Lean Plate Club

Sally Squires
Washington Post Health and Nutrition Writer
Tuesday, July 29, 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 "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

A transcript follows.


Sally Squires: Welcome to the Lean Plate Club. Today is our seventh anniversary and my last as your host. Like many other journalists at the Post, I took the buyout. And I will miss you all more than I can say.

But I'll be sticking around both nutrition and writing as director of health and wellness at Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick, a strategic communications firm. And you can always reach me by e-mail at sally@sallysquires.com where I'll be doing more in my off hours about nutrition, physical activity and more.

Now on to the chat!


Chatham, Ill.: Sally:

I have to go out of town on business shortly so I can't say around for the chat starting up soon -- I just wanted to wish you the very best. It has always been one of my goals to get my weight down enough, long enough, to qualify for your "losers" list! I'm going to still keep trying. Best wishes!

Sally Squires: Thanks Chatham. My money is on you and lots of other Lean Plate Club members. And don't forget to let me know how you're doing at sally@sallysquires.com

Also, for those who want to become successful losers, check out the National Weight Control Registry, run by Rena Wing, PhD. and Jim Hill, PhD.


Winona, MN: I'm very sorry for us that you are leaving, but I wish you the best of luck on your new adventures! Your down to earth, sensible views on nutrition are a shining example of what's right with the world. You do a wonderful job of cutting through the "soundbite" mentality of popular media. Three cheers to you!

Sally Squires: Thanks Winona. And I loved having the Lean Plate Club column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and all the other Lean Plate Club subscribing newspapers. I am very grateful to all those editors and readers who participated in this venture.

I'm looking forward to finding new ways to interact with you and others. Obesity isn't going away. And food and activity are always going to be one of life's many pleasures. Plus, what I have loved about the LPC experience is that from the very beginning we've been able to communicate virtually in our club.

We've pushed the envelope with our first Frappr.com group that was set up a few years ago by one of the Washingtonpost.com employees. Do you remember that from a Holiday Challenge. It's the sites like Frappr, Twitter and lots more that can help us and others with similar interests in any field from nutrition to politics find common ground. That's what's been such fun with this experiment. I look forward to continuing it.

Another editor here--Ju-Don Marshall Roberts--encouraged me to write the LPC e-mail newsletter. In those early days, I actually keyed in all the addresses--and there were several thousand at first--myself.

Thanks to Ju-Don for being such a strong supporter of my efforts here through the years.


Lubbock, Tex.: Sally! What am I going to do without my weekly Lean Plate Club chat "fix"?!

You and the chatters have taught me so much and given me so many helpful ideas that my "withdrawal" will be very difficult indeed.

My very best wishes to you, Sally, in your new endeavor. Boy, am I gonna miss you!

Sally Squires: And I will miss all of your. But I hope this isn't goodbye. And I hope that through the wonders of the Web we will re-connect with each other. I'm having fun discovering how to connect with many people on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, etc. How about all of you?


All the best wishes and a question: I will miss your columns and this chat. I have lost over 50 pounds using the common sense and advise you espouse. Question: banning trans fats? I understand Americans don't make the best choices and we are an obese nation but this move seems to be a move toward more of a nanny state rather than one that would allow for educating the public. What do you say?

Sally Squires: Congratulations on those 50 pounds! Very inspiring. If you can maintain that loss, you, too, could be a candidate for the National Weight Control Registry.

As for trans fat: the American Heart Association, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the 2005 Dietary Guidelines all urge Americans to eat as little trans fat as possible. There is some naturally occuring trans fat, so it may not be possible to ban it completely.

And don't forget that replacing trans fat with unhealthy saturated fat isn't a great idea either. It's all a matter of balance.


Madison, Wisc.: Hi Sally,

Congratulations on your retirement, though I will sorely miss your columns and chats! I very much appreciate your knowledgeable presentation of nutritional studies and upbeat approach to healthy eating.

Sally Squires: Hey Madison: No retirement. Just change of venue, although I like the term "pensioner" that used on all our voluntary retirement materials. It really makes me feel British!

And I should also take this opportunity to say that while I retired from the Post on May 31, I had thought I would continue the column on contract, until this very wonderful opportunity arose with Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick. And I hope--as time permits--to finally write the book on the Carville, La. leprosy hospital that we documented earlier this year in our PBS film called Triumph at Carville: A Tale of Leprosy in America. It will stay on PBS for the next several years.


Great meal idea: Hi Sally - best wishes in your new venture.

I made the best lunch this week. Into a bowl went some diced garlic, diced avocado, diced tomato, scraped cooked corn on the cob, salt, cumin, fresh oregano, lime juice. I initially wanted to add black beans but had none in my pantry. Instead I served this over soft flatbread (bakery naan in my case) and it was so good. Today I made it again and added in diced smoked/grilled chicken leftover from last night's dinner. Divine.

Sally Squires: It sounds divine. And your message reminds me that I've been making sandwiches and then using dips and vegetable spreads in place of mayo. So bean dip and a little guacamole gave a chicken sandwich some wonderful flavor--and added a few extra veggies to my family's diets. I'd love to hear about your other ideas and healthy food finds. E-mail me anytime at sally@sallysquires.com.


Langley, Va.: Sally,

I am stunned, like others. LPC has become such a part of life that it will seem a little less bright now without your weekly presence.

You let me know about the Web site Sparkpeople, the DASH diet, and all manner of other good tips that let me lose 20 pounds, and thanks to you, I am 112 and 4-10 not 135 pounds.

Thank you so much. You've touched more lives than you'll probably ever know.

Sally Squires: You made my day, Langley. But then, truly, you and other LPCers made the last seven years of my journalism career such a pleasure. I loved telling you about what I got to learn from the leading nutrition and physical activity scientists--not to mention passing along great tips from other "members." But like I said, the conversation isn't ending. It's just moving to a 2.0 phase, like the rest of the Web. You can find me via google and e-mail me anytime. My backup e-mail is sallysquires@yahoo.com.

And if there's interest, I'm also looking at ways at staying in touch with you via e-mail. So let me know...


Washington, D.C.: Dear Sally,

How do we kick sodium out of our diets? I was shocked to learn that even my frozen peas from Whole Foods aren't as healthy as I'd hoped. The two ingredients were peas and salt. I thought I had enough to worry about already - how do those of us who don't cook for ourselves every night with farmer's market-fresh ingredients cut out the salt? Thanks!

Sally Squires: Center for Science in the Public Interest--the same nonprofit that helped carry the banner for the trans fat issue--is working with the Grocery Manufacturers Association on reducing sodium in the diet. There are already some small gains, but admittedly there's a long way to go.

I can find reduced sodium and low sodium soups more often than I used to find them. If you follow the DASH diet, developed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, you can be sure that you're getting enough calcium and potassium rich foods which can also help keep blood pressure at healthy levels.

But if you want to change things, make your desires known. Both industry groups and consumer groups understand that we need to figure out how to lower sodium in the American diet, because we can't afford to treat all the high blood pressure, stroke and kidney disease that is already more likely with an aging population and particularly with an aging population that eats a lot of salt, doesn't exercise and is overweight.

Also, making more food from scratch can help.


Beloit, Wisc.: Hi Sally! I'm sad to see you go, but happy you get to take on new challenges!

Looking back at your 7 years doing the Lean Plate Club, are there one or two nutritional story(ies) you feel has made the biggest impact on healthy eating?

Sally Squires: The debate about the low-carb diet certainly was strong and while many consumers went overboard with that, just as they did with low-fat, the experience highlighted the fact that we all need to eat healthy carbs--fruit and vegetables, whole grains, dairy products that are low fat--rather than loading up on cakes, cookies etc.

Also, mercury in fish is a very contentious issue. I suspect that you will continue to see the debate about what expectant mothers should and should not eat now that there are at least three large population studies showing that mothers who ate at least two servings of fish per week while pregnant had kids who scored better on various educational measures at age 7 or 8.

It's all a matter of finding balance.


Washington DC: Sally, I've always enjoyed your articles and have even implemented some of the practices into my daily life -- more vegetables and low-density foods such as popcorn.

Quick question: If a tomato is partially gone bad but the rest looks OK, is it safe to eat? I cannot find this info online, and I've got a beautiful heirloom tomato that has a little bit of rot.

Sally Squires: In the past, I would have simply cut away the bad part and eaten the rest. But I learned in reporting a story on food-borne illnesses that molds, in particularly, can have long slender tendrils that may be difficult to see. So much as it would have pained my great-grandmother, it's probably best to choose another tomato.


Woodley Park: Hey Mom,

Seeing and knowing how much you have put into this column and this all-inclusive "club" of people with one goal in common, eating healthy, makes these messages of thanks and farewell all the more meaningful.

Reading these farewell messages of readers who have been touched by your column makes me even more proud of you, and I know the rest of the family feels the same way.

Love, Colin

P.S. Can we get a deep fryer now?

Sally Squires: Tnank you Colin! Sorry, no deep fryer yet...


St. Petersburg, Fla.: Your column will be missed by me and many I'm sure. I signed up at the beginning of this year and enjoy reading it so much. Since I work nights, I don't usually read the chat transcript and your column until the evening. There many issues I struggle with -- menopause, emotional eating, and depression and food is connected to them all. I have gleaned a lot of useful information from your column. In my opinion, being a journalist as well as a dietitian has helped get across an objective, common sense view in your discussions. I look forward to reading about your new position.

Sally Squires: Thanks very much for your message St. Pete. I loved being part of last fall's Festival of Reading run by the St. Pete Times. We have more than 5,000 members in the Tampa Bay region, including readers of the Sarasota Tribune-Herald which was one of the early subscribers to the syndicated column, which also ends today. But one of the editors in Sarasota has already sent me a message via the Post Writers Group. I hope that we can all figure out ways to stay in contact.

So please note my e-mail addresses above and use google to find me in my new location. I love nutrition and writing too much--as well as contact with all of you--to not find ways for us to stay connected. Thanks much.


Centreville, VA: Sorry to see you go Sally! I've always appreciated your willingness to discuss vegan diet options, although I wish that had been the entire focus of your column! I think it's time the mainstream media stopped pandering to the animal industries and enlightens the public on the sustainability (of health and planet) of an animal-free diet.

Thanks again for all your wisdom over the years and best luck as you move forward.

Sally Squires: Thank you! And for those who want to know about vegan diets, find information at the Vegetarian Resource Group in Baltimore. Also, for those who want to do more vegetarian eating, there's Meatless Monday. I'll try to publish links in a minute.


Bethesda: Came late to the chat and just found out you're leaving! Anyway, thanks for all the great chats -- you'll be missed! (Glad I got my reusable chat bag (now a collector's item?) a few months ago...)

Sally Squires: Yes, it's now a collector's item! Hadn't thought of that. Hope you will use and enjoy.


(sorry, dumb question, but -): Regarding your response to Colin about the deep fryer - I thought that if one fried food but removed the "skin" (that is, the delicious fried batter and skin part) it was relatively healthy? Or at least no less healthy than most other food?

(I don't have a fryer and don't plan to get one, thanks to a certain unforgettable episode of "Spooks"/"MI5" but since it sort of came up today thought I'd ask...)

Sally Squires: If you remove the skin, you can remove some of the fat. But fried food does have more fat than broiled. If you buy fried food at restaurants, it often comes with trans fat unless the restaurant says otherwise. One the other hand, fried chicken seems to have fewer cancer causing agents than barbecued chicken. But that's another story!

Bottom line: everything in moderation, including ocassional fried chicken. What would life be without that or a good piece of dark chocolate?


Omaha, Neb.: I have a question about "sports drinks." One of the big selling points for these drinks is they replenish the sodium you lose when you sweat. How much sodium does a person need to lose before it begins to adversely affect them? (Or perhaps a better way to ask the question is, how much do you need to sweat before you need additional sodium?) And if you are already getting too much sodium in your diet (as most Americans are), would that preclude any possible benefit you could gain from a sports drink? Thanks for taking the question!

Sally Squires: Gatorade, which spawned all the other sports drinks, was developed at the University of Florida to help the Gators football team during their hot practices. They're big guys. They workout hard. And they do it in really hot humid weather. They performed better with the sports drinks.

Most of us aren't that big. Don't work out that hard and don't need the extra stuff, including the calories that comes with many of these sports drinks. If you work out for at least an hour vigorously, then you may want to think about replenishing with a sports drink. But figure the calories as well as the sodium in with what else you eat and drink during the day. It's all a matter of finding what works best for you and your needs-- a message that I hope everyone will take to heart. The more you know that, the less you are vulnerable to the next latest food or exericse or diet fat that comes along.


washingtonpost.com: Meatless Monday: Recipes, Health and Nutrition News

Sally Squires: As promised.


washingtonpost.com: The Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG)

Sally Squires: As promised.


Minneapolis, MN: Dear Sally:

I am just devestated: Tuesdays will not be the same without the Lean Plate Club. Yes, you have very generously supplied your e-mail address but this was such an outstanding e-mail where I learned new exercise techniques (still trying to master some of those stability ball exercises from 2 column ago). I was inspired by maps of trails to park and hike, and LOVED the recipes. You have inspired me and I've lost 8 pounds and will miss the column.

Best wishes

Sally Squires: And I will miss interacting with all of you in this venue. But there will be other ways that we can stay in touch. And if you really liked the e-mail that I have been sending, please let me know because I'm looking for ways to write and send the 2.0 version on my own.


Olney, Md.: OH NO!!! It can't be true. The end of the Lean Plate Club.

Sally, you have influenced tens of thousands of readers over the 7 years the Lean Plate Club has existed, flourished.

You have reinforced great eating habits for me.

You will deeply be missed. I raise my glass of water in your honor, and I wish you continued success in all of your future endeavors.

Sally Squires: Thank you very much Olney. But truly, I have gotten more from all of you than you can imagine. It's been such a joy and I hope that we will find ways to keep interacting. I also plan to stay in touch with the many scientists who have been so very generous with their time through my nearly quarter century at the Post. So here's to our future together!


New Brunswick: Waist to hip ratio question: I am 52, 5-3, 126 pounds, basically normal weight (trying to lose 5 pounds). But my waist is 32 inches, hips are 37, thus my waist/hip ratio is .86, not very good . This appears to be my normal build -- I am always amazed at people much heavier than I who are fitting into size 6 and 8 pants. I keep hearing that this ratio is more important than many other measures. But is that true if this is one's normal build?

Sally Squires: Waist to hip ratio is taking on more importance because it's a measure of risk for the metabolic syndrome. That's the syndrome that increases risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So it's important to pay attention, but not to obsess.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi, Sally. It came as a jolt to learn that you will no longer be doing what I always go to first on Tuesdays, your Lean Plate Club column. But you will be a perfect fit in your new role. If you could sum up in ten or fewer words your best advice for eating less and in 10 or fewer words your best advice for moving more, what would it be? Thank you for all the help you have given so many these past seven years.(I'll save your e-mail address -- thank you for sharing it.) Bye, Sally.

Sally Squires: Fruit and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fat (in moderation)and cook from scratch where possible. That's not 10 words, but it's close. And finally, joy. Find it in eating and in being physically active.Thanks to you!


Indiana: I was so sad to hear of your voluntary early retirement. Your Lean Plate columns, newsletters and chats have been so helpful. Adding healthy habits to eat better and move more has been the best weight loss around and has really helped me to lose weight and become more active. I especially loved your book "Secrets of the Lean Plate Club" and I frequently recommend it when people want to know what the "secret" is to my weight loss. Changing your daily habits over time is the "secret" I learned from your books, newsletters, etc. I just wanted you to know that you have helped me (and I am sure many others) to become healthier. THANKS and good luck in your future endeavors.

Sally Squires: Thank you Indiana! You, too, made my day.


Binghamton, N.Y.: Sally, congratulations and thank you for helping me with my weight loss issue. In the last couple of weeks, I devised the "100 calorie an hour diet," using an Excel spreadsheet and an honest record of what I ate at 7, 8, 9, 10, and so on. As long as I stayed within 100 calories an hour for 14 hours, my stomach was happy and my daily intake was regulated to just 1400 calories a day. On the days I exercised, I lost weight, on the days I didn't, I maintained. The only trick was to eat nutrient-rich foods that didn't amount to empty calories and kept my blood sugar level. I learned which ones to eat and which to avoid from following your column/newsletter. So thanks again.

Sally Squires: You're very welcome Binghamton. And continued success to you and all the other members of this chat and the Lean Plate Club. We will all be striving to eat smart and move more in the weeks and years ahead. And I hope we will find each other. E-mail me at sally@sallysquires.com or at sallysquires@yahoo.com.


Sally Squires: Thanks to all for this chat and for your participation in this endeavor of the last seven years. I have loved every minute. I wish you all great healthy meals, wonderful workouts and that we will find each other again soon in other venues.

For one last time, eat smart and move more!

Stay in touch with me at sally@sallysquires.com


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