Navigating the Thanksgiving table can be harder than navigating the traffic to your in-laws house. A holiday dedicated to abundance and overindulgence may seem like a total recipe for diet-disaster, but if taken in moderation, there are ways to make healthy choices and still enjoy yourself on Thanksgiving day. In the spirit of giving, I’m giving you a quick “this or that” guide to your traditional Thanksgiving feast to help you enjoy your dinner without having to unbutton your pants!

Dark meat versus white meat: That giant turkey leg of dark meat is filled with lots of extra fat and calories from the skin. Instead of the leg, opt for the lean white meat, and if your turkey feels naked, dress it up with a drizzle of gravy. Depending on how the gravy is made, a tablespoon can have anywhere from 20-120 calories so pour wisely, and save those calories for something else.

Sweet potato casserole versus stuffing: Sweet potatoes are great, nutritionally… until you add brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows!  Because of all of the sweet add-ins, sweet potato casserole can be uber high in carbs and sugar, so if you’re planning on indulging in dessert, this might be a good one to skip. Stuffing is another carb-tastrophe that will run you anywhere from 200-300 calories per half cup (about the size of a tennis ball). If you’re a true stuffing lover, don’t deny yourself your starchy fix, but skip the sausage- you’re already getting plenty of protein from the turkey.

String bean casserole versus roasted veggies: Don’t let the ‘green’ in the green bean casserole trick you into thinking you’re doing yourself a service in loading up on veggies. These casseroles are often made with fried onions and lots of fat- from either cream or butter. Roasted veggies on the other hand, are likely made with far less fat and a healthier fat to boot, making them a less caloric and a much healthier option.

Pecan pie versus pumpkin pie: No matter how you slice it, pie is pie, high in sugar, carbs, fat and calories, but Thanksgiving is a time for indulgence, and dessert is part of the feast. Pumpkin, itself, has a plethora of health benefits. It’s high in vitamin A, potassium, fiber, and only has about 50 calories per cup.  Pumpkin pie on the other hand is generally a far cry from the pumpkin you’re pureeing or spooning from a can.  But the good news here is that a slice of pumpkin pie is still a far better choice than a slice of pecan pie. Yes, pecans are a natural source of healthy fat, but slap them on an average slice of sugar-laden pie, and you’re looking at about 500 calories per slice, in comparison to the 350 for a slice of pumpkin pie. My advice is to have two or three bites of your favorite, sip some tea or cider and hit the gym tomorrow.

Looking for more guidance, follow my general holiday rules that let you enjoy your feast without getting fat!

1.  Wear tight pants to dinner.  No one wants to see you unbutton your pants at the table.  Instant portion control.
2.  Survey the menu and enjoy the specialties.  Skip the foods you can eat all the time.
3.  Fill half your plate with veggies (not the casserole kind).  Fill the rest with whatever else you want (and no you can’t pile it high).  Don’t go back for seconds.
4.  Say no to leftovers.  Remember holidays last for ONE day, not ONE week.  Enjoy yourself today and get right back on track tomorrow.
5.  During the holiday season aim to maintain not to lose, who needs that added pressure?

Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday!