Even slight holiday weight gain can set stage for obesity, health risks

December 12, 2006

DALLAS - Dec. 12, 2006 -- Although some Americans gain five to seven pounds with a diet of big meals and sweets between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, most people only gain a pound or two during the holidays, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center registered dietitian.

But even a slight weight gain, if left intact, can accumulate yearly and endanger health.

"The problem is in gaining a pound or two and not working it off, even with good intentions and New Year's resolutions. The gain stays on and adds up each year; in a decade it's 10 or 20 pounds," said Lona Sandon, assistant professor of clinical nutrition. "That can lead to obesity and related health problems such as hypertension, stroke, diabetes and other maladies."

So how can people avoid adding holiday weight?

Healthy food choices, eating habits, food preparation and exercise, Ms. Sandon said.

"First, focus on choosing healthy foods instead of concentrating on what you shouldn't have," she said. "For instance, seek out cranberries, which have a high level of antioxidants, which protect cells and help the body block urinary-tract infections and prevent plaque formation on teeth."

Ms. Sandon listed several other healthy or calorie-saving food choices:

The key is moderation, Ms. Sandon said. Eating large portions of even healthy foods can prompt weight gain. Even an extra 150 calories per day - the amount in a 12-ounce soda or a chocolate chip cookie - can add up to a pound of extra weight in about three weeks.

Ms. Sandon offers further tips to help keep pounds from piling up:

Food preparation tips
Food preparation can go a long way toward keeping holiday weight off, not to mention preventing food poisoning, Ms. Sandon said.

Here are some calorie-cutting cooking tips:

· Use broth to sauté instead of butter - 104 calories saved per tablespoon.

· Use nonfat milk instead of whole milk - 60 calories saved per cup.

· Use plain, nonfat yogurt instead of cream - 720 calories saved per cup.

Once food is ready, don't leave it out on the buffet tables for more than two hours. Doing so allows bacteria to build and spurs food-borne illnesses, leading to nausea or worse, Ms. Sandon said.

Also, keep your hands, work surfaces and cooking utensils clean.

Exercising
Exercising regularly is also important for good health, Ms. Sandon said. At least 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity each day is a good rule of thumb, but here are some other tips:
-end-
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern Medical Center, one of the premier medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. Its more than 1,400 full-time faculty members - including four active Nobel Prize winners, more than any other medical school in the world - are responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and are committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide medical care in 40 specialties to nearly 89,000 hospitalized patients and oversee 2.1 million outpatient visits a year.

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Lona Sandon - http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,29281,00.html

UT Southwestern Medical Center

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