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Surviving the Super Bowl Spread

Check out these Super Bowl recipes to help avoid the 'Super Bowl spread' of your waistline.

First, Do No Harm continued...

"Of course, we've just finished Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, so think about how long it's been since the last splurge," advises Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition at the American Council on Science and Health. "But for someone whose weight is at a healthy level and who generally eats a balanced diet with moderate calories, fat, and sweets, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, then splurging one day a year or even a few days a year is probably not going to do any harm. Just try to eat very lightly on the following day or two."

Nevertheless, a number of recent studies have shown that even one high-fat meal can cause at least temporary upheaval within your cardiovascular system. In 2002, researchers at Columbia University and Osaka City University in Japan published a study in which they gave 15 healthy young men a single high-fat meal composed of a colossal 1,200 calories, 100 grams of fat, and 6 milligrams of cholesterol. Five hours after they consumed the high-fat meal, their levels of triglycerides (a blood fat) increased an average of 140 points, compared with an increase of 10 points in men who ate a low-fat meal. At the same time, the capacity of the blood vessels to expand or dilate (an indicator of blood vessel health) declined 18% in the high-fat group.

"We know that a single high-fat meal does raise triglyceride levels," says Kleiner, author of Power Eating. But the effect is short-term. "Even just a day or so later, the triglyceride level will return to what it was."

Super Bowl munchers may need to show a little more care if they already have a chronic illness or if they're pregnant. "Diabetics taking insulin should watch what they eat all the time," says Kava. That may mean staying away from refined carbohydrates -- for example, avoiding soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks, and choosing diet sodas and sparkling water instead.

Damage Control

Most experts say that on balance, a healthy person who succumbs to the seduction of beer, burgers, and chips on Super Bowl Sunday will barely cause a blip on their personal health-status screen. But for people who are insistent upon absolutely no backsliding in their commitment to scaling down their waistline and controlling their cholesterol, there's a game plan for them to follow, even while watching the biggest football game of the year.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends selecting fresh fruit, vegetables, baked chips, and pretzels when filling up your plate. If the party's at your house, offer entrees such as meatless chili or lean chicken strips. And for some sweet satisfaction in the fourth quarter, the ADA suggests angel food cake topped with low-fat frozen yogurt and chocolate syrup.

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