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Lean Plate Club
Talk About Nutrition and Health

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, March 25, 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.

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. Hope that everyone had a great Easter. Spring has sprung here in the Nation's Capitol, where the cherry blossoms are coming into bloom.

E-mail newsletters should be in your in-box right now. Find lots of links to healthy, great tasting recipes, plus much more including information on joining me and other Lean Plate Club members on the National President's Challenge, kicked off last week by none other than Eli Manning, the NY Giants quarterback and MVP of the most recent Superbowl.

Today's prizes are Lean Plate Club pedometers or cloth grocery bags, whichever winners prefer. As always, here's the deal. Assist someone on this chat. Inspire us with your personal story of healthy habit change. Tell us how you're getting in some of the 30 minutes daily of activity that is recommended. Or share a healthy food find. Do one of those things and you could be one of our winners today. Winners are posted at the end of each chat.

Also, check out our latest Succcesful Loser, who happens to come from Las Vegas.

Now on to the chat.

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Kalamazoo, Mich.: I happened to join the President's Council last week, as I started coaching a Girls on the Run team. I will spend the next 9 weeks teaching a team of 15 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade girls about healthy attitudes, lifestyles, and nutrition while training them (and myself) for a 5k run. Our Kalamazoo organization is one of the largest GOTR groups in the nation, with over 1,800 girls and 250 coaches participating. My girls will make sure I meet my weekly activity goal!

Sally Squires: Wonderful! And I hope that you are also a member of the Lean Plate Club Group taking the challenge. Group name is the Lean Plate Club and the group number is 69734. Registration continues through April 3. The challenge goes from now until May 15. Let's show what we can do Lean Plate Club members! And the Misfits have already joined us too.

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Caramelized veggies: Do vegetables become more fattening or bad for you if you caramelize them (onions on the stove or butternut squash in the oven)? They are just Oh so tasty that way!

Sally Squires: They do taste so good that way, don't they? I love them too. Their calories don't change from just roasting, but the heat changes their sugar slightly and may make some slight changes in their glycemic index number. But it shouldn't be significant--unless you add lots of other ingredients such as sugar or added fat.

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McLean, VA: Haven't tried the brown rice from TJ's yet, but am hooked on the cooked shelf-stable whole grain pilaf they have. I pair it with their cooked lentils (found in the fridge section near the lettuce) and some veggies. It's an easy nuke in the office microwave and something easy and healthful to pack.

Sally Squires: Yum. That sounds good too. I haven't seen the pilaf, but have found the cooked wild rice in a bag. It's also nice to have handy on the shelf. We add it to soups, salads or reheat for a side-dish of wild rice at dinner. As someone noted at lunch yesterday, there are some significant food technology advances that make these products possible. Interesting--and tasty?--don't you think? Thanks for weighing in.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally! Do you mind a personal shout-out? Slowly but surely I've been eating breakfast (oatmeal), adding a fruit to my lunch, reducing the quantity of food and increasing my water (it's hard!). I've dropped from a size 18 to a 14 and it's so nice to fit into some favorite clothes I haven't worn in a couple of years. I've noticed that I don't get that "food coma" feeling after lunch! I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your chats and small changes really do make a difference! Thanks for keeping us motivated with little tidbits along the way.

Sally Squires: I love shout outs! Especially ones like yours. What a great example of how these small changes can really add up to big rewards. Congratulations! And thanks for being an inspiration to all of us today.

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Washington, D.C.: Corn syrup! It has gradually appeared in almost everything...quite unnecessarily and I refuse to purchase foods that include it. I can bake or make the same products from recipes that do not use it -- so why should it be in commercially produced foods. My family has also greatly reduced any consumption of soft drinks as well -- there just seems to be too much of this stuff in too much food. Not to mention competing with ourselves over the "corn" product for gas or other uses. I don't see it as a necessary evil in foods -- just evil.

Sally Squires: High fructose corn syrup is an added sugar. And as an added sugar, it's certainly something that we all need to limit. But even the leading scientists who first worried about high fructose corn syrup have now said that it is no better nor worse than any other added sugar.

Center for Science in the Public Interest--a consumer advocacy group that doesn't mince words--has even teamed with the Corn Refiners to fight a possible added city tax on soft drinks with high fructose corn syrup. I'll post some links in a minute that will give you more information to read and digest for those who are interested in learning more.

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washingtonpost.com:
Unlikely Duo Opposes San Francisco Soft Drink Tax Plan (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Sally Squires: Here's more as promised...

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washingtonpost.com: Stealth Calories (Post, Feb. 6, 2007)

Sally Squires: Here's a Lean Plate Club column that will give you more informaion about high fructose corn syrup.

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Alexandria, Va.: Re: corn syrup. Even if it is no different from any other sweeetener, I resent that it's in everything in the first place. I mean, I discovered it on the list of ingredients for a can of kidney beans last year! Come ON. Does all of my food have to be tainted with this - kidney beans, huh? I avoid it as best I can simply because I believe that eating food as close to natural as possible is healthy.

Sally Squires: I know exactly what you are saying. I am an inverterate label reader too and am surprised how many foods that this added sugar creeps into, albeit often in very small amounts. What do others thing?

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Magnet, Ind.: High fructose corn syrup should be completely banned from every food item. It's just as dangerous, or even more so, than cigarette smoking.

Sally Squires: You've got lots of company in this opinion, Magnet. But I would be remiss in pointing out that high fructose corn syrup does not cause lung cancer. So I have to respectfully disagree that it comes anywhere close to being as dangerous as cigarettes. But thanks for weighing in.

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HFCS is everywhere!: I love the idea of a ban on HFCS soda. In fact, the only time I buy Coca-Cola is during Passover when I can buy kosher Coke that is made with sugar and not HFCS (It has a yellow cap). And if I may rant a bit on this - I bought applesauce on sale the other day, only to get it home and see that it is made with HFCS! So is Special K, at least the kind with dried strawberries. It is getting so I shop more and more in the supermarket's natural foods section or the local co-op rather than chance the national brands.

Sally Squires: Interesting tidbit about the Kosher Coke. I didn't realize that they switched formulations for Passover.

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Cambria, Calif.: I have enjoyed your column and chat for years--thank you! We always read about female celebrities losing weight by eating steamed fish and veggies. What kind of fish have the best consistency for steaming? I just tried steaming cod (bought frozen at Trader Joe's), and it turned out rubbery and tasteless. I really like fish but need lower fat alternatives to salmon, which I'll get sick of if I eat it too much. Does anyone have suggestions for spices, etc, to make steamed fish taste good? Any links to Web sites with recipes or ideas for steamed fish would be much appreciated. Also, are there good cooking "gizmos" for steaming fish? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Did you thaw the cod before you tried steaming it? If not, that might have contributed to its rubberiness. Also, many people tend to overcook fish. (Me included! It's easy to do.) I learned a lot about cooking fish correctly from James Beard's wonderful volume on fish: James Beard's Fish Cookery.

I love steamed salmon and have a special stainless steel steamer to make a whole fish. (It was quite reasonable to buy.)

Other thoughts out there?

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Re: Washington, D.C.: Enough about corn syrup - I am so glad this chatter wrote in about small changes! I have been so down on myself recently for letting me gain back 50 percent of what I worked so hard to lose a year ago. But this just reminds me that it can be done and it doesn't have to be that hard! Thanks for giving me that push, D.C., and congrats on ALL your hard work!

Sally Squires: Well said. And we're ready to cheer you on! So feel free to give us regular updates.

Speaking of inspiration: Do take a look at the growing gallery of Successful Losers on our Website. And I don't want to scoop myself, but for next week, check out a very well known successful loser who will be featured in the column.

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Clifton, Va.: I've seen a lot lately about non-diet movements that encourage people to tune into their hunger signals to determine when to stop eating and also what to eat. I've also read comments from several LPCers indicating that they achieved weight loss by following this method and consequently being more satisfied by eating less. Is there any research out there to support that this approach works?

Sally Squires: If you're talking about rigorous, double-blind, prospective controlled trials to test this method against another weight loss regimen, the answer is sadly, no.

But there's plenty of evidence to suggest that paying attention to what you eat--and that could be by recording and measuring, eating half of what you normally eat, using other devices, wich as the Diet Plate, which makes portion control easier--all can help a lot.

There's so much food available, we get so little activity (I am convinced that a lot of "hunger" is either stress or hunger for activity rather than food, but that's anecdotal) that it's very easy to engage in mindless eating.

What do the rest of you think?

And for those who want to know about mindful eating, there are many, many resources from Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink to Mindful and Mindless Eating: Guided Meditations to Becoming Lighter with Food by Robin Maynard-Dobbs. And more...

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Success Stories: Christie Zerkich

Sally Squires: Here's our latest successful loser. Meet Christie Zerkich, who reads the Lean Plate Club column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Mena, Ark.: Sally, Let me share a very filling but healthy breakfast recipe. 1C fresh mushrooms, 1/2c bell pepper, 1C torn spinach leaves, 1/4C onion, diced. Microwave the veggies for a couple of minutes until softened and put in a non-stick 8-inch skillet sprayed with Pam. Add 1C liquid egg substitute, stir and put in a 400 oven for about 12-15 minutes until mixture firms up. Add red pepper flakes or diced jalapeno for an added kick. It will serve 2 but even if you eat the whole thing, it's still under 200 calories, almost no fat, healthy veggies, and keeps hunger at bay for a long time. This, along with other lifestyle/diet changes has helped me lose 48 pounds since the first of the year.

Sally Squires: Congratulations on being 48 pounds lighter, Mena! That's fantastic. And thanks very much for the recipe.

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Lititz, Pa.: I really enjoy your chats. I read them each week on-line. Do you have a suggestion for a good oil mister? (The type that I could put oil in and that would be washable.) I think this would be a better way to get a light coating of oil.

I recently made some baked egg rolls that were delicious and and I think healthy. I sauted small cut up pieces of boneless skinless chicken breast in Teriyaki marinade. After they were cooked, I removed them to a plate and sauted chopped green onions, mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots in some more Teriyaki marinade. Then I combined the veggies with the chicken. I rolled this mixture in an eggroll wrapper, tried to mist them with olive oil (I think a sesame oil might be better) and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top. I put them in a 350 degree oven until they were nicely browned. I am thinking of endless combinations, such as shrimp, broccoli, etc.

My husband has lost 60 pounds and I have lost 25 in the past year and a half. We are now trying to maintain and possible lose a few more pounds. I find the information in your columns and chats inspirational and helpful. Thank you!

Sally Squires: Someone gave me one of these devices and I must say that I don't love my particular brand. But I've just found four others--some of which get high marks from users. We'll try to post links in a minute.

Anyone have a salad oil mister that they love? Send those tips our way.

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Success Stories

Sally Squires: For more inspiration, see the growing gallery of Lean Plate Club Successful Losers....

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Richmond, VA: Adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe: cod wrapped in grape leaves--place the fresh/thawed filets on a couple of grape leaves (you can purchase them in a jar), top with 2 paper thin slices of lemon, sprinkle with oregano, salt & black pepper, then add a small splash of olive oil. Cover/wrap in the grape leaves to make a small packet, tie with kitchen twine, place in shallow pan, or cookie sheet with an edge. Bake for about 15 mins at 400 deg.

Sally Squires: Thanks Richmond. Sounds great!

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washingtonpost.com: Misto Gourmet Stainless Steel Olive Oil Sprayer (epinions.com)

washingtonpost.com: Misto Gourmet Stainless Steel Olive Oil Sprayer (epinions.com)

Sally Squires: Here's one listing from Epinions on an oil mister.

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Eliminating diet soda: So after reading several articles about how diet soda actually makes you gain weight and stay heavy, I decided to stop drinking my beloved Diet Coke. Surprisingly, this has been very challenging. There must be some sort of addictive chemical in Diet Coke. I didn't drink all that much--about one per day--and I never thought it would be this hard! The combination of sweet, fizzy, and cold is just irresistible to me; even after several months, I'm still craving a Diet Coke. My mouth waters just thinking about one. I don't even have food cravings this bad.

Anyway, I've been drinking water, decaffinated teas (iced and hot), milk, and 100 percent fruit juice. Any other suggestions to get me over this Diet Coke thing?

Thanks much...

Sally Squires: Okay, here's my question to you: Have you seen any weight loss from making this switch? Drinking one Diet Coke a day is not a big deal. If you really miss the Diet Coke that much, why not have one? You may also find that when you have one now, it may not be all that it's cracked up to be.

Other thoughts out there?

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College Park, Md.: Have you seen the new show "I Can Make You Thin" on TLC? Thoughts?

I actually found it really interesting and compelling, although apparently in the British version he actually hypnotized people through the TV, whereas he wasn't allowed to do that in America.

Sally Squires: I have not seen this new show on TLC, but it sounds like I should take a look. I did catch part of the Biggest Loser last week and while I applaud the show's efforts at helping people lose weight, I still have trouble with making weight loss a competition. And it still bothers me that people get kicked off the show for "only losing two pounds" or for even staying steady for a week. I worry that it sets up unrealistic expectations for weight loss. What do you think?

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Fish suggestions: I never steam fish, I always bake or grill it. But I'd second your answer that most people overcook fish - take it out just when you can flake the meat with a fork! But I have a fish suggestion aside from salmon - orange roughy. It's become a favorite at our house because of its delicious buttery flavor and distinct lack of "fishy" flavor. Just squeeze an orange and a lemon on top, grate some pepper, drizzle a little olive oil if you wish, and bake. It's a great, low-fat, low-cal meal and most of the flavor is provided by the fish itself, so it doesn't need lots of stuff on it!

Sally Squires: That sure sounds good. And I agree that the best fish is always the fish that has just a dab of lemon or lime with it. Really good fish can stand well on its own.

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Arlington, Va.: Am I the only one who didn't get the memo on dried fruit not being good for you? It could have been wishful thinking, but I thought eating my favorite banana chips as a snack wasn't as bad for me as some more traditional options. I nearly fell out of my chair when I finally looked at the nutritional info this weekend!

Sally Squires: Wait, before you beat yourself up, all dried fruit isn't bad. But you do need to read the labels carefully. And like you, I've been quite surprised by some products. Even if you have a product that you love and think you know the nutritional facts of, be aware that product formulations change. It's always a good idea to look again.

So yes, I have found added fat in banana chips (which I didn't expect), added sugar in dried cherries (and another brand that didn't have any added sugar, but was twice as expensive) and lots of added sugar in dried pineapple.

When in doubt, keep reading those nutrition facts labels!

Thanks for the reminder.

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Falls Church, Va.: I have a strange question about satiety. I like eating my leftovers cold, and especially when I eat rice dishes without reheating them, they seem so much more filling than while hot. Is this all in my head? Maybe don't tell me if it is...when I make my favorite rice pudding, I can only manage a tiny bowl of it chilled, and if that's all in my head, it's better than eating the whole potful while still hot (which sadly experience tells me I could, without feeling stuffed).

Sally Squires: Not in your head at all,Falls Church. Temperature and cooking can all alter the glycemic index.It happens with potatoes too. So that potatoes that have been cooked and then refrigerated have a lower glycemic index--that means that they raise blood sugar less--than potatoes that have not been cooled. It has to do with how cooling affects the chemical bonds of starch. So you've stumbled upon an interesting scientific fact!

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La Plata, Md.: I'm so sick of people banning this and legislating that. Why don't these do-gooders spend their time and energy educating people. You can't legislate morality and you can't legislate good sense. Start with the food programs in the schools such as Florida and others have done (a la Shaq's program). The kids will influence the adults for good

Sally Squires: There is absolutely good evidence to suggest that children can be agents of change. So you have an excellent point. Thanks for weighing in.

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Washington, D.C.: My doctor asked me to weigh myself, once a month, at generally the same time of the day. I was just curious as to if a person tends to weigh more first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, before bed.

Sally Squires: First thing in the morning seems best for weighing. And it's also best to weigh yourself in the buff after going to the bathroom. Place the scale in the same spot, since floors may not be level.That can throw off the numbers.

Hope this helps.

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Cambridge, Mass.: Hi Sally,

Why in the instructions for washing fruits and vegetables do experts say don't use soap? I would think, especially with salmonella on the outside of melons, that soap and hot water would be effective. Thanks. Dawn

Sally Squires: Ingesting the soap is the worry as I understand it. Hope that helps. Thanks for asking.

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Indiana: Hi Sally. I love reading your columns, newsleters and participating in the chats. It helps me to stay motivated. I have been increasing my veggies by steaming them and adding them to frozen meals. I add some extra sauce also. Do you have any ideas of what to use beside pasta sauce and mushroom soup? I am getting a little bored with the sauces I have been using with the steamed veggies. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Sally Squires: There are some wonderful simmer sauces available at various groceries. But you'll need to read the labels carefully since to check for calories, grams of fat and sodium.

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Fairfax, Va.: I have a question about probiotics vs. live active cultures. I recently read that Fage Greek yogurt does not contain probiotics. However, I see on my container that it does contain live active cultures. Can you explain to me the difference between these? Do you know whether any of the other Greek-style yogurts, such as Oikos or Trader Joe's, contain probiotics? Thanks!

Sally Squires: All yogurt by definition needs to have live active cultures, as I recall. So yes, all yogurt, including Total by Fage, has healthy bacteria. Probiotics encompasses a lot of friendly organisms--mostly bacteria, but also some other "critters" that can help to promote health.

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caffeine: Dear Sally,

I was under the impression that caffeine stimulates the appetite. And yet, I notice that thinner women are always opting for a cup of coffee in place of pastries at social events. Does the coffee fill them up, do you think, or are they drinking the coffee as a lesser calorie alternative?

Sally Squires: Thin women are thin for many reasons. And remember that being thin is always healthy--the reason why it's important to reach a healthy weight for you age, gender and body type.

Caffeine can stimulate metabolism--how many calories you burn. I'm not sure that it necessarily stimulates appetite. But if they're drinking coffee instead of eating pastries, they're also saving a lot of calories--unless they're drinking one of those flavored drinks with lots of added cream and sugar. Then it may be a toss-up.

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Clueless: What's the big problem with HFCS? I am unaware of this debate!

Sally Squires: The debate has been whether high fructose corn syrup may be metabolized differently than other sugars. We're out of time, so very briefly, the scientific evidence has not shown that this sugar is any different than any other added sugar.

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Bloomington, Indiana: About 30 years ago my husband and I were toying with the idea of becoming vegetarians. We weren't sure about it and decided to wait a while until we learned more. We came home from a long vacation where we had been treated to wonderful vegetarian cooking by my husband's cousin, and since we knew there was no food in the house, we stopped at an airport eatery before going home. We both had roast beef sandwiches.

We got deathly sick from something in those sandwiches, and that cinched it for us. We became vegetarians right then and haven't touched meat, fish or foul for three decades.

Sally Squires: That's quite a story! And it reminds me of one of the new studies that I wrote about this week in the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group. The study looked at emerging food-borne diseases. What was interesting are the differences in how men and women eat. Men ate more meat, fish and poultry; women more fruit, vegetables and nuts. And each group got slightly different food-borne diseases as a result.

By the way, I invite you to continue our conversations about nutrition and exercise daily on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group.

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Group Discussion

washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Group Discussion

Sally Squires: As promised.

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Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great Web chat. Winners today are:

DC for the Shout Out, the poster who mentioned the Coke formulation switch during Passover, Richmond, Orange Roughy and Arlington. Please e-mail me your name, address and whether you'd like a Lean Plate Club pedometer or a cloth grocery bag.

Until next week, I hope you'll join me on the President's Challenge. Our group is the Lean Plate Club, group number is 69734. And look forward to "talking" with you during the week on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group.

Cheers!

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