Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, June 17, 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! We're talking beach reading today, specifically best-selling diet books.

The Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter should be in your electronic in-box now. It's gorgeous here in DC after some bad thunderstorms that have left many without power. But it's now great walking weather and I'm happy to report that I've already put nearly 8,000 steps on my pedometer. How about you?

If you'd like to join the other nearly 300,000 subscribers of the free, weekly Lean Plate Club e-mail newsletter, sign up at our home-page, www.leanplateclub.com.

Today's prizes include five cloth grocery bags for shopping. As always, assist someone on this chat, share a food find, a healthy way to work in more working out and one of these prizes could be yours. Winners are announced at the end of each chat. So let's go!


Seattle: Re: clever ways to burn calories while commuting.

At first, I was driving to work, or at least most of the way (30 mins) I'd then park right outside of the International District (aka Chinatown) and would either catch a bus or walk about 1.2 miles to my office. Total one way trip about 45-50 mins, plus mucho gas and mileage on car (20 miles round-trip).

Then I bought a yearly bus pass and started taking the bus. City employees get a pretty good discount on passes. But, even on an "Express" bus it made too many stops, and took about an hour each way.

I then discovered Sound Transit, a train that travels from Tacoma to Seattle, and makes five stops in between. The stop in Tukwila is about 10 mins from my home, and the train ride is another 20 mins (non-stop) to Seattle. Once in Seattle, I have about a 10 min. walk to work, all up hill which is my first of three 10 min. daily workouts. Like you Sally, I love to see the steps on my pedometer increase! Note, I can use my bus pass on the train, but have to pay an additional $54 for a monthly pass. I'm okay with this when I think of how much I'm saving on gas. One tank full is almost $60.

Through trail and error, I now have a plan that works, and provides me with a little physical activity too. Sure, sometimes I still need to drive, but only when necessary.


Sally Squires: Way to go Seattle! And let me take this opportunity to welcome the Seattle Times to the growing list of newspapers that publish the Lean Plate Club columnn. We are delighted to have you and the other readers from Seattle with us.

If you'd like to read the Lean Plate Club column in your hometown newspaper, just send me an e-mail to leanplateclub@washpost.com. Please include the name of your local paper and I'll pass it along to the Post Writers Group. It also helps if you can include hometown newspaper in the subject line. Thanks!


Germantown, Md.: I recently bought the book "Skinny Bitch," and although I have not read through the entire book I have scanned it.

I have mixed feelings on this book. I like the idea of not putting any toxins or preservatives in your body, but I don't think you need to be vegan organic raw diet in order to live a healthy lifestyle. I eat healthy, try to avoid preservatives, eat low calorie and low fat while avoiding excessive sugar. I run 20 miles a week and do strength training. I believe I am living a healthy lifestlye, but I am not vegan raw organic. And despite my healthy lifestyle, I am not "skinny" per se... I would call myself "fit." And I don't think the emphasis the book puts on skinny is significantly healthy either.

Also, I think the authors' approach is unique in criticizing a person into making healthy changes, but I definitely do not think this is the right approach for everyone. Some people need more support and not criticism.

Sally Squires: Thanks for that thoughtful review, Germantown.For those who have not yet read today's Lean Plate Club column, I did a round-up of best selling diet books, including Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, South Beach Diet Super Charged by Arthur Agatston with Joseph Signorile and Hungry Gril by Lisa Lillien.

No question that Skinny Bitch is cheeky, which makes it a fun read. But I found that some of their advice was not based on science, as noted in today's column.

Other thoughts about these or other books out there? Send them our way.


Albany, N.Y.: Best idea for saving gas AND getting in some exercise. Stop driving around those parking lots looking for a closer parking spot, you're using up extra gas. Park way at the end of the lot, grab those cloth bags out of the trunk/back seat and WALK all the way to the front door...coming back to your car push that LARGE basket of low calorie groceries (walking AND weight pushing)!!!

Sally Squires: Hear, hear, Albany. It amazes me the number of people who do that regularly. And let's not forget those who fight for the spaces closest to the store. Whenever I shop at Costco in suburban Northern Virginia, I know exactly where to find a space. (And no, I'm not telling!) It involves walking, but I can almost always find a good spot. Thanks for weighing in.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Sally. Not sure if this is your area of expertise or not...I am a 38-year-old mom of 2, and I have a history of eating disorders. I have a relatively good handle on things (for about 10 years now) but still obsess about food and weight in a similar manner to many women, I imagine. My issue is that I am very troubled with my obsession with my 4-year-old daughter's weight. I find myself constantly worried that she is overweight (she is not) or that she will become obese. I worry even more that I will push her to have the same issues I struggled with for so long. Any advice or resources you can offer are greatly appreciated.

Sally Squires: This is a really important issue and it's so good that you are recognizing this already. A Penn State researcher named Leann Birch has done a lot of research on the food interactions between mothers and daughters of all ages. There's also a book by Judith Rodin, formerly of Yale and Penn, now head of the MacArthur Foundation. It's probably out of print, but I'll bet you could find it on E-bay. It's called Body Traps is quite good. I'll look for a couple of other volumes to recommend.

You might also consider discussing your concerns with a psychologist or other mental health professional.


Brentwood, Calif.: I have "Hungry Girl" and it has so many wonderfully easy recipes to choose from. I have tried a handful and love them.

I have about 40 tabbed to try. What I love about it is that the recipes are for one serving. I often cook for just myself so it is perfect.

Sally Squires: That's a hearty vote for Hungry Girl. Thanks very much. How about others?


Fairfax, Va.: Regarding weight loss books-- they can be motivational, but many are also misleading, and the fact that they are so popular I think falsely gives them a sense of validation. Losing a lot of weight or being thin aren't credentials, but it seems a lot of these authors would like us to believe they are!

As for today's other topic, public transportation can be maddening, but I pace and do yoga poses when stuck waiting for my bus, or if I'm at the Metro station and know I just missed one, I go up and down the stairs in the parking garage several times. Also, I never sit when I can stand -- let the people who work on their feet all day sit!

Sally Squires: There are so many opportunities to build activity into our lives--if you do the clever types of things that you have figured out. I recall being on jury duty and walking up and down the escalators during breaks because we mostly weren't allowed to leave the building. It sure helped clear my head.

And as for those diet books, you're right: many over-promise or have inaccurate information. That's why the more you can know about nutrition and physical activity, the more you can be in control of your own destiny and not beholden to the newest diet fad.


Los Angeles:"The Maker's Diet," by Jordan Ruben

A great book ! Buy it, read it.

It will change your life in good and permanent ways unlike most other books and programs which at some level are really unconvincing and therefore have only temporary effect, at best.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Sally Squires: You're quite welcome. Thanks for weighing in. We'll post a link in a minute to the Maker's Diet Web site for those who want to learn more.


New England: I'm not submitting for a prize, and this is easier done up north than it is in D.C., but I'll throw it out there:

Save energy by not running your A/C. The added bonus to this is that you won't want to eat as much (or as heavy) food, and you will expend more energy to stay cool. This was all over the news wires two years ago, but it's more relevant with energy prices being so high.

Sally Squires: It certainly is! And you remind me of some former neighbors. They were a British family of five and NEVER turned on their A/C which is quite remarkable in DC. But they seemed perfectly happy. And my husband, who grew up in Florida, also recalls the days when A/C was not available. Of course, there were fewer people and you could catch a great breeze by the water too.



Fairfax, Va.: When I drop my son off at rugby practice or the pool, I keep driving ... to the gym. I jump on the EFX machine or do a quick circuit, then go back to pick him up. Or, if I have only 45 minutes or so, I'll take the dog with me and walk in the surrounding neighborhood. (I am giving up the unscheduled hour that I used to spend chatting with the other moms or reading a book in the car, but it's the best way to fit a workout into my day.)

Sally Squires: Those are two-fers and three-fers and just great moments to grab an opportunity and literally run with it! We sometimes walk our dog to do errands. (That makes it a three-fer: walking, walking the dog and getting the errand accomplished.) I'll bet if we tried we could think of four-fers and five-fers. :-)


Baltimore: Sally,

I just read "You: On a Diet" by Drs. Roizen and Oz (frequent Oprah guests) and I'm considering following their diet advice. Any thoughts or suggestions regarding their philosophy?

Sally Squires: I just watched a clip of Mehmet Oz being interviewed by Diane Sawyer on ABC following the tragic death of NBC's Tim Russert. Both are well respected physicians. There's nothing extreme or faddish in the book. It's good commonsense. And for the sake of full disclosure, Dr. Oz kindly gave a blurb for my Secrets of the Lean Plate Club book.

Bottom line: if the plan seems to make sense to you and it's something that you can live with, try it. It's also a good idea to consult with your physician before starting any diet or exercise program, especially if you happen to have any health problems.


Philadelphia:"Skinny Bitch" is my favorite book! It's funny and it's keeps your attention. It just teaches you how to make smart choices regarding what you put in your body and it makes you laugh out loud. Becoming a vegan is a bit extreme for me, but the book seriously changed my life and now I understand how to read labels. It's my food bible, I've never let anyone borrow it, because I use it so frequently.

Sally Squires: Sounds like you've found something that works really well for you. And you're right, the vegan approach to eating won't be for everyone. But even the U.S. Dietary Guidelines urge us to eat a mostly plant based diet. Thanks.


Southampton, Mass.: The Skinny on Summer Reading: I've read "Skinny Bitch" by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, and I think the most important thing that people should take away from the book is to READ THE INGREDIENTS in the food you are eating. Read the book with a grain of salt -- the authors are vegans and half the book is listening to their "soap box" stand against animal cruelty, which, while important, doesn't help with your diet.

Sally Squires: No, it doesn't. And I also took issue with their notion that organic red wine is somehow better than any other alcohol. It's all alcohol. It all has calories and for women, alcohol is linked to a slightly higher risk of breast cancer (and for those past menopause to a slightly lower risk of heart disesase.) But some people mistakenly consider alcohol healthy. In moderation, it may be okay.But there's no recommended dietary intake for alcohol either. In a minute, we'll post a link to a story today by David Brown about alcohol. It's a good read.


Washington, DC: Read with interest your comments about the new South Beach Supercharged book. What I think you neglected to point out is that the South Beach concept isn't just a "diet book", but a serious work aimed at reducing the incidence of heart disease in the U.S. To compare it to books like "Skinny Bitch" is like comparing Masterpiece Theater to Sex and the City. Just not right. Do you agree or disagree that the principles outlined in South Beach are serious of purpose and backed by lots of excellent medical research?

One more question: South Beach praises the use of statins to control cholesterol. Yet a Business Week cover story earlier this year indicated that statins are useless unless severe heart disease is already present. Do you have an opinion about whether statins are a critical component of heart health, or a marketing ploy?


Sally Squires: Arthur Agatston is a respected cardiologist and his co-author is a respected exercise physiologist. I put the books in the same column only because they are all now on Amazon's best seller list. But you're right: the South Beach Diet has a lot more research behind it, although I do take issue with the fact that South Beach still gives short shrift to some good foods including pineapple.

What I liked is the way that he has really added exercise to the program. That's a great addition. And there's a lot in this book, including ways to help reduce the metabolic syndrome--a dangerous cosntellation of symptoms, including high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol and blood sugar and weight around the middle. It's one of the things that contributed to Tim Russert's death sadly.

Thanks for weighing in.


washingtonpost.com: Agency Wants to Help Doctors Identify Heavy Drinkers (Post, June 17)

Sally Squires: As promised, here's the article on alcohol from today's Health section.


washingtonpost.com: The Maker's Diet Online

Sally Squires: As promised...


Alexandria trying Vegtarian: Hi Sally,

I am attempting to eat like a vegetarian two days a week for the simple health benefits of eliminating so much meat, but my biggest issue is I don't like beans. I have had a hard time finding meals to get me at a good protein level and feel me up without eating beans. Any advice?

Sally Squires: There are some delicious meat substitutes available these days. You might check out Boca Burger and Gardenburger brands of everything from "sausages" to "burgers."

Dairy could help provide protein for you. You'll want to keep it nonfat or low-fat, however. You might make cold soups with a combination of skim milk and nonfat yogurt. I make a quick vichyssoise with canned potato soup reconstituted with skim milk and a bit of nonfat yogurt to thicken it. I make it without cooking--which the manufacturer may not recommend--so you could heat the milk and the soup, then cool and add the yogurt and other seasonsings. It's quite good with chives and a dash of Tabasco. If you can, choose a low-sodium soup to keep salt intake lower.

Eggs (particularly egg whites) would be another option for you--at least if you are practicing ovo-lacto vegetarianism. Egg whites are very high in protein and have no fat. You could eat a hardboiled egg (and trade the yolk for something healthier such as guacamole.) I also chop hard-boiled egg whites and toss on some of my salads.

Other things such as tempeh and seitan (vegetarian "white meat" made from gluten) could be other options. Keep in mind that most of us living in developed countries get plenty of protein. Hope that helps. And please let us know how it goes. Thanks


You never know, So, Be Smart and Good to Yourself: I believe it's good practice to find a healthy approach to life/eating that works for you and stick with it. I have just been hit with a pretty huge challenge...due to a major flare with an autoimmune disease that has not responded to current treatments, I will start chemotherapy. It's intimidating for sure, however to be "ahead of the curve" so to speak in a small way by already having a very healthy approach to food can only be an asset. I have been fortunate in that I am able to participate in forums like yours, gain expert advice (thank you) and great ideas, and motivation from others. I have never been much overweight, but I do know that a physical disability can allow you to slack, eat junk and find excuses. In fact, on the way home from the hospital after the determination for the next adventure, I asked my husband to stop at Dairy Queen and got several quarts of it to take home. I enjoyed it, but it's now over with...so treat yourself well, in every aspect...because you never know what that good approach can mean for you with new and challenging situations that may come unexpectedly at any time.

Thanks, Sally for a great, fun column.

Sally Squires: Thank you and best of luck for this challenge ahead. Sounds like you have just the right attitude to meet it. Hope you'll keep us updated. We'll keep you in our thoughts and prayers.


El Dorado Hills, Calif.:"Skinny Bitch" is all about substituting highly processed (100's of ingredients and additives, artificial flavors and colorings) faux meat instead of the real thing. I can't think of anything more expensive and unhealthy. The book is a very unbalanced case against meat. How about less meat and meatless meals using natural ingredients? Sally

Sally Squires: I'm with you. And given the wonderful produce that is now coming into season, I realize how much I miss a lot of it at other times of year. We've been making wonderful dinner salads packed with healthy, fresh stuff from our local farmer's market. Last night, I also had watermelon with low-fat feta and thyme on top with a little bit of olive oil drizzled over it. Yum. Give me real food any day over all the processed stuff. It's another reason why it's so important to know how to cook. And I wonder if we should expand our skills to also be able to grow a little food even if it's only in containers on a deck.

What do you think?


Richmond, Va.: I recall skimming "Skinny Bitch," and coming across something I thought was a fairly wild assertion that really turned me off of this particular vegan book (there are plenty of other good ones out there..). They mentioned an incident at a slaughterhouse where a horse that had died of pneumonia was dismembered and the undiseased portion (rump etc.) was processed with beef for hamburgers etc. This seems really scandalous, passing one animal off for another. Is anyone aware of any truth to this?

Sally Squires: Washington Post writer Joby Warrick wrote a series about slaughterhouses a number of years ago. Like the video caught about a year ago in California, it was pretty gruesome. I don't know of any specific instances of horsemeat being passed off for beef. But I'm certain the USDA would have something to say about that!

And I don't recall the Skinny Bitch authors providing footnotes. But I can do a Nexis search after the chat and report back in next week's e-mail newsletter.


Texas: This is a tad extreme and not for those with children but I canceled my cable. I've got about 60 lbs to lose so I needed the added incentive. I used to veg in front of the TV channel surfing or watching hours of shows and movies that I'd taped. Now I spend some of that time at the gym. Also works if I've had a crappy day at work -- last night I didn't feel like working out but within about 20 minutes of being home I reminded myself there was no cable for a reason. I changed and went and did an hour on the treadmill and elliptical. If I'd still had cable I wouldn't have gone. Am currently reading the revised South Beach diet book -- has some good tips.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Texas! You're not only saving money by skipping that cable television, you're burning a lot of calories. And I'm with you: when it seems hardest to exercise is often exactly the time that one SHOULD work out. If we can all overcome that tendency to sink into the couch at the end of a long or stressful day, it can really make a difference. And I think one of the important messages from the tragic death of Tim Russert is that we all need to take care of ourselves. It will be sorely missed by not only his colleagues and the public but also by his family. My heart breaks for them.


new clothes: Hi Sally. I have an unusual question. I have recently lost some weight (due to better diet and exercise) and have dropped a clothing size. At what point do you start buying new clothes? I'd like clothes that fit (to keep me "honest" about my current weight and to keep motivating myself.) But I would like to keep loosing weight, and don't want to purchase new outfits if I will just need to replace them in a month. On the other hand, expecting to drop four pant-sizes in the immediate future is unrealistic. How should I go about this? Thanks!

Sally Squires: It's definitely a balancing act. But first congratulations on your progress. That's wonderful! You might treat yourself to one or two articles of clothing in your new size. Doing so can definitely be a morale booster. Target and Wal-Mart often have some great buys on clothes that won't undermine your budget too much. You could check out second hand shops. Or check with friends and relatives for sizes that they no longer need if you don't want to purchase anything new.

But my vote is to get a few things that will keep you motivated and feeling great as you continue to shrink. Hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Need book club healthy eats! Washington DC: I picked "My Life in France" by Julia Child for book club next month and while I'm loving the book, I'm not loving the fat content on all of these delicious sounding French recipes! Does anyone have suggestions for light and easy French treats I can serve at my book club? As a lifetime Weight Watcher I'm always looking for yummy light food, thanks

Sally Squires: Check out Eating Well, Cooking Light and epicurious.com (especially their healthy recipes) as well as Gourmet.com. I also sometimes find good recipes at Saveur.com.

And remember that butter and high-fat foods can be reduced by substituting skim milk or cutting cream in half with skim. There's also now non-fat sour cream and cream cheese, as well as nonfat cream. Whether you can cook with that may be in doubt, since it may not be heat stable.

But it's certainly possible to create healthier French cooking. And we'll try to post a link in a minute to a feature on French cooking from Cooking Light. Have fun at your book group.


Wilmington, Del.: Regarding the "summer reading," I think there is a glut of books by authors trying to make money out of peoples increased concern about fitness, health and most of all, weight. I do NOT want to read a book entitled "Skinny Bitch." Give me a steamy page-turner or a good mystery any summer day.

Sally Squires: Hear, hear, Wilmington! Thanks.


Baltimore, Maryland: I park just inside the city, which is about 3/4 of a mile (walking) from my office. I've always considered this to be forced exercise but this saves "city" gas mileage by eliminating the stop and go traffic the rest of the way to my office.

Sally Squires: Way to go Baltimore. And I'll bet that you feel much better walking that distance than sitting frustrated in traffic.Thanks for the great example.


washingtonpost.com: How to Cook French (cookinglight.com)

Sally Squires: As promised...


Fountain Hills, AZ: A comment: I will no longer click to the recipes mentioned if they are from "Woman's Day" magazine. Their Web site is a constant, annoying, throbbing site of pop up ads and promotions that make trying to read even one recipe almost impossible.

Sally Squires: I guess that I haven't experienced that, but I can understand your frustration. Duly noted. And I'll look for other recipes for the e-mail newsletter, although I can't promise I will never include Woman's Day recipes again since they are often very tempting. But I'll be sure to mark which ones come from there so you can avoid them if you wish. Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate all comments.


Indianapolis: I just started reading "In Defense of Food" by Pollan. He has some unusual ideas. Do you have an opinion on the book?

Sally Squires: I have not yet read all of Michael Pollan's books. I like his focus on real food, but I am a little tired of his adage to only shop on the periphery of the grocery. Not only have stores caught on to this, but there's plenty of good stuff in the middle include beans, frozen food and canned food. Both are nutritional rivals for fresh produce--if you get them without added sugar, fat or salt, which is possible. More importantly, what do you think about Michael Pollan's book? Since we're out of time, e-mail me or let's continue the conversation on the LPC Discussion Group. Have you joined it yet? More than 500 Lean Plate Club members communicate with each other and with me throughout the week--not just on Tuesdays. So hope you'll join us there. Find it at www.leanplateclub.com/group


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat. I'm impressed at the creativity in leaving the car behind and hoofing it various places. Winners today are Seattle, Albany, Texas, Fairfax (keep driving) and Baltimore. E-mail me at leanplateclub@washpost.com with your U.S. postal address and please put winner in the subject line.

Until next week, join me on the Lean Plate Club Discussion Group. E-mail me anytime at leanplateclub@washpost.com any time.

Now I'm off to get some more steps on my pedometer. How about you? See you next week: eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club. Thanks to all!


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