Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, April 8, 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.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! The e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-box now.

As always it's packed with a lot of things, including plenty of recipes for tonight's dinner. And for those who are taking the National President's Challenge with the Lean Plate Club and the Misfits, we have nearly 260 participants. Give us updates today here about your efforts or log onto www.leanplateclub.com/group anytime. I set up a special discussion there for you to log in, if you choose.

Call all Washington Metro families! If you're interested in trying to be healthier, I'd love to chat with you. We're looking for two to three families to follow through the summer. We'd like to hook you up with some experts in exercise, behavior and nutrition (that last one will be yours truly) to instill healthier habits. Please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. And of course, include your name, address, a bit of info about your family, your phone number and best times to call. Or you can call me. 202-334-5018.

And for those Lean Plate Club members outside the region, we hope to do more things like this in the future with a wider geographical participation.

Today's prizes are:

The Essential Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi

Abs on the Ball by Colleen Craig

The Biggest Loser Success Secrets by the Biggest Loser Experts Case and Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, PhD.

Prevention's Short Cuts to Weight Loss by Chris Freytag.

Here's the deal: inspire us with your habit change. Tell us about a food find that you've discovered (mine is in today's LPC e-mail newsletter) or how you're adding in more physical activity. Do that and one of these volumes could be yours. Winners are announced at the end of each Web chat.

Now on to the chat!


Thornton, Colo.: I am doing my best to maintain on the President's Challenge, but could really kick it up a wee bit. Glad I have until mid-May. That Bronze medal and a trip to Virginia at the same timeframe is keeping me going. And a Weight Watcher challenge where I win books if get the most activity minutes. I will work out for books.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you are juggling a lot. But it's great that you already know what can really motivate you to stick with what you're doing. I've been surprised at how much I enjoy recording my activity. It's really fun.

Other thoughts out there?


Glendale, Ariz.: What is or are the best foods for a pregnant woman to eat?

Sally Squires: A pregnant woman should eat the same kind of healthy diet that everyone should eat. So that means plenty of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fat--especially omega-3 fatty acids,which are crucial for brain development of the fetus. We'll provide a link in a minute to some recent LPC columns that will give you more info on what to eat plus some important information about seafood.


washingtonpost.com: Eating for Two, One Trimester at a Time (Post, Oct. 30, 2007)

Sally Squires: This column will give you plenty on what to eat when you're expecting. Also, check out www.myramid.gov for the special pyramid for pregnant and lactating women. There's even a cool interactive tool to help you see how many calories you need and how much weight is best for you to gain.


washingtonpost.com: Consumer Challenge: Making Head or Tail of Fish and Mercury (Post, October 23, 2007)

Sally Squires: This column will give you information about fish and mercury.


Alexandria, VA: PROMISE SPREAD: PROMISE Fat Free "butter spread" has changed my life. Just substituing that for all butter I have lost over 30 pounds. NO OTHER CHANGES in my diet! It may take a while to get used to, but its worth it. I went a week without ANY butter, so the spread was a nice addition to my dry muffins/toast/garlic bread/pasta.

Sally Squires: Wow! Very impressive. A great example of a small change that clearly added up to some wonderful rewards.And just please PROMISE me that you don't work for the company! :-)


Chicago, IL: Sally,

Thank you for including information for vegetarians in today's column!

I just wanted to add something for those trying to find other sources of B12--Red Star Nutritional Yeast (no affiliation with the company). My favorite ways to use it are sprinkled on popcorn or as part of the recipe for Tofu Ricotta from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. The recipe may sound strange, but it's great in lasagna and stuffed shells. Below is the recipe I found on their Web site. I believe it's the same as the one from the cookbook.

Tofu Basil Ricotta

prep time: 10 minutes - cooking time: none - makes About 2 cups

Use as a filling for stuffed shells, mixed with tomato sauce in pasta or as a topping for pizza.


1 pound firm tofu, pressed

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

handful fresh basil leaves, chopped fine (ten leaves or so)

dash fresh black pepper


In a large bowl, mush the tofu up with your hands, till it's crumbly.

Add lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper and basil. Mush with hands again, this time you want it to get very mushy so squeeze through your fingers and mush until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese. May take 2-5 minutes.

Add olive oil, stir with fork. Add nutritional yeast and combine all ingredients well. Use a fork now, because the oil will make it sticky. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sally Squires: Thanks for sharing the recipe. And I've been looking with great interest at the Veganomicon cookbook. In fact, it's sitting on my kitchen counter right now where I hope to start making some recipes from it. How do you and others like it?


North Coventry, Pa.: My favorite food find of the moment is dark chocolate bars with hot chilis. I know, you're thinking, how is that lean? The chocolate is just spicy enough that, instead of scarfing down the entire bar and looking for more, I'm completely satisfied with one or two squares (the recommended portion size). I also don't want it every day because of the spiciness. Yum.

Sally Squires: Now that's quite an interesting combination. And do you craft this yourself or is this a product that you buy? And if the latter, would you share the name and where you buy it? Sounds intriguing. Thanks!


Lexington, Ky.: Sally, we are having a wellness tuneup/8 week session at my workplace. Our leader emphasized the value of non-exercise activity -- as well as varying types of well-known exercise -- in weight loss/maintenance.

She cited Dr. James Levine, endocrinologist, of Mayo Clinic, and a study he had done in this regard.

It sounds like even fidgeting during the day can be helpful.

I'll have to find more ways of those non-exercise activities during my workday -- as well as moving more in other ways.

Sally Squires: I'm a huge fan of Dr. Levine, who has done some very interesting work not just on fidgeting but also on fitting in activity into our technological lives. His theory: we're not likely to give up our computers, our cars or our television sets, so why not figure out ways to be more active while using them. Clever, don't you think?

And speaking of clever, check out this video from a Lean Plate Club member in NJ who put Levine's tenets into practice.


washingtonpost.com: Not Your Average Work Space (washingtonpost.com, Jan. 23, 2007)

Sally Squires: Here's the video as promised. And thanks to our producer Paul Williams, who as luck would have it, was also the editor fo the Indiana University newspaper that first heralded Jared Fogle's efforts at weight loss. Yes, the Subway guy. Small world, don't you think? Maybe we can entice Paul to tell us how it all happened. What do you say, Paul?


Chicago: Veganomicon: So far I've only made the tofu ricotta, the marinara, and different variations of the lasagna. It's all been great. I would love to hear from others if they've found good recipes to try from it!

Sally Squires: Thanks Chicago for that additional feedback on the Veganomicon cookbook. It sure has some mouth-watering pictures in it.


Laurel, MD: Sometimes I need something sweet to end my evening and I heard about this light "ice cream" sandwich. I take a chocolate graham cracker and break it in half. THen put 2 tablespoons of light Cool Whip on one-half and top with the other. Freeze for an hour or more, and Voila! A reduced fat and calorie "ice cream" sandwich.

Sally Squires: Very clever, Great Falls. Also, I've been sampling frozen raspberries (unsweetened) with a bit of Total yogurt, a dab of honey and some slivered almonds. And a friend told me about her love of frozen grapes. She said they're better than ice cream.

Other healthful sweet treats out there that you'd like to share? Send them our way.


veggies: Sally,

Can V8 really substitute for vegetables?

Sally Squires: Yes. But if you really want variety--and not too much sodium--it shouldn't substitute for all your veggies. Variety really is the spice of life when it comes to all foods, but particularly fruit and vegetables. That's why expert recommend eating from the rainbow of colors.

But there's nothing wrong with incorporating V8 into your diet. I find that it can be a good appetizer for a meal or part of a great snack. Six ounches has just 30 calories. But the regular variety has 330 milligrams of sodium--which is a slug. So you may want to try the low-sodium variety, which is also pretty good, particularly on ice.


Pittsburgh: I am so glad it's springtime, I can't even tell you.

A few things I am changing around, first is I am taking the bus into work again. This also means I have to bring my gym bag with me when I go in the mornings. This adds about 30 min of walking with about 15-20lbs added 3 times a week!

I am also working in the garden more, and have projects on the house going.

For food finds, I found an awesome Tuscan White Bean Hummus at Trader Joe's I will have to keep an eye out for it again.

I think I may have finally broken through my plateau, -knocks on wood- though if 4-plus hours of gardening on Sunday doesn't do it, on top of going to the gym... not sure what will!

I lost 40 since May 15 of last year. Goal is 53 in 12 months (avg -1/wk for 1year), but the plateau got the better of me. Now I just want to see how close I can get to that before I start my next short term goal, which I haven't decided on yet! (Long term goal is another 85 pounds from where I am at now.)

Sally Squires: Way to go Philly! It sounds like you are really getting into the groove. Congratulations on those impressive 40 pounds lost and continued success on the road to your goal. Hope you'll keep up updated about your progress. And I'm with you: I love spring too, although it's still pretty gray here today. Thanks.


Chili Chocolate Again: Gotta love the Internet. It's made by Frey, a Swiss company.

Sally Squires: Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: I thought I had read that you essentially get the same calorie-burning benefit from walking a certain distance as running a certain distance -- it just takes longer (to walk the distance instead of run it). True?

Sally Squires: It's pretty close, DC. So a 140 pound person burns about 91 calories running a mile, but about 70 calories walking that same distance (at 20 minutes per mile.) There's some variation depending on speed, as you can see. But it's not as much as a lot of us imagine. And the most important point is to keep moving! Thanks.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Is it more nutritious to eat raw spinach or cooked spinach? I frequently eat spinach salads for lunch and consider that to be nutritious, but it occurs to me that perhaps I am relying too much on that as a significant source of nutrition (the spinach is from a salad bar where I include sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and one or more of beets, carrots, chicken, red cabbage, bean salad, chick peas).

Thanks for your excellent columns!

Sally Squires: Ah, that wonderful sounding salad is making me hungry. I've got watercress, goat cheese, olives with a little balsamic vinegar and walnut oil awaiting me for lunch. And after writing those words, I'm really hungry!

In today's LPC e-mail newsletter, find a link to a lovely essay by Barbara Kafka on why she loves salads, plus links to three salads that she often makes. The package, which was published in Saveur magazine, is up for a James Beard Award this year.

Cooking alters some ingredients. Heat will destroy a little of the vitamin C. So there are plenty of raw food proponents who will say stick with only raw food. As for me, I like the flavor of both. And again, variety is the spice of life. Plus, cooking can kill some unwanted microbes...Hope that helps, Brooklyn.


Columbia, Md.: My 33-year-old son has been a vegetarian since he was 11 - sometimes eating fish. sometimes, not. During the last couple of years, he has followed a "raw food diet." He is presently eating some organic cooked veggies, along with the raw. He feels it has helped him a great deal. I read your column, today, and wonder about the iron content he is getting. He doesn't believe in vitamin supplements. I haven't seen him eat any dried beans or lentils for some time. Can you direct me/him to a source that would explain the natural dietary ways of getting the iron he needs?

Sally Squires: I'll post a link in a minute to the Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Institutes of Health, which has published a good fact sheet on iron. It will give your son information on the best food sources of iron as well as reasons to make sure he is getting enough.

Frankly, men are less likely to have iron deficiencies than women of child bearing ages. Menstruation means that they lose some iron monthly.

A fortified cereal might be a great way for your son to get iron. But there are plenty of other sources that he can choose from too.


Upper Marlboro, MD: Regarding the vegetarian, or anyone, who wants a good source of iron, hempseeds, grown from industrial hemp, are also a very good source of iron and protein (shelled hempseed is 33% protein), zinc, magnesium and phosphorus, to name just a few.

Just a 3 Tbs serving of shelled hempseeds provide 16% of the rda for iron, 22% of the rda for protein, and nearly half the rda for phosphorous and magnesium.

It is also a great source of Omega-3 and GLA, essential fatty acids, and contains all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form.

And no, industrial hemp doesn't contain any thc, or very negligible amounts of it(0.3% at most, from what I've read), compared to its cousin marijuana. It actually lowers the amount of thc in marijuana plants significantly when crossbred with it.

There are several manufacturers in Canada that ship to the US, so there are online vendors in the states. Products are also available at some stores and chains.

I wish I'd known more about the seeds and oil long ago! There are protein powders, too. They're all very healthful and tasty!

Sally Squires: Thanks Upper Marlboro.


Dayton, Ohio: Hi Sally,

I am a 60-year-old male, who in the past two years has had two heart attacks, two stents, five catherizations, contracted Type Two Diabetes, anemia, stage two kidney failure, polymyocitis, heart failure and gained 100 pounds. I have just recently been forced to file for bankruptcy protection and filed for divorce from my wife, who abandoned me to die two years ago.

I have never given to all this crap and have lost 50 pounds since the first of the year, and most of my illnesses are gone or are in remission. I am working on getting rid of the diabetes and have started to exercise again. The bad news keeps piling up, however.

Here is my question. How do I stop turning to food whenever I get clobbered with something new and terrible?

Sally Squires: It sounds like you have really been through quite an odyssey, Dayton. More power to you for rising to the occasion. Your fortitude reminds me of what some of our founding fathers had and which is so well depicted in John Adams on HBO. It also brings to mind some people that I have had the privileged to meet and that's patients with Hansen's Disease--or leprosy. Many of them were discarded by their families, but still didn't give up.

So let me congratulate you on your strength and fortitude. It really is an inspiration to all of us. And while you're still struggling with turning to food for comfort, you have already conquered some of that by losing those 50 pounds.

You might take a look at a book called Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink. There's also Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. And you might consider joining Food Addicts in Recovery, Food Addicts or Overeaters Anonymous. Also, TOPS is a good program that doesn't cost very much money, which I suspect may be in short supply.

Hope this helps. Continued success with your efforts. Consider us your cheering section. Please let us know how it goes. You've already proven that you can rise to the occasion and inspired us all.


washingtonpost.com: Food Addicts Anonymous

Sally Squires: As promised.


washingtonpost.com: www.tops.org

Sally Squires: As promised...


washingtonpost.com: Overeaters Anonymous

Sally Squires: As promised...


washingtonpost.com: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron

Sally Squires: Here's the fact sheet on iron.


Dupont Circle: Hi there! Thanks for doing this chat - it's my weekly reminder to keep eating smart and moving more. Just had a couple of great suggestions/recommendations:

First, my husband bought me the New Mayo Clinic Cookbook for Valentine's Day and I haven't been able to put it down since. They do a great job of giving delicious-looking, tasty, healthy recipes (with full-page color photos!) along with all the info you need - including how many servings of veggies, protein, etc are in each serving.

Second, I made a delicious marinade and sandwich spread last night that we both loved. This was to go with grilled-veggie sandwiches on whole-grain bread with sweet-potato baked "fries." Mash up about a quarter-cup low-fat silken tofu with about a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice or white vinegar, mixed dried herbs, a tiny bit of soy sauce (I used TJ's low-sodium) and plenty of garlic, plus a bit of cayenne pepper. (I added a splash of white wine, too.) I spread this over the veggies after taking them off the grill, and slathered it onto the bread while making the sandwiches. It was delicious - and so good that we didn't notice we were eating FOUR servings of vegetables each for dinner!

Sally Squires: That Mayo Cookbook sounds like a great find! And that sandwich sounds really good! Aren't we glad that it's time to grill outdoors again. The possibilities are nearly endless. And think of all that wonderful fresh produce about to hit our markets in the weeks and months ahead!


Washington, D.C.: Sally: What do you make of the article published online last week in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology by Stanley Goldfarb and D. Negoianu, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine? In it they conclude that there is no positive benefits to drinking 8 (or any?) glasses of water. Drink when you're thirsty, they say. I have found nothing descriptive about whatever research they conducted. It has gotten a lot of media coverage -- my 84-year-old mother called me to tell me I can stop drinking water. So what's the scoop?

Sally Squires: This announcement made headlines, but it's actually not a departure from what the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends which is for most people to drink when thirsty. Also the IOM said that water filled foods, including fruit and vegetables, soups, stews, etc. can be a good source of hydration. So can coffee, tea, juice, etc.

Exceptions to this are those who may be engaging in very vigorous exercise, such as marathons. Or roofers working in the summer heat. Or military personnel stationed in the desert. You get the idea.

Also, the elderly tend to under-drink and as they age, they are less likely to be thirsty. So your 84 year old mother may need to be sure that she stays well hydrated.

Finally, if you want to feel full with fewer calories, drink a glass of water with your meals. The sodium helps you retain it so you feel fuller.

Hope that helps.


Palma Sola, Fla.: I'm on a low-carb diet, but healthy. The problem is when I do eat any refined carbs, I now have a terrible problem with stomach upset.

Will that ever go away, or is it just a result of my body acclimating to the low-carb lifestyle?

It's not so bad, it keeps me on the low-carb train . . .

Sally Squires: This is just a thought, but have you ever been checked for a gluten allergy? You might mention this problem with carbs to your doctor. Also, do you find it happens only with processed carbs or with things like beans, vegetables, fruit, etc. ?


Atlanta, GA: My friends recently told me that studies have shown that calorie-free sweeteners like Splenda have been associated with weight-gain rather than weight-loss. They hypothesize that frequent use of calorie-free sweeteners breaks your body's association of sweet-tasting food with calories, so your body stops revving-up the metabolism after eating sweets. As a result your metabolism is slowed down over all.

I had assumed that the problem with sugar substitutes was due to people thinking "sugar-free" means "calorie-free" (which it certainly doesn't, since you have to pay attention to all the calories coming from the other ingredients) and as a result people end up eating as many or more calories due to glibly increasing the portion size for sugar-free products. If calorie-free sweeteners actually screw up my metabolism, I'm wondering if I should stop using them altogether, since I'm a big user of splenda in coffee and baked goods.

Sally Squires: There's a lot of debate about this right now. In fact, last week, I just attended a conference on this very subject. So look for an upcoming Lean Plate Club column on the topic.

In the meantime, it seems like there are some urban myths developing...The majority of studies seem to suggest that if you substitute sugar substitutes for sugar, you generally eat fewer calories. And fewer calories usually translates to less weight. I have not read anything about calorie-free sweeteners altering metabolism after eating sweets.

Your theory is likely more in line with fact. So far, we have not been able to overcome the laws of thermodynamics--much as we keep trying! Thanks.


Rockville, Md.: I know that some of the chatters have recommended natural peanut butter, but they also mentioned that you have to stir it. At the grocery store, I recently I noticed that Skippy (no affiliation!) has a natural kind that you don't have to stir. I've since bought it, and it was pretty tasty. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I have to admit that it's the only natural peanut butter that I've ever tried, and I don't even eat peanut butter that often!

Sally Squires: Peanut butter--and other nut butters--can be a wonderful part of the diet. They provide healthy fat and plenty of flavor. And here's a trick to cut some of their calories--because they are mostly fat and protein. Pour off some of that peanut oil before you stir. You can cut about a third of the calories that way. Thanks for posting.


Arlington, Va.: If it weren't for my 2 dogs I probably wouldn't do cardio at all. But because of them, I average 2 miles a day jogging/walking. And I use them as the excuse to jog, not drive, to the gym, grocery store, post office, Starbucks, etc.

Sally Squires: Love those canine coaches every time! Woof! Thanks Arlington.


St. Louis, MO: Good morning. I joined the President's Challenge and have a question about entering activity. I wear a pedometer daily. Can you tell if I enter my steps for the day, or if it is how many steps I get in a walk?

When you click on "Activity" it shows "Pedometer" and then you can put in the number of steps. Many days, I get in 6000 w/o doing any exercise, so that doesn't seem like it should count. If I take a walk and get in an additional 4000, is that what I enter? Obviously, I'm confused! Thanks.

Sally Squires: You can enter both. The point is to get as much activity as possible in as many ways as possible. Althought the daily goal is 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. But you can break that into 10 minute increments too. Hope that helps. Glad you're with us!


Arlington, Va.: Some time ago, the Lean Plate club published a week's worth of family dinner menus that were all fabulous. I'm a big planner when it comes to weekly dinner ideas. Are there any more of those coming? If there are any archived, please direct me to the source. Thank you very much.

Sally Squires: I'm so glad you liked those dinners which were designed by our Food section. I'll see if they exist on our Web site. I'm hoping that they may be in the Recipe Database. And yes, we do have some more collaborations upccoming. So I'll keep you apprised of those too. Thanks.


Great Falls, Va.: Protein question--My albumen level is low (I've got Crohn's Disease that's mostly in remission) and have been told to increase my protein intake. I'm thinking about supplementing my omnivorous diet (I eat lean protein with every meal) with whey protein (about 25 grams per serving). How much protein (grams) can a person absorb at one sitting without expelling it through urine? Wouldn't want to waste my money and calories...

Sally Squires: Because you have Crohn's disease--an ongoing disorder that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract--this question is best posed to your doctor who will be most familiar with your particular nutritional needs. If he or she can't answer this question, you might consider asking for a referral to a registered dietitian who specializes in Crohn's disease.

Also check the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse.


Hope that helps and that your symptoms improve.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat! Winners today are Dayton, Ohio; Chili Chocolate; Chicago and St. Louis. Please e-mail me your name and address to leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include winner in the subject line for faster mailing and handling.

Until next week, look forward to staying in contact with you in the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group at www.leanplateclub.com/group.



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