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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, April 29, 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. www.leanplateclub.com/group.

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Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! We've got a lot on today's plate already up for discussion. The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletters should be hitting your electronic in-boxes about now.

Now on to the chat!

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Arlington, Va.: Sally -- I heard a radio commercial in the past few weeks for a tanning salon (!) that was promoting the benefits of increased vitamin D through the "sun". It's not like vitamin D will protect you from the skin cancer you could get from tanning too much!

Sally Squires: Absolutely correct. That's why dermatologists are quite worried about any advice that might include getting more rays to help boost vitamin D production. On the other hand, being careful about the sun--and I'm one of those people who can be out for about 15 seconds before burning--means that it's hard to make enough vitamin D. As always, it's matter of finding balance.

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Las Vegas: If one wears sunscreen, can the skin absorb enough vitamin D or does sunscreen screen absorption?

Sally Squires: Most sunscreens block out UV rays. That, in turn, inteferes with vitamin D production. Hope that helps.

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Corvallis, Oregon: Can anyone recommend a good garlic press??

My old one has broken finally. It was always a pain to clean. I love garlic but don't like to mince it. Any suggestions?

Sally Squires: My garlic press has the same flaw. I'll look during the chat too, but if you've got a great garlic press, please send it our way. Also, mashing the garlic clove with a very large knife, peeling and then chopping isn't a bad alternative. But it's not the same as that garlic press.

One other trick that I learned at the Culinary Institute this year for "roasting" garlic: take a dry skillet. Put it on the flame or heat. Put the garlic cloves (including the papery outer covering) in the skillet. Turn until they are golden. Peel. The garlic is quite delicious.

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Manchester, Conn.: Since I have a history of skin cancer, I assume that getting my vitamin D is best in supplements. I do take calcium with vitamin D. Does that suffice?

Thanks.

Sally Squires: It depends, Manchester, on how much is in that supplement and what other sources of vitamin D you consume. Caltrate, for example, has about 400 IU of vitamin D--or 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for adults 51 to 70. If you take two tablets daily, you'd get about 800 IU, closer to the 1,000 IU level that a number of experts told me they think should be the recommended intake.

Older adults need more. The RDA for those 71 and older is 600 IU daily. But Hector DeLuca and others have told me that they think 2,000 to 3,000 IU is safe and may be needed. It's all still evolving. Hope that helps.

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Houston: I try to save money by taking actions that are also "green" -- I air dry my dishes and as many clothes as possible instead of running the dryer -- save water used in cooking to water plants -- installed tankless water heaters. At the grocery store, I buy in bulk. Quit using paper towels and use old cloth napkins that I just wash afterwards.

Sally Squires: All great steps, Houston, except that when I was reading Ed Begley, Jr. Web site last week, he noted that he used to hand wash and air dry his dishes until he got a very energy efficient dish washer, which as I recall he said was even better--and I don't think he meant in time-saving or dishwater hands!

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Garlic Press: My Mom has a garlic press that she loves. It's from Pampered Chef. (no affiliation!)

Sally Squires: Thanks! Anybody else use this garlic press? Or have another that they really like and can recommend?

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Lubbock, Tex.: Hi, Sally!

I print out these chats and read them at my leisure. Leisure as in slowly, so I'm currently still reading chats from 2007.

In a chat I just finished reading, there was a question that I have an answer to, so if this suggestion has already been made, forgive me.

The questioner wanted to know how to make salt stick to air-popped corn. I know a good way to do that.

Powder some salt in a food processor. I use powdered salt on plain almonds mostly, and you can get a good salty taste with very, very little salt.

By the way, I'm the poster who many months ago was thrilled that I could get Total yogurt at a grocery store here in Lubbock, Texas.

I'm still totally loving Total, only now I use the 0 percent and add some dill weed, a scant quarter teaspoon salt, and a teaspoon of mayonnaise to a 5 oz. container. It's great on its own, as a dip, or as salad dressing.

Sally, I'm also still loving your column and your chat. I hope to be reading the 2008 chats in a couple of months!

Sally Squires: I love that you're reading the Web chat transcripts, Lubbock. My colleagues at Washingtonpost.com have also made these transcripts searchable. We'll post a link in a minute. I, too, am a big fan of that Total yogurt. In fact, I made a smoothie with it today. Thanks.

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washingtonpost.com: edbegley.com

Sally Squires: Here's more on Ed Begley.

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Lexington, Mass.: I take Paxil and lithium to help deal with a mood disorder. I've gained 30-plus pounds that I'm trying to shed. (I go to a women's gym 4 hours/week; eat a la Mayo Client plan...more or less, and walk every day.) The medication affects my thyroid, I think; so losing is very slow. Any suggestions?

Sally Squires: Weight gain is an unfortunate side-effect of many anti-depressant medications. These drugs may or may not affect your thyroid. It would be worth having a thyroid blood test if you haven't done that already.

You might check out Robert Hedaya's Antidepressant Survival Guide: The Clinically Proven Ways to Enhance the Benefits and Beat the Side-effects of Your Medication.

Also, check with your doctor. There are medications that are less likely to affect weight.

In the meantime, you're doing all the right things. You might also see if every hour you can get up from your desk or whatever else you are doing to take just a 5 minute stroll. During an 8-hour workday, that can add up to 40 minutes of additional activity. Also, try to boost the weights that you lift, slowly but surely. And be sure to get enough sleep. There's growing evidence of the role that sleep plays in appetite hormones.

Finally, keep measuring and recording your calories and stay in a range that will help move the scale downward. You might check out Barbara Rolls' Volumetrics Eating Plan for more tips.

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washingtonpost.com: In Search of the Perfect Garlic Press (Cook's Illustrated)

Sally Squires: If you're willing to ante up money for subscription, Cook's Illustrated has looked at the garlic press. Or you could see if you local library carries this magazine.

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Chevy Chase, Md.: Is Manchester, Conn. still on? That is where I am originally from. Pampered Chef has a good garlic press and I believe it comes with a self-cleaner.

Sally Squires: Thanks Chevy Chase! Making these connections are one of the things that I love about the Lean Plate Club!

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garlic press: I don't know the brand of mine, but I think it's lasted so long cuz it's all metal rather than plastic. (My Dad, when he was alive, put a new kitchen implement--garlic press, pizza roller, paring knife--in each daughter's Christmas stocking each year. I still smile every time I use one of them. Talk about a small gift that means a lot and keeps on giving year after year.)

Sally Squires: What a great dad! And what a great way to keep remembering him every day. Thanks.

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Crushing garlic: If your recipe calls for salt: Crush the garlic clove with sea salt in a pestle and mortar. It makes a paste--the salt both draws out the moisture and acts as an abrasive.

Sally Squires: That sounds delicious. The chefs at the Culinary Institute make very good use of the mortar and pestle. I have a small one and always feel like an artistic chef when I bring it out to use. Thanks!

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Alexandria, Va.: Here is are our techniques to deal with escalating food prices- we are a young couple and already pack lunches and don't drink $5 lattes (so the cliche advice doesn't help us):

-Buy chicken breast/meat on sale and freeze it properly in freezer bags.

-Go to a members-only warehouse store every few weeks with a relative (membership for the two of us only didn't make sense) to stock up on non-perishables and household items.

-Learn what freezes well: we keep chopped onions/green peppers in a bag in the freezer for omelettes.

-Know when food expires: we don't overbuy, since there are only two of us it is not worth it for food to go bad -- since the grocery store is on my way home from work, I'll buy produce for the night's dinner.

-Try growing tomatoes and zucchini, they do well in the DC area.

-Buy what is in season (eg, on sale) in the supermarket, and then Google good recipes online, rather than start with a recipe book and buy whatever is in the recipe regardless of the price.

-Shop at ethnic grocery stores when you can, they seem to have better produce prices.

All in all, these are better grocery-shopping techniques and work well for us. Of course, groceries are still much more expensive than they were a year ago. However, we wouldn't change our healthy diet of lean meats, vegetables, etc., though we can be as guilty as the next person of enjoying something loaded with sodium/carbs.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you have really thought this out well and developed a great plan to pinch pennies and eat well. In today's e-mail newsletter--and also in yesterday LPC Discussion Group--we've been talking about this very topic, where I posted a link to the Recession Diet.

Today, I made a big batch of brown rice that I'll put into individual bags and freeze. That's a lot cheaper than paying the $4 per carton for three packages of cooked, frozen brown rice at Trader Joe's.

Got other ways to

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cod liver oil: Hi Sally,

I have a couple of questions, if I may. What is the difference between cod liver oil and fish oil? I have a friend who takes cod liver oil for "female stuff" but upon research, I didn't see any mention of that type of help. So honestly, I wasn't sure which stuff she was referring to.

Lastly, I read that while cod liver oil is benefitial to pregnant and lactating moms to help brain development in infants, there is some synthetic drug used for vitamin A that can actually harm infants.

Could you help me figure this out please?

Sally Squires: Cod liver oil comes from cod. Fish oil could come from any fish. Both are good sources is a good source of omega-3-- healthy fats that are good for the heart, the joints and the brain--especially developing brains.

But fish oil also contains a lot of vitamin A. In fact, one tablespoon of cod liver fish oil has nearly 14,000 International Units (IU). That's nearly 3,000 IU higher than the tolerable upper limit set for pregnant and lactating women. Too much Vitamin A can cause serious birth defects. That's why there are controls on Retin-A, a vitamin A derived drug for acne.

Hope that helps.

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addicted to the sweet stuff: I joined OA for 6 weeks and pretty much failed miserably. While it is true that when I was finally able to ween myself off flour and sugar, I didn't crave it as much, but I just can't seem to keep off of the white stuff permanently. And when I cheat, I get pulled back into a cycle of craving flour and sugar.

I still am sticking to eat a cup of vegetables, a cup of salad, and 4 oz of meat at each meal, but I can't seem to give up flour and sugar forever.

So what's the next diet plan I should try to lose these extra 90 lbs?

Sally Squires: One healthy meal at a time. And one step at a time for activity.

Overeaters Anonymous is a 12-step program that may not work for everyone. But it's great that you have been able to cut down on the carbs that you were consuming.

If you need group support, you might consider Weight Watchers or TOPS.

If you think that you could benefit from portion control, then you might want to try Nutrisystems, Jenny Craig or your own version by buying Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Slimfast products.

Volumetrics by Barbara Rolls will help you eat acccording to a higher volume approach, which can help you feel fuller with fewer calories. You can also find help from Secrets of the Lean Plate Club, by yours truly with help from all of you. It's less a diet and more a guide to eating more healthfully.

Just know this: all diets work for someone. No diet works for everyone. The trick is finding what works best for you. And even in failure, you learn something that will help you ultimately succeed. You might also find inspiration from our Successful Losers. We'll post a link in a minute.

I hope you'll let us know how it goes.

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washingtonpost.com: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin A and Carotenoids (nih.gov)

Sally Squires: Here's more information on Vitamin A from the federal Office of Dietary Supplements.

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washingtonpost.com: Overeaters Anonymous

Sally Squires: Here's more information on Overeaters Anonymous.

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Re: Crushing garlic: If I want finely minced garlic I always use my micorplane grater. Works like a charm. Easy and gets perfectly crushed/minced garlic. Just have to watch your fingers.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion. Thanks!

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Glen Rock, N.J.: Can vitamin D be absorbed while sitting in the sun indoors, or driving a car in sunlight?

Sally Squires: Glass screens out some UV rays--so it won't be the same as sitting in the sun, but yes, doing this likely produces a little vitamin D. It's not considered a terribly effective way of boosting vitamin D, however.

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washingtonpost.com: TOPS

Sally Squires: Here's a link for TOPS which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly.

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Lexington, Ky.: We fix more stir-fry meals at dinnertime, with brown rice, whole wheat couscous, noodles or pasta. The 10 for $10 frozen vegetables come in many varieties. We add less meat and top with a few walnuts or cashew pieces. Sauces vary too. But it's a good way to stretch the dollar and eat healthy too.

In addition, I'm drinking milk (1%) more often too. Helps me in the calcium department and also gives protein in late afternoon when I'm otherwise likely to check out the vending machines here at work.

Sally Squires: Our grocery store also often has great buys on frozen veggies. Where possible, try to get them plain, since any sauce can add a lot of sodium. Thanks for the great tips.

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Denver: Hi Sally. I'd like to chop veggies ahead of time for salads and stir fry. I think I'm more apt to eat them if prep time is cut down. How long will most cut-up veggies last and do they lose nutrients by being washed and cut up ahead of time? What's the best way to store them to retain their nutritional value and taste? Thanks.

Sally Squires: It's fine to chop veggies ahead of time. you May lose a little vitamin C, but it's likely minimal. Keep those prepped veggies in the 'fridge to help keep them crisp. And if you plan to dice and then not use the veggies for a while, you might consider freezing them.

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New York, N.Y.: To keep to my budgetary constraints, I plan out meals for my fiance and me by the week, order my groceries on line from FreshDirect (which here in NYC is cheaper than going to the store), making sure I have most, if not all, of the necessary ingredients. I make every effort to minimize trips to pick up "a couple of things" at the store, as it is too easy to pick up just a little bit more. It takes a bit of planning, but I have seen a decrease in our food expenditures.

Plus, we rarely eat out.

Sally Squires: Great strategies, NYC. Planning really counts for both cutting costs--and holding the line on calories. Plus, I'm convinced that we eat a lot better when we eat at home. I'm more likely to spend a little more on some items for the quality and then I look for ways to stretch them at home.

One tip for those who shop on-line. One careful shopper noted that some on-line places hike prices compared to the stores. So check that from time to time, just to make sure that doesn't happen to you too. And look for bargains or free delivery, which can really make these on-line stores a bargain!

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Success Stories

Sally Squires: Here are Lean Plate Club success stories.

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Altadena, Calif.: When I eat out, I try not to mindlessly order a drink. Instead I try to make my habitual drink water when I can, saving the diet soda, coffee, and ice tea for a treat. The same goes for French fries -- I'll order them only if I want them, not out of habit.

Sally Squires: Great strategy, Altadena, especially since those restaurant fries can easily add up to 400+ calories--far more, in fact, than a small order of fast food fries. And I'm with you, I always drink tap water, even if we recently discovered in DC it has a little caffeine and some other unexpected ingredients!

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Alexandria, Va.: Hi Sally and chatters,

I recently had a complete thyroidectomy and have been put on medication for replacement thyroid hormones. All of this has made me want to treat my body better, starting with healthier lunches to take to work. Can you or the chatters give some ideas for healthy lunches? I can't have dairy products (i.e. yogurt is out, as is milk -- but I do drink soy milk) and I'm not a big salad eater, so anything other than those 2 would be great!

Thanks! Love the chats and articles.

Sally Squires: We're out of time, Alexandria, but I'll include tips in next week's newsletter. Or e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. Or call 202-334-5018.

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Sally Squires: We're out of time but thanks to all for a great chat. If your question didn't get answered today, look for it in an upcoming e-mail newsletter, Lean Plate Club Discussion Group or LPC column.

Winners today are:

Arlington, Houston, crushing garlic, Alexandria and the former OA member. Please e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com and please include your name/address for faster handling.

Until next week, join me on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group. Then see you Tuesday, at 1 p.m. ET

Thanks to all.

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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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