Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Dietitian Jessica Metz will answer phoned-in questions today from 10 to noon.

SALT LAKE CITY — People who spend a lot of time at the gym usually perceive themselves as very healthy but are often surprised to find they have high cholesterol or triglyceride levels that put them at risk for major health problems in the future.

Jessica Metz, a dietitian and director of the Gateway Wellness Program at LDS Hospital, said she sees those patients as well as others who have struggled for years with their weight as she counsels them about nutrition.

Metz will join Dr. Scott Hansen, medical director of the Gateway program, to answer questions from callers Saturday during the free Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, which runs from 10 a.m. to noon. All calls are confidential. From the Salt Lake area, dial 801-236-6061, or call toll-free at 1-800-925-8177.

"I've known high-performance athletes who have high cholesterol," Metz said, adding she finds they experience high levels of physiological stress induced by exercise, coupled with poor eating habits.

Others may find their weight has increased slowly but steadily over time and they're at the point of being frustrated with what to do about it. "We look at family history and other risk factors like blood sugar, overall body composition, weight, how much they exercise, and what they are willing and able to do. Then we formulate a plan."

Some people with high cholesterol can get a lot of health benefit by "just losing five to 10 pounds," which helps them better manage their condition as the cholesterol levels follow the scale downward.

Metz also sees lots of executives who are generally eating well and exercising, but they eat a lot of business lunches, have stressful jobs, try to manage multiple roles at home and in the community and don't get enough sleep. Her team works with them to help modify some behaviors. "Sleep deprivation and stress are highly correlated with weight gain," she said.

One of the best things such clients can do is work at healthy eating on the go by filling their diets with "superfoods" like fiber, antioxidants, proteins and whole grains. "Breakfast is the best time of the day to get a big nutritional punch in," she said.

One of her favorite healthful breakfasts is a bowl of oatmeal (not instant) with some berries and nuts, or a protein smoothie with soy milk, berries, banana and flax seeds. Whole grain protein cereals and healthful, whole grain granola that doesn't contain trans fats can be topped with either lowfat yogurt, soy or skim milk and berries.

Whole grain toast with either almond or peanut butter, topped with banana slices, is another "superfoods" combination.

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If clients eat out often, she helps them look over the menus and decide which selections are best for nutritional value and calorie count. She also suggests a "nutritional survival kit" with healthy snacks like dried fruit and nuts that can sit in the car to give a boost when energy levels bottom out between meals to help avoid bingeing at the end of the day.

"It helps keep your blood sugar up. When that drops, the body sends out messages to store fat."

Health hotline today

Weight loss and cholesterol control are the topics of Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline. From 10 a.m. to noon, Dr. Scott Hansen and dietitian Jessica Metz of the Gateway to Wellness Program at LDS Hospital will take phoned-in questions. From the Salt Lake area, call 801-236-6061. Elsewhere, the toll-free number is 1-800-925-8177, only operational during hotline hours.