Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, May 27, 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.

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Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Hope that everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend and thanks to all of the members of our Armed Forces for the service that you give--and have given--to our country.

Today's chat is on healthy fats. But I'd also love to know what you think about the new Wii Fit just released by Nintendo.

Welcome to readers of the St. Petersburg Times in Florida--the newest subscribing paper to the Lean Plate Club. It's always wonderful to welcome new participants, but since I used to work at the St Pete Times--and my father, brother and mother-in-law live in St. Petersburg--this addition is particularly sweet.

If you'd like to see the Lean Plate Club in your hometown newspaper, just send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com

The e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-boxes now. In it find links to the new American Heart Association's Fat Translator as well as to plenty of mouth watering recipes with healthy fat.

Now on to the chat!


Falls Church, Virginia: Is there a simple list of "good fats"...I was led to believe that Canola Oil was a good fat and did not see it in your column on the good fats?

Thank you.

Sally Squires: Canola oil is indeed a healthy fat. You can find a complete list of healthy fat at the American Heart Association Face the Fats education program. Go to Americanheart.org. (We'll try to get you a link later in this chat.)Liquid vegetable oils--safflower, soybean, canola, olive, corn oil and peanut oil--are all considered healthy.


Ramsey, N.J.: Having lived in the UK on a low salary, I learned to go shopping at the end of the day and snatch the discounted items. Things that I found most economical where green vegetables and whole fish because no one seemed to like these items and they gave them deep discounts.

In the U.S. I save money by avoiding manufactured or value added items. Making food from scratch,plus being flexible and creative, I am able to take advantage of discounted fruit, veg, fish and meat to make nutritious meals. Going to ethnic markets is a real treat on the wallet as well and I enjoy experimenting with the different items I find. When I buy the discounted items, I tend to make them into something as quickly as possible, such as juice, sauces or soup, which I can freeze or can for future use. Key is to shop often, buy in reasonable quantities, and have a well stocked pantry with items like pasta, beans,soup stocks and spices to make spur of the moment meals with your latest finds.

Sally Squires: Right on, Ramsey. These are great ways to cut our growing food bills. For those who have not yet read today's e-mail newsletter, I asked for ways that you keep food costs down. I wonder lately which is rising faster: food or gasoline prices! Thanks Ramsey.


Baltimore: Hi Sally, I'm ashamed to admit that I've become the worst of the weight loss cliches. Two years ago, I lost 40 pounds. Now I'm almost back to where I started! I'm so frustrated with myself. Do you have any advice for me as I start over again?

Sally Squires: I sure do. First, start by not beating yourself up. You're not alone in seeing the weight creep back on. And whether you know it now or not, you have learned some lessons in this process and could serve you well in the future.

You also know what it takes to lose those 40 pounds. (Yes, I realize that the downside may be it can seem daunting.) But you also know it is achievable, because you've already proved you can do it.

So, where do you start? You've taken the first step by thinking about stopping the regain. Now you need to have a plan, some goals and start putting it into action. While you get everything together, you might think about simply maintaining for a week or two. That will serve you in good stead because weight maintenance is what you will ultimately do for the rest of your life.

So...consider starting to record your food right now without making any changes. Consider adding some activity. Still sounds too much? Then make one goal that you know you can achieve this week. Set it. Establish a small reward for yourself for doing it and then when you meet it, reward yourself and set a new goal.

Small steps really can add up to big changes. You might also consider keeping a diary for a week or two just to see when you eat, why you eat and how you spend your time. Think of doing billable hours for yourself.

I hope you will let us know how it goes.


Jackson, MI: I just wanted to say thanks for writing a positive article about FCS. I teach FCS at Northwest High School in Jackson. It was great to see Jackson mentioned in your article.

Sally Squires: My family lived in Jackson, Mich. twice and loved it both times. It's a great city and I still recall my many lessons from home ec. It's where I also first cut my teeth in journalism. My only regret is that they didn't let girls take shop back then. That would have been useful too!Thanks!


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally,

I read your newsletter. Please let your chatters know that the National Museum of Health and Medicine is closed at least this Saturday, and maybe the whole weekend. I know because I wanted to take my visiting Dad there to see the Civil War collection. People who are planning to go might want to choose another time to check out your exhibit.

Sally Squires: We just checked the Web site and the only day they are slated to be closed is Dec. 25. But my colleague Kat Hom has called the museum and we hope to have an answer for you shortly. By the way, if you don't know about this hidden gem, it's well worth a visit particularly for those interested in medicine and the Civil War--not to mention leprosy, which is what I also wrote about in today's Health section. Thanks.


Baltimore: I love the tips and tricks you send out, and I just got finished reading your book. (I borrowed it from the library). Like a previous poster, I've also tried baking more snacks at home for my kids instead of purchasing ready-made snacks. These cookies, muffins, etc. are somewhat healthier because they contain no preservatives and I can control the ingredients, and they're also significantly cheaper. I also try to bake my own bread when I can -- also another money-saver for my family.

Sally Squires: I'm delighted to know that you enjoyed reading Secrets of the Lean Plate Club, which you all helped me write. And I'm with you, making your own food not only means you can cut costs, but you can control sodium, preservatives, coloring, fat and for those who have food allergies, you can be certain what you won't be getting.

Once you get into the hang of cooking regularly, it's really not a big deal. I am convinced that it can less time to cook than to speed dial pizza (and wait for delivery) or to head for the drive through. It's all about getting into the cooking rhythm, don't you think?

Thanks for chiming in.


Baltimore: How about almonds? I see conflicting information about nuts in general...

Sally Squires: Almonds--and other nuts--are a wonderful source of healthy fat as well as protein. Calories are their drawback, so that's what has to be figured in the total picture. But there's plenty of evidence to suggest heart and weight benefits for those who eat nuts in moderation. Figure that an ounce--about a handful--has around 160- 170 calories. But mincing, slicing and dicing can make those nuts go a long way with great flavor and not so terribly many calories.


Framingham with a wonderful summer salad: Hi Sally: I just did this over the weekend after watching the cooking channel...it is awsome and I hope members will try it. Healthy fat from olive oil/pine nuts, calcium for a bit of cheese, lycopene from tomatoes and fiber from whole wheat french bread. It was a hit and my husband first wasn't into it..then he tried it and finished the entire bowl!

Olive oil spray a large individual ramekin or any desired low casserole dish

Cube/toast french bread. I tossed the cubes in a nonstick pan with olive oil spray, garlic powder, and fresh pepper. No salt needed. Add pine nuts and toast in same pan last few minutes. Remove ad add to individual ramekin or casserole dish.

Dice fresh tomatoes, add balsamic vinegar and olive oil...I use 1 tbl vinegar to 1 tsp of olive oil. Don't make it too wet.

Spoon mixture of dressed tomatoes in each dish to top the croutons and pine nuts.

Garnish with fresh, chopped basil leaves and a few curls of parmesean reggiano cheese or any desired favorite. It is splendid. Enjoy.

p.s. I gave this recipe to my Mom who loved it too. It's a winner.

Sally Squires: Yum. Sounds good. And just to give credit where credit is due, does it come from the Food Network? (I've heard many people refer to it informally as the cooking channel.)

This weekend, I made "cole slaw" and had Trader Joe's serve as my sous chef. I used their shreded broccoli and carrots instead of cabbage. Then whipped up a dressing with Total nonfat yogurt (in place of sour cream) a little regular mayo, rice vinegar, pepper and celery seeds. It was quite good if I do say so myself. My husband seemed to like it too.

Other creations out there you want to share?


Northern Virginia: Your column on fats was interesting and helpful. Most food labels only list trans fats and saturated fats. These numbers never add up to the "total fats" number listed.

For example, my can of Pringles lists 11 g total fats, with 3 g saturated fats and 0 g trans fats. Does that mean the other 8 g of fats are the "better" poly and mono fats?

Sally Squires: Yes, for the most part that's the case. There's one slight hitch, however: Products can state zero trans fat, provided that each serving contains 0.5 grams or less of trans fat. Here's where some labels can get kind of tricky. If the servings are really small--smaller than what most people would imagine a serving to be--then you could wind up getting more trans fat than you think.

One tipoff: look for partially hydrogenated oils on the ingredient list. The higher it is on the ingredient list, the more likely you're getting more rather than less trans fats. Hope that helps.


Greater Expectations: We eat better now than when I was a child, and it has nothing to do with the cook's skills or family income. There are so many more options now -- for ingredients, cuisines, methods. This comes at a monetary and time cost.

So, I plan ahead. I buy on special sale. I use coupons and loyalty cards. I no longer buy more than I need (the trash can was getting fed better than it ought to have been). I change menus based on what's available cheap that day.

We eat better than I did as a child.

Sally Squires: We do eat a much more variet diet than many of us did as kids. Iceberg lettuce and a rather limited repertoire of veggies--often quite overcooked--could often be on the menu. I remember my grandmother who was normally a very good cook, absolutely cooking spinach down to mush and then we ate it with of all things, vinegar! I didn't like spinach until I ate it fresh and then sauteed.

How about the rest of you: what vegetables, fruit or other foods did you dislike in childhood that you have now learned to love?


Alexandria, Va.: How to save money on food? Eat healthy. It may seem to untrue, but over time it is true. You shop around the perimeter of the stores, you experiment with new vegetables as they go on sale, you keep stables, bought on sale, in the pantry. You cook one or two days a week and freeze your meals for the week. Also it is spring, start eating locally. Keep trying new recipes. Also if you eat healthy or at least healthier out then it will cost less. Now I eat maybe two appetizers, and have one drink instead of an appetizer, an entree, a dessert, and two or three drinks. It is amazing how much you save-- enough to buy something different at the grocery store.

Sally Squires: It is indeed possible to eat healthy without breaking the bank. But I'm less and less enamored about this eating around the perimeter of the grocery store. For example, dried beans are often in the middle of the store along with whole grain oatmeal, brown rice and other foods.

Plus, if you buy canned foods without much added salt or sugar, you can get some really good products that have a long shelf life. Same goes for frozen food without added sauces, sodium, etc. And you'll mostly find those things in the middle of the store too. Even whole grain flour for making bread from scratch and yeast is often in the middle of the store.

So how about it? Do we need to revise this formerly good adage?


Charlotte, N.C.: In response to the choice of fats, for me that is often peanut butter (crunchy), English walnuts, smoked Atlantic salmon, and an occasional Avocado. I am almost 80 (in July)and have eaten a low-fat diet for years.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you are 80 years young. And clearly, to borrow a phrase from that wonderful movie, When Harry Met Sally, we need to order what you've been having! :-)


Dieting in Small Bits: Sally,

I've written in before--once about my own 40 pound weight loss three years ago. I wanted to give a little encouragement for the chatter who said she had lost 40 pounds and gained much of it back. I somehow put on 10 pounds over the winter and have just lost it, and it truly is a relief. What has worked for me when I've been losing weight is simple math: I'm an active male so I burn about 3000 calories a day. I know that if I want to lose 2 pounds a week, I need to burn off 7800 calories in a week. Over six days this means I need to restrict my calorie intake to 1500 per day. This allows me a day each week to "cheat". When I treat losing weight as a math problem, it seems to work better for me. I don't know if this is helpful for anyone else, but hopefully it will be. Good luck to your readers--losing weight and keeping it off is tough.

Sally Squires: Thanks very much for chiming in. You've just given us a great example of getting back on track. Congratulations!


washingtonpost.com: The Better Fat Sisters (americanheart.org)

Sally Squires: Here's a link to the Better Fat Sisters


Gaithersburg, MD: Sally--

One way to save money on groceries is to stay out of grocery stores! We buy in bulk at big box stores and organic markets.

My husband and I buy powdered milk, make our own yogurt, do not buy over priced and unhealthy processed foods, and eat many vegetarian meals. One favorite is lentils and lentil burgers.

We are working on planting and harvesting a garden.

Sally Squires: You remind me of the Pennypincher Gazette! It was started by a former Navy wife with lots of kids, who managed to really stretch her husband's salary. She was featured in Parade magazine probably about 15 or 20 years ago. Way to go!


National Museum of Health and Medicine, Washington, D.C.: Sally and everyone, it's correct that the National Museum of Health and Medicine is anticipating being closed this coming Saturday all day, 5/31/08. (We will also close early at noon on Friday the 30th.) We hope to be open again on Sunday normal hours 10am - 5:30 p.m. Updates will be made to our voicemail message at (202) 782-2200 as needed.

The Museum's web site is http://www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum.

Thanks for the mention and the link. Hope to see everyone at the Museum!

Sally Squires: Thank you very much!


black bean brownies?: I wanted to make black bean brownies this weekend, but I forgot the recipe. I know it's really simple, could you remind us? Thanks!

Sally Squires: I sure can. Take a 15 ounce can of black beans. (By the way, I have done this with a variety of brands and found that Goya is really excellent.)

Take the can of beans with the liquid and mix with any commercial brownie mix and place in a food processor. Mix briefly until you have a smooth batter. Pour into greased pan. Bake according to directions on box. (No need to add eggs, oil, etc.) Voila! A high fiber brownie that to my mind--and nearly all who I have served them too--tastes great. Calories are about the same as regular brownies.

If sodium is a concern drain the beans over a colander, capturing the liquid in a measuring cup. Rinse the beans well and replace the liquid drained with water. Do everything else the same.



Burke, Va: Fast food chains now advertise that their food is prepared in trans fat free oils. I thought that most oils when deep heated like for fries the fats distort to form transfat molecules. Help me understand?

Sally Squires: We're short on time and I'd like to research this question a bit more, but my understanding that the switch is a good one in terms of lowering trans fat. Also, know that there small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats in dairy products and beef. (It comes from bacteria that is found in the gut of cows and helps them digest their food.) Whether this naturally ocurring trans fat is dangerous as that produced in oil is under investigation. But it looks like it may not be. And it's one reason why the American Heart Association says to keep trans fat at 1 percent or less of calories since it is nearly impossible to eliminate all trans fat from the diet (if you eat beef and dairy products.)


washingtonpost.com: Biochemistry in the news: trans fatty acids (umass.edu)

Sally Squires: Here's more information...


Alexandria, Va.: It sounds like nothing, but I figured out a very easy way to strengthen my legs: never use my arms to get out of bed or a chair, or after sitting on the floor! I use public transportation so there are lots of opportunities to sit down or get up. Once I started paying attention to this I felt the difference in my calves and thighs in about two weeks

Sally Squires: This is a great suggestion and reminds me of Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who has spent decades urging everyone to exercise while watching television. He's got some great moves that can help to strengthen core muscles just as your moves help to strengthen legs. Thanks much!


Germantown, MD: Sally:

I commend you on your continued efforts to set us on the new "good fat" path. But I do not think the American Heart Association should be surprised that people have not all jumped on their band wagon to give up trans fats since they are the very group that for years told us to eat things with trans fats. Margerine in particular (over butter). I will never forget the registered dietician instructing my father, following his double bypass surgery, to give up the butter he had eaten all of his life and start eating margerine. It would help prevent recurrence of another blockage. Of course he made the switch. It was after all the AHA recommending it! He died a few years later, of complications following an attempt to insert a stent to a new blockage (after he had religiously followed the recommended diet and exercise program of the AHA). True genetics plays a big part but I think the switch to margerine didn't help matters.

Sally Squires: So sorry to hear about your father's unsuccessful battle with heart disease. Science is constantly evolving--sometimes not fast enough for all of us. And you're right: much of that margarine was packed with trans fats. The last time I checked, however, it seems that a lot of the trans fat has been removed from margarine, which is a very good thing.

But yes, you remind us why it's crucial to do everything in moderation. That's a way hedge bets against the next discovery of what isn't so good for us.

Thanks again for chimining in.


Good Fat, VA: Sally, what gives with the recommendation to eat tub margarine rather than butter, but to avoid trans-fats? Isn't margarine full of trans fat?

Also, do you see any point in distinguishing between the different types of LDL? It's becoming clearer that tight, more densely packed LDL is dangerous, but other types of LDL aren't. Unfortunately, most doctors test for one overall number. Do you think that might change some day?

Sally Squires: Blood tests and screening tests for all sorts of things are constantly being improved, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if what you suggests happens one day.

As for margarines: they do seem a lot better than they once were. And you can also buy "spreads" today that have added plant stanols and sterols that can help lower blood cholesterol levels. Benecol, Take Control and Smart Balance are just some of the choices. There are also spreads made from yogurt and from olive oil. So there are many options and I suspect there will be more.

That's what I love about covering this field!


WMX: Sally, can you settle a debate: is it just as bad to give your kids home-baked goods as it is to feed them Twinkies and store bought cakes and cookies? I say homemade is better every time. What say you?

Sally Squires: I'd have to agree that home-made certainly tastes better. is it better nutritionally? Depends on how it is made. And whether you eat cookies, brownies, cake, pie or Twinkies, these are all sometime foods. While some can have nutritional attributes--whole grains, fruit, nuts and healthy oils--few sweetened desserts truly match the nutritional qualities of fruit and vegetables. That doesn't mean you can't eat them. But yes, it's probably better to reach for the home-made stuff if only because you know what's in it. But I can also point to treat such as Larabars that have all natural, organic dates, nuts and other ingredients that might even surpass a home-made sugar cookies.

Here's the bottom line: everything in moderation!


Balitmore, MD: Yogurt costs less in the large containers than buying them in small,individual container pack of 6 (sometimes almost 2x as much). Buy the large container and pack the yogurt in small reusable tupperware containers for lunch or into a bowl for at home snack. Saves on costs and the planet!

Sally Squires: It does indeed. And it reminds me of some of the information that you can find in our new Virtual Grocery store. Find it at www.washingtonpost.com.


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

Ramsey, Baltimore (who has regained 40 pounds), Dieting in Small Bits and Gaithersburg. Please e-mail me your name, address to leanplatelcub@washpost.com. Please put winner in the subject line for faster handling.

Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club! Thanks to all.


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