With Thanksgiving almost upon us, we begin to focus on the hearty food and quality time shared with family over the holiday season.  This time, couples with holiday gatherings at work and with friends often lead to weight gain that last throughout the year. Year after year, experts say most Americans gain 2-3 pounds between October and the New Year and most often, keep the extra weight permanently.

Thanksgiving does not have to derail your weight. With a little know-how, you can satisfy your desire for traditional favorites and still enjoy a guilt-free Thanksgiving feast. After all, being stuffed is not a good idea unless you are the turkey!

The first step to a healthy Thanksgiving is: No skipping meals. Always eat normally on the day the event of event or party. “People who skip meals such as breakfast to save up calories tend to overeat everything in sight once they get there,” says Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, author of Diet Simple.   Start with a nourishing breakfast, which includes protein and fiber, then a small snack or salad shortly before the occasion.  Including protein and fiber in your breakfast increases your feeling full throughout the day and allows you to be more discriminating in your food and beverage choices when you arrive to the Thanksgiving meal.

Save on calories by not drinking sugary drinks and drink water.   Tap water is calorie free and fills your stomach which can prevent overeating. For flavor, add fruit or vegetables, such as lemon, orange or cucumber to your water. If you’re looking for a little sparkle on your table, spritzers made with club soda or sparkling water are either no  or very low calorie content. Click here for a great recipe for pomegranate spritzer:  .  Remember, alcoholic and cream–based drinks are loaded with calories, especially holiday favorites like eggnog. ”Cut your calories in half by alternating water or seltzer between alcoholic and eggnog beverages” says Tallmadge.

Finally, whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or bringing a few dishes to share, Lighten Up and make your recipes healthier with less fat, sugar, salt and calories.  There is more sugar, salt and fat in most recipes than needed, and your guests won’t notice the difference if you trimmed the recipe by using healthier ingredients. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Use fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth to baste the turkey and make gravy.
  • Reduce sugar by 1/3 or use granulated sugar substitute in place of sugar and/or use fruit purees instead of oil in baked goods.
  • Buy whole-grain bread for your stuffing; add wild rice and dried fruits to increase fiber.

Your Thanksgiving meal can be healthy yet still preserve your family’s traditions by planning ahead and incorporating small changes that support healthy habits for you and your quests.   To get more tips on healthy eating for the holidays, check out the Center for Science in the Public Interest Twitter chat on Friday, November 22 at 1 ET.