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5 Thanksgiving Mistakes Not to Make This Year

11/26/2013 08:59 am ET | Updated Jan 26, 2014
  • Dr. Lisa Young Internationally-recognized nutritionist; International Speaker; Adjunct professor of nutrition at NYU; Author, 'The Portion Teller Plan'

As a nutritionist coaching clients on weight loss, addressing common Thanksgiving pitfalls can help keep weight in check and help start off the holiday season on the right foot. With temptations all around us, making healthy and smart food choices can be challenging. Indeed, the average Thanksgiving meal is estimated to range from 2,500 calories to 4,500 calories, both estimates being too high in calories.

Here are five common mistakes to avoid. The aim is to enjoy your favorite foods without gaining a pound.

1. Skipping breakfast
It is important to eat a healthy breakfast the morning before the big feast. So often, when people skip breakfast they think they can eat more later in the day. You are often also very hungry if you skip breakfast altogether.

The fix: Eat a healthy breakfast that includes a serving of protein, fruit, and healthy starch. A great choice is yogurt and berries topped with a whole grain cereal.

2. Wearing loose fitting clothes
When you wear loose clothes, it is common to keep eating... and eating without it registering.

The fix: Wear form-fitting clothes. Your clothing should not be uncomfortable or too tight but they should be fitting. Wearing a belt is also a good idea. If you feel the need to unbuckle your belt, you've probably eaten too much.

3. Eating 1,000 calories worth of appetizers
It is not uncommon to eat over a thousand calories when choosing the WRONG appetizers. And this is before the meal. When you nibble on franks in a blanket, cheese and crackers, and potato knishes, for example, you can easily consume upwards of a thousand calories if you do not pay attention.

The fix: Choose crudite such as carrots, red peppers, and celery, which are high in fiber and low in calories. And top the veggies with hummus or a healthy dressing.

4. Eating too much.
As a nutritionist helping real people who like to eat lose weight, I believe all foods can be eaten in moderation over the holidays and now is not a time to start a diet. However, going back for doubles or triples and overfilling your plate is a likely culprit for why you gain weight over the holiday.

The fix: Practice portion control! Here a few visuals from my book The Portion Teller Plan to help you eyeball a proper serving so that you don't overdo it this holiday. If you can stick to these portions, you don't need to worry about calories.

  • A deck of cards worth of turkey is around 3 oz.
  • A golf ball size of gravy is about ¼ cup.
  • A golf ball size of cranberry sauce is about ¼ cup.
  • A ½ baseball worth of stuffing is around ½ cup.
  • A ½ baseball worth of sweet potato is around ½ cup.
  • A shot glass worth of salad dressing is around 2 tablespoons.
  • And ok to enjoy an unlimited portion of nonstarchy vegetables.

5. Drinking too many liquid calories -- that includes alcohol and soda.
Having several alcoholic beverages, eggnog, and sugar sweetened drinks including soda along with your meal can easily pack on unnecessary calories. I would much prefer that you eat your calories rather than drink them as liquid calories.

The fix: Do not drink on an empty stomach and allow yourself to enjoy one glass of wine or a wine spritzer with the meal. Skip the soda and choose water or sparkling water instead.

Wishing you a happy -- healthy -- Thanksgiving and holiday season.