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As hard as it is to believe…Thanksgiving is just a week away. I swear it was just the 4th of July and now, even though I am in no way ready, I have to begin planning the biggest eating day of the year! To me, Thanksgiving feels like the “gateway” holiday to all of the cookies, candy, appetizers, cocktails and food “gifts” that occur throughout December. Then, once it is all over, everybody swears to eat healthier, join a gym and detox themselves of all of the fat and sugar they have been consuming for the past 2 months!

What if we began this upcoming holiday season by eating a little healthier? The average American gains between 5-10 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s. I believe that with some planning, we can work together to maintain our weight during the holiday season this year – putting us in a much better position come January 2nd

Below are 10 tips that can help save you hundreds of calories this Thanksgiving. Many of these can be implemented for December parties and family dinners as well.

  1. Serve and snack on raw veggies with low fat dip. Undoubtedly, Thanksgiving dinner will take longer than expected to get on the table and people will want to snack beforehand. Veggies are high in fiber and contain a lot of water helping to fill you up without overloading you with a ton of calories.
  2. Eat a healthy breakfast and possibly even lunch (depending on what time Thanksgiving will be served). “Saving up” calories by not eating all day actually tends to back-fire and causes you to overeat.
  3. Stick to oven-roasted turkey. This may seem like a no-brainer, but deep-fried turkey has about 100 calories more per serving compared to roasted.
  4. Prepare the stuffing outside the bird. This is not only important from a food safety standpoint, but stuffing the bird allows the fat from the baking turkey to drip into the stuffing, increasing the calories.
  5. Include some plain steamed veggies or a green salad. With all of the casseroles, stuffing and gravy, it is great to have something a little simpler, which is also lower in calories.
  6. Bake sweet potatoes rather than prepare a casserole. Top the sweet potatoes with soft tub margarine and sprinkle with cinnamon and a little brown sugar. Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta-carotene, fiber and potassium and already have a sweet flavor, even without the marshmallows.
  7. Skim the gravy. Once the gravy is made, place it in the refrigerator. The fat will harden on the top and can be skimmed off.
  8. Use recipe modification techniques. By substituting healthier, lower-fat/sugar ingredients, traditional higher calorie recipes can be prepared and with fewer calories. Best of all, no one has to know! The internet is full of recipe modification ideas – or feel free to let me know, I would be happy to help!
  9. Plan an after-dinner activity. I am not talking about a nap! Take a walk or toss around the football rather than watch it on TV.
  10. Eat only what means the most to you. You can eat mashed potatoes or Pillsbury Crescent Rolls any day of the week. Save those calories and eat what makes Thanksgiving special whether it’s the sweet potato casserole, the stuffing or the pumpkin pie. You will save some calories AND not feel deprived by skipping your favorite food.

-Tarie Beldin, RD, LD

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