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Prevent Holiday Weight Gain - Heart Association says Start Today

November 4, 2009

MANCHESTER, N. H. - Halloween may be over, but the treats still linger. Will you reach into the trick-or-treat bag "just one more time"...or can you resist? To help New Englanders work on their resolve, the American Heart Association of Northern New England (AHA) has declared today "Start! Eating Healthy Day."

The goal is to get folks in a healthier mindset to prevent holiday weight gain. Maura Webster, AHA's senior regional communications director, says eating fast is one bad habit to be avoided. It prompts a person to continue to eat before their body has had the chance to "catch up."

"So, it's sending triggers to the brain to let you know that you're full, that you've had enough, but it takes a while for the body to make that connection. Eating too fast is one thing that leads to overeating, to obesity."

Portion control is another piece of the puzzle, says Webster, particularly during the traditional holiday meals.

"Divide your plate in half, and only eat half if you're eating out. You can make the steps to make that healthy choice, but then also watch how much of that 'healthy choice' you're eating. Definitely focus on what you're eating. Enjoy your food!"

So, instead of grabbing a handful of candy, try a piece of fruit or a fresh carrot in that lunch -- and congratulate yourself on the smarter choice. Webster says even the smallest changes can make a huge difference. She also suggests snacking on smaller amounts: One piece of string cheese with whole grain crackers, or yogurt and fruit. The combination of protein and fiber is more satisfying and filling than other types of snacks, she explains.

Changing eating habits could save money on health care too. According to the AHA, the price tag for obesity-related medical care in America has topped $117 billion per year. As part of "Start! Eating Healthy Day," AHA is also asking employers to stock workplace vending machines with healthy snacks.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH