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People Warned About Extra Weight

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ The holidays seem to bring on gluttony. The stress of last-minute shopping, travel or a house full of guests make people munch. And temptation is everywhere: cookies, candy, parties and Grandma's high-fat favorites.

While it's not a good time to diet, there are ways to enjoy the season's tastiest treats without requiring a 2002 resolution to lose the 10 pounds you gained between Christmas and New Year's.

That's important, considering 60 percent of American adults already are overweight or obese. It's not just a cosmetic issue. Each extra 10 pounds significantly increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other disorders.

California State University nutritionist Gail Frank wears a lapel pin of a slim Santa that never fails to draw laughter.

``But if Santa wants to be around for more seasons, we have to have some sense about what we eat,'' she says.

``Sensible eating anytime is to limit the excessively high-salt, sugary, fatty foods, but at the holidays it seems like that's all there is _ the wicked foods,'' adds Frank, an American Dietetic Association adviser who proudly labels her own cookie recipes wicked.

``But thinking ahead, you can take control'' and enjoy those foods without gluttony, she promises.

Watching the waistline isn't the only caution. All the leftovers from the big family dinner and the buffets so popular at parties make this season a prime time for food poisoning, too.

Here are some tips to navigate this perilous week between basting the Christmas turkey and toasting the New Year:

_Watch out for alcohol's sneaky calories. It won't make you feel full, yet each gram of alcohol contains seven calories _ compared with four for a gram of carbohydrates or protein. Only fat, at nine calories, is worse. Alcohol actually lowers blood sugar to make you feel hungrier, Frank warns. So have a little something to eat at a party, along with water or a diet soda, before reaching for the first alcoholic drink.

_Eat small, low-calorie meals during the day so you enjoy party food without guilt. Never go to a party hungry _ it takes 15 to 20 minutes for the body to respond to its first food, plenty of time to scarf down 1,500 calories from high-fat appetizers.

_Survey the buffet before loading your plate. Frank allows herself up to three desserts at holiday celebrations, planning ahead to save room. ``It's all about taking control,'' she says.

_Some traditional holiday foods, like cranberries, yams, and the black-eyed peas popular for good luck on New Year's Day, are packed with vitamins, fiber and can be very low in calories.

_Any congealed salad or creamy food is going to be higher in calories and fat than a fresh fruit, leafy vegetable or clear sauce.

_When cooking, use low-fat oil or imitation butter. Chicken broth can replace milk and butter in mashed potatoes. Applesauce can replace about half the fat in recipes for many cookies, muffins and other baked goods. Lighten eggnog with skim milk. And gingersnaps can save about eight grams of fat over richer cookies.

_Don't plop in front of the TV after eating _ one of the surgeon general's biggest no-no's. Get the family out for a stroll, throw a ball, jump rope with the kids, bring out the skates to burn off some of the calories. What does it take? Federal nutritionists say a 10-minute walk can work off a chocolate-chip cookie.

_To prevent food poisoning, hot foods should never be left out more than two hours. If they are, the Food and Drug Administration advises throwing them out.

_Separate leftovers into shallow containers, 2 inches deep or less, and promptly refrigerate or freeze them. Refrigerated turkey, ham and vegetable leftovers should be used within three to four days; stuffing and gravy within one to two days, says the dietetic association. Reheat all leftovers to 165 degrees.

Want to groan? Hear Frank's last tip: ``Don't overdo the chocolates. Remember Valentine's Day is only two months away.''
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