to think about it. And nobody eats tofu or tempeh, they don't need to.

Sally Squires: That's a very interesting way to think about it. Reminds me of the wonderful book, What is the What by Dave Eggers, a wonderful novel about the Lost Boys of the Sudan. I was struck by the description from one young character who saw his first Caucasian person. He didn't understand why this individual was so ghostlike. Just goes to show that it's all in your perspective.

Thanks.

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Glycemic Index: I've had type 1 diabetes for over twenty years, and how I eat is a matter of trial and error. I do better with lots of fiber in my meals, but more than 20g at a meal causes lows. I can't eat fruit in the morning. I know my own reaction to all the foods I generally eat, and in the long run, that's easier to remember than what happens to the GI of a potato when you boil it or fry it or eat it cold.

Sally Squires: Yes, and it is all about figuring out what works best for you, whether you have type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, or hypertension. It sounds like you have done just that. Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: I know this sounds so lame, but I swear to God, I have no will power. Every night in bed, I plan how things are going to dramatically improve the next morning and I'm all motivated to go. The next morning somehow, I start with a bowl of cereal and milk and I spend the whole day eating my son's leftovers. I feel like the family dog or vacuum cleaner. After dinner, I have wicked chocolate cravings, and in the evening as I lay in bed, I think about what I've eaten and I make plans to be better then next day.

Sally Squires: Okay, so maybe you need to re-think what you're eating during the day. And maybe you need to step back and see where your plans go awry, day after day.

You could also set one small goal for this week. And that could simply be to add a little fruit--if you don't already eat it--to that cereal and milk. Or perhaps it is switching from 2 percent to skim. You get the idea. Set a goal that you know you can achieve and build from that. Also reward yourself with something small when you do acheive your goal.

You might also benefit from finding someone to team with as you make your changes. And finally, depending on what you want to achieve, you might even consider being one of the people that we follow for our Year of Change. If you or others are interested, send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please include your name, address, what you'd like to change, phone number and best times to call. And please also put "change" in the subject line.

In any case, I hope you'll let us know how it goes.

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DC: I am a regular chat reader, and I always skimmed over the "how to stop snacking so much at night" posts, thinking that because my snacks were relatively healthy, this was not a problem.

Well, I recently decided that my food for the day would end with dinner. No other changes, and I've dropped about 7 lbs in about 4 months (I was not overweight, but wanted to lose "those last 5!"). So it really is an important factor -- I was probably downing 200-300 calories every night, and knocking that out makes a big difference!

Sally Squires: It sure does. And you've just given us a great example of how a small change can really add up to a big reward. By the way, I've found that some of the wonderful flavored, herbal teas can also be a help in staving off night time eating. Congratulations!

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Springfield, Va.: Do anyone have experience with Bikram (Hot) Yoga? The ads say that a 90 minute session burns 700+ calories. I have taken a couple of classes and feel really good after the class -- more flexible and cleansed -- but I wonder if it is effective for weight loss?

Sally Squires: I know about the claims about Bikram yoga. But it's quite difficult for most of us mere mortals to burn that amount of calories in an hour. You will likely lose water weight depending on the heat. And don't engage in this or any other activity without first checking with your doctor if you have any health problems, from high blood pressure and diabetes to arthritis.

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upper NW DC: I made a fabulous pad thai this weekend (vegetarian), which may not be the healthiest food, but it sure beats restaurant food because you know exactly what you are eating.

vegetarian pad thai

Gourmet - December 2007

Lillian Chou

In Thailand, people are fiercely loyal to their favorite pad Thai-which is painstakingly made one plate at a time. After a taste of this quicker vegetarian version, we think you'll start to feel that same sense of loyalty.

Active time: 1 hr Start to finish: 1 hr

Servings: Makes 4 to 6 servings

Ingredients

12 ounces dried flat rice noodles (1/4 inch wide; sometimes called pad Thai or banh pho)

3 tablespoons tamarind (from a pliable block)

1 cup boiling-hot water

1/2 cup light soy sauce

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 tablespoons Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce)

1 bunch scallions

4 large shallots

1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu

1 1/2 cups peanut or vegetable oil

6 large eggs

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups bean sprouts (1/4 pound)

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer; a well-seasoned 14-inch flat-bottomed wok

Accompaniments: lime wedges; cilantro sprigs; Sriracha

Preparation

Soak noodles in a large bowl of warm water until softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain well in a colander and cover with a dampened paper towel.

Meanwhile, make sauce by soaking tamarind pulp in boiling-hot water in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Force mixture through a sieve into a bowl, discarding seeds and fibers. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, and Sriracha, stirring until sugar has dissolved.

Cut scallions into 2-inch pieces. Halve pale green and white parts lengthwise.

Cut shallots crosswise into very thin slices with slicer.

Rinse tofu, then cut into 1-inch cubes and pat very dry.

Heat oil in wok over medium heat until hot, then fry half of shallots over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 8 to 12 minutes. Carefully strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Reserve shallot oil and spread fried shallots on paper towels. (Shallots will crisp as they cool.) Wipe wok clean.

Reheat shallot oil in wok over high heat until hot. Fry tofu in 1 layer, gently turning occasionally, until golden, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer tofu to paper towels using a slotted spoon. Pour off frying oil and reserve.

Lightly beat eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat 2 tablespoons shallot oil in wok over high heat until it shimmers. Add eggs and swirl to coat side of wok, then cook, stirring gently with a spatula, until cooked through. Break into chunks with spatula and transfer to a plate.

Heat wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates instantly. Pour in 6 tablespoons shallot oil, then swirl to coat side of wok. Stir-fry scallions, garlic, and remaining uncooked shallots until softened, about 1 minute.

Add noodles and stir-fry over medium heat (use 2 spatulas if necessary) 3 minutes. Add tofu, bean sprouts, and 1 1/2 cups sauce and simmer, turning noodles over to absorb sauce evenly, until noodles are tender, about 2 minutes.

Stir in additional sauce if desired, then stir in eggs and transfer to a large shallow serving dish.

Sprinkle pad Thai with peanuts and fried shallots and serve with lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, and Sriracha.

Sally Squires: This does indeed sound delicious. But you're also right: it's not likely low calorie, or low fat. And with those six eggs, it has at least 270 milligrams of cholesterol per person. But most of the fat in this dish seems to be healthy fat. And I'll bet it is quite filling.

Thanks for sharing the recipe--and citing the source.

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Larabar: I am reading this chat eating a Larabar. I Googled around to try to find the glycemic load of one and cannot. Is there an online calculator or something? Thanks.

Sally Squires: I'm a huge fan of Larabars, which I often pack while traveling. They have whole food ingredients, but that can include dates, raisins and other dried fruit which may raise their GI. But these bars have no added sugar, are gluten free and provide one serving of fruit per bar. They should be a good choice for most.

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Minneapolis: Thanks Sally:

What I have learned from the GI website/newsletter is how high fructose corn syrup effects your Glycemic Index. As a result, I have switched from Dannon yogurt to Stonemill. I stopped using brand salad dressing and am now make my own usually with olive oil, fresh lemon or lime juice, and seasonings. I feel so much better gives me the energy to make better choices. Thanks for featuring the Australians!

Sally Squires: You're welcome. But let me hasten to add that the effects of high fructose corn syrup are also under debate. And many foods that contain HFCS have small amounts. So do check how many grams of sugar and where HCFS is listed on the ingredients before switching brands, unless you want to for other reasons, including taste, of course.

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Yummy pork chops: Last night I made pork chops and used whole-grain flour instead of all-purpose for the coating. Didn't even notice a difference. Next time I'll make my own whole-grain bread crumbs, too!

Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

adapted from Smitten Kitchen food blog post

2 1/2"-thick, boneless, lean pork chops

1 egg

1/4 cup + heaped tablespoon whole wheat flour

heaped tablespoon dijon mustard

1/4-1/3 cup bread crumbs

2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan

1/2 teaspoon parsley flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 425 F. Place a wire rack on a cookie sheet with a rim.

Place 1/4 cup flour in a shallow plate. Salt and pepper slightly. Mix together egg, mustard, and remaining flour in a shallow bowl until it forms a paste. Place crumbs, cheese, herbs, salt, and pepper in another shallow plate. Dredge the chops in flour, then coat with egg-mustard paste, then coat with crumbs and place on wire rack. Repeat with the other chop. Bake for about 20 minutes until browned and sizzling and cooked through.

I served it with a great big salad with dijon dressing, and a toasted english muffin. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever want to do anything with a pork chop again, not even actually fry it!

Sally Squires: Switching to whole grains is becoming easier and easier these days, thanks to the wide range of products that are being introduced to the market. And you're right: it is incredibly easy to make whole grain bread crumbs, particularly if you have some slightly stale bread and a food processor. I do that and then put the crumbs in a bag and pop it in the freezer for later use. Easy. Thanks for the recipe.

You'll find more links to mouth watering recipes in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter under the What's for Dinner Tonight feature.

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Gaithersburg, Md.: For No Willpower Washington: are you eating enough first thing in the morning?

Reading your account, it sounds like you're someone who is trying to eat as little as possible, and failing . . . because you need to eat more, your body is asking for it.

There's a saying: eat like a king at breakfast, a prince at lunch, and a pauper at dinner.

When we are hungry, it's much harder to resist "vacuuming."

If I only had cereal and milk for breakfast, I'd be hungry again by 9 am!

Also be sure to eat a bit more protein and healthy fat with each meal. Plain carbs make you hungry again very fast, and adding the milk doesn't, in my experience, help all that much.

And: keep trying different things. Consider your day's experience to be feedback, not failure. It could be you are failing every day because you're not doing exactly what's right for you! So rather than try to force that, and beating yourself up and doing "Groundhog Day" all over again the next day, try some different approaches.

Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in Gaitersburg. All good advice.

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Salt Lake City, Ut: I have lost 38 lbs since September of 08 by eating healthier (less and more nutricous) and increasing my excercise from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. The elliptical machines say that my workout burns nearly 800 calories in 45 minutes. Could that really be true?

Sally Squires: Sounds like you have done really well, but I am betting that you mean you've lost the weight since 07, rather than 08. As for that elliptical trainer, odds are that you are not burning 800 calories in 45 minutes. Exercise machines are notoriously inaccurate about making these kinds of estimates. But it would not be unusual for you to burn 300 to 450 calories or so depending on your weight and the intensity of your workout. Hope that helps. And continued success with what you are doing.

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Bethesda, Md.: Yea! Sewanee's Right!

Cool to read that you went to Univ. of the South and hiked there recently. Lucky you - I did most of it nearly 30 years ago, between classes and parties. I tried to drop my freshman fifteen on Dr. Herman Tarnower's diet and had to drive to Chattanooga to buy the lamb each week. I even called him personally before his tragic death to find out if there were allowable substitutes I might find on the campus -- "No" was the answer of course.

Re healthy food choices on campus: good to see McClurg Dining Hall with very healthy features including vegan and Manchurian wok bowls.

Sally Squires: I always enjoy visiting Sewanee, where my son happens to be a junior, and I hope to do more hiking there before he graduates. That Scarsdale Diet that helped you with the freshman 15 was a bit restrictive, wasn't it?

And yes, I think that some of the colleges--and their Millenium students--are helping to lead us to healthier choices. We never had vegan or vegetarian options at my undergraduate college. But steak night was pretty big!

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Wilmington DE: Sally, I must respectfully disagree with your advice to Washington DC who was seeking help because s/he starts out eating a bowl of cereal and eats "son's leftovers" all day. Eating LESS for breakfast - such as going to skim milk- is probably not going to help. Adding fruit is not going to help. What is needed is some protein and fat, to curb hunger and prevent the all-day eating. I would suggest WHOLE milk, or maybe unsweetened yogurt (not non-fat) with fruit. We're talking about GI here- cereals are very high carb, probaby high GI also, and stimulate insulin production and hunger.

Sally Squires: Actually, it's going to be depend on the type of cereal. So oatmeal is a low GI cereal, but interestingly, shredded wheat is not. (And that's the plain shredded wheat sans the added sugar.) So it can get quite complicated.

Skim milk is high in protein. And I would add nuts to that cereal too, plus possibly some berries which are high in fiber and one of the lowest GI fruits around. (In fact, they are some of the fruit that is allowed on both South Beach and in the second phase of Atkins.)

A slice of whole grain bread with some peanut butter might also be a good option. But the point is to help that LPCer get back on track with small goals that she or he can achieve and sustain, don't you think? That's the main point that I was trying to make. But I also hear what you are saying.

Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls, PhD. is also another great source of advice about high volume foods that are loaded with either fiber, air or water--the better to feel full on fewer calories.

Thanks for chiming in.

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Lexington, Ky.: To answer the Virginia worker's question about Weight Watchers, I did Weight Watchers at my workplace and was very successful (35 lb. loss, mostly maintained). I do have co-workers who have found doing Weight Watchers online works for them too, and that means that you must be accountable to yourself and your tracking. Different strokes for different folks. And I am not affiliated with Weight Watchers, but I learned a lot about how I need to eat to keep the weight off as my metabolism continues to change with every passing year.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Lexington. And thanks for weighing in with us.

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washingtonpost.com: larabar.com

Sally Squires: Here's more on Larabar for those seeking more info.

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New England: It was an interesting article on the glycemic index. I use, but limit, non-whole grained carbs and sugars in my cooking (e.g. "spaghetti" is made primarily with veggies, and perhaps turkey meatballs, with just a little whole wheat pasta). I do this for myself -- I still eat sufficient whole grains -- and for family members with reactive hypoglycemia and diabetes.

Every once in awhile I'll make muffins or quick bread replacing the sugar with agave nectar which advertises itself as having a low glycemic index.

Question: Am I fooling myself in thinking that this is better than making it with some other sweetner?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: Agave is apparently high in fructose--one of the sugars that is found in fruit. We'll try to post a link in a minute from a manufacturer of Agave which gives some comparisons. I just grabbed this site from the Web so take it with a grain of salt.

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washingtonpost.com: Agave Nectar madhavahoney.com

Sally Squires: As promised...

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Philadelphia: I find the glycemic index too complicated and tedious to use -- more so than even carb grams. Are we supposed to carry around a book or a laptop to look them up? I do not count anything, though -- I just eat enough, of a variety of foods, to satisfy my hunger.

Sally Squires: Moderation in all things. Hard to go wrong with that approach, Philly. Thanks for chiming in.

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Springfield, Va.: Hi -- I have a question about arthritis. I am 28 years old and was told by an orthopedist that I have arthritis in both knees. This is aggravated by the fact that I am overweight. I have begun a workout regime of low intensity walking (low speed on the treadmill), and I have reduced my calorie intake. But I was wondering if there was a vegetable or something that helps with arthritis?

Sally Squires: There is some preliminary evidence that omega-3 fatty acids--healthy fats found in flaxseed as well as seafood and now in a wide range of fortified foods--may help with some of the inflammation linked with arthritis.

But losing weight is one of the best things that you can do to help your sore knees. And if walking is tough, consider swimming or biking or other activities that your doctor says are also okay for you to do.

Good luck with your efforts. Hope you'll keep us apprised of your progress. We'll cheer you on!

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Washington, DC: I really like Rice Expression's brown rice - it's frozen, and whole grain, and you just pop a pouch in the microwave for a few minutes.

My husband, who is not as into brown rice/whole grains as I am, thinks that the rice must be so processed in order to make it quickly microwavable that its nutritional superiority over white rice is compromised. Then again, he may just be making an argument in favor of white rice, which he likes better anyway.

What do you think? Is this kind of brown rice still better than white rice?

Sally Squires: Interestingly, brown and white rice are both considered high glycemic foods. (Yes, this was a surprise to me too. And that's where the GI gets complicated.)

But there's nothing wrong with eating that frozen brown rice, re-heated of course. My tip: I make a big batch obrown rice or wild rice or rice pilaf and then when it cools divide it into individual portions and freeze for quick, fast meals. Just one more option...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi,

I just got freshly-milled cracked wheat (kind of coarsely cracked, I think, but I haven't had it since childhood)-- is it okay to substitute this for oatmeal in my breakfast, or does it not have the same long list of healthy properties?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: Based on the Whole Grains Council, that cracked wheat is a whole gtain. And if it looks as good as the picture, it seems mouth watering. Will it lower your blood cholesterol the way that oatmal can? Maybe not. But it sure does look like a tasty option.

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Richmond, Va.: Is Ralston whole grain? I'm tired of oatmeal and think Cream of Wheat is not whole grain.

Sally Squires: Ralston 100 percent wheat cereal is indeed a whole grain. And let me hasten to add that it--and likely the cracked wheat cereal mentioned above--apparently can be used as part of a heart healthy diet to help lower the risk of heart disease. So enjoy.

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Ex-Biggest Loser Fan: I cannot watch "Biggest Loser" again until they have the decency to let the male contestants wear shirts during the weigh-in. It is so disrespectful to them and uncomfortable for the audience. It seems that last season they put the shirts back on after the men got smaller. Oh, the humanity...

Sally Squires: I agree with you. Why not just let them both wear shirts? Nice to know I'm not alone in this thinking. Thanks.

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Anonymous: Hello,

Just checking in to let you know that my teenage daughter has dropped about 15-20 poinds since the beginning of the school year. She was about 30-40 pounds overweight so this is reason for celebration!

This is midterm week at her high school. Any suggestions for low-fat breakfast foods that will keep her brain humming?

Sally Squires: Oatmeal would be a great option. You could even make it with skim milk for more of a protein boost, although I have not found success doing this with steel cut oats. In that case, she could pour a little skim milk on the oatmeal and add some slivered nuts and a tablespoon or two of dried fruit.

A healthy pizza could be another option. Make it on a whole grain bagel or whole grain English muffin. Top with nonfat or low fat cheese and a some slices of Canadian bacon or veggie sausage. Should keep her going through the morning.

A smoothie with nonfat yogurt, frozen unsweetened fruit and plenty of ice would be another quick option.

Hope she enjoys these.

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Herndon, Va.: I have always struggled to maintain a healthy weight, and have been somewhat successful. One suggestion that has really helped me, is to have six small meals instead of three larger ones. I usually have 2 homemade mini muffins (high in grains, very little sugar) for breakfast and a piece of fruit. I alway pack baggies to keep in my car. A typical morning would be 12 almonds and 5-6 dates, chopped veggies and an apple. I am usually not hungry for lunch, but at about 3 o'clock, I have a 1/2 whole wheat bagel with peanut butter or something similar and more veggies. Dinner is at 6:30, and I eat much smaller portions because I am not famished. It really works. It took me about 30 years to figure this out!

Sally Squires: Like you, many people say that never getting too hungry is their key to success. That way when they do eat, they are less likely to eat everything on the kitchen table including the tablecloth!

This is a great approach with one caveat: you must make those six small meals, rather than six big ones. (You know this already, but just wanted to remind those out there who might slip into supersizing six meals. That would not be a good thing!)

Thanks!

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