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Does Santa really need more cookies?

Seasonal weight gain is a problem for other people, too. The Pennsylvania Medical Society offers some tips to keep off extra holiday heft.

By Bob Cook — Posted Dec. 18, 2009

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This Christmas, the Pennsylvania Medical Society is asking children to ease up on the milk and cookies for Santa Claus. That way, his ample waistline won't be further widened by the 787.5 million calories he would otherwise consume in that state alone.

The society's Institute for Good Medicine said 96% of Pennsylvania households it polled are likely to put out cookies and milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. A medium-sized chocolate chip cookie, made with butter, has 75 calories, and a cup of 1% milk has 100 calories. Santa's overall caloric intake was computed by multiplying 4.5 million cookie-and-milk-offering households in Pennsylvania with the 175 calories in each snack.

That assumes Santa eats only one cookie per household, and that he isn't tempted by other treats Pennsylvanians told the Institute they put out for him: ham sandwiches, whiskey and beer.

The poll is part of the society's annual campaign to highlight a Christmas tradition as a way to teach a health lesson to those who don't park reindeer on the roof.

"Thanks to the magic of Christmas, [Santa] can avoid putting on that much weight," said medical society spokesman Chuck Moran. But most people aren't so fortunate, and will put on one pound for every 3,500 calories consumed but not burned.

"The average person gains 1.4 pounds per year, one pound of which is often gained over the holidays because of overeating," said Pennsylvania Medical Society President James Goodyear, MD. "There's no better time than right now to adopt the Santa Snack Plan -- to help Santa and yourself not only on Dec. 24, but also all year."

The Santa Snack Plan is a way to cut down Santa's (and your) unhealthy eating, such as the strategy modeled by the small percentage of Pennsylvanians who said they would leave carrots, apple slices and celery sticks for St. Nick.

Santa's Snack Plan, as noted by the society, also includes taking only small tastes of less healthy food. In Santa's case, the society said, he often takes only one bite of each cookie, and saves the rest for the elves back at the North Pole.

Finally, the society's plan calls for being active. Along with Christmas magic, Santa burns off cookie weight by carrying enormous bags of toys, and climbing up and down chimneys. While the society doesn't recommend that regimen for non-North Pole residents, it said people can follow Santa's off-season program of brisk walking, such as he does to check on the elves' progress, and other exercise, such as work with reindeers-in-training.

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