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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 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.

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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!

may be a short month, but it sure has had a lot of events,from the Super Bowl and the start of Chinese New Year to Valentine's Day this week.

In today's LPC e-mail newsletter which should be in your electronic in-boxes right now, find:

Links to great tasting, healthful recipes including Drunken Prawns, Crisp Roast Pork, Marsala Poached Figs, Roasted Herb Chicken, Turkey Chili and...to really make your mouth water...Chocolate Souffle.

Also in today's edition, discover a new food find from Iceland plus links to Mindless Eating and a quiz to see how your eating stacks up. There's also an interactive tool from the American Institute of Cancer Research on using the nutrition facts label.

If you don't yet subscribe to this free, weekly service, sign-up at www.leanplateclub.com.

Another Successful Loser is also posted at our site for inspiration.

Now here's a question for all of you: Do you use sugar substitutes? Or consume food or drink that is sweetened with them? There's a new study out just this week--albeit in rats, not people!--that finds sugar substitutes actually boosted calories and weight gain. It will need to be replicated and investigated further, but it's not the first time that such findings have been reported.

So I'd love to hear what effect sugar substitutes have on your appetite.

Now on to the chat!

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Valparaiso, Ind.: You asked about sugar substitutes. When I drank diet pop between meals I would feel very hungry within a short time even though I knew calorie wise my body probably didn't need any snacks. On other days when I did not have the diet drink between meals I would not get the hunger cues. Now I only drink a can of pop with my lunch and don't drink diet drinks between meals. That was just my experience and my conclusions. It's not very scientific but it cut out those hunger pangs mid morning.

Sally Squires: Interesting Valparaiso. One of the scientists who conducted the recent study in rats, theorizes that sugar substitutes could prime the body to get a certain number of calories. And when it doesn't, the body seeks to get those calories in other ways, which explains the hunger...

Thanks for weighing in. How about others? What's your experience with using sugar substitutes?

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Washington, D.C.: With regard to the newsletter suggestion for chocolate souffles for Valentine's Day, I discovered two years ago how thrilling and how dead easy it is to make souffles for two. And they're not exactly low-calorie, but they are portion controlled and very dramatic. The Eating Well calorie count is 330 for a chocolate souffle. I did Grand Marnier souffles that were 208 calories each.

My Joy of Cooking has excellent, step by step instructions. I simply divided the recipe for a large souffle and made a third of the batter. And here's the great part: you can make them ahead and bake later. For the chocolate, as much as 24 hours ahead.

The recipe reviews I've read on Epicurious suggest that the souffle technique is really very forgiving and successful for many people.

Sally Squires: I used to make souffles fairly frequently and am not sure why I stopped. I agree with you: they're not hard to make although they can seem daunting until you do them. That's a great idea to practice portion control with them. And if you use the wonderful small ramekins, it's really easy to make individual portions of souffles or many other things. I have used them also to make flan. Yum.

Your posting also reminds me of the Seasons 52 Restaurant in Orlando, which is getting a lot of interest for serving healthful, great tasting food. It was also mentioned at a recent Culinary Institute of America conference where I served on a panel.

I have not yet gotten to eat at Seasons, but someone I know who ate there said that they serve regular desserts, but in small portions. A good way to have your cake and eat it too!

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washingtonpost.com: Seasons 52

Sally Squires: For those who would like to know about Seasons--or who plan a trip to Orlando--this will give you more info.

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Orlando, Fla.: What am I making now? Egg whites with salmon and turkey sausage, peppers and onions, sundried tomatoes and three cheeses, sheep cheese feta, Locatelli is a grating sheep cheese; and Bulgarian sheep cheese, but you can use your favorite; all baked in a muffin and cupcake tin sprayed with olive oil. They take 25 minutes or so in a 350 oven.

Last night I roasted a duck with garlic and onion powder and veggie-sal, turning it over once. I took the organ meats and made pate' with sauteed carrots, onions, celery, and a little tomatoes and some herbs in olive oil.

Only the skin is greasy, not the meat. It has the highest protein per ounce and taste out of this world.

I made turkey chili with black and pinto beans, carrots, celery, corn scraped off the cob, fresh green beans, onions, canned tomatoes,crushed,paste, and puree. A huge amount of chili powder and hot pepper to keep it mild. Put on brown basmati rice with shredded sharp cheddar. Refried beans with some of the chili "juice" mixed in, baked taco chips were served for the Super Bowl, and leftovers stored in the freezer.

I also make a leg of lamb and added marinara sauce and my herbal paste, veggie stock then took all the meat and cut it up and added stew vegetables, no potatoes, and string beans served over quinoa. I eat small portions daily, exercise twice a day, or in five minute intervals hourly. Hoola hooping, weight lifting,leg lifts, isometrics, diametrics (squeezing and tightening various muscle groups), deep breathing, and dancing. My weight is 140 at age 51, 5-6 in height. I lost 40 lbs after my son was born with Deal a Meal, then Eat Right For Your Type. I power walk and ride a bike on a trainer/stand while I read or watch TV. Yesterday I walked for an hour and did five miles on the bike. I use cocoa powder, cinnamon and chai spice in my coffee and green tea for antioxidents all day and the extract by Chi, and take Alpha lipoic acid which curbs my appetite among other supplements and oils.

Keep adding good habits and food choices to your lifestyle and you can have a healthy disposition, figure, skin, internal organs and circulatory system. Isn't it better to spend your money on all this than on medicine, surgery or procedures? If Life is what you make it, wouldn't you agree we should all make it healthy.

Most importantly, I use and recommend the USE HEALTHY COPING MECHANISMS! Turn to art, movies, exercise, writing, volunteering, photography, the bible, instead of alcohol, drugs, food, or revenge when faced with trauma or stress. It works to restore your faith in your fellow man when you view something creative and beautiful and will give you peace, renew you,and comfort your soul. Why destroy yourself, it makes things worse, doesn't it? It sets a bad example, doesn't it? Get a life? Really, get it together and you can get a great life, one step at a time.

Sally Squires: Wow. I couldn't have said it better myself. At a lunch I had yesterday with a colleague in the nutrition field, we talked about how wonderful it is to enjoy great tasting, healthful food. And we both said that it's our mission to get rid of the guilt that seems to go with eating these days and get back to the pleasures and joy of healthy eating.

Now here's a question for you: Have you eaten yet at Seasons 52 since you live in Orlando?

Thanks!

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Help me finish the meal!: Thank you so much for including recipes in the Lean Plate Club e-mail. I am ALWAYS looking for new ideas, and you have some great ones every week! Any idea what I might serve with the drunken prawns? They look like a great part of what could be a terrific meal!

Sally Squires: I love looking for those recipes to include in the newsletter every week, so I'm delighted that you like them too.

You could put some stir-fried garlic string beans with those prawns, plus some brown rice. Noodles would also go well.

We'll post a Myanmar Style Long Bean Salad in a minute that could be another option.

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D.C.: When I want something sweet after supper I often drink a diet, caffeine-free pop. It makes me feel like I'm having something sweet and lasts a long time. In this case I'd say it helps keep my calories, and thus weight, down.

Sally Squires: Sounds like a great plan. Thanks, DC

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Roggen, Colo.: Sally -- I don't know how sugar substitutes affect my weight except to say that I like the idea of not consuming the extra calories that are in my various drinks if I don't have to. What I wanted to tell you is, I try to avoid aspartame because consuming too much of it makes me ACHE ALL OVER, too much being more than two diet sodas a day. I've stopped eating diet foods like Jello, pudding, and ice cream that contain aspartame because of that and make my own drinks, like lemonade, using Splenda. I used to be able to find Seven-Up made with Splenda, but no longer. I wonder if this is a phenomena that you've encountered before?

Sally Squires: I haven't heard about the aching all over from aspartame, but have heard of some people, including one of my cousins, who gets terrible headaches from aspartame. So, he too, avoids anything with aspartame.

Your posting provides a really good example of how it's important to figure out what works best for you. Sounds like you have done that well.

Thanks.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally, I've been trying to lose for the past month or so, and have only lost about 3 pounds so far, despite going to the gym three times a week and eating no more than 1000 calories a day. What gives? I know everyone says to add weight training, but I seriously have really big muscles for a girl already and really don't want them to get any larger (people actually COMMENT on my biceps at bars, etc!). I'm about 112 now, want to lose about 5 more pounds. Thank you!

Sally Squires: First, celebrate those three pounds lost! That's wonderful. A healthy rate of weight loss is considered half a pound to two pounds per week. You're well within that range.

Second, are you already at a healthy weight? If so, why are you trying to lose more? If not, how many more pounds do you need to lose to reach a healthy weight? (We'll try to post a body mass index calculator in a minute to help you and other gauge your weight.)

Also, if you are of child bearing age, factor in the usual monthly water fluctuations that most women that age experience. Weight can easily shift from a couple of pounds to as much as 5-8 pounds pre-menstrually. Blame it on hormones!

Finally, those 1,000 calories per day may be too low, particularly if you are doing vigorous workouts. You might try going up to 1,200 calories daily to see if that helps with your weight loss. Yes, it sounds counterintuitive. But if you go too low on calories, your body may think it is starving and hold onto weight rather than burning it, as you are trying to do.

Hope you'll let us know how it goes. Thanks.

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Denver: I use Splenda or the grocery brand equivalent for my home use. Aspartame is in Crystal Light and in the Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi I drink, so it is a close second in use.

Sugar isn't sweet enough for me on a day-to-day basis for cereal, tea, etc.

Sally Squires: Thanks for chiming in Denver.

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Kensington, Md.: I enjoyed your column about chocolate today. As a chocoholic recently diagnosed as "possibly pre-diabetic" I'm wondering if this means I should give up my dark chocolate habit?

Sally Squires: Yes, if you're eating a lot of it and can't control yourself. No, if you can limit yourself to a small portion that also isn't highly sweetened. Some experts call diabetes early heart disease. So in the heart benefits of dark chocolate may be a good thing. But with your pre-diabetic state, you need to choose very carefully and limit how much chocolate you eat, so if you have chocolate have only small amounts and try to stick with the dark chocolate that is also less sweetened.

Also, whole grains and beans would be very good options for you. There's strong evidence that they are not only heart healthy but can help control blood sugar levels.

If your doctor hasn't yet offered this, you might also ask about a referral to a registered dietitian or diabetes nutrition educator. Both could help you craft a smart approach for your health needs. Another option: check out the Diabetes Prevention Program, which grew out of a large national, federally funded study of people on the cusp of developing diabetes. Diet, exercise and weight changes significantly reduced their risks. We'll try to post a link in a minute...

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washingtonpost.com: BMI Calculator

Sally Squires: As promised, here's the Body Mass Index calculator to help you see if you are at healthy weight for your height.

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Orlando: RE Seasons 52.

No, I don't work for Darden. Season's 52 is my favorite restaurant in town. There are 4 menus per year and each week a section of the menu changes. You're always getting the freshest fruits and veggies. All the menu items have reasonable caloric values and filled with healthy nutritious stuff.

As for the desserts, they are served in little shotglass size containers. I'd say there are about 3 bites in a shot glass. They are served with very long, very small spoons. No one feels guilty about a little dessert at Seasons 52.

Now I'm hungry! I'll have to plan a trip there this week.

Sally Squires: Wish you could take us all along! Happy eating.

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washingtonpost.com: Recipe: Pei Daunt Shay Thoke (saveur.com)

Sally Squires: Here's the Myanmar recipe which could go with the Drunken Prawns featured in today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter.

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Fayetteville, N.C.: I love Lindt chocolates, all the flavors as well as Perugina chocolates from Italy. I've been eating both since the '70s, long before chocolate was the rage. I have to feel like I am going to die before I can bring myself to eat the gritty Hershey's or some of the other waxy American chocolates!

Sally Squires: With Valentine's Day as inspiration--plus the new findings on some heart healthy benefits of dark chocolate--I asked Lean Plate Club members in today's e-mail newsletter to send in their favorite chocolate. More to come...

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Bethlehem, Pa.: Love, love, love deep dark chocolate. Is there any other kind?

Sally Squires: That's my favorite too. I just tried a chocolate bark recipe for our Food section--see it in tomorrow's Food section and on-line at www.washingtonpost.com. It was great! (Not low calorie, of course, but it did also have dried cherries and apricots plus pistachios--another source of healthy fat.) Small pieces will go a long way...

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Silver Spring, Md.: I recently became a convert to dark chocolate (love those Dove miniatures). What is the "recommended" amount of dark chocolate per day to reap the benefits you wrote about today? Thanks

Sally Squires: Those are very good, aren't they? There's not recommended daily intake of chocolate, but the researchers that I spoke to said that the equivalent of about two chocolate kisses --or about two of those small dove bars--provides plenty of healthful ingredients. Of course, the trick is balancing those "discretionary" calories with what else is eaten so that too many calories aren't consumed. Ah, finding that balance...always challenging...but you could also exercise more to help make up the difference. Or check out what the next Lean Plate Club member is doing...

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Bronx, N.Y.: I have recently begun to read my e-mail standing up and walking in place.

Sally Squires: Great idea! You remind me of the Mayo Clinic's Jim Levine, who uses a treadmill at his computer and is the creator of the healthy office. We've had a Lean Plate Club member who set this up at home. We'll try to post a link to the video in a minute.

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Re: Sugar Substitutes: I am fructose malabsorbent which means things with large amounts of sugar, anything with high fructose corn syrup or larger percentages of fructose than glucose are off limits. Similarly, Splenda acts in the body the same way as fructose and causes great distress. So for me, things like aspartame are crucial. They allow me to eat and drink some things I'd never be able to if the only choices were sugar or Splenda. I am able to make my own things like cookies with dextrose - but those types of foods aren't available commercially.

Sally Squires: Sorry to hear about your fructose intolerance. I'll bet you read labels very, very carefully. And your posting underscores why it's important to have a variety of options available for a wide variety of health needs. Thanks for chiming in.

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Washington, D.C.: Regarding sugar substitutes. I think the problem is more with how people use them as "free calories" and then load up in other ways. For example, I can't count the number of times I've been in a fast food restaurant, and the person in front of me orders a double burger with cheese and bacon, an extra large French fry, and a Diet Coke. But it's okay, because the soda had no calories....

Sally Squires: My favorite example is having a huge piece of cake with a diet soda. On the other hand, the diet soda does have fewer calories than a regular soda. But I get your point and it's a good one. Thanks.

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Chicago: CocoaVia dark chocolate snack bars are my favorite and they only have 100 calories. They have original and some with almonds, plus they are great for portion control.

Sally Squires: They are indeed delicious and also happen to have plant sterols or stanols to help control blood cholesterol levels. And unless things have changed, I think they are only available on-line. (And please promise us that you don't work for M and M Mars which produces them!)

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Anonymous: Dove Dark

Sally Squires: That's two votes today for Dove Dark Chocolate.

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Chestertown, Maryland: My absolute favorite chocolate is See's....from California. I

teethed on the stuff.

Sally Squires: A classic chocolate, don't you think? But can you get it in Maryland?

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Houston, TX: What's your favorite chocolate? Any dark chocolate from See's Candies, but most especially the dark-chocolate-covered ginger. YUMMMMMMY!

Sally Squires: That's two for See's. Thanks

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Simsbury, Conn.: Lindt intense pear and intense orange

Sally Squires: Yum. And you remind me that there's nothing wrong with doing what Culinary Institute of America Pastry professor Stephen Durfee calls the dessert flip. In other words, have fruit with a little chocolate. (I realize this may not be exactly what Lindt provides.) Another great way to do this is to make chocolate fondue: dip strawberries, slices of oranges, apples, pears in the chocolate. So you eat mostly fruit with a little chocolate. Yum!

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river city: try dropping 2 or 3 chocolate kisses into your next pot of chili. My sister did that last week and it was great! deepens the flavor without being incongruously sweet, as you might suspect.

Sally Squires: Penn State professor or nutrition Penny Kris-Etherton also recommends this. It's a great way to get the benefits of chocolate with fewer of the calories and added sugar. Thanks!

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Eastern Market, D.C.: I admire the work that Brian Wansink aims to do at USDA, but really hate his approach. Moms as the nutritional gatekeepers? Ugh. Haven't we moved past this 1950s stereotype? If not, shouldn't we aim to? It's insulting to women as much as it is to men who are somehow deemed incapable of cooking dinner or going to the grocery store. I would hate for otherwise good information to be lost by using such antiquated language in the packaging. I know I personally will discount anything I read that follows the "Mom's -- gatekeepers of nutrition" heading.

Sally Squires: I understand your point. (And for those who live outside the DC region, this week I also wrote a story about Brian Wansink, PhD., the new head of the Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion.) Wansink is an expert in marketing. So while society has changed a lot, there are still some things that are clearly decided mostly by women and others that are mostly decided by men. Despite a changing home landscape, in a lot of households, many women still call the shots on what food is bought and eaten.

But time will tell whether his approach is on target.

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washingtonpost.com: Not Your Average Work Space

Sally Squires: Here's a link to the video showing a Lean Plate Club member who walks on a treadmill while she writes on her computer.

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Murray, Utah: The flaw in the human study is that the control group should have been people who normally drink diet sodas, but change to sugar sodas. I suspect that their weight would have gone up dramatically. Humans who drink diet soda are already over-eaters, so it is no surprise that people drinking diet soda gain more weight than those who drink regular sodas. It would be worse if they were drinking sugar sodas.

Sally Squires: You raise an interesting point--although I'm not sure that we can uniformly label everyone who drinks diet sodas an overeater.

Let me also hasten to point out again that this latest study was done in rats--not people. So as Shakespeare wrote, "There's still many a slip twixt cup and lip."

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Chocolate:: Scharfenberger (sp?) 60% dark from Berkley, CA. Amazing. You can get it at Trader Joes by the check out. If you haven't tried it, it's expensive, but so totally worth it.

Sally Squires: I think I just bought a bar of that last weekend. Eager to try it. Thanks.

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Fairfax, Va.: Hi Sally!

I'm a little perplexed. I'm eating about 1200-1400 calories per day (tracking on Fitday) and while I have lost weight (11 lbs., yay!!), I'm feel like I'm not getting the right balance of protein, carbs, and fat. My average intake is around 30 percent fat, 20 percent protein and 50 percent carbs thanks to all those veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Can you give me any suggestions for increasing protein and decreasing carbs without sacrificing the veggies and fruit that are good for me, or increasing my calorie count too much? This seems to be working for the weight loss for now, but I am concerned that I'm not getting enough protein.

Sally Squires: You're percentages and weight loss sound good. And many LPCers like Fitday.com. But if you still want to tweak, you might consider adding more dried beans--a great source of protein, complex carbs and fiber, which can help you feel full. Also, a glass of skim milk or nonfat plain yogurt will boost protein. (Low fat soy milk would be another option.)

Egg whites are another great option. They're all protein--no fat. You might boil them then fill them with some salsa, hummus or other healthy veggie dip.

Tempeh and seitan are other vegetarian protein sources. Seafood is high in protein and contains healthy fat.

Hope that helps. Please let us know how it goes.

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Alexandria, Va.: What worried me about today's column was the description of the soy pasta salad with edamame. For people trying to change from McDonald's this is too radical and expensive. What would a nutritional gatekeeper with more usual tastes on a tighter budget do? Fresh vegetables and fruits cost more than most items on the dollar menu at fast food chains. The incentives to eat healthy and fresh are not there when money is a consideration.

Sally Squires: I hear what you're saying. I ate this lunch too. It was delicious and I suspect was not very expensive and relatively easy to prepare. The soy pasta is not much. Edamame can be bought frozen and is comparable to many other frozen veggies. Each serving probably had one or two shrimp, maybe three. So not a lot of expense there either.

As for fast food restaurants, you can now buy veggie burgers at Burger King for about the same cost as a sandwich. Wendy's chili is a pretty good choice as is their baked potato which can be topped with broccoli.

And there are also plenty of salads at many fast food restaurants, although, of course, they may be pricier than the $1 meals.

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DC: Eastern Market needs to chill.

Brian Wansink isn't saying that ONLY mothers are the gatekeepers, just that for most households they are. Doesn't it make sense to take an approach that targets most households????

Sally Squires: You're not the only way who felt this way...stay tuned..

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Midland, Tex.: I have to stand up for Brian Wansink. I loved his book; it was very thought-provoking as well as very funny. He very clearly stated in your article that the goal is getting the most bang for the taxpayers' buck, hence the emphasis is targeting those who do the most food shopping and preparation. Like it or not, moms are the gatekeepers. I have two advanced degrees and do a lot more than stay in the kitchen, but we would starve if we counted on my husband to feed us, much less keep up on nutritional news. I'm for effectively working the problem any way we can.

Sally Squires: Well said, Midland. Thanks for weighing in.

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Sally Squires: Thanks to all. Before they get the hook for me, winners today are River City, Bronx, Midland and Valparaiso. Please e-mail me your name and U.S. Postal address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line.

Happy Valentine's Day! See you next week. Until then, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club!

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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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