Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, May 13, 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. www.leanplateclub.com/group.

The Archives:

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Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! Among other topics, we're talking blogging for weight loss--perhaps the 21st century equivalent of dialing for dollars. Have you got a favorite weight loss, nutrition or exercise blogger? Share yours with us today.

Also, I'll post a link to an interesting blog sent to me by someone at the Hartford Courant, one of the Lean Plate Club subscribing papers. Three Courant staffers went on a raw diet for 30 days. They're now two weeks past this experiment but still blogging as they re-adjust. Or not.

Have you ever tried eating just raw food? We'd love to hear about your experiences.

The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-box now. In it, find links to recipes for:

Low-fat Indian cuisine from the Vegetarian Resource Group in Baltimore. Also, Five-Spice Turkey and Lettuce Wraps from the Food Network and Eating Well magazine. There are also Drop a Dress Size recipes for dinner from Woman's Day magazine.

Prizes today are:

WomenHeart's All Heart Family Cookbook by Kathy Kastan and Suzanne Banfield (Rodale)

Great Yoga Instructors Yoga Journal by Baron Baptiste, Seane Corn and Shiva Rea (DVDs) by Yoga Journal

The Biggest Lower Success Secrets by the Biggest Loser Experts and Cast (Rodale)

Spa Living by Sunamita Lim (Gibbs Smith)

Yoga Body by Stacy McCarthy (DVD)

Here's the deal: Assist someone on this Web chat. Share the name of a weight loss, exercise or nutrition blogger that you admire. Tell us about your success in changing habits. Or share a food find or healthy recipe--great tasting, of course--and one of these prizes could be yours.

In making this offering, we're not endorsing any particular volume or DVD. It's merely a way to show you the wide sources of information that available as you seek to make healthy habits changes.

Now on to the chat!


New York City: Hi Sally,

One of the best blogs out there is Half of Me-- by another weight loss blogger, Jennette Fulda of Indianapolis, who has also lost half her weight, from 372 lbs. to about 180 lbs. She and Dietgirl are cyber-friends, in fact. Jennette has just published a wonderful and funny book about her weight loss journey called "Half-Assed." She was featured this past weekend on the Today Show. Her blog and book are well worth checking out.

Sally Squires: What a great title for a blog and a book! I'm looking forward to featuring more bloggers in upcoming Lean Plate Club columns. So Jennette Fulda goes on the list. Thanks very much.


washingtonpost.com: 30 Days of Raw


Birmingham, Ala.: Best fast food: Hands down it's Wendy's small chili and side salad. I pour the chili over the salad, so I don't even need any dressing. A tasty and filling meal that is inexpensive, and low in fat and calories.

Sally Squires: Yum. Sounds good Birmingham. For those of you who have not yet opened up today's e-mail newsletter, I asked for your best fast food choices. And thanks to all who sent me suggestions about what you'd like to read in the Lean Plate Club column and e-mail newsletter. I love getting your suggestions. Keep 'em coming...E-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com anytime.


Bowie, Md.: The best kind of fast food is the kind you fix at home. With natural wholesome ingredients. The other stuff is useless.

Sally Squires: Yep. And I might put Au Bonne Pain's Portions in that category. They're made fresh daily and have 200 calories or less per serving.


Centreville, Va.: I like Body Consciousness. It's helping me to understand my attitude to my body and food.

Sally Squires: Okay, thanks Centreville. That makes two on the list.


Narberth, Pa.: I am also partial to McDonald's. Sometimes in the morning, if I want an egg, I get an egg and cheese biscuit and skip the biscuit. Also, I sometimes stop at Dunkin Donuts for egg and cheese on an english muffin. And, when I want a sweet, McDonald's ice cream cone at 150 calories is hard to beat.

Sally Squires: Now there's portion control at work. There are also some pretty good yogurt parfaits at McDonald's, although they are so sweet to my taste that I'd eat them as a dessert. Thanks for weighing in.


Washington, D.C.: Maybe you can help settle a debate -- I like to use olive oil in my diet -- I consume probably 2 tablespoons every of couple of days. I think it's good because it has unsaturated fats and helps raise my good cholesterol. My girlfriend says it's bad and I'm eating too much. Which of us is right?

Sally Squires: You are. Olive oil is a wonderful choice because it tastes great and it's mostly healthy fat. A tablespoon has 119 calories and about 14 grams of fat including just 2 grams of saturated fat. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines says it's okay for adults to have healthy oils, such as olive oil daily. Recommended intake ranges is about 2 tablespoons daily. So you're well within the limit (which includes fat that you might cook with, put on your salad or spread on bread.)

The trick, however, is to eat these fats while still staying within your calorie range for the day. Hope that helps and hope you win something good from your bet!


Fairfax, Va.: On the topic of blogs, I love the Eat Like Me blog from a dietician at the Self Web site Self. There are many other blogs where people post their meals but it is nice seeing how an RD makes her choices! In fact, Sally, I'd love to see you do this kind of thing for a week-- it really helps me be more creative and thoughtful with my own meals.

Sally Squires: Hmm. Interesting idea. Perhaps I should do it on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group which is published daily. I hope that you're all members of that too. It's a new social network and there are about 450 LPCers there and climbing. Thanks for weighing in.


Washington, D.C.: Hello fellow health and fitness enthusiasts!

Many of us are just so busy with work, family, church, hobbies, school, that we don't find enough time in the day to fit in exercise.

So, I wrote an article on my blog which detailed an "Express Workout" complete with video links to show you how to do the exercises. Check it out here: Living the Fit Life

My mission, "helping busy people manage healthy lifestyles"

Yours in health.

Sally Squires: Thank you much!


Washington, D.C.: Hello Sally,

As a personal trainer, my specialty area is physical fitness and training; but so many of my clients lack the diet and nutrition skills to really be successful in losing weight. Most trainers stay away from this area but I want to give some basic information but don't want to tread to deeply as I am not a nutritionalist.

What are some of the main nutrition points I should give my clients to help them safely get the weight off fast? Are there some good sites I can maybe refer them to (besides the mypyramid.com)?

Sally Squires: You can't go wrong recommending plenty of fruit and vegetables, some whole grains, a bit of dairy (3 glasses are recommended, but for those who don't like dairy or are lactose intolerant there are other options including calcium fortified orange juice and soy milk products.) Also life would be incomplete without a little healthy fat--a handful of nuts, or a tablespoon of oil or salad dressing,which also helps with absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K from food. And of course lean protein, whether that's beans, or lean poultry, fish, red meat.

Soups and stews are wonderful because they are filled with water and so help one feel full on fewer calories. Ditto for salads and anything high fiber.

And personally, I think that a small piece of dark chocolate daily makes life worth living. But that's just me! :-)

Hope that helps. And yes, learn more at Mypyramid, Mypyramidtracker, Mypyramid menu planner, Nutrition Data, Fit Day and Spark People. We'll try to post links in a minute.

Hope that helps. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Now this may not seem like it would be appropriate to this chat, but I'm looking for a new stroller. I have walked the wheels off of it. I'm thinking a jogger type, but I don't jog. I walk around a great deal, trying to lose baby weight (from 2 years ago!!). The stroller has lost inches on its wheels, but I haven't managed to lose too many inches around my waist. So I'm buying a new stroller (suggestions please) and I'm going to keep on walking.

Sally Squires: That's a great question for this chat. And I'm posting now so that Lean Plate Club members can weigh in with their thoughts. Okay gang, what are your favorite strollers. We used an Aprica, but that "baby" is now a college junior.


Atlanta, Ga.: Chick-fila Chicken Salad with Chicken Strips or Grilled is really good.

Sally Squires: And your posting reminds me, Atlanta, that we have a growing list of nutrition counts for fast foods restaurants on our home page. You can access this list from your Web-accessible phone or PDA.


washingtonpost.com: Fit Day


washingtonpost.com: MyPyramid Tracker


Caesar dressing: I think I'm addicted to my homemade caesar dressing, which calls for mayo instead of raw eggs. Do you have any salad dressings that I could try that are rich and tasty, but get me back on the healthy track? I've heard of a salad dressing that involves tahina and herbs, but not sure how to go about it.

Sally Squires: Here's a Low-Fat Creamy Herb and Parmesan Dressing from Pam Anderson's new book: The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight & Eating Great (Houghton Mifflin)

Makes about 1.5 cups. Serves 12

1 large garlic clove, minced.

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/3 cup light sour cream

2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/4 teaspoon each salt, ground black pepper, dried basil, dried tarragon and dried dill

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese, preferrably Parmagiano-Reggiano

Whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl.(Dressing can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.)

Sorry no calories given. But I'm about to get a new computer program that will allow me to calculate calories at my desk. So stay tuned!


washingtonpost.com: NutritionData


Bowie, Md.: The best kind of fast food is the kind you fix at home. With natural wholesome ingredients. The other stuff is useless.

Sally Squires: Hear, hear! I'll second that. And I'd put pasta, omelets, frittatas and boiled shrimp in that category. Plus, lots of other things. What would you put in your fast (home) food category?


washingtonpost.com: Lean Plate Club


Getting wrinkles: In the last few months I've noticed a few wrinkles around my eyes, crowsfeet. I thought I was too young for that (early 30s). I don't drink or smoke, I have a fairly stressfree lifestyle, and I'm not in the sun for too much. I'm not great at sunblock, but that's because I have super sensitive skin, and I just can't find one that doesnt' make my skin feel like it's burning. (Any sunblock recommendations would be great). I do use a sun hat though. So what's with the wrinkles? And are all of those wrinkle creams bogus? Are they really just here to stay?

Sally Squires: Could be due to dry skin. Could be you're getting a little more sun than you realize. Eucerin makes a sunscreen that you might consider trying. You might also ask your dermatologist for a suggestion.


20005: Regarding mayo -- used in recipes or by itself -- the best light mayo, hands down, is Hellmann's Reduced Fat. It is 20 calories/tablespoon (vs. 100 for regular) and is mighty tasty. I frankly can't tell the difference. I use it to make chicken salad and salmon salad, and also on sandwiches. Sure makes a big difference, calorie-wise.

Sally Squires: Thanks!


Arlington, Va.: My favorite fast food breakfast is the one I do at home. Sunday night cook several eggs, breakfast meat, and/or low-fat cheese. Then weekday morning toast the whole-wheat muffin, top with pre-cooked items. Wrap in foil and set on top of warm toaster while I finish getting ready to leave. By the time I get to work the middle is warm and my breakfast is delicious!

Sally Squires: Great idea! And I'll bet this tastes better--and costs less--than stopping at the drive-through. Thanks.


washingtonpost.com: American Academy of Dermatology


Washington, D.C.: My new snack -- whole wheat pita (the smaller size), hummus, and cucumber slices. The texture is great with the added crunch. If I want something more crunchy, I use Wasa bread.

Sally Squires: I love that combination. And as long as we're talking texture, it's now the time of year when it's so easy to get into making elaborate salads with a whole range of textures, flavors and colors. It certainly makes meals interesting.


Bethesda, Md.: What kind of oil do you recommend for stir-frying? I've been using olive oil, because it's the only oil I keep on hand, but it's not great for that purpose. This weekend, on an impulse, I bought some peanut oil. The label said it was appropriate for stir-frying, and the calories looked the same as olive oil, but I hadn't stopped to do the homework. (I don't stir-fry a lot -- maybe once every couple of weeks -- but I'd like to know what's best and healthiest.)

Sally Squires: No matter what the oil, it generally clocks in at about 119-120 calories. Peanut oil is a good oil for high heat and is often used in Asian stir fry cooking. Canola oil would be another very healthy option. So would safflower or soybean oil.

And as long as we're talking oils, it can add a lot to salad's flavor to add different types of oils, from walnut and macadamia to avocado. (Or actually that's the reverse alphabet, but you know what I mean!)


washingtonpost.com: Skin Cancer Foundation


Fairfax, Va.: Kind of a basic question, but any advice for a finicky eater who is trying to eat healthier? I've found anything with spice isn't my kind of thing and Chinese food is definitely out, too.

Sally Squires: Why not start with fruit and veggies and then branch out to other cuisines? Take a look at Frieda's, which is based in Los Angeles, but has a Website that can be perused on-line. It can give you some ideas of things to try before you hit the grocery or produce stand. It's got some mouth-watering pictures and will give you great ideas.

If you don't like spicey food, you might try various Mediterranean fare. It's quite healthy and goes down easy. So Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern and Spanish food would be some options. These cuisines focus on fruit and vegetables, healthy fat, whole grains, nuts, some fish and then lean protein sources--at least in many cases.


washingtonpost.com: Frieda's


Greenbelt, Md.: I am an educator, who does not sit all day. I am constantly moving and walking my students up and down the stairs or the ramp. With all that walking during the day, why don't I see a difference in my weight? I seem to be maintaining my current weight. I eat sensibly for my 3 meals and usually snack on popcorn, nuts, or fruit. Could it be my age? (50)

Sally Squires: It could be that and what you are eating. If you're in caloric balance--that is your calories in equal your calories out--then you will maintain your weight. Get about a 250 calorie per day deficiet in food and you'll lost about 1/2 pounds per week. Add about 250 calories in activity and you could boost that to about a pound lost per week. Do you wear a pedometer? If not, you might try wearing one to track your steps and see how many you're really taking. Then what do you do when you get home? Are you still active, or mostly inactive?

Another thought is to track your food carefully by weighing and measuring for at least three days and maybe up to a week. Don't change a thing. Just measure and record what you consume. You might be surprised where calories sneak in.

Hope that helps.


Lanham, Md.: I am a Weight Watchers Lifetime Member and my favorite "fast food" restaurants for their low points values are Au Bon Pain for their soups and plain salads, Subway, Wendy's and Boston Market. I can find good, healthy eats at all of these fine establishments!

Sally Squires: Congratulations on being a lifetime member, Lanham. For those who don't know WW, it means that this LPCer has reached goal weight.


Oil: I buy a mix of olive oil and canola oil, good smoke point, nice flavor, less expensive 100 percent olive oil, which I save for dressing.

Sally Squires: That's a smart strategy. Alice Licthtenstein, a researcher at Tufts University in Boston, buys whatever healthy oil is on sale and then just rotates them. That's a smart plan too.


Mother's Day Brunch: I'm wondering just how much damage one can do to weight loss when overeating at one meal. My family took me to a huge (and expensive) buffet brunch for Mother's Day, and I ate A LOT, exceeding my Weight Watchers weekly points. On the plus side, I did not feel hungry again until almost 24 hours later and am right back to 1500 calories a day and exercise. Anyway, I'm hoping I won't be in for too much of a setback when I weigh in later this week.

Sally Squires: Odds are you will be fine, since you went right back to your program. You might cut back a bit on any processed food (which is high in salt) and drink plenty of water, plus boost fruit or veggies a little. They are rich in potassium. That can help to regulate any water retention that may have occurred from that extra food--and likely extra sodium that comes with it.

You did exactly the right thing by going back immediately to your program. One meal off track need not be a big deal--unless you let it be. And adding a little extra activity would hurt either to help compensate for the added calories.


Washington, D.C.: Wondering if you or any of the readers have tested the Debbie Meyer bags. I live by myself and fresh produce spoils before I or my guinea pig (who eats more of it then I do) ever finish it. Thanks.

Sally Squires: I just saw these at Whole Foods last night. Maybe we need to conduct a test...Anybody use them?


Washington, D.C.: RE: Getting Wrinkles, I have very sensitive skin. Aveeno makes a daily moisturizer with SPF 30. It's part of their Positively Radiant line. There is also an SPF 15, but look for the 30. It's a little harder to find but well worth it. It's very gentle, oil-free and hypoallergenic. I make it part of my routine every morning.

Sally Squires: Thanks for weighing in!


Arlington, Va.: Hi Sally! I also love using essence-infused olive oils. My faves are orange and lemon and they add that extra zing to salads or roasted poultry or roasted veggies.

Another way to add flavor without fat: flavored salts. I use one called orange saltburst, from Spiceburst. I can't roast a chicken or sweet potatoes without it!

Sally Squires: I'm guessing that the Saltburst contains some, well, salt. So other options are to use Mrs. Dash's which has a whole line of low sodium flavorings. And I'm with you, those infused oils are quite wonderful. My husband's favorite is an olive oil infused with black or white truffles. We used to get it at Trader Joe's, but sadly they have stopped carrying it. I've seen some somewhat reasonably priced versions at Whole Foods, but the bottle is less than half the size.


Framingham, Maine for quick, delicious and nutritious: Hi Sally: For an easy fix meal but one that is delicious and nutritious, I use a whole wheat pita pocket, 1/4c fat free ricotta cheese, cinnamon and fresh mint leaves, and some very thin fruit slices of your choice... mango or papaya are very nice. Spread the ricotta after you mix in 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, then add the fruit/mint and you could even add some pine nuts or thin almonds for additional texture. With your own beverage it's a meal. Enjoy.

Sally Squires: That sounds great. Yum. And here's also a good example of how switching to whole wheat pita is an easy substitution that provides more flavor and fiber. Thanks.


Fairfax, Va.: I make my own "Egg McMuffins." I stick a high-fiber English Muffin in the toaster. Meanwhile, I spray a small bowl with cooking spray, add 1/4 cup Egg Beaters (or other brand egg substitute) and microwave for 1 minute. Put the egg on the toasted muffin and add a slice of fat free cheese or veggie cheese. Much cheaper than an Egg McMuffin, and better for you.

Sally Squires: There you go. A great example of taking things into your hands. Thanks.


Alexandria, Va.: More of a comment. Here's my lunch today: a small 'head' of broccoli, cut into pieces, 45 seconds in the microwave with a bit of water (pretend it's being steamed) and lemon.

half a red pepper (good price at Giant).

Some Israeli hummus.

Dinner tonight: green beans and spinach, sauteed in olive oil, with a bunch of tofu grilled on the foreman grill. Mix it together with tumeric and ginger.

Actually, satisfying and tasty. and couldn't be quicker to make.

Sally Squires: And also, nothing here is terribly expensive. Plus, that broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable which may help thwart cancer. (Cauliflower, cabbage and Brussel sprouts are others.) I love that Israeli hummus, but am determined to learn how to make my own home-made hummus with the help of a recipe from Cook's Illustrated. And that Foreman grill is a good alternative to broiling. We used one when we renovated our kitchen last year. Thanks for chiming in.


Brooklet, Ga.: My fast food takes about six min. I cook angel hair pasta al dente because it cooks quickly. Then add a dollop of Classico pesto right out of the frig. A serving of good for you olive oil, garlic, basil and romano cheese with low glycemic pasta. Yum!!

Sally Squires: A perfect example of healthy food, made fast! Thanks Brooklet.


Cranbury, N.J.: The Debbie Meyer bags are wonderful -- my produce wouldn't stay more than 3 days and now it lasts 7. Worth it!

Sally Squires: Interesting. And we'll try to post a link for these bags in a minute. Thanks for the feedback.


washingtonpost.com: GreenBags


Jonesboro, Ark.: The Web page on the surgery would not pull up can you please give me more info on the type 2 diabetes surgery.


Sally Squires: Sorry about that Jonesboro. We'll check the link. For those who have not yet read the Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter today, I included a link to an article about an experimental surgical procedure to help treat type 2 diabetes.


Manassas, Va.: I would love to have the surgery but as a type 1 diabetic it really wouldn't help me except for the weight loss that I still need. I would love to be in the trials for the islet transplants. It would be so nice not to constantly test, take insulin, and worry so much. Even a two week break would be a blessing after 12 years.

Sally Squires: I can only imagine, Manassas. And for those who don't know, type 1 diabetes used to be called Juvenile Diabetes. It's a disorder of the body's immune system. Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult onset diabetes. It's weight related. And since many overweight children and teens develop it too, it's name has been changed to type 2.

I hope that they find a cure for you soon!


Chicago, Ill.: Wrinkles: I wear Clinique City Block and find it's good around the eye area. I think it's because it's all physical sunblock (such as zinc and titanium particles) rather than chemical. Sunglasses help too!

Sally Squires: Thanks Chicago. And those sunglasses are an excellent idea as well.


Midland, Tex.: I have not used the Debbie Meyer bags, but I'm almost certain they are the same as EvertFresh bags, which I have used for years. The bags absorb ethylene gas, which is given off by ripening produce and speeds up the ripening process. The bags are just short of miraculous and keep produce fresher much longer. The bags can be rinsed and reused multiple times, and I think they are worth every penny.

Sally Squires: More good feedback. I think we have one of the most helpful chats on record today.


Re: finiky eater: If the finiky eater has certain fruits/veg they like, but not sure how to fix it, a basic vegetable book is great. Two are Vegetarian's A to Z guide to fruit and vegetables (or something like that) and the other is one of Deborah Madson's vegetarian books. They both go through the different types of veggies and fruits and give several ways to prepare them -- from simple steaming/baking to more involved recipies.

Sally Squires: Deborah Madison's books are great. The thing with picky eaters is to find a few healthy foods that they like and then to gradually add more to that culinary repetoire.


washingtonpost.com: American Dibetes Association


Arlington, Va.: Regarding spring salads. I eat out a lot but also try to plan to bring my own lunches to work. I think it is a big two-fer! My environmental tip is that I rinse and re-use my restaurant/salad bar lunch containers (not styrofoam but also not recycleable) for a lunch from home, most are the perfect size. To make my salads more interesting, I try to copy the "fancy" salads from the restaurants. You'd be surprised how easy it is with a few toppings e.g., -- goat cheese, sunflower seeds, cranberries, pistachos, cashews, left over steak, soybeans, etc. to transform bland -- WOW, that was good.

Sally Squires: Yes, that's where some strong flavors can go a very long way. To keep my salads from getting soggy, I also have taken to putting the leafy part in one container and the toppings in individual other containers. I mix them all together at lunch and add the dressing. Saves everything from getting too soggy and limp. Don't know why I didn't think of it before...but perhaps we just get smarter the older we get! :-)


washingtonpost.com: Juvenile Diabetes Resource Foundation International


Fast food at home: Pasta tossed with steamed veggies, omelet, fajita rolled with grilled chicken. Always cook twice as much when we grill so we can nuke a healthy dinner the next night.

Sally Squires: Those fajitas are a great idea. Also I make whole wheat wraps that I buy in packages at Costco. They stay in the fridge for quite a while and can provide a very hearty meal. Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Sally,

There seems to be many views about late night eating and dieting. Do you think eating late at night (after 7 p.m.) will prevent people from reaching weightloss goals?

If we have to eat late, what would you suggest?


Sally Squires: No. What counts is how many calories you eat in total and what activity you get to balance it. On the other hand, eating a heavy meal just before going to bed isn't great for digestion: you go to bed with a very full stomach and force your digestion tract to keep going at fairly full throttle when it should be going to rest.

If you do eat late, soups, cereals, salads would all be good options because they're lighter fare. Even a smoothie could be a possibility.

Hope that helps.


Stroller : You want a fitness walking or jogging stroller with a wheel that pivots. They make all the difference in the world. I caved and spent some cash to get the BOB Stroller Strides one. The BOB revolution is similar. I love it. So does my toddler.

Sally Squires: Great suggestion! Thanks.


Washington, D.C.: While not particularly healthy, the hamburger happy meal at McDonald's really helps to curb fast food cravings without too much calorie damage. I get it with the apple dippers instead of fries. Again, not really good for you -- but better than binging!

Sally Squires: Much better than bingeing and a good example of having what you like--and eating it too. Plus, as you point out, you can't beat the portions. Thanks for the suggestion.


Centreville, Va.: To the person who doesn't like spicy stuff: neither do I, but I've found that I can easily enhance my recipes with herbs instead of spices. Mrs. Dash (no affiliation) has some really nice herb blends that add a lot of flavor without salt (I mostly use the "table blend"). I also have a "spinach and herb mix" from Tastefully Simple (again, no affiliation). Herb blends/mixtures are a simple way to add a lot of flavor with almost no effort.

You also might try spices that aren't hot like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, etc. They're mostly associated with sweet dishes, but they can also really punch up the flavor in non-sweet stuff.

Another hint (not related to spiciness) that helps me: instead of ice cream -- which is my downfall, as I can eat an entire pint in one sitting! -- I get No Sugar Added fudgesicles and popsicles. They're low-calorie (I think they have about 50 calories a piece), and they satisfy my sweet & creamy cravings nicely.

Sally Squires: I'd add Skinny Cow frozen treats of various kinds to these excellent suggestions.


Fast food : I think of fast food, as comfort food. So my favorite isn't fast, but it's comfort. Roasted butternut squash sprinkled with cajun spice and tossed in EVOO at 450 temp. It can take 40 minutes, but while it's best hot then and there, my husband loves cold leftovers on his salad.

Sally Squires: Great idea. And you bring to mind spaghetti squash--another very healthy, very clean tasting comfort food that can be eaten in place of pasta. It also counts as a vegetable serving, for a real win-win. I make spaghetti squash and then freeze half of it with good success.


Arlington, Va.: Is there such a thing as a low-fat and low sodium breakfast meat? If so, what is it?

Sally Squires: It looks like Trader Joe's has a low-fat soy sausage that contains about 220 milligrams of sodium--which is not off the charts. That could be one option.


Arlington, Va.: I've been trying to eat healthier and be more fit for several months now, but am coming up on my first real challenge: A long roadtrip. What advice do you have to help keep me on target -- or at least avoid setbacks -- while on vacation?


Sally Squires: Ah, so many tips, so little time! Portion control will be one of your allies. If you can pack some rations, that would be a very good thing too. So would a small ice chest where you could keep baby carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, slices of sweet bell pepper and may some Laughing Cow cheese or dip, such as hummus. (Tribal has some snack packs that you might like to save any mess.)

You might also look for motels that have refrigerators. That way you can pick up a little milk, fruit and cereal, or yogurt and have a great breakfast--or a healthyd dinner in a pinch. If you can't do that, then try to get a motel with a healthy breakfast. I've been surprised at how many are now serving decent fare.

Subway restaurants, Au Bonne Pain, McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King now all have healthy options. Staying well hydrated will also help.

Have a great trip. Hope you'll let us know how it goes!


Oxon Hill, Md.: Two of my favorite low calorie Fast Food options:

WAWA has a delicous low fat chef salad that includes ham, turkey, cheese, tomatoes and lettuce for only 190 calories. The lettuce is so fresh and cheese is so flavorful, you really don't need dressing.

McDonald's offers an egg and cheese biscuit on their dollar menu. If you substitute an English muffin, you get a tasty sandwich for only 280 calories.

Sally Squires: Two more suggestions for your roadtrip to the poster just ahead of this one.


Oakton, Va.: For the sunscreen question and sensitive skin, Paula Begoun has a Web site with lots of good information and products for the right kinds of sunscreens to use and products for sensitive skin. She has a newsletter you can subscribe to. Although I am not a big cosmetics wearer, I read her newsletter regularly and heed her advice about sunscreen. Her Web site is Paula's Choice for information, but she has other sites for shopping, blogging, etc.

Sally Squires: Thank you!


Debbie Meyer Bags -- YES!: Sally, I just got some Debbie Meyer bags, on recommendation of oh, just about everyone in my Saturday morning WW group. They do work! I left raspberries for 2 days in a bag, and they came out as fresh as when I put them in. I have terrible luck with raspberries; they tend to just wilt and mold within about 12 hours. Not in these bags, though.

They are reusable, and you get quite a few of them to start with. Right now, I've got these fruits and veggies in DM bags: tomatoes, onions, carrots, cherries, grapes, blueberries, asparagus, mushrooms, and lettuce. So far, all of my produce looks just like it did on Saturday, when I bought it.

Sally Squires: Great feedback. Thanks.


Sonoma, Calif.: Fast foods to have on hand: frozen shrimp, thin-sliced lean pork and beef (1/2") cut from roasts on sale, easy to thaw and then stir fry for pastas or Chinese. Make turkey meatloaf and form into balls, bake 'til done, then freeze for instant meals -- put in toaster oven for sandwiches, or put in marinara for pasta.

Sally Squires: I also keep cooked brown rice in individual bags as well as Irish oatmeal. Makes for really fast prep without a lot of fuss.


Arlington, Va.: Sally: I read the article on the diet blogs and found it very encouraging. I've been keeping one for the last couple of months -- well, more of an exercise blog, really. I find it to be a really important part of my process, and by writing about what I am doing helps keep me on track.

What I've found, though, is that the best thing about the blog is the comment section. Not the comments that my friends leave (which are great), but the comments that random strangers leave. It helps me to know that I'm not the only one going through the same process. Kind of like these chats!

Sally Squires: You made my day! Thanks and perhaps you can send me the name of your blog after this chat. E-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com.


Washington, D.C.: I wanted to share a simple tip that has really helped me to eat more healthfully and lose weight. I have special "healthy" plates. I buy cute salad-size plates (Target has a great selection of seasonal melamine that are very reasonably priced) that are reserved for healthy, balanced meals. They are fun to use and make me happy. Last night I had a balanced meal of protein, green veggies and whole grains on my favorite square purple plate. But when I want to splurge, like ordering my favorite sesame chicken from the Chinese take-away, I use the boring everyday plates. Its not a punishment for the less healthy meals, rather a reward for eating as I know I should be. It seems kind of silly, but it really works for me.

Sally Squires: This is a wonderful idea. There's also a company that makes something called the Diet Plate which can also help with portion control and balance.


Falls Church, Va.: For home fast foods, it's amazing what you can do with a good-quality (healthy) salad dressing, a quick-cooking whole grain like quinoa or bulgur, and some fresh-cut veggies or baby spinach. Emergency fast foods to always have on hand for me include frozen veggie burgers or salmon patties, nut butters, and whole grain bread. I actually prefer having any of these things to most fast foods!

Sally Squires: Yes. Another great example of fast food made healthful. Thanks.


Important info: I just think it's important for everyone to keep weight loss in check. I was once 220 lbs and dropped down to 79. Weight loss can be an addiction too. You can be fat and happy and healthy. And trust me, I was much happier fat than I am skinny. Please please please have your weight loss monitored and realize that people on TV look that way for a reason.

Sally Squires: Yes, this is always a good message. We're trying for balance in all things. Too thin is not good either. Thanks for the reminder. Sounds like you have gotten things back on track.


Hong Kong, China: I was so excited to see Shauna/DietGirl in your column today. I've been following Shauna's blog for a while and recently read her book (it's available from amazon.co.uk).

Another great diet blog is "Half of Me," by Jennette Fulda of Indiana. Like Shauna, Jennette lost half her weight (from a starting point of some 370 pounds) and has just released a book -- it's called "Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir." You may have seen her on "The Today Show" on Sunday. (Oh, and she just completed a half-marathon, too.)

As well as being incredibly inspirational, these women are good writers who are able to convey, in a humorous way, so much more than calories in and calories out. Their blog postings show how their mindsets have totally changed as a result of their weight-loss journeys and how much fuller their lives have become.

washingtonpost.com: Need Encouragement to Shed Some Pounds? Blogs May Help. ( Post, May 13)

Sally Squires: I couldn't have said it better myself, Hong Kong. And you are the farthest flung Lean Plate Club member on today's chat. Thanks for weighing in.


Washington, D.C.: Posting a little early because of a meeting.

I was reading the very interesting special section in the NY Times Health Section today (I save the Post's to enjoy in the evening!!=), and in the "Heart" section, they talked about the benefits of eating fish. I don't eat fish, and was hoping to start adding nuts to my diet to help get the healthy oils and omega-3s. What are the best type of nuts to eat for this purpose (I like pretty much all nuts), and how much? I'm fairly thin and in good shape, but don't want to eat TOO many more calories! Thanks.

Sally Squires: Nuts and flaxseeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, but they don't have exactly the same type as that found in seafood. We posted an article earlier in the chat about the Omega Principle that will give you some other food options with omega-3 fatty acids.


Dallas, Tex.: I love Wendy's small Chili. It's only a dollar and has generous helpings of ground beef and beans. It's definitely a low-calorie meal, and keeps me full for hours. It also has so much flavor, there's no need to add cheese. It's especially delicious in the cold winter months.

Sally Squires: And those beans are full of fiber, protein and complex carbs that won't hike your blood sugar. Plus, they taste great. Thanks Dallas!


Sally Squires: Winners today are Chicago (wrinkles), Hong Kong, Fairfax (Eat like me), Stroller and Oxon Hill. Please e-mail me your name and address and please put winner in the subject line.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat! Stay in touch with me and 450 other Lean Plate Club members--and growing--on the Lean Plate Club discussion group. I'll post a link in a minute.

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


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