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Best practices for conducting phone surveys

Thank you to everyone who attended the webinar with Tavneet Suri and the UBI Kenya team on Tuesday, March 24. We have posted a recording of the webinar, as well as Tavneet’s slides, SurveyCTO code, and the modified questionnaire.

The protection of staff and respondents who participate in our research is of highest priority for J-PAL. As of March 17, J-PAL has therefore suspended all research activities that contribute to in-person interactions in order to limit COVID-19 spread. Many other research organizations have done so or will do so soon. In order to disseminate expertise quickly and build on our combined networks, we are crowd-sourcing best practices on switching from in-person to surveying online or via phone.

This is a living document that aggregates crowd-sourced tips and factors to consider when conducting remote surveys (in particular phone surveys) while practicing social distancing. We will be updating this page regularly. Many thanks to those who have contributed to this collection thus far.

Do you have experience conducting surveys online or via phone? You can contribute via this form.

Last updated: March 31, 2020


Three resources that cover many of the topics below are:

J-PAL South Asia’s Transitioning to CATI Checklist (Saurabh Bhajibhakare, Ambika Chopra, Putul Gupta, and Mustufa Patel)

Detailed survey protocols for the UBI Kenya project (not COVID-specific) (Tessie Lezcano, Eunice Kioko, and Debborah Muthoki , IPA)

  • Berk Ozler and P. Facundo Cuevas’s Reducing Attrition in Phone Surveys blog post, with detailed protocols linked.
  • Resources from Tavneet Suri’s webinar on phone survey use:

    • Webinar slides: Many of these tips are general to phone surveys; pages 3 and 4 include COVID-specific adaptations
    • View the webinar recording.
    • SurveyCTO code used to schedule appointments (Mansa Saxena)
    • Kenya UBI adapted questionnaire (shortened for phone surveys)

    Other references (not reviewed):

    • Dillon, B., 2020. “Using mobile phones to collect panel data in developing countries.” Journal of International Development 24(4).
    • Etang, A., & Himelein, K., 2020. “Monitoring the Ebola crisis using mobile phone surveys.” In: Hoogeveen J., Pape U. (eds) Data Collection in Fragile States. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham
    • Feng, S., Grépin, K.A., & Chunara, R., 2020. “Tracking health seeking behavior during an Ebola outbreak via mobile phones and SMS” NPJ Digital Med 1(51).
    • Hoogeveen, J., Croke, K., Dablen, A., Demomboyes, G., & Giudale, M., 2020. “Collecting high frequency panel data in Africa using mobile phone interviews,” Canadian Journal of Development Studies 35(1).
    • Jones, M. & Kondylis, F., 2020. “Feedback matters: Evidence from Agricultural Services.” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 7768.
    • Kastelic, K. H. & Kastelic J. G., 2020. “The socio-economic impacts of Ebola in Liberia : results from a high frequency cell phone survey round five.” Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group.
    • Check with the IRB of record about moving to verbal consent. If you have approval for written consent, you will need to submit an amendment. If you already have approval for (in-person) verbal consent, you may not need to submit an amendment.
    • Keep the informed consent script short and use simple, clear language. Be sure it includes the purpose of the call, who is calling (organization and individual), confidentiality, and duration of the survey. Pilot it internally over the phone, to get a sense of the length and whether it is easily understood. You may need to make several revisions before implementation.
    • The survey protocol should log when verbal consent was given. The survey should not continue unless consent was explicitly confirmed by the enumerator. Consent should be given by clearly speaking a short phrase, such as “Yes, I agree”. (Poppy Widyasari, J-PAL Southeast Asia)

    See also sample survey protocols for the UBI Kenya project (Tessie Lezcano, Eunice Kioko, and Debborah Muthoki, IPA)

    Other IRB amendments: social distancing of enumerators

    • The risk of data loss might increase when enumerators survey from home. Is there a higher risk that devices are lost or stolen? Are enumerators able to upload data to a secure server (and off of their devices) in real-time? Depending on the answers to these questions, you may need to update the discussion of risks and benefits in an amended IRB application. (Ben Morse, J-PAL Global)

    Strategies to ensure that participants answer the phone (and stay on the line)

    Finding the respondent:

    • Collect multiple contact details for each respondent to maximize response rates over rounds. Herath et al. 2020 compiled tips from running phone surveys in urban centers of South Africa. They collected participants’ current number(s), a family member’s phone number, and a friend’s phone number. Because these details are so important, they recommend putting in place multiple measures to avoid data-entry errors (e.g., double-entry, length constraints, etc.). They also collected email addresses, but found that email wasn’t an effective channel for communication.
    • You may also collect different contact channels. For example, a survey in Indonesia collected respondents’ WhatsApp number, Line, Facebook, WeChat, IMO, or Skype ID, and found that most respondents preferred WhatsApp or Skype calls.

    Making sure the respondent picks up:

    • Sending a text message ahead of time improves response rates.Kasy & Sautmann (2020) in collaboration with PAD conducted a test of how to maximize response rates for phone enrollment to an extension service (see experimental results in this dashboard). Response rates varied between 13 and 20% (“cold-calling” farmers from a government curated list of phone numbers). The most successful was a morning call at 10am, preceded by a text message an hour in advance. Morse et al. (2020) found that sending text messages about 5 minutes before the first call attempt was helpful. The best time of day and the best interval between text message and call may vary, depending on the population.
    • Use social media as an alternative to SMSto contact the respondents and explain the purpose of the call before calling (provided there is IRB approval/consent for these forms of contact) (Yuna Liang, IPA).
      • Depending on the size of the survey, radio programs are an alternative means of informing respondents about the study (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
    • Set up protocols for failed call attempts by making the call at different times of the day (e.g., in 3-hour intervals). This holds whether the calls are made via automated systems or by surveyors. Determine a number of attempts that must be made over several days before considering the respondent unreachable. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA and Grant Bridgman, Uliza).
      • The protocols should include a system for recording when the first attempt was made, including the time of day and day of the week. Tracking the timing of successful calls can tell you when future calls are most likely to be successful. Be sure to pre-test the system. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
      • If response rates remain low, increase the number of attempts (e.g., from 9 to 12). (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • In Indonesia, a 37% response rate was achieved by contacting respondents three times to set up an appointment and then calling at the appointed time. In Turkey, a 75% response rate was achieved just by placing more calls at different times of the day, with a large boost coming from placing calls in off-hours. (Ozler & Cuevas 2020)
    • Build overtime into the study to be able to call participants outside of their work hours. This helps to reach those who cannot speak on the phone during the day, and it ensures that the study isn’t biased by only capturing findings of specific groups. (Herath et al. 2020).
    • Brand your phone number if you can, and build trust and recognition around your brand (put up posters, mention it on the radio, tell node members of the community) (Grant Bridgman, Uliza).
    • In some contexts, obtaining and sending out an official letter, e.g., from the government, before survey start can increase response rates.
    • Run a de-duplication on the phone numbers in your sample so that respondents aren’t called multiple times (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)

    Sometimes the unexpected works:

    Respondents may pick up when a new number calls. Let enumerators switch their call lists of unreached respondents; the respondent may pick up a new number. (Yuna Liang, IPA).

    Completing the survey:

    • Delivery matters: enumerators should sound professional. A polished script can keep respondents on the line. (Grady Killeen, Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD)/HBS)
    • Build on established rapport between enumerator and subject.Morse et al. (2020) used phone surveys to track trends in health service usage during the Ebola crisis in Liberia. They had the advantage of surveying respondents in person at baseline, using phone surveys for follow-up. When possible, the same enumerator was assigned for both baseline and follow-up.
    • Positive, unambiguous interactions are helpful for re-establishing contact. Be clear with participants at the outset on when and how communication will take place over time, and be open about how long a survey is likely to take. Also explain why the survey is being conducted over the phone, particularly if earlier contact was in person. (Herath et al. 2020 and Michael Kleinman, Orange Door Research).
    • Compensating respondents via mobile money or airtime for the time spent on the survey and the costs incurred from having to charge phones makes participation easier and more attractive for them.
      • In a survey in Ghana, we paid 3 cedis (about $1.30 US) per call and had 85% completion rate (and if a call was missed, the vast majority of the time, the person answered the next call: complete dropout was rare.) (Rachel Heath, University of Washington).
      • If airtime can’t be sent electronically, surveyors can purchase airtime refill cards and read the code off to respondents after the survey is complete. (Ben Morse, J-PAL Global)
    • Including the duration of the survey in the consent procedure will reduce instances where the respondent runs out of time or phone battery and cuts the interview short.
    • Build in as many options as possible to do the survey at the respondent’s convenience. For example, rescheduling to another time or day, calling on another phone number, or allowing the respondent to interrupt to take incoming calls.
      • Be sure that a refusal is in fact a real refusal, rather than a respondent who just doesn’t have time right then. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • If you are going to be conducting phone surveys with the same respondents over time, ask them in the first survey what time is appropriate to call them during weekdays or weekends. This is particularly important for rural households who go to the field, have poor network connections, share phones or charge their phones irregularly. This kind of information can also help you plan your survey better when working on a different project in the same area or region. Knowing your targeted respondents patterns of life and phone usability is key. (Simon Rubangakene, PAD)
    • With participants with access to smart phones, email, and/or computers: use a combination of electronic notifications and provide multiple options for response (e.g. email, text messages, app pushes for notifications, and for responses, telephone call-in to recorded question/answer, link to website, texting back and forth, emailing, app questionnaire). Use telephone calls only for non-response follow up. Make the number of questions, and the questions themselves, short; if need be, survey frequently (e.g., every three weeks). Compensate for completed surveys immediately. We have used these methods in the U.S. and have achieved response rates of over 85 percent (Jim Greiner, Harvard Law School).
    • Know particular contexts and the usability of SMS or online services. For example, in some places, SMS is not widely used and so may not be an effective means of communication. (Simon Rubangakene, PAD)

    Data security and technical solutions for in-home call centers

    • Surveyors may have trouble finding quiet places to conduct surveys. Consider buying them noise cancelling headphones, altering working hours to take place during quiet times, and helping them set up a room to avoid sound disturbances (e.g., by filling it with soft furniture). (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
    • Surveyors may need equipment such as a 4G adapter, dongle, or SIM card. If possible, try to deliver to them directly so they do not have to go to the market to make purchases. Put enough money on the SIM card for the survey (or set up a system for sending surveyors phone credit), but strongly enforce the message that the SIM card is for the survey only. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)

    Commercial or open source software or SAAS solutions

    • SurveyCTO is developing a starter kit to facilitate the transition from CAPI to CATI using the SurveyCTO Collect mobile app and will have a software update that includes a dialer plug-in and the ability to create field plug-ins at the end of March. More COVID-related resources and updates from SurveyCTO can be found here. (Chris Robert, SurveyCTO)
    • Twilio is a good platform for sending SMS and can also be incorporated into your customized application (available countries here). (recommended by several people)
    • Other commercial options include Telerivet (worldwide), Vonage APIs (formerly Nexmo), Africa’s Talking,Geopoll (CATI and SMS), Viamo (IVR), engageSPARK, and Survey Solutions (Grant Bridgman, Uliza; Sarah Hughes, Mathematica; and Michael Kleinman, Orange Door Research)

    Uliza.org specializes in putting together interactive voice response (IVR) solutions in local languages. These are automated calls that allow respondents to answer in different ways. Uliza has also developed voice-based ID software using unique voice characteristics. This is useful when you have repeated engagements with someone over the phone to verify that you are talking to the person who gave the initial consent. Uliza also provides a (human mediated) service that allows researchers to receive open-ended voice questions/comments from their sample in local languages, and give answers that will be transmitted back in local-language voice (Grant Bridgman, Uliza).

    If an internet connection is available, VOIP may be an option. VOIPStudio can be configured so that calls are coming from a real number, not an unidentified number. (Eduardo Vargas Sanchez, J-PAL LAC)

  • 60 Decibels specializes in designing and implementing large-scale voice, SMS and IVR surveys for the social sector, focused primarily on sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and East Asia. 60 Decibels partners with aid organizations, social enterprises, impact investing funds, corporations, foundations, civil society organizations and donors. (Sasha Dichter and Ashley Speyer, 60 Decibels)
  • See pages 6-8 of the Remote Survey Toolkit from 60 Decibels for pros and cons of different technology solutions, as well as a list of remote survey providers. (Sasha Dichter and Ashley Speyer, 60 Decibels)
  • Though currently at capacity, Orange Door Research specializes in designing and implementing large-scale CATI, IVR, and SMS surveys for the development and humanitarian sectors, focused primarily on otherwise difficult-to-access geographies. Orange Door Research partners with UN Agencies, the World Bank, academics, civil society organizations, and donors. (Michael Kleinman, Orange Door Research)
  • Best practices for modifying survey protocols for phone surveying

    • Keep phone surveys short: at most 30 minutes. Figure out your primary outcomes and be sure those are included. You may need to aggregate questions, including some outcomes. If your survey is especially long, consider breaking it up into multiple phone calls. (Tavneet Suri, MIT)
    • Eliminate questions that are sensitive as far as possible (for example on stress, mental health, sex, domestic violence, etc) as these are harder to administer over the phone. Simplify or eliminate questions that require a lot of probing.
      • If you do need to ask sensitive questions and the respondent is surrounded by other people, ask if they can be called back later when they are alone. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • For new surveys: Before starting the main survey, conduct a check on a small sample of phone numbers to see how many are unreachable/ wrong numbers/ etc. This will give you an upper bound on the possible response rate, and you can adjust your sample size accordingly.
    • For new surveys, you may also need to adjust for lower response rates; 50% may be a good rule of thumb, though response are generally higher in the places we work than in the US. (Michael Kleinman, Orange Door Research)
    • Respondents may be charged for incoming phone calls in some locations. Consider a protocol that sends them some airtime credit before calling.
    • Created drop down menus for question responses where possible; even if they are long, doing so can reduce entry errors and reduce the time enumerators spend typing (Grady Killeen, PAD/HBS and Michael Kleinman, Orange Door Research)
    • Random digit dialing and asking the village chief/elder for phone numbers are two options for sampling when the research team doesn’t have access to a comprehensive list of phone numbers. Random digit dialing is just what it sounds like: set the relevant prefixes (e.g., country code), then randomly generate numbers to call. (Tavneet Suri, MIT)
    • The Busara Center has tips for adapting lab-in-the-field protocols to be done via phone; many of these tips also apply to field projects done outside the lab. Topics include specific suggestions for changing protocols based on the target sample and study protocols, as well as alternatives to focus group discussions. (Busara Center via Wim Louw, J-PAL Africa)
    • In countries where many languages are spoken, track languages on the tracking sheet so that respondents can be reassigned to a surveyor who speaks the language. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • See also sample survey protocols for the UBI Kenya project (Tessie Lezcano, Eunice Kioko, and Debborah Muthoki, IPA)

    Hiring, training, and data quality when enumerators work remotely


    Ensure fluency in the local languages represented in your sample. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)

  • Include in the scope of work and surveyor contract that the phone numbers for your sample may not be used for any other purpose than your survey. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
  • Training

    • Find a way to conduct small group calls, so one enumerator can conduct the interview with a pilot respondent, and other enumerators can listen in. After the interview, discuss what went well and what could be improved. Don’t forget to ask respondents’ consent to be on the phone with several enumerators. (Yuna Liang, IPA)
    • Record a test interview to listen to as an alternative to a group call.
    • You may need a higher trainer to trainee ratio and more time than previously budgeted for if you are doing a remotely based training (Grant Bridgman, Uliza).
    • Use mock scripts (not just role-play) for training and testing each interviewer’s ability to dial the correct number, gain cooperation, administer each question correctly and enter each response. Create a confidentiality agreement that each interviewer must sign. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
    • Depending on the size of the team and at-home internet access, training of new enumerators can be done remotely via Skype, Zoom, or similar (Tavneet Suri, MIT Sloan)

    See also Herath et al.’s (2020) blog post for general tips on training and practicing.

    Keeping data quality high:

    • Increase the frequency of back-checks and HFCs, as well as the amount of time the field manager and RA spend looking through data, e.g., at least 50% of the field manager’s time daily. One target for back checks is to do them on 20-25% of respondents (up from 10-15%). (Tessie Lezcano, IPA and Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
      • Pay extra attention to filter questions (skip logic): questions for which answering “no” skips a module or set of questions. (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
    • Use back checks to confirm that consent was given.(Grady Killeen, PAD/HBS)
    • If it is hard to find back check questions that should not have changed from the original survey, take a different approach. Ask questions such as, “Was the interviewer polite?”, “Were you offered an incentive?”, and “How long did the survey take?” (Sarah Hughes, Mathematica)
      • Check the respondent’s reported duration against the timestamped data.
    • In the endline survey, include questions that should not have changed from the baseline survey. (Tavneet Suri, MIT)
    • Supervising field staff should call each field team member daily for a quick check-in and to go through any questions they might have, as well as go over their tracking sheet. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • You may consider recording calls for quality control and to conduct spot checks as long you have IRB approval and the subject gives their consent. Another surveyor can fill the survey questionnaire from the audio recording in order to conduct data analysis (e.g. determine error rates) on the back checks.
    • Set up a Whatsapp or Facebook chat group for each enumerator team where they can share issues or ask questions, and report each successful interview (this is particularly motivating if the supervisor gives positive feedback and encouragement, or even disburses small rewards such as phone credit). Research team members should be in the group as well to answer any questions. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA and Yuna Liang, IPA)
    • Use the SurveyCTO function of exporting data to google sheet to make a live monitoring tool of survey progress. Set the SurveyCTO app to auto sending completed forms, and use the google sheet monitoring dashboard to auto-update with incoming data. (Yuna Liang, IPA)
    • Looking at call metadata can help spot unusual patterns, such as an enumerator making very short calls. (Rachel Heath, University of Washington).
      • SurveyCTO also has a sensor metadata functionthat can capture the volume level of the environment where the SurveyCTO form was filled. While there is no set standard of “reasonable values,” outliers on the lower end (e.g., 10 decibels) could flag surveys that require additional scrutiny. (Yuna Liang, IPA)
      • Add the start and end time to SurveyCTO to see call duration. Call logs can also be used to see if field staff are making calls during the correct timeframe. (Tessie Lezcano, IPA)
    • Use the same team that you trust whenever possible but also bring in new enumerators to check patterns in the data for recurring surveys. (Simon Rubangakene, PAD)

    Evidence on data quality

    Garlick et al. (2020) compared weekly in-person, and weekly phone surveys for a 12-week microenterprise survey panel. They report: “The results show few differences across the groups in measured means, distributions, and deviations of measured data from an objective data-quality standard provided by Benford’s Law. However, phone interviews generated higher within-enterprise variation through time in several variables and may be more sensitive to social desirability bias.”

    Tricks and Recipes for Make-Ahead Meals

    Make-ahead meals let you serve home-cooked dishes even on the most hectic day.

    Action-packed weeknights, overscheduled weekends, days when you have too much to do before guests come over or before you go to someone else’s house with a dish in hand — there are plenty of times when “make-ahead” meals can come to the rescue.

    Make-ahead meals put you in control of your schedule. You do the preparation when you have some extra time, then you’re rewarded with a quick, home-cooked meal when things get hectic later in the day, week, or month.

    Since dinnertime is often a hectic time for families, Janice Bissex, RD, author of The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers, says it can really help for moms or dads to make all or part of the meal in advance.

    “Prepping ingredients to toss together at the last minute or assembling the full meal for reheating can make the dinner hour more relaxed and manageable,” Bissex tells WebMD in an email interview.

    There are several ways to make your meals ahead of time. You can assemble them early and keep in the refrigerator until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. Or you can completely cook your meal, freeze or refrigerate it, then just warm it up at mealtime. Some make-ahead meals don’t even require baking — like main-dish green salads or pasta salads.

    Paulette Mitchell, author of 13 cookbooks including A Beautiful Bowl of Soup, says her favorite strategy for make-ahead meals is to plan a soup and salad menu.

    “All soups often benefit from being made ahead because standing time allows the flavors to blend,” she says. Further, she says, most homemade salad dressings taste better when they are made a day in advance.

    If you’ve got a slow cooker, you’ve got a leg up on make-ahead meals. Judith Finlayson, author of The Healthy Slow Cooker, calls the slow cooker the most effective time manager a cook can have.

    “You can get all the ingredients prepped and even partially cooked, in most cases for up to two days ahead,” she says.

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    Many slow-cooker recipes are suited to being prepared ahead of time, she says. Slow-cooker dishes like stews and chili also lend themselves to being frozen or refrigerated and reheated.

    “You can do “big batch” cooking and have dinner for a second night during the week,” she says. “Eat a portion on the day it is cooked, and freeze the rest for future meals.”


    Make-Ahead Meals for Breakfast or Brunch

    Here are four make-ahead breakfast or brunch options for the next time you have to feed a crowd fast first thing in the morning:

    1. Crepes. Just cook the crepes the day before and keep them in a sealed bag — or wrapped well in foil — in the refrigerator. Fill them with a mixture of fruits or assorted jams the next morning. Or add a ham and cheese filling, then heat them up. You can have the filling ingredients chopped and shredded and ready to go the night before, too.

    2. Strata. Strata is an overnight breakfast entrГ©e by design. You’re supposed to let it sit in the refrigerator, then bake in the morning. Thus it’s a perfect make-ahead option.

    3. Quiche. Quiche can be served warm or cold. Just bake it the day before, and, if you want to serve it warm, heat it up in the microwave.

    4. Breakfast Breads, Coffee Cakes, and Muffins. You can always make bakery items ahead and serve them cold or warmed up in the microwave. To round out the breakfast or brunch, have fresh fruit ready to serve with it. You might also want to cook up a plate of light breakfast sausage, grilled Canadian bacon, or lean ham — all of which can be warmed up in the microwave in two minutes.

    Make-Ahead Meals for Dinner

    Here are a few dinner dishes that are well suited to making ahead of time:

    • Most casserole-type dishes lend themselves to being made ahead, like tuna noodle casserole, au gratin style potatoes, chicken enchiladas, or a creamy chicken and rice dish.
    • Stew-type dishes, cooked and kept in the refrigerator, are ideal for warming up on demand — a serving or two (or more) at a time.
    • If the ingredients are already cooked, cut, and ready, you can toss main-dish green salad together in less than 5 minutes.
    • Chilled pasta and rice salads (and salads made with other whole grains) are perfect when you need a cool dish to serve with virtually no time to spare.
    • Some mostly meat (or fish) dishes, like meatloaf, chicken Parmesan, and crab cakes, can also be made ahead and then cooked or reheated.


    Recipes for Make-Ahead Meals

    To get you thinking of all the dishes that you can make now and eat later, here are a few entrГ©e recipes to get you started!

    WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 cup “hearty stews” + 3/4 cup “starchy foods without added fat” OR 1 “frozen dinner regular, pasta or rice dish with meat”

    This sauce tastes even better the day after you make it. Just keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator and warm it up to serve over hot noodles. You can even make the noodles ahead of time and warm both up together when the time is right.

    1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

    3/4 cup minced onion

    1/2 cup minced celery

    1/3 cup minced carrot

    1 pound extra-lean ground beef

    2 ounces pancetta bacon, finely chopped

    1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or whole or low-fat milk

    1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (or bottled marinara sauce)

    1 1/2 cups beef broth

    5 cups cooked and drained whole-grain blend spaghetti noodles

    • Heat olive oil in a large, nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and sautГ© until soft. Add beef and pancetta, stir, and cook the vegetable-meat mixture until meat is nicely brown (about 15 minutes). While it’s cooking, break the beef up into smaller pieces with spatula or spoon.
    • Pour in the half-and-half or milk, and cook until most of the milk has evaporated (about 5 minutes).
    • Add to slow cooker and stir in tomato sauce and beef broth. Cook on LOW for at least 3 hours (but will be fine for 8-10 hours). Or, stir the tomato sauce and broth into the large saucepan with the meat and vegetable mixture, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, start boiling water for the pasta. Add noodles and boil until al dente (just barely tender) and drain well. Serve meat sauce over cooked and drained noodles.

    Yield: 5 servings

    Per serving: 399 calories, 27 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 7 g fiber, 930 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.


    Chicken Florentine Pie

    WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal 1 serving (without pesto) as 1 cup “hearty stews” + 1 teaspoon olive oil OR 1 light frozen dinner. Journal 1 serving with pesto as 1 cup “hearty stews” + 2 teaspoons olive oil OR 1 “frozen dinner regular, pasta or rice dish with meat” + 1 teaspoon olive oil

    2 cups shredded, skinless roasted chicken breast (you can use a roasted chicken from the store)

    2 cups cooked brown rice (you could also use 1 pouch of microwavable frozen brown rice, or instant brown rice)

    1/2 teaspoon dried sage

    1 teaspoon dried basil

    3/4 teaspoon parsley flakes or 2 teaspoons fresh, finely chopped parsley

    1/2 cup chopped sweet or white onion (or chopped green onion)

    10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed in microwave and drained well

    1 1/2 cups part-skim ricotta

    1/2 teaspoon black pepper

    1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

    3 tablespoons prepared pesto (i.e. from frozen section), OPTIONAL

    • If baking right away, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate with canola cooking spray.
    • Add shredded chicken, brown rice, herbs, onion, spinach, ricotta cheese, pepper, and Parmesan to large mixing bowl and gently mix together well with spoon.
    • Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish and cover with foil. Keep the covered dish in the refrigerator until ready to bake.
    • When ready to bake, place covered dish in preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil; spread pesto over the top of the dish, and bake about 10 minutes longer.

    Yield: 6 servings

    Per serving (without pesto): 260 calories, 26 g protein, 21 g carbohydrate, 7.8 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 61 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 175 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 27%. (With pesto): 299 calories, 27 g protein, 22 g carbohydrate, 11 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 63 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber, 227 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 34%.

    Alfredo Potato Lasagna

    WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1 1/2 cups “hearty stews, chili” OR 1 frozen dinner light + 1/4 cup “starchy foods and legumes with fat” OR 1/2 cup “starchy foods and legumes with fat” + 1 serving “lean fish without added fat”


    If you want to make eight servings of this dish, double the ingredients and use a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. To make it ahead of time, just prepare the dish up to Step 5. I used Classico Roasted Garlic Alfredo (in 16-ounce jar) for the recipe and it worked very well. If you don’t want to use tuna, you can substitute 1 1/2-cups of any shredded meat, such as roasted chicken or grilled salmon.

    3/4 cup (6 ounces) bottled Alfredo sauce (choose a brand with no more than 6 grams fat per 1/4 cup serving)

    1/2 cup fat-free half-and-half or low-fat milk

    1 1/2 pounds potatoes, cut widthwise into 1/8-inch thick slices

    3 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

    1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or more if you like)

    12-ounce can albacore tuna (in water), drained

    1 cup frozen peas or edamame, lightly thawed

    1 cup shredded part-skim Jarlsberg or reduced-fat Swiss cheese (or use gruyere, smoked gouda, or white cheddar)

    • Preheat oven to 400 degrees if you’re baking the dish right away. Coat a 9 x 9-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.
    • Add Alfredo sauce and milk to a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth. Spread a heaping 1/4 cup of the sauce in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer one-third of the potatoes over the sauce and sprinkle with a dash or two of pepper.
    • Add Parmesan cheese, tuna, peas or edamame, and shredded cheese to a large bowl and toss to mix well. Spread half the tuna mixture over the potatoes in the dish. Top with a heaping 1/4 cup of sauce, then half the remaining potato slices. Top with more black pepper and the remaining tuna mixture.
    • Finish by spreading a heaping 1/4 cup of the sauce on top, then the remaining potato slices. Pour the remaining Alfredo sauce over the top. If you aren’t baking right away, cover with foil and keep in refrigerator until ready to bake.
    • When ready to bake, keep the dish covered with foil and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Then uncover the dish, reduce heat to 350 degrees, and bake about 20 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.


    Yield: 6 servings

    Per serving (using Classico Roasted Garlic Alfredo): 342 calories, 26 g protein, 36.5 g carbohydrate, 10.8 g fat, 4.8 g saturated fat, 41 mg cholesterol, 5.5 g fiber, 534 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 28%.

    Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; В© 2007 Elaine Magee


    SOURCES: Judith Finlayson, author, The Healthy Slow Cooker. Paulette Mitchell, author, A Beautiful Bowl of Soup. Janice Bissex, MS, RD, author, The Mom’s Guide to Meal Makeovers.

    The 11 Most Iconic Movie Watches Of All-Time

    Take a look at the real stars of the screen

    For watch lovers, part of the appeal of classic movies is the opportunity they give to gaze upon some of the most iconic timepieces ever made.

    The tickers aren’t just there to look pretty, of course. In many ways, they add depth to the story and its characters. After all, Bond simply wouldn’t be Bond without a powerful, understated watch on his weapon-grade wrist, would he?

    So join us, as we pay tribute to the most important models to ever glisten upon the silver screen.

    Actor: Michael J. Fox

    Character: Marty McFly

    By far the cheapest (and coolest) watch on this list, Marty McFly’s classic Casio features a calendar, an alarm, a 1/100 second stopwatch and, of course, an 8 digit calculator.

    You can pick one up for about twenty quid on Amazon, if you fancy reliving the eighties and/or flunked your maths GCSE.

    Actor: Martin Sheen

    Character: Captain Willard

    Timeless, smart, and ready for war.

    In terms of dive watches, the 6105 has a pretty interesting history: it was a huge favourite amongst American soldiers in Vietnam, due to it being sold in PX stores (retail shops found on United States military camps).

    The 6105 was originally only sold with a rubber strap, but lends itself to fabric and steel as well, and is available for up to £500 if you hunt around.

    Actor: Arnold Schwarzenegger

    The Seiko ‘H558 quartz diver’ usually sells for double its original retail price nowadays (around £300), and it’s easy to guess why.

    Arnie wore it in most of his 80s blockbusters, including Predator, Commando and Running Man – making it the toughest cinematic timepiece in history, surviving countless renegade missions and bullet storms.

    Actor: Christian Bale

    Character: Bruce Wayne

    Val Kilmer’s Bruce Wayne donned a Jaeger-LeCoultre ‘Reverso’ timepiece in the earlier Batman movies, and the luxury Swiss brand returned for Batman Begins, in the form of a Reverso ‘Grande Taille’.

    In Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s lauded trilogy, they created the limited edition ‘Grande Reverso Ultra Thin Tribute to 1931 ‘, with a Batman symbol to boot.

    Actor: Sean Connery

    Character: James Bond

    In the earliest days of Bond, the super sleuth would only ever be seen with a Rolex wrapped around his wrist.

    Nobody’s entirely sure why author Ian Fleming chose Rolex in the first place. It might have been something to do with the brand’s policy of sending free watches to British prisoners of war in WW2, or maybe it was their reliable toughness that won him over.

    Whatever the reason, Sean Connery’s Bond first donned a Rolex ‘Submariner 6538’ in Dr. No, and wore it in the next four iterations too, changing straps each time.

    Actor: Alec Baldwin

    “You see this watch? That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much’d you make? You see pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing. Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here – close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker?”

    So says Alec Baldwin’s Rolex-stroking sales-monster in Glengarry Glen Ross. As a result, the Rolex ‘Daydate’ has grown synonymous with the flashy, wealth-obsessed world of eighties excess.

    That’s not to say that it’s not a beautiful piece – and for what it’s worth, a gold Rolex ‘Daydate’ can be picked up for around £10,000 nowadays (a whole bunch of used Vauxhall Corsas, if we’re still calculating in car form).

    Actor(s): Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones

    Character(s): Agent J & Agent K

    It looks like a futuristic World’s Fair fever dream, but the Hamilton Ventura XXL was originally introduced to the market way back in 1957. It quickly grew in popularity, partly because it was a favourite of young Elvis Presley.

    The version worn by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the Men in Black movies doesn’t differ much from the original, carrying only a slightly wider, more triangular face to set it apart.

    Actor: Tom Hanks

    Character: Jim Lovell

    It was the obvious choice, really: the Omega ‘Speedmaster’ was the only mechanical watch certified for space flight by NASA.

    With its elasticated strap, the ‘Speedmaster’ has made a huge impact on the history of both cinema and space travel. It was the first watch worn by an astronaut walking on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, and also featured in the first American spacewalk as part of NASA‘s Gemini 4 mission .

    Actor: Daniel Craig

    Character: James Bond

    In 2020’s Skyfall, Bond wears the Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M, which should come as no surprise: he’s been donning the Seamaster range since GoldenEye in 1995. For the history behind Bond’s long-time love affair with Omega, check out this timeline.

    Actor: Steve McQueen

    Character: Michael Delaney

    Steve McQueen was a big-time watch connoisseur, and usually opted for the Rolex ‘Explorer II 1655’, which later became known as the ‘McQueen Explorer II’ in tribute.

    But for his iconic role in Le Mans, the ‘King of Cool’ chose to wear a blue-faced, black strapped ‘Heuer Monaco’ (this was before the company introduced TAG to its branding).

    The original watch that McQueen wore during the filming sold for $87,600 at an auction, but an updated anniversary edition was released in 2009, and can be nabbed for £4,050.

    Actor: Christopher Walken

    Character: Captain Koons

    The most controversial watch in movie history. Nobody quite knows what model of watch this is, but plenty of snoops have had a guess.

    Some fans are adamant that it’s just a prop watch, while others believe it to be a Lancet WW1 trench watch. If that’s the case, then there’s pretty much no chance of you buying one for yourself, as they’re predictably rare.

    Well. Christopher Walken might know where you can find one, but we’d avoid asking him if we were you.

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