After our Thanksgiving meal, many of us end up loosening that belt buckle and lazing on the couch,  feeling more stuffed than the turkey. The average American will consume a hefty 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving for dinner alone. Drinks, desserts, and appetizers can bring the total calorie count to 4,500, according to the Calorie Control Council.

Every year between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day, Americans pack on pounds that they sometimes never lose.  Of course, we want to enjoy the holiday season, but with a little thought and planning, we can make Thanksgiving dinner a little healthier and a lot less fattening. Here are seven quick tips for a healthier Thanksgiving.

The most delicious Thanksgiving dishes -- mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and pecan pie -- are loaded with sugar or fat, or both. Hunter Lewis, the editor of Cooking Light magazine, says we should appreciate the spirit of Thanksgiving more than the food. He says, "Be engaged at the table and be grateful and thankful, and while we should not feel guilty about the food, don’t let one day of feasting turn into five days.”

First, get active.  Make it a point to do some sort of movement every day between now and New Year’s. Make a plan to take a walk or exercise on Thanksgiving morning. Eat a small breakfast to help curb your appetite for the big feast. Eat slowly, savor your food, and be selective; eat the foods you don’t usually have the rest of the year. Finally, focus on this special time with family and friends, not what is on the menu.  

Here's how to build a healthy plate and cut some calories, fat, and sugar, so you can enjoy the holiday without getting more stuffed than the turkey.

  • 1

    Fill Half Your Plate with Veggies

    Load on non-starchy vegetables such as green beans, carrots, brussel sprouts, string beans and salad. If you are hosting the dinner, prepare several healthy vegetable choices without added sauces and butter.

  • 2

    Add The Turkey

    Turkey is relatively low in calories and fat.  Skinless white meat is your best bet, just go easy on the gravy.

  • 3

    Add The Stuffing and Starches

    When there is not much space left on the plate, we can add starches such as stuffing or mashed potatoes. They should fill up less than a quarter of your plate.

  • 4

    Limit The Sweets

    The favorite part of the meal for many people, sweets and baked good can sabotage all your efforts to have a healthy Thanksgiving meal.  Just have a taste or small slice but keep it under control

  • 5

    Skip The Extras

    Do your best to limit appetizers, bread, sauces and gravies...anything above and beyond the main course.

  • 6

    Don't Waste Your Calories

    Eat foods that you love and that aren't available at other times of the year, like homemade cranberry sauce, specialty sides, and pumpkin pie, and forgo everyday foods like chips, rolls, and mashed potatoes.

  • 7

    Limit The Alcohol

    Hard liquor, beer or wine can all add up to extra calories. Have a glass of water between drinks and limit alcohol to no more than two drinks.

  • 8

    Eat Slowly, Drink Slowly

    Savor every bite and sip. Enjoy your food by chewing slowly and put down your fork between bites.  Go ahead, load up your plate, but forego the seconds.

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