Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, June 10, 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.

Submit your questions or comments before or during the discussion.

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

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

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Discussion Transcripts


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club! The raw tomato alert--due to the risk of salmonella--is one of the topics up for discussion today. I ordered a turkey sandwich with fresh lettuce and tomato, then realized this is exactly the kind of thing that one should not do unless you know the source of that fresh tomato. How about you? How are you handling the latest food probelm? What effect is it having on what your buying, eating and cooking? We'd love to hear what you're doing.

The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletters should have arrived in your electronic in-boxes now.In it find plenty of links to healthful recipes plus more on the FDA advisory.

Now on to the chat!


Madison: Hi Sally,

A question and a comment. Do you know if canned diced tomatoes or other canned tomato products are included in the recall?Regarding staying active this summer, I've adopted what I playfully call the "recession diet." It involves lots of brown rice and beans prepared with whatever is in season at the farmer's market. I don't drive if I can walk, bike, or bus. I've started biking to the YMCA, which is a lovely way to start the day and combines the benefits of being outside with the classes and equipment at the gym. So far, this has been a fun way to deal with economic challenges while staying healthy.

Sally Squires: Hey Madison: The alert does NOT involve canned products. It also doesn't involve cherry tomoatoes or tomatoes sold on a vine as I recall. But you can see the latest on our Web site and also at the FDA's Web site. Link is included in today's e-mail newsletter. By the way, it sounds like you are doing great things with your recession diet. It's interesting how much you can save and still eat well, isn't it? Thanks!


Philadelphia, Pa.: In response to your question about how we respond to a food recall, personally I am rarely concerned because we purchase all of our food from local farmers' markets, or directly from the farmers through CSA or a buying club. The produce is fresher, gets handled and transported a lot less, and buying that way supports local farms. And, I believe, is better for the consumer.

Sally Squires: In theory, CSAs certainly do provide local produce which is a win-win. But I have not seen any information from the FDA that excludes CSAs in affected states from this warning. So you might keep checking that Web site to be sure...


Falls Church, Va.: Mmm, mangoes. I was just looking at the recipes in the newsletter. Actually, my favorite Vegetarian Times recipe using mangoes isn't listed among these five; it's sticky rice with mangoes . Although this is a dessert, it is not too sweet and a small portion is very filling. The main reason I'm sharing this now, beyond loving it myself, is that brown sweet rice is on sale for a very good price right now at the H mart in Fairfax, if anyone shops there, which is also a very good place to get crates of many different varieties of mangoes. I know I'm trying to find ways to save on rising grocery prices and keep eating well so I suspected others might be, too! Thanks, I'll be trying some of the other recipes, too.

Sally Squires: Sticky rice with mangoes sounds really good. Can you share that recipe with us from Vegetarian Times, Falls Church? I buy jasmine brown rice at Trader Joe's and it also is priced well. As I recall, I may have even seen brown rice at Costco--anybody else find it there?


New York, N.Y.: Why do experts always mention the vitamin C in potatoes? Since we can't eat them raw and the heat of cooking destroys vitamin C, we can't benefit, so it's irrelevant. Or is there something here I don't understand? Thanks.

Sally Squires: Heating won't necessarily destroy all the vitamin C in potatoes, New York. But these days, if you want a potato, having a sweet potato is a really good choice. They're not only more flavorful, they really pack a lot more nutritional value--especially beta carotene. You can make them ahead of time and then re-heat throughout the week. I also love baked sweet potato "fries" made in the oven with a light spray of olive oil. Yum. Thanks.


Tomato recall: Have a bunch of plum tomatoes from Giant that I bought over the weekend before I heard about the recall. Planning to make tomato sauce with all of them -- I assume that's OK??

Sally Squires: At this point, here's what the FDA says about cooking possibly affected tomatoes on its Web site:

"Can cooking tomatoes eliminate Salmonella?

At this time, the FDA does not recommend cooking tomatoes to prevent illness from this outbreak. The types of tomatoes implicated in this outbreak should not be eaten."

So best to find out where those tomatoes came from or throw them out. Having known a few people who developed salmonella, it is not a disease that you want to get if you can avoid it.

Hope that helps. Thanks for asking.


Portland, Ore.: I do not have a question, but I use Stevia for my sugar substitute. It comes from a plant, has no added weird chemicals, and is very concentrated. It also does not give you the blood sugar spikes.

Sally Squires: Interest seems to be growing in stevia. I subscribe to a newsletter for the food industry and some major companies seems to be poised to bring stevia products to market. At this point, stevia is not approved as a sugar substitute in the U.S. although it is sold as a dietary supplement.


Falls Church Again-- Sticky Rice: Oops, sorry about that. The recipe is simple. (Oh, and I love Trader Joe's brown jasmine rice, too--just finished having some with my lunch!)

Sticky Rice with Mangoes (Serves 8)


1 1/2 cups sushi rice, such as Nishiki

1 14-oz. can light coconut milk, divided

1/2 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 fresh mangoes, peeled and sliced


Combine rice, 2 1/2 cups water, 1/2 cup coconut milk, and brown sugar in large saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Stir in remaining coconut milk and 1 cup water. Cover, and simmer 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and let steam, covered, 20 minutes, or until rice has absorbed most of liquid. Stir in vanilla.

Spoon warm rice onto serving plates. Top each serving with mango slices.


Calories 280

Protein 3g

Total fat 5g

Carbs 56g

Cholesterol 0mg

Sodium 14mg

Fiber 2g

Sugars 25g

washingtonpost.com: Sticky Rice from Vegetarian Times

Sally Squires: Thanks very much!


washingtonpost.com: Salmonella FAQ

Sally Squires: As promised, here's the link to find out more about the Salmonella problem in fresh tomatoes.


Washington, D.C.: In this heat, I've amped up my blender and have been enjoying smoothies for breakfast. Some fresh peaches, strawberries and pineapple, plus some frozen mango and blueberries. Blended with a cup of vanilla yogurt and plenty of ice (for hydration!). Keeps me full and cool.

Sally Squires: For those of you who don't live in the DC region, it has been a blistering time. And these smoothies are a wonderful idea. Here's my favorite smoothie recipe, which is also available in Secrets of the Lean Plate Club:


1 cup nonfat Greek style yogurt

1/4 cup unsweetened cranberry juice

1 cup fruit (fresh or frozen without added sugar)

1/2-1 banana (optional)

1 dash vanilla

1 cup ice

1. Put the yogurt, juice in a blender. Mix at high speed.

2. Add the other ingredients. Blend at high speed until smooth. Research by Barbara Rolls at Penn State, author of Volumetrics shows that the longer you blend it, the more air is incorporated and the higher the volume. That will help give a better sense of fullness.

Estimated calories for this smoothie are about 130 to 230 depending on how much banana is used.

What I like about it is that it's quite tasty--even one of my pickier eater kids thinks so--refreshing and has no added sugar.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Sally. Your first poster was great to offer recession ideas for food. Can you add to this, but with an emphasis on fresh produce? I am astounded by how much more expensive items are at the store. I want to continue eating healthy fresh foods, but it is definitely putting a pinch on my wallet. And I find the cheaper fresh items are usually the ones that are lower in nutrients such as iceberg lettuce. Thanks!

Sally Squires: You bet. Anything in season will be cheaper. No surprise there, of course. Fruit seems to be overall pricier than veggies. If fresh is too expensive, consider frozen or canned (low or no added sodium). They have the same nutritional value.

Dried legumes are also a great way to stretch your food dollars. So think black bean salads, humus etc that you make from scratch. (It's surprising easy if you ave a blender or food processor.)

Peaches, pears, grapes are all in season. Cherries are too, but are quite pricey. Melons can really stretch your dollars. And I've seen fresh pineapple for good prices. Also for veggies, check out the melons. Cold butternut squash soup would be delicious, refreshing and nutritious.

Other thoughts out there? And I'll try to post a link in a minute to a feature that we did last year--it's still applicable--on eating on a budget.


Arlington, Va.: We do, in fact, have Roma tomatoes --- I purchased them this weekend at Harris Teeter. However, I notice that there are several states whose tomatoes have been identified as not responsible for the outbreak. My question is this: if I call up my Harris Teeter, are they actually going to be able to tell me what state my tomatoes came from??

Sally Squires: They should be able to provide guidance. The FDA has asked them to be able to do that. Hope you'll let us know what you find. Feel free to e-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com


washingtonpost.com: Stretch Your Grocery Dollars (Post, June 19, 2007)

Sally Squires: As promised!


Melons and Nutrition and Calories: Which melon has the most water content to fight the heat and hydrate?Which melon packs the most vitamins and minerals?What are the calories for 1 cup of watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew?

Sally Squires: Good question. And you just put my fingers through their paces on the USDA nutrient database. (By the way a user friendly version is now available with the virtual grocery. Link to come in a minute.)

Looks like Honeydew and Cantaloupe have about 158-159 grams of water per cup versus about 140 for watermelon. But frankly, they're all good choices.


Minneapolis, Minn.: Thanks as always for such an interesting column -- I always look forward to Tuesdays.I appreciated the mango recipes as sometimes they are on sale here. My question is: what is the best way to remove the pit without a special mango machine?

As far as food recalls, I pay attention but it makes me wonder, are there any food inspectors left? Of course as I write this I can see a major bridge being rebuilt...Thanks for trying to keep us healthy.

Sally Squires: Thanks for your kind words. I simply use a knife to get the mango away from its large pit. As for more food inspectors, Congress gives FDA its budget. So if you want to see more of those, one way is to communicate your wishes to your Congressional representatives. Thanks.


Cheap Foods: I have an aversion to the mass quantities supplied by places like Sam's Club and have barely used a membership bought last year. However, I stumbled upon frozen fish filets (like Mahi and Tilapia) that are really quite good, invividually packed, and not at all fishy tasting. I got 12 filets for 12 dollars--good lean protein doesn't come much cheaper than that!

I also love love love quinoa for an economical protein/carb food.

Sally Squires: It sure doesn't come cheaper than that, although I do pay attention to the source of fish and other food whether shopping at warehouse stores or elsewhere. And the more you can make from scratch, the more you can control all the ingredients in your food including added sodium.

By the way, quinoa is one of those ancient grains that is a wonderful choice. It's a healthy whole grain carbohydrate.


Bethesda, Md.: I just wanted to say that I have been bike-commuting to work a few times a week over the last month or so, and I am impressed and encouraged by the number of people I see on the Capital Crescent Trail every day -- walking, jogging, biking -- in the morning as well as the evening. Men, women, young, old, and I often see the same people day after day. It's just encouraging to know that a lot of people are working out -- it makes me feel less sorry for myself as I'm struggling home uphill!!

Sally Squires: Wonderful! And for those who haven't joined us, that biking to work could also count towards the activity on the Lean Plate Club group at the Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Our group number is 69734. Name is Lean Plate Club. Misfits are part of our group too.


Dupont, D.C.: In the winter I eat oatmeal almost every day, but I get lost in the summer. Cold cereal doesn't hold me over the same and I don't care for smoothies. I can only think of yogurt, but am looking for any other ways to keep cool these hot summer mornings.

Sally Squires: You might consider a whole grain muffin that you make yourself on the weekends. You can have them cold from the fridge and make them with whole grains and other healthy stuff, including healthy oil--canola, olive, safflower, etc--and dried fruit.

Trail mix might be another option for you. You might also think of cold brown rice with raisins and a little milk, mind of a version of sticky rice. By the way, in many parts of the world, breakfast is simply regular food served in the a.m.

Other thoughts out there? Send them our way.


washingtonpost.com: USDA Nutrition Database

Sally Squires: Here's a cool new site for you to use.


Weight Loss Story: I recently lost about 17 lbs. with very little effort so I decided to share what my story. I'm a 45-year-old woman. I needed to lose about 20 lbs. I'm currently deployed to a hot barren, desert in the middle of nowhere on the other side of the planet. All my meals come from a military chow hall. The food isn't great but it's not terrible and I can eat all I want for free. I noticed I was losing weight and I've thought about what I'm doing differently here than at home. First I love bread and when I'm at home I eat bread with every meal. Well the bread in the chow hall is dry and stale, so I've given up bread. When I'm at home I cook with butter and olive oil. Here I don't cook and I haven't been using any butter or olive oil. When I'm at home I eat lots of sweets. The desserts in the chow hall aren't all that appetizing so I don't eat them. When I'm at home I drink wine every night with my dinner and lots of sweet tea. Here I drink water with every meal. Mostly though I'm eating smaller portions. The food in the chow hall just isn't that tempting so I've found it easier to eat less. I'm actually exercising less here, since my favorite form of exercise is walking and I find walking in the 100 plus temps and blowing sand unpleasant. So to summarize, I've reduced my carbs and fats greatly, eat smaller portions, no alcohol and drink lots of water. The weight loss has been very welcome and I found when I went home on leave last month that I wasn't tempted to overeat because I was so happy with my success and want to keep it up.

Sally Squires: Congratulations! What an achievement. And thanks for being in that hot desert for all of us here. We very much appreciate your efforts.


Arlington, Va., Re: Roma Tomatoes purchased at Harris Teeter: I called, and indeed, they knew where the Roma tomatoes I bought this weekend came from: South Carolina and Georgia (two states who've been ruled out as the source of the outbreak - on the list at the FDA website). That's a relief!

On the subject of eating seasonally, I typically look for what's on sale, but that is no longer a reliable indicator given that cheap fruits and veg can be sourced from overseas sometimes. If you want to eat both seasonally and locally, is there a list somewhere that shows what produce is in season when in the mid-Atlantic region? (Something like what the Monterrey Bay Aquarium does for over-fished species of seafood, by region?)

Sally Squires: Great update! And kudos to Harris Teeter for knowing the answer. I believe that USDA has a site that shows seasonal produce. We'll post a link in a minute and I'll look for more for next week. In the meantime, if anyone knows of such a service that can cite seasonal produce, send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com.


Dupont Breakfast: Love the muffin idea -- any recipes?

Sally Squires: I'll put some in the upcoming e-mail newsletter.


washingtonpost.com: USDA Agricultural Marketing Service

Sally Squires: Find information from the USDA at this site on farmer's markets and more...


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Sally. I've just recently discovered the Lean Plate and I enjoy reading the column immensely. There are so many great ideas given. Thanks.

Sally Squires: Thanks! You made my day Alexandria!


Anonymous: I lived in the Mediterranean for several years and various cheeses were very much a daily part of their diet. You don't seem to include that in your description of their diet.

washingtonpost.com: Mediterranean Eating: A Delicious Way to Promote Your Health (Post, June 3)

Sally Squires: Cheeses are very much a part of the Mediterranean Diet and I think they are mentioned in that recent column. The thing with cheese is that it can be high in saturated fat--not good for the heart. So moderation of full fat cheese is often in order. Goat cheese is another option, since it is often lower in total fat--and to my taste anyway, can be quite flavorful.Thanks for your comments.


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Sally -- I bought some tomatoes over the weekend at produce stands in Maryland and Delaware over the weekend and was wondering if they're safe to eat with the recent Salmonella outbreak. Maryland and Delaware aren't on the FDA's safe list, but I thought it make a difference that they were bought locally. Thank you!

washingtonpost.com: Tomatoes Pulled after Salmonella Warning (Post, June 10)

Sally Squires: Here's the link from the FDA. Also, do check with whoever you bought them from. They may be able to tell you more if that's possible.


Breakfast for Dupont: Kashi GoLean is the only thing I've tried so far that works for me in the summer, in place of my own winter oatmeal routine. (That includes every brand of granola I could pick up in the grocery store). If I eat it around 7:15am or so, I am OK until about 10 a.m. (when I have my first snack - a piece of fruit). Other cereals I've tried left me starved by 9.

Sally Squires: Thanks much!


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. Until next week, join me on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group, at leanplateclub.com/group

Winners today are:

Kashi helper for Dupont, the deployed Lean Plate Club member, the Harris Teeter poster and Madison. Send me your name, address to leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please put winner in the subject line for faster handling.

Until next week, see you on the LPC Discussion Group.

Thanks to all.


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