PITTSBURGH — Do you have a daily indulgence in your diet? Even in moderation, your everyday treat may sabotage your weight.

“It’s that ‘Oh I don’t eat that much,’ that little bit here and there, that does them in,” says Jean Lewis, a dietician at St. Clair Hospital.

In a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at Harvard have pinpointed specific foods that contribute to weight gain over the long term. These foods are potato chips, French fries, pop, red meat and processed meat.

Foods that do not contribute to weight gain are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt.

This is based on following 120,000 people over 20 years. They were normal weight to start. The people in the study gained an average of just over three pounds every four years. This was most strongly linked to eating the bad foods and less likely with eating the good foods.

Over the years, the way to prevent this “weight creep” is to be mindful of what you eat and to stay active.

“As we age, our metabolism slows down anywhere from two to ten percent per decade,” Lewis continues. “It’s not like all of a sudden they start exercising that it’s going to do something. You have to have those good habits throughout your life.”

Lifestyle factors were tracked as well. Watching television and getting less than six or more than eight hours of sleep a day were also associated with weight gain.

The dietician adds it’s not only eating habits, but genetics too that contribute to weight gain. If people on both sides of your family tend to be overweight, you might be especially prone to weight creep and then some so diet and exercise become even more important to maintain.

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New England Journal of Medicine

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