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Through my quest for knowledge about HBO's "The Weight of the Nation" documentary on the obesity crisis of America, I was introduced to Stasha Hornbeck, a dietician and nutritionist with Kaiser Permanente in Portland.

I have to tell you that booking a quick telephone interview with Stasha was difficult: She has lots and lots of clients to see.

"Though I am happy to help people, it isn't a good sign that my schedule is so full," she said.

Stasha's day is spent encouraging KP patients to eat more healthfully and teaching them about dietary plans that fit their particular needs. I was pleased to hear her advice was back to basics.

She shared some commonsense advice that we can all easily follow. Here are some of her tips:

Buy foods that are in season. You've read about eating with the seasons more than once in this column. It is the easiest and least expensive way to ensure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs year round.

Grow a garden, even if it is just a small container garden.

"Even if all you grow are tomatoes and lettuce, that gives you ready access to fresh produce," she said. She also suggested joining a CSA or Gleaners association to take advantage of surplus produce.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO  - One of the resources available on hbo.com/theweightofthenation is myplate, which illustrates the USDA recommended proportion of grains, protein, vegetables and fruits we should eat daily.

Stasha said she has some clients who shop just once a month. She encourages them to take the same budget and break in into weekly amounts. "They will spend the same amount of money, but will be buying more fresh food," she said. When you shop just once a month you are bound to put more shelf-stable, processed food in your cart, which is exactly what you want to avoid.

Always shop with a plan of what you want to buy and plan on preparing more than one meal at a time.

"Soups, stews, chilies and casseroles are wonderful," she said. "In fact, they are a great way to use up vegetables that may be beginning to wilt. And leftovers are delicious - they usually taste better the second day!"

Though fresh produce may seem more expensive, she said it is actually a bargain in terms of health care costs. And there is no comparison between the flavors and health benefits of eating real food versus fast food.

"Fast food is really expensive! It is very costly in terms of its impact on the health of our society. And people who say they don't have time to cook - they do have time! Think of the time spent watching TV or on the computer. You can carve out time from those activities a couple of times a week to cook."

She also reminds folks that the other part of the equation is getting regular exercise.

Eat real food. Exercise regularly. Two bits of easy-to-follow advice that will lead to weight loss and better health.

Remember this information from last week: The National Weight Control Registry has been tracking more than 5,000 people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for more than a year. Of these registry participants:

n 62 percent watch fewer than 10 hours of TV a week.

n 78 percent weigh themselves at least once a week, many daily.

n 78 percent eat breakfast every day.

n 90 percent exercise about an hour a day on average.

n 98 percent continue to eat a healthier diet.

n 100 percent say their quality of life is higher.

Let's give it a whirl this week.

If you haven't viewed the "Weight of the Nation" films you can find them online at hbo.com/theweightofthenation. The website is also full of other great resources, recipes, like the recipe for Chicken and Celery Stir-Fry, calorie trackers, etc. Give it a look today.

Chicken and Celery Stir-Fry

Serve on top of steamed brown rice, and you have a quick, easy and delicious weeknight meal.

Prep time 20 minutes; cook time 20 minutes. Yields 4 servings of 1 cup chicken and vegetables


1 tablespoon peanut oil or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon ginger, minced

1 tablespoon garlic, minced (about 2 or 3 cloves)

1 tablespoon fresh scallions (green onions) rinsed and minced

2 cups celery, rinsed and sliced

1 cup carrots, rinsed and peeled into very thin strips

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted (optional).

Directions: Heat oil in a large wok or sauté pan. Add ginger, garlic and scallions, and stir fry briefly until cooked, but not brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add celery and carrots and continue to cook gently until the celery begins to soften.

In a bowl, mix cornstarch with chicken broth, and add to the pan. Add rice vinegar and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce temperature to a gentle simmer. Add chicken and stir continually for 5 to 8 minutes. Add soy sauce, sesame oil (optional), and sesame seeds (optional) and mix gently. Serve 1 cup chicken stir-fry.

Nutritional information: Calories 188, total fat 7 g, saturated fat 2 g, cholesterol 51 mg, sodium 237 mg, total fiber 2 g, protein 22 g, carbohydrates 8 g, potassium 370 mg.

Recipe source: Deliciously Healthy Dinners

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-636-1281, ext. 101 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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