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Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, May 6, 2008; 1:00 PM

Confused about nutrition? Wondering how to fit in more physical activity? Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Ask Sally Squires, nationally syndicated Lean Plate Club columnist for the Washington Post, about eating smart and moving more every Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET. Sally draws upon her master's degree in nutrition from Columbia University to preside over the lively Lean Plate Club web chat. Whether you're trying to reach a healthier weight or simply maintain it, you'll find plenty of tips and strategies.

This Story

Share your own food finds, creative workouts and secrets for healthy, great tasting meals. We'll cheer your successes and help with your setbacks. (None of this, of course, is a substitute for medical advice.) E-mail Sally, author of the newly published Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martin's Press) at leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Or just sign up for the free Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter. The Lean Plate Club column appears Tuesdays in the Washington Post Health section and is nationally syndicated by the Washington Post Writers Group. www.leanplateclub.com/group.

The Archives:

Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

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Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club Web chat.

As always, we've got a lot up for discussion including: Equal, Stevia, Splenda, Whey-Low and Agave Nectar and other sugar substitutes and alternative sweeteners. Do you ever use these ingredients? Tell us your thoughts about them.

The e-mail newsletter should be hitting your electronic in-box about now. In it find: Information about a new recall involving nearly 300,000 pounds or meat/poultry products.

Also: there are recipes for a Cajun Turkey Quarter Pounder--who says that you can't make fast food at home?

Plus, Snapper with Pineapple and Beans. Also, a Bean Dip recipe from the Tennessean. If you live in either Nashville or in Rockford, Ill. I'd love to know if you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your local newspaper. (I'm always happy to hear from others too.)

Also in today's e-mail newsletter find a recipe for yogurt rubbed chicken and Fava Bean and Rice Salad. Yum.

To subscribe to this free weekly service just log onto www.leanplateclub.com and click on the newsletter button. E-mail me anytime at leanplateclub@washpost.com. Call me at 202-334-5018.

Now on to the chat!

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San Francisco, Calif.: Caution with regard to artificial sweeteners is in order. A 2005 study with rats showed strong links between exposure to aspartame and malignant cancers including lymphomas, leukemias, and tumors at multiple organ sites. This was published in Environmental Health Perspectives. The increase in lymphomas and leukemias may be related to the fact that aspartame breaks down in the body to form methanol, which is transformed in both rats and humans to formaldehyde. Both methanol and formaldehyde have been linked to lymphomas and leukemias in other long-term experiments. The research is just starting to be done on Splenda, so you are not necessarily safe by avoiding aspartame. Maybe good old-fashioned sugar isn't so bad after all.

Sally Squires: Yep, and that good old fashioned sugar only has about 16 calories per teaspoon. So if you measure carefully, it's really not such a big deal. I also am intrigued by Whey-Low, a new product that we (the Food section and I) have been trying. It contains fructose, sucrose and lactose--all naturally occurring sugars, but has just 4 calories per teaspoon. It's an interesting alternative.

And I have samples of some products that the Food section made with these sugar substitutes. Read all about it in tomorrow's Food section, which put a number to the test. At the end of the chat, I'll tell you which one won!

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Portola Valley, Ca.: Blue Agave Nectar (Whole Foods or Trader Joe's) works great as a drink sweetener but I haven't cooked with it yet. I've had great success making baked custards using Splenda. My family, some who have Type II diabetes, all enjoyed that the fact that this comfy dessert was lower in carbs but still tasted great. So I'd like to pose this question: Does anyone know if heat has an adverse affect on Splenda? Thanks, I look forward to your weekly columns and advice. L.R.

Sally Squires: Heat does not seem to have an adverse effect on Splenda. It can indeed be used in baking, although when we tried a cheesecake recipe supplied by B. Smith at the holidays, some in our office thought that the texture was not quite right. I'm not certain that was because of the Splenda or the nonfat cream cheese. But others liked the recipe a lot. So much of this is in the tongue of the taster!

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Eastwood Mom, Syracuse, N.Y.: I'm currently 7 months pregnant with my second child. With my first pregnancy, I didn't know that I should stay away from most artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame... I've been drinking lemonade made with Splenda during this pregnancy... not because I'm watching my weight but because I'm not too fond of plain water and it helps me to get enough liquids down during the day. Is Splenda ok and are any of the other sweeteners ok for me during pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are any of the sweeteners ok for children to consume?

Sally Squires: First, congratulations on your expanding family. How exciting!

In 2003, one consumer filed a petition with the FDA asking it to revoke approval of sucralose otherwise known as Splenda. But in the May issue of Nutrition Action, published by another consumer group--Center for Science in the Public Interest--Splenda got a thumbs up for safety for now. The FDA does not appear to have any specific warnings for pregnant women.

What you could do is hedge your bets by alternating Splenda with a teaspoon of sugar. Everything in moderation.

Hope that helps.

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washingtonpost.com: Petition to Revoke Splenda (Citizens for Health)

Sally Squires: For those interested in Splenda, here's a link from a petition asking the FDA to remove it from the market.

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Southport, N.C.: My husband and I have used stevia on the advice of a registered dietician who gave a conference on diabetic nutrition and eating habits at Dosher Hospital in Southport, N.C. She said she used it herself and that what attracted her was that it was all natural and came from a plant rather than concocted in a laboratory like other sweeteners.

We found it to be a bit expensive - almost $7.00 for 50 packets. It is sweet, but with a flat taste. We did not use it for baking, rather only for tea and coffee. We will purchase it again. If it is all natural and has no side effects and a sweet, albeit drab, taste, what does one have to lose?

Sally Squires: Stevia has not gone through the same approval process that Nutrasweet and Splenda and other sweeteners have passed. It's sold simply as a dietary supplement in the U.S. I don't have all the details at my fingertips right this second, but there was some hesitation on approval from the World Health Organization. That seems to have changed in recent years. But there's been concern among some scientists and groups that stevia has not passed the same rigorous testing of other products. You might check out Whey-Low, which has a special version just for people with diabetes. Splenda is another option. Let me hasten to add that I have no financial connection to any of these companies.

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Kensington, Md.: Dear Sally,

In the last 6 months I recall that one of your articles or newsletters discussed the issue of doctors and their treatment of obese patients.

Could you please forward that article to me?

Thank you.

washingtonpost.com: Many of Sally's columns deal with these issues - here's a link to a couple of years' worth of columns: Lean Plate Club column archives- happy reading!

Sally Squires: Here you go. And if you can't find it in this archived list of columns--we also archive Web chat transcripts by the way--you can give me a ring at 202-334-5018. Or e-mail leanplateclub@washpost.com.

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washingtonpost.com: Stevia or Splenda? (Pritikin Center)

Sally Squires: Here's an article on Splenda versus Stevia from the Pritikin Center.

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weighing in on sweeteners: Honestly, I stick with the real thing every time (sugar or honey depending on use). I certainly haven't performed any scientific studies but I notice that if I am craving something sweet, the fake stuff doesn't satisfy. I would much rather use the real stuff sparingly than turn to artificial alternatives. I think more people might focus instead on how much they are using, as opposed to looking for substitutes. Maybe sodas and whatnot have skewed people's tastebuds, but really everything doesn't need to be so syrupy sweet all the time - there are other good tastes out there!

Sally Squires: I'm with you. But then I like things less sweet. And I learned at a recent conference on sweeteners sponsored by Oldways at the National Press Club that kids love sweet tastes but that as we age, the preference for sweetness declines a little. That helps explain why kids like some of those treats that many adults find sickeningly sweet!

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Eugene, Oregon: Thanks for all the suggestions from the chat group I received a couple months ago. I wrote asking for clothing strategies for mid-goal weight loss.

The big one was to go ahead and buy some clothes that fit. That has been a big motivator for me to lose 10 more pounds--that waistband reminder. Also, the suggestions to use thrift shops and other alternatives were also priceless.

Another epiphany I had: I checked my own closet for smaller sizes I abandoned when they were too tight, but thought some day I'd fit into again: Hurray! those jeans fit now and are getting too loose!

Thanks to all the chatters who encouraged me to reward myself, and keep up my motivation, by splurging on some non-baggy, well-fitting clothes.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Eugene! That's all great news. Thanks very much for letting us know and thanks to all the Lean Plate Club members who offered assistance. We can be both a force of change and of support. That's what I love about this forum.

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Boston, Mass.: I confess I'm hopelessly addicted to Splenda. I like its flavor better than sugar in many recipes. I use it in sweet/sour vegetable recipes (red cabbage with cider vinegar, caraway and Splenda, for instance), desserts and salad dressings. It makes my sugar-free life much happier. Here are a few favorite applications:

Mint Pesto:

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup walnuts

1/8 cup seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup organic canola oil

1 oz feta cheese

1 splenda packet

Whirrr in the blender, taste and adjust oil and vinegar. The amounts can vary and the result is always wonderful. This is not low fat (or calorie) but the flavor is so wonderful and intense, that a teaspoon or two will brighten up many things (lamb, salads, goat and feta cheeses, sandwiches, etc.)

Grapefruit, avocado and fennel salad:

Slice grapefruit, ripe avocado and fennel and drape over over arugula or other greens. Mix equal amounts of canola oil, seasoned rice vinegar and fresh grapefruit juice with a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard and a Splenda packet. Pour over salad. Heavenly!

Superb chocolate sauce can be made in the microwave with a packet of Splenda, a little milk, salt, cocoa powder, and a smidge of butter. This is great to serve with frozen banana slices or fresh strawberries.

Janet

Cambridge, Mass.

Sally Squires: There's nothing wrong with liking Splenda. Thanks for the great recipes. Looks like you really enjoy cooking.

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Annandale, Va.: Looking for a good Swiss recipe for kids. Can you give me some suggestions?

Sally Squires: Hey Annandale: Not sure I know what you mean. Can you offer some more details so we can help? Do you mean Swiss cheese? Or Swiss foods?

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Omaha, Neb.: What are the advantages (health or otherwise) of Agave Nectar over traditional sugar?

Sally Squires: I'm so glad you asked, Omaha. Blue agave nectar is a liquid that is extracted from a cactus like plant. Proponents say that it has a lower glycemic index than other sugars. That means it may not spike blood sugar after eating as much as table sugar. But I haven't seen the scientific studies to support that. Calorie wise, it has just 1 calorie less per teaspoon than table sugar. It's about six calories less per teaspoon than honey. And it is rather pricey. But I like the flavor. It could be an alternative to honey, molasses. etc.

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Richmond, Va.: I do not use artificial sweeteners. I get very angry when I buy something that says "less sugar," thinking I'm getting oatmeal with less sugar and a less sweet taste, only to find out it's sweetened with artificial chemicals. (1) manufacturers should clearly label (with BIG letters) when artificial sweeteners are used, (2) manufacturers should make more stuff that isn't as sweet, simply by using less sugar. It's why I like HonestTea: they have a lightly sweetened tea, less sugar, less super sweet taste, more tea taste and no artificial sweeteners. Rather than replacing that craving for a super sweet taste with artificial (cancer-causing) sweeteners, why don't we aim for learning to love the natural taste of things with less sweetening!

Sally Squires: Excellent points, Richmond. It's kind of like bit portions or eating too much salt. And it's also why the more we make our own foods from scratch--or patronize companies such as Honest Tea that don't overload products with added sugar--the more we can be in control of what we eat. Just one last point: saccharin is the only sugar substitute now on the market that is a known carcinogen.

Thanks much for weighing in.

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Columbia, S.C.: I enjoy your column and would like to see more vegetarian and vegan recipes as I think more and more of us are making the choice to be meat free for ethical and health reasons.

Thanks.

Teresa

Sally Squires: Duly noted, Columbia. And for those who have not yet read today's Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, I asked for suggestions about what you would like to see more of. We are about to celebrate our eighth anniversary! It's a good time to take stock. So I welcome input from everyone on how they'd like to see Lean Plate Club continue to grow and what features you'd like to see more of--and less of!Thanks.

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washingtonpost.com: Which Food Additives Are Safe? Which Aren't? (Center for Science in the Public Interest)

Sally Squires: Here's more on food additives from the May issue of Nutrition Action, published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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Central Va.: How can anyone motivate themselves? It should be easy when you've accomplished good things like losing around 100 pounds and recovering from a bad injury. Yet, I still have residual pain and it's hard to exercise and I still reach for food as a comfort/coping mechanism. I see progress, trust me. I'm wearing size 16/18 stuff as opposed to 24/26; I'm able to shop at places that I couldn't before, I'm happy that I can walk and even my indulgences are way better than before I started. Yet, I'm aware that I'm sabotaging myself when I reach for some more cheese or have a treat in the office AND I'm not able to work out like before. It's very frustrating and I should be able to stop myself in time but I only seem to have the remorseful part of me activated and not the self-control part. Any tips or is this something that will pass? I'm just afraid this might be the beginning of regaining all of this. This is the hardest part -- keeping it off. I'm not even at my lowest that I should be but this is hard.

Sally Squires: You have hit the $64,000 question on the head. In many ways, weight loss is the easy part. Living with weight loss is what separates those who succeed from those who don't. And just as losing weight is a very personal effort--don't let anyone tell you otherwise--so is finding the motivation to maintain weight.

But, I can offer plenty of tools and assistance. Take a look at our growing gallery of Successful Losers. I'll post a link in a minute with the help of our producer, Elizabeth Terry. (Thanks Elizabeth!) I think you'll find some inspiration there. Shape magazine, Weight Watchers magazine and others also offer success stories to help keep you inspired.

Some habits clearly seem to be linked with long term success. Among them: weighing yourself regularly (or otherwise keeping tabs on your weight and making adjustments as needed.) Eating breakfast. Getting plenty of fruit and vegetables. And being active at least 60 to 90 minutes daily. (It doesn't all have to be at once.) You might even join us on the National President's Challenge. I'll post a link to that too in a minute. Challenge ends on May 14, but we plan to keep a group going.

You might also enlist a buddy. Or if you want, I'll set up a special section on our LPC discussion group site where you and others could post your progress, thoughts, daily. etc. Respond in this chat or e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com. I'll put it up today.

And please let us know how it goes. We're here to cheer you on and commiserate when things don't go as well as you had hoped.

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Anonymous: Sally-

I made my first smoothie today and it was really good:

1 cup vanilla light soy milk

1/2 cup Fage 0% fat Greek yogurt

1 small frozen banana

2T flax meal

1T frozen raspberries

2 pkgs Splenda

splash of vanilla

dash of cinnamon

3 ice cubes

It was really good!!

I use Splenda almost all the time, but unfortunately still do most baking with the real thing.

Why can't you sub Splenda for sugar in cookies and get the same results??

Sally Squires: Yum. I'm a huge fan of smoothies. Here's my recipe, which is also in Secrets of the Lean Plate Club (St. Martins Press)

1 cup nonfat yogurt

1 banana (frozen if you wish)

1 cup berries (frozen if you wish)

1/4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice

1 cup ice

1 dash of vanilla (optional)

Mix together. Enjoy. No added sugar. It has about 200-250 calories depending on fruit, etc.

Enjoy.

And you can use Splenda in baking. Or you can use one of the Splenda sugar blends. Also Domino has a blend that the Food section tested. You might check it out in tomorrow's Food section.

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weighing in again - my 2 cents: I'm not attacking the poster, but this is an example of what I mean about appreciating other flavors - the grapefruit, avocado and fennel salad sounds really delicious, loaded with flavorful ingredients, but I think this would be perfect without any sweetener. Why does salad dressing need to be sweetened? And even if it does, how about a splash of honey, or even add some strawberries or apple for sweetener. (I realize this poster confessed to simply liking Splenda - but it just made me wonder why salad dressing should be sweet or why we think it ought to be.)

Sally Squires: Here's where personal taste figures in. For me, a sweet salad dressing wouldn't be the first choice either. But I can understand if one loves that sweet flavor. Then Splenda may be a good option. (Now I would also try Whey-Low too.)

It's all about finding what works best for each of us.

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washingtonpost.com: Eli's Coming. Keep Up With Him (Lean Plate Club column, March 25)

Sally Squires: Here's the link about the President's National Challenge. We formed a group between Lean Plate Club members and the Misfits.

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Splenda??: Sally, what exactly is Splenda?? I have seen many recipes calling for it, but is it healthy? Are there possible health risks with Splenda? I read in your chat that it is good to bake with - would it be healthier to use this than regular sugar?

Sally Squires: Not necessarily healthier, but lower in calories. Splenda contain sucralose that is made from sugar. I'll post more informational links in a minute.

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Pittsburgh, Pa. : Hi Sally, great column today.

Personally, I don't mind the artificial sweeteners at all, and find they help cut corners on my calorie count over the course of the day. Though more often than not I pour them over a glass filled with ice, or something to that effect.

My brother, on the other hand, has been Type-2 diabetic for about 6 years now, has recently discovered that his blood glucose numbers are much better in control if he uses no artificial sugars at all. I am fairly sure that this is as a result of the sweeteners leaving him more hungry, and eating more than he should.

There are other issues for him as well that make it more difficult than the average person to control diet, so anything that makes things work better!

Sally Squires: Very interesting and another example of why it's important to find what really does work for each of us. I prefer using a very small amount of sugar to using sugar substitutes only because I can taste them and just don't like the taste. So I'd rather do without. How about the rest of you?

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carcinogens: There was a great article in the New Yorker on artificial sweeteners, from the history to cutting edge research. (including the accidental discovery, a scientist was licking his finger to turn a page.) What struck me the most was one scientist who said he'd never use aspartame after seeing the chemical structure because it was so similar to bleach.

Sally Squires: Very interesting. I think I just found a link to the New Yorker archive with an abstract of this article which was published in 2006. We'll try to post it in a minute for those who would like to read more. Thanks!

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washingtonpost.com: Sucralose.com

Sally Squires: Here's more on Splenda.

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washingtonpost.com: Splenda's website

Sally Squires: More info on Splenda and sucralose

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Highland, Md.: My sweet secret is Medjool dates. Two or three after dinner with plenty of 1% milk to wash it down hit the spot and banish chocolate cravings, all manner of other temptations, and not to mention, guilt.

Sally Squires: Those dates are so good. And they count towards your daily intake of fruit. I sometimes slip in an almond or pistachios. Yum. And you've given us a way to satisfy our sweet tooth without added sugar. Thanks!

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washingtonpost.com: Abstract of "The Search for Sweet" (The New Yorker)

Sally Squires: Here's the New Yorker link as promised...

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Here's where personal taste figures in.: And what we've conditioned ourselves to expect. It's just like salt, when you eliminate it, you're (eventually) pleasantly surprised what distinct flavors you can taste when your taste buds aren't distracted by the sweet taste.

Sally Squires: Salt is an excellent example. Studies suggest that salt preference can change in about 2 to 3 weeks. So you can gradually reduce it and you'll get acclimated very quickly. Thanks!

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bored of exercise: I too am trying to lose 90 lbs and I find exercise boring. I have an elliptical machine at home and I take walks, but I get bored long before I get tired. I can't use headphones when I walk because I push a stroller and my husband is concerned that I wouldn't hear a car coming too close, etc. I keep the TV on when I'm on the elliptical machine, but even then find it hard to hear the TV over the noise of the machine or I just find it easier to concentrate on the program when I'm sitting there watching. I know this sounds daft, and maybe people use health and weight loss as their motivation to keep going. Someone that just never seems to cut it for me. Anyone have thoughts on keeping themselves moving? 60-90 minutes is a long time unless you cut it up throughout the day quite a bit.

Sally Squires: Have you tried exercise DVD's or tapes? There are so very many to choose from. Collage Video is a great source. Also check out Netflix, your cable company (Comcast offers free exercise videos) and the local library. I've been trying to start a section at the LPC DG to swap exercise videos, DVDs etc. We've been waiting for the legal department to five the final okay. But since we're almost out of time, zip me an e-mail or call me at 1-800-627-1150, ext. 45018 and leave a message if you'd like to have a forum to swap used exercise tapes, DVD's videos. I'll try to set that up ASAP if there's interest.

Also, you might enlist an exercise buddy. That can be the best antidote to boredom. Or sign up for a walk for charity. You'll have a goal. You can often get training with it and you'll have plenty of company and do something good.

Please check back and tell us how things are going. We're rooting for you!

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Winona, Minnesota: Hi, A co-worker and I take turns buying new things to share and try; saves money. He just got organic tapioca syrup. I didn't care for the taste...too sweet and not as yummy as honey...it's a different sort of sweet. I would like to get some agave nectar syrup to try as sweetener. I tried it in some sort of organic juice long ago; all I remember is really sweet. Sidenote: just gave this same co-worker Ak-Mak and Laughing Cow...he loved them both.

Sally Squires: What a smart idea! Thanks much Winona.

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Squeezing in one more tip from Berkeley: I have lost 8 lbs recently (25 more to go!) and my biggest motivator is an electronic scale with OUNCES on it. Every day if the ounces move just a little (either direction), I am motivated!

Sally Squires: Congratulations! And as always, whatever works. Having ounces is a lovely idea since you can see progress that might not otherwise be visible. Keep it up! We're rooting for you too.

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Sweet Tooth, Arlington: The sweeter something is, the better to me! But I don't have the discipline to use just a little sugar, so I use artificial sweeteners quite a bit. I put four packets (two Equal, two Sweet 'n Low) in my coffee every morning and in brewed iced tea and cold cereal whenever I have it. Also have one diet soda a day with lunch and drink Crystal Light with dinner. (I do drink 12+ glasses of plain water daily). I can't see myself changing/breaking the habit unless the FDA says there is a undeniable link between these sweeteners and cancer...

Sally Squires: And there's no need for you to break this habit since it works for you and for now. Thanks.

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Kid-Friendly Swiss Foods: If the kids are old enough, make chocolate or cheese fondue. To make it more healthy, avoid the pound cake and bread dippers and go for veggies and fruit.

Sally Squires: There we go! Thanks for weighing in!

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Montreal, QC: You're so right about it being in the tongue of the taster. I'm all for using sugar substitutes but every artificial one I've tried leaves a horrible chemical aftertaste. It's gotten to the point where I won't drink or eat anything diet/low calorie etc. because all I end up tasting is chemicals. I'm interested in trying other substitutes and would appreciate feedback on the blue agave nectar, and Whey Low. Also I've used maple sugar as an alternative to sugar, and it has 2% of your daily intake for calcium and trace amounts of other minerals such as manganese, iron, and potassium. The only downside is the 15 calories per teaspoon, but I just watch how much I use.

Sally Squires: Glad to know that I'm not alone in being able to detect these sugar substitutes. What I liked about both agave and Whey Low is that neither had that bitter aftertaste. But then neither has anything artificial in it either!Thanks

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washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club Success Stories

Sally Squires: For those who need inspiration, you'll find plenty here!

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Philadelphia, Pa.: I just wanted to send a suggestion that helped me. I always ate cereal for breakfast but was starving by lunchtime. I also never wanted to bother cooking eggs on weekdays.

I've added in protein by switching to a cereal with protein (Kashi Go Lean Crunch (no affiliation)). I'm now not hungry until lunchtime and as a result seem to eat less at both lunch and dinner.

I also want to recommend a healthier fast food trick --ordering things Fresco style at Taco Bell. They replace the cheese and sauce with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, yum.

Sally Squires: Great suggestions, Philly. Thanks for sending them along. And for those who want to make good choices at various restaurants, check out our growing list of nutrition info for restaurants at www.leanplateclub..com

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Vermont: Just a little question: I like to make my own applesauce and prefer to leave the skins on while the apples cook. In the end (and especially if I use very red apples), the applesauce color is really beautiful. More important though, are there nutritional advantages to cooking this way, rather than removing the skins beforehand?

Thanks!

Sally Squires: Yes. The skins add fiber to your lovely home-made applesauce. Yum. Sounds like a great recipe.

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boredom: I also get bored when riding my exercise bike. 2 things work for me: radio (NPR) somehow requires me to actively engage in listening (whereas TV can let you zone in and out) so I'm less aware of exercising.

Also, reading. I have a magazine rack on my exercise bike and I savor the chance to reader my New Yorker or Newsweek, which I feel like I rarely find time for otherwise. What was a chore now is partly a chance to indulge in a long interesting article. It's amazing how I can lose myself in a long article and be surprised my hour is up!

(TV just isn't that engaging usually)

Sally Squires: And if all goes as planned, you could soon also listen to new Lean Plate Club podcasts while you work out. So as they say on radio and television, stay tuned! Please zip me an e-mail about what you'd like to hear on LPC podcasts. Or call 202-334-5018 or 1-800-627-1150, ext. 45018.

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Why did sweet tea become the norm?: Washington used to be an unsweetened iced tea city (as did most of the South, except Georgia). I could get unsweetened iced tea at fast food places. Now, even at Wendy's, the only place I can get unsweetened ice tea, they sometimes make the mistake of giving me the sweet stuff, which is undrinkable. It's like drinking syrup.

Sally Squires: Yes it is. I'd add to your list flavored teas. Now when I order iced tea at restaurants I ask if it is plain and unsweetened or has flavor added as well as sugar. I also make my brew at home with Lipton Cold Brew tea. It's quite good. Add a fresh lemon and a sprig of mint for a lovely beverage. I'm sipping it now and have no connection with the company.

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Satisfying the sweet tooth: Hi Sally,

I have type 1 diabetes (and have had since I was 11; almost 17 years now), and I have to say that artificial sweeteners make my life a lot easier. I can drink diet soda without messing up my blood sugar like regular soda does.

I really like to add a small handful (just under 1/4 cup) of nuts to unsweetened apple sauce. It makes for a nice treat, and it's not overwhelmingly sweet (plus, you're getting fruit from the apple sauce and protein, fiber, and unsaturated fat from the nuts!). I also enjoy plain fruit with a few nuts or a tablespoon of all natural peanut butter (which is becoming easier and easier to find at the grocery store).

Sally Squires: I'm so glad that you weighed in because sugar substitutes are extremely important for those like you who simply can't eat sugar. That's why it's great that we have so many option. And as for those nuts, not only do they provide good flavor and crunch, but they're also loaded with healthy fat. It's a very smart addition. Thanks for weighing in.

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Chicago, Ill.: I am dietary fructose intolerant and cannot have a lot of regular sugar. But more importantly I could never use the new products with fructose as the base and Splenda is completely out. Splenda and sorbitol both make me more sick than fructose. I wish people and companies wouldn't use them in everything. And it seems like they are in everything now, pills, drinks, food (anything labeled sugar free). I think this will get worse for everyone as well, because most studies show about 30% of the population is fructose intolerant. And to the people using Splenda - please tell anyone you might be serving. I would have expected homemade pesto to be completely sugar free.

Sally Squires: You raise an excellent point, Chicago. Through the years, I've learned to ask all my guests if they have any special food allergies or concerns. I'm with you: it's surprising how many products now have ingredients that you might never have expected. Thanks for chiming in.

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EGG YOLKS: Hi Sally, I eat a tremendous amount of egg whites (LOVE THEM!) and usually throw out the yolk. Can you recommend how I can store yolks, for how long? Also, any good uses for them that are healthy? I feel bad being wasteful and eggs are expensive!

Sally Squires: You can now buy fresh products that are just egg whites in the dairy compartment, which may be one answer for you. And by the way, egg whites have zero cholesterol or fat and are loaded with protein. So they're a nutritious choice.

I believe that those egg yolks will only last a day or so refrigerated. Since we're out of time, check the USDA's Food Safety and Information Service.

www.fsis.usda.gov for more

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Fighting boredom: I've struggled with the same problem. Here's what works pretty well for me: I set up a DVR/cable box and DVD player with the TV in front of my treadmill, and I've learned which shows help to take my mind off the clock, and propel me through my workout. (For me, some shows that I like to watch, such as "Law and Order," don't help me with that. You have to experiment to find what works.) Find some guilty pleasure shows (I ordinarily don't watch much reality TV, so for me, it's "Survivor" and "The Biggest Loser") that you'll only allow yourself to watch while working out -- so if you don't work out, then you don't get to see them. Use Netflix to catch up on entire TV series that you completely missed.

If you just rely on what happens to be on at the time, you'll always be able to find some excuse that it's not a "good workout show." Customizing is key!

Sally Squires: Great suggestions! Thanks

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Arlington, Va.: Sally,

I just wanted to share this with you. I was "on a diet" from August 1, 1993 until about 3 months ago. I'm only 25 years old. During that time, I lost about 20 pounds and then proceeded to gain/lose/gain until I had gained over 100 more than I had started. I tried everything: counting calories, Atkins, South Beach, WW, Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, plus a number that I don't even know the names of. For the past 2 years, I've been gaining and losing the same 20 pounds.

And 3 months ago, I stopped. I put away the diet books and completely changed my perspective on food. I don't count calories anymore. I don't weigh my food. I don't watch portion control. I've started just (finally!) listening to my body. I eat when I'm hungry, and I eat whatever I want.

I've lost 29 pounds (as of almost two weeks ago, the last time I weighed myself). And I completely realize that there is a possibility that I could gain it back, but I don't think I will. I've also started walking; not because I think I have to, but because I like walking.

Sometimes I see people write in and ask what to do when hunger hits. You and the people reading give tips like brushing your teeth, etc. If you are TRULY hungry, though, my advice would be to eat something. Eat slowly, and stop when you aren't hungry.

I know it sounds impossible, that it takes "will power," but it doesn't. I just wanted to offer a different perspective on this. There are other ways.

Sally Squires: Congratulations! Not only have you provided us with inspiration, but you put into practice the idea that small changes can add up to big rewards.

And you're right: thwarting true hunger with stop-gap measures won't work. Sometimes one really needs food. I also think you will enjoy an upcoming column that I plan to do on weight loss bloggers. Watch this space!

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Atlanta, Georgia: I would like to see more recipes in the Lean Plate column... and also more suggested websites on healthy eating and living.

Sally Squires: Great! Me too! You're on. Thanks Atlanta. And don't forget to look on line for some lower calorie sweet tooth recipes tomorrow in Food.

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Gainesville, Virginia: Because of an autoimmune illness I am at an increased risk of developing lymphoma. I was surprised to see the studies linking Splenda to an increased risk. I am now interested in Stevia and whether you can cook with it?

Sally Squires: I posted a link to a lot of information on stevia in the e-mail newsletter. You might also check out Whey Low, which is made from natural sugars. Hope that helps. Thanks

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washingtonpost.com: B. Smith to the Rescue (Lean Plate Club, Dec. 18, 2007)

Sally Squires: Here's the B Smith recipe for low-fat cheesecake.

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Medford, Ore.: I've tried Stevia and I really don't like it in the powdered form. At a recent garden show I saw plants for sale though and I was wondering how you would use it straight from the plant - are the leaves sweet or do you have to wait until it produces seeds or ???

Also, was wondering what you think about Maple syrup as a sweetener. I've been hearing about people using that for their cereal instead of sugar but it seems to me the calorie difference wouldn't be significant.

Sally Squires: I don't know about using the leaves, but the site in today's e-mail newsletter may have more. I'll see what else I can find out. Also, maple syrup could be an option, but it has about the same calories as other sugars.

You might true blue agave nectar as an option is you like maple syrup. Or molasses would be another option. But they are all sugars.

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Falls Church, Virginia: Hi Sally!

I do use sweeteners, mostly Splenda and/or Equal (in the blue packet). Here's a recipe that I love from South Beach Diet book. This recipe has helped me cut my craving for candy at night! (amounts are approximate, I just wing it)

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1 sugar substitute packet

1 teaspoon (or to taste) vanilla

Blend together until ricotta is smooth, and vanilla and sugar substitute are blended in. Enjoy.

You can also add other flavorings that will work, but I love the vanilla. It's so easy, and there's something about it that has helped tame my night time sweet tooth!

Sally Squires: Thanks!

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Alexandria, Va.: By FAR my favorite "sweet cheat" when baking is to use diet soda! One box of standard cake mix plus one can of diet soda, mix, pour, and bake as directed! The cake retains a lot of its fluffiness and is incredibly moist! Ice with a little Cool Whip (I use Cool Whip Free) and you're good to go! Just be careful if you're using Cool Whip icing to make sure the cakes are completely cooled before adding the topping, and try to keep them chilled... Cool Whip melts. I like making chocolate cake mixes with Cherry Coke Zero and white or red velvet cakes with Sprite Zero. Happy Baking!!!

Sally Squires: Same to you Alexandria. And I think that you'll really enjoy the recipes in tomorrow's Food section. Also see them online at Washingtonpost.com

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Bowie, Md.: I'm a big fan of Whey Low -- ever since hearing about it in the Washington Post over a year ago. They have both brown sugar and maple sugar varieties that are delicious in oatmeal, and even have a powdered sugar. I especially use it when baking -- I don't have any of the texture or taste issues that can happen when using Splenda. I even used it in making apple pie and cranberry sauce last Thanksgiving and none of the extended family who ate it could tell they weren't made with sugar!

Sally Squires: Thanks for that feedback Bowie. Only one word of caution, since Whey Low contains lactose, be sure to let anyone who is lactose intolerant know that you've used it or they could be in for an unwelcome surprise. Thanks

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Grand Rapids, Michigan: I gave up all artificial sweeteners last fall (not that I ever had much) and I've had far fewer headaches since. My sweet tooth is also much reduced -- I eat my oatmeal with only 1 tsp of sugar now, rather than two packets of sweetener, and I can drink my coffee almost black.

Sally Squires: There you go: Another great example of finding what works best for you. Thanks Grand Rapids!

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Va.: Can you check re: whether these Archer Farms products are sold at Target in the food section? I believe I have seen that brand in the frozen food section there.

washingtonpost.com: Archer Farms is a Target house brand (sold only at Target).

Sally Squires: And this appears to be one of the brands involved in the new recall from USDA of meat and poultry products possibly contaminated with listeria.

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Madison, Wis.: Are you sure Whey Low is what it's said to be? The calories per tsp. don't add up. I went online and found the following dubious claim with no substantiation:

""The three main ingredients are sucrose, fructose and lactose - all common sugars," he said.

"There is an interaction among the three sugars that prevents the sucrose and lactose from being fully absorbed in the small intestine."

Basically, that's where nutrients are broken down and absorbed into the body, he said, adding, "If it doesn't happen there, it doesn't happen."

Instead, the sucrose and the lactose pass into the large intestine, which contains good and bad bacteria."

This sounds FISHY to me.

Susan Nitzke, PhD, RD

Professor, Nutritional Sciences,

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Sally Squires: Duly noted and I will check again with the company. Thanks very much for weighing in.

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Eden Prairie, Minnesota: Hi Sally, Yesterday I made some biscotti for my uncle who is a diabetic. I used a favorite recipe, substituting Splenda for the sugar. The cookies have a different texture, more biscuit-like. The cookie raised higher, but did not spread. For the frosting, which is usually lemon juice and confectionery sugar, I placed Splenda with corn starch in a blender to make it into a powder. It lumped when mixed with the lemon juice. The blender solved that problem. Overall the taste is a bit bitter, but not too bad. I am mailing them out to him today.

Cindy in Minn.

Sally Squires: Sounds great, except be sure to let your uncle know that there is corn starch in the cookies. That counts as a carbohydrate and he needs to take that into account when he calculates his grams of carbs for the day.

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washingtonpost.com: All Substitutes are Not Equal (Lean Plate Club column, May 6)

Sally Squires: As promised.

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alternative sweeteners: No question, just food for thought.

Fortunately, in my family we don't have a problem with diabetes but we still consume alternative sweeteners without realizing it - and that is a health problem for us.

My daughter gets migraines from aspartame (Nutra Sweet) and my husband will spend the night running to the bathroom if he ingests a single Splenda-sweetened cookie for after-supper dessert. Me, I simply don't like the icky taste that they imbue.

We have to check labels and grill home cooks about ingredients before eating anything sweet.

This tells me that alternative sweeteners are perhaps not as innocuous as we are led to believe. Still, I'll give all-natural stevia a try because there are so many diabetics in our community.

washingtonpost.com: All Substitutes are Not Equal (Lean Plate Club column, May 6)

Sally Squires: I have a cousin who gets the same headaches from NutraSweet. Your husband's reaction is a new one to me for Splenda. But it's another great example of why we all need to read those labels and figure out what works best for us.

Thanks very much

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NYC:

I'm 74 years old. In the last 2-3 years, I take almost daily Vitamin D3 (1000IU). Vitamin D3 has become recently available over the counter in some drug stores. According to my 2007 blood tests, my vitamin D-250H level has increased in the last three years to 46 from 22 ng/ml in 2004. I also take calcium carbonate tablets regularly and consume low fat milk, cheese and yogurt. I try to get the required amount of sun at least 8 months of the year. My doctor started me on Boniva 9 months ago, and there has been improvement in other bone related markers.

washingtonpost.com: A Too-Good-To-Be-True Nutrient? (Lean Plate Club column, April 29)

Sally Squires: Good for you. And as you'll see in the Lean Plate Club attached to this posting, a number of experts are pondering whether vitamin D recommendations should be increased, especially for older people. Glad to know things are going much better for you with these changes. Thanks for chiming in.

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Sally Squires: We're out of time. Thanks to all for a great chat. Winners today are

Bored with exercise, Kid-friendly Swiss foods; Fighting Boredom, Chicago and Columbia SC. Please e-mail me with your name address and please put winner in the subject line.

Also, if anyone in Nashville or in Rockford Illinois would like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your local newspaper please let me know at leanplateclub@washpost.com.

Until next week: eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club!

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