Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, July 22, 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:

Sally Squires's Recent Columns

Discussion Transcripts

A transcript follows.

Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club Web chat! The e-mail newsletters should be in your electronic in boxes right about now. In today's issue,find some great links to recipes for cool summer dishes and desserts. Also, new exercise possibilities whether you're being active outdoors or indoors during the steamy weather.
Now on to the chat!


Cleveland Heights, Ohio: I have had more success with high protein, low carbohydrate diets than low fat diets which leave me hungry and unsatisfied. However, the former is harder to maintain because of the plethora of high carbohydrate foods in most cuisines (Italian, American, Asian). As soon as I attempt to transition from the first phase, I end up with too many high carb foods (bread, rice, pasta) in my diet and regain back all the weight I lost. Any suggestions on how to stick to this change in eating over the long haul?

Sally Squires: You bet, Cleveland. You might get more of your carbs from vegetables and fruit. They not only have healthy carbs, but they pack plenty of phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. And when you eat pasta, crackers, cereal, rice, etc., try to make them whole grain varieties--which have more fiber and lower glycemic index. That means they're less likely to spike your blood sugar, which in turn sets in motion a host of other reactions that affect insulin, etc. that in turn affect your hunger.
Portion sizes are also important. Hope that helps.


Mena, Ark.: I have, in the past had good success with low-carb but in the end the weight didn't stay off. The sound of unlimited meat, eggs, cheese, etc sounds good at first but gets boring quickly. Also, it doesn't teach you good habits like portion control. It also becomes less effective each successive time you go on it. I am currently on one of the highly advertised plans (think Dan Marino, Marie Osmond) and have lost almost 100 pounds since Jan. It is a restricted calorie plan (Men 1400-1600, women 1100-1300) and the carbs should be the lowest GI available. My eating habits are changing and even when I eat "off plan" I have learned to make better choices. The structure works for me.

Sally Squires: Congratulations Mesa! 100 pounds. That's fantastic. And it's okay to mention the name of the company if you want to. Thanks for being such an inspiration.


Jerusalem, Israel: I am actually "dieting" now.

The best diet for me is to EAT LESS. I don't count calories. I eat when I am hungry and always eat just as much as it takes for the hunger to go away.

It happens often that I get hungry in an hour or two. So, I eat again. But just enough, always less than I've eaten in the past.

I am also attending a gym for the first time in my life. However, I don't feel that the exercises is contributing to my weight loss. I do feel better and stronger, so I continue to go.

Sally Squires: Paying attention to what your body is telling you about hunger is a very smart idea. The trick, however, is to be sure to REALLY listen when it says that it's full. Doing that can be difficult for some people. But if you can pull off what you're doing, it's a wonderful way to feel good and reach a healthier weight. Thanks for weighing in. Were you surprised to find that the study mentioned in today's column was done in Israel?


Silver Spring, Md.: Yes, I feel Pilates and yoga classes are too expensive. I would love to take a class but have purchased a Pilates DVD instead and follow the instructions. Gets boring, however, with my investment of $15 I couldn't take one class for that price. However, I would like to have an instructor teach me the correct pose/positions so I know I am getting the most from the exercise. I have a new yoga/Pilates studio in my neighborhood but when I checked their pricing schedule...ouch! Any suggestions?

Sally Squires: For those who have not yet read today's e-mail newsletter, I asked if any of you find that the cost of exercise classes (yoga, Pilates, etc.) is getting too pricey. The DVDs are a great idea. It may be that you could get an instructor to give a private lesson to you and a few friends for a special deal. Anyone else have any ideas for saving money on these classes?
Sometimes health clubs and the Y have group classes that are less expensive. And some employers are now bring the classes in to their offices as a "value added" item.


Washington, D.C.: Do you or other chatters have any good yoga DVDs to recommend? I'm a healthy, active 44 year old woman who works out regularly (running, plus bike commuting from spring to fall), and am looking to yoga to focus on flexibility, which I am sorely lacking. So I'm not looking for a "hot yoga" type workout, but something that really focuses on stretching. I know next to nothing about yoga, so hoping you all can help -- thanks!

Sally Squires: There's an Ali McGraw yoga tape that was recommended to me by a friend who does a lot of yoga. Yoga Journal has a quite a long list of titles as well. Others out there?


Bethesda, Md.: Hi there. My uncle is undergoing lap band surgery. Would you or any of the chatters have a recommendation for a cookbook for the meals (I think mostly liquefied) that he will be able to eat? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Eating Well After Weight Loss Surgery by Patt Levine is one possibility that I found on Amazon. (I can't vouch for the accuracy of this volume because I haven't read it yet.) Another is Recipes for Life After Weight-Loss Surgery by Margaret Furtado. (Again, I can't vouch for the accuracy, but it's worth a look.)
Other suggestions out there? Send them our way.


Silver Spring, Md.: Doesn't the fact that the Atkins Foundation funded part of the study make it a bit skewed?

Sally Squires: I pressed the Meir Stampfer about that very question, Silver Spring. Know that the Harvard group is very well respected. So is the New England Journal of Medicine. The Atkins Foundation provided funding but according to Stampfer, did not receive the results until they were published in the journal and release at the same time to the press. So bottom line is that no, they did not seem to have any effect on the results.


Local eater-Boyds: Sally: Your newsletter said to share what we're cooking this week. I love this time of year, especially since there is more rain this year than last. Last night my husband surprised me by making a stir fry dinner consisting of green bell peppers, banana pepper, onion, zucchini, green beans and seasoned with basil and parsley all from our garden. We had a side of sliced cucumber (from our garden). The only thing not from our garden was the chicken breasts. Though we do raise a few chickens we eat their eggs and let mother nature take them when it's their time.

Sally Squires: That sounds like a great dinner, Boyds. I, too, love this time of year with all the fresh produce. On Sunday, I made ratatouille, which we ate last night as a side dish. I also marinated Cornish hens in the Mrs. Dash's no sodium, no MSG marinade (and I have no connection with the company) then they were baked for about an hour at 350. It was a great dinner and quite easy to do. What I also love about this time of year are the longer days so that it's still light when we eat dinner--and there's time to take a walk with the dog, which we also did last night.
Thanks for chiming in.


Chapel Hill, NC: I am elderly and have tried and survived all diets. Finally did Weight Watchers and lost 17 pounds. Kept it all off except I am up 5 from my ideal weight. I am going back on WW for a month or so to keep off the weight. Some friends and I go to the meetings and low calorie lunch afterward and it seems like a party.

Sally Squires: And it's that kind of support that can really make a difference in achieving your goals, as you already have demonstrated. My great aunt went to Weight Watchers shortly after first being widowed some 20 years ago. She, too, went with a friend, who happened to be named Sally and they also walked together every morning. My aunt lost about 20 pounds as I recall and I think had a pleasurable time doing it, but I don't want to put words in her mouth. She's still going strong at nearly 92.


Atlanta: One thing that I found that made exercise cheaper was joining a gym that's associated with a hospital. They need the gym anyway, for rehab patients, so it seems like prices are not based on profit and contracts as much as trying to recover some overhead ($34/month, same for last 8 yrs/no contract). Diet-wise, I lost 80 pounds with Weight Watchers, focusing mostly on getting lots of fiber from natural foods. I hate to cook, and it still worked. After that, I looked at calories and managed my points. But no fake foods with ingredients that I didn't recognize. Even if low point and low fat, they weren't filling and had no nutrients.

Sally Squires: Joining a gym with a hospital is a great idea, Atlanta. That reminds me that a number of hotels also offer health club memberships to locals. Plus, some universities and colleges do too. And community centers often have classes that might fit the bill for lower cost yoga or Pilates. Thanks!


Norfolk, Va.: I would love to participate in a yoga class, but the prices are definitely beyond my reach. They want $150 and up for a month of yoga or $17 for the drop in rate.

Sally Squires: That is very pricey, Norfolk. In writing this week's newsletter, I noticed that some yoga instructors were asking if the industry is pricing itself out of the general population. What do you think?


Washington, D.C.: Do you have any suggestions for where I can find a boot camp in DC? I am working on improving my health and fitness and think I am ready for this. I do not belong to a gym (I use the one at work), so I have no leads from a gym. I am interested in one in the District, preferably metro-accessible, and really don't want one that starts earlier than 7 a.m. (would much prefer 8 a.m.). Thanks for any ideas.

Sally Squires: There's a DC Adventure Boot Camp--we'll post a link in a minute. Anybody have a boot camp locally that they'd like to recommend? We'll try to post a link to that in a minute, plus to an About.com site for do it yourself boot camps--not the same, but perhaps a start. Collage Video also offers several DVDs for boot camp if that's of interest. We'll try to post a link to that too.


washingtonpost.com: Adventure Boot Camp

Sally Squires: As promised...


Madison, WI again: Sorry - forgot a good resource for inexpensive yoga.

You can download free yoga podcasts (complete routines) through iTunes. Just search the iTunes store for "yogajournal."

Sally Squires: Cool! Thanks much Madison.


What's the Mediterranean Diet: Hi Sally - can you describe what the Mediterranean diet is, exactly? I have heard the term used before, but I don't really know what it means other than olive oil, fish, and poultry. There has to be more to it than that.

Sally Squires: The official definition of the Mediterranean diet probably isn't as ironclad as the low-carb and the low-fat approaches (although it was for the study mentioned in today's column.) Generally the Mediterranean diet has a little more fat--about 35 percent of daily calories than the low-fat diet (about 30 percent). But that fat comes from healthy sources including fish, nuts and olive oil. It's also rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains and contain fish and often beans and some dairy products (especially yogurt and cheese.) Meat and poultry are more limited.
Hope that helps.


washingtonpost.com: www.collagevideo.com

Sally Squires: As promised...


Michigan: A couple of things about the study NOT being reported in the press: with all three diets, the participants only lost weight for six months and then all started regaining; and they counted the drop-outs in the final results, using their last known weights.

Sally Squires: You raise good points, some of which are in today's column. Those first six months of all diets seem to be the most successful. Although in this study, the Mediterranean diet group dropped a little more weight from six to 10 months, before plateauing. But I'm not sure that the differences were statistically significant.


Denver: Sally,

By the last semester in high school, I'd gained about 20 pounds more than I felt comfortable with.

When I started college in Fall, I heard about, and went on the old Michigan State diet: high protein, high fat, and low carb. (It's been reinvented and claimed by others over the years.) At the same time, my activity automatically increased with gym, walking long distances to class, and sports with my friends. No workouts.

The MS nutrition plan satisfied my appetite, and I slimmed down from 154 to 134 pounds, a weight just right for my 5-8 frame. From then on, I trusted my appetite to tell me when and for what I was hungry, and moved into three meals a day plus snacks in between. I've maintained that 134 pound weight for forty years, and feel great!

Sally Squires: I've never heard this referred to as the Michigan State diet, but I believe you. That's an interesting tidbit. I am old enough to recall the Stillman diet which preceded Atkins as a low-carb fad, although that was before we even referred to carbs. Mostly they were called starch! Congratulations on what you've accomplished. Very impressive.


Waxhaw, North Carolina : I would like to use yellow squash to make bread. Is it interchangeable with zucchini? Should it be grated or pulped?

Thank you.

Sally Squires: If you're talking about summer squash, it should be pretty interchangeable. It's been a long time since I made zucchini bread, but when I did using a recipe from Gourmet magazine, grating was indeed part of the recipe. And it wouldn't hurt to pulp and remove seeds as needed. Hope you'll let us know how it goes.


Santa Fe, N.M.: I belong to a CSA that is based on the number of boxes you purchase, not a season and I think it works really well since it's year-round and they don't have to spend too much effort recruiting people back for the season. I also have the ability to get my box every other week and as a single person it works well because I don't end up having to throw things away/compost.

The CSA made a decision to populate the box with more than just "local" produce, so I get items from Colorado, Texas, California and Oregon. It stills supports local organic farms; it just gives us the chance to have more than just green chile, tomatoes and lettuce.

I use my box as a focal point and as a result, cook a lot more and find cooking to be a lot easier than it used to be. I'm no longer afraid of it.

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of my CSA

Sally Squires: In today's e-mail newsletter, I linked to an ongoing series by Stephanie Witt Sedgwick about her experience with community supported agriculture and asked for other comments. Thanks for weighing in. This arrangement sounds interesting.


Madison, WI again: Hi again,

I think my first submission didn't go through. Here are some ideas for inexpensive yoga.

Try a local YMCA. My HMO offers relatively inexpensive yoga courses, as does the city's recreation division. Local universities/colleges often offer yoga and Pilates for students; call and see if you can audit a class. Even my church offers yoga! One 6-week class can be all you need to learn proper technique and continue on your own.

Regarding yoga and Pilates videos, check the public library and Netflix to add variety. Netflix in particular has a great selection at a low cost. Yogajournal.com has reviews, as does collagevideo.com (no affiliation to any of these companies!)

Sally Squires: Thanks Madison!


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

Sally Squires: Here's more on the Mediterranean diet.


Carrboro, N.C.: I was reading about the diet question for today's online chat and was wondering what you could substitute for fish if you're not a big fish eater?

Sally Squires: If you're not a big fish eater and want to get more omega-3 fatty acids, you could eat nuts and flax. But you won't get the exact type of omega-3s found in fish. You could also consider taking fish oil supplements or look for some of the growing types of fortified food that now over varying amounts of omega-3s.
Hope that helps.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for a great chat! Until next week, eat smart and move more with the Lean Plate Club. Cheers!


© 2008 The Washington Post Company