11/26/2010 05:38 pm ET | Updated Jan 14, 2012

A Guilt-Free Thanksgiving

Here is a simple, well-thought-out nutrition and exercise plan for the four-day holiday weekend to help anyone avoid guilt and stress -- and the weight gain that threatens to accompany it -- on Thanksgiving Day. This plan is straight-forward and goal-oriented, based on the following figures:

To gain one pound of fat, the body needs to ingest 3,500 extra calories; conversely, to lose one pound of fat, the body needs to burn 3,500 calories.


The average Thanksgiving dinner is 3,000 calories.


In order to avoid gaining even one pound over Thanksgiving, plan to burn an extra 3,000 calories over the course of the four-day weekend.

To burn those extra calories, try my Nine-Step, Four-Day Program for a Guilt-Free Thanksgiving:

1) Start each day with a freshly squeezed lemon in room temperature water to help balance the body's pH level, while enhancing the liver's detoxification abilities.
Follow this with a cup of green tea, helpful for its "filling" effect (80 percent of the time, that feeling of hunger is actually thirst).

Its high antioxidant content also helps to maintain healthy and glowing skin.

2) After these morning beverages, go for a 30-minute walk on an empty stomach to burn 150 calories. (Four walks x four days = 600 calories burned from that indulgent Turkey dinner!)

3) Enjoy a healthy breakfast of raw food with lots of vitamins and fiber to help support the immune system:

10 raw almonds
1 banana
1 mandarin orange
A few red grapes (with seeds if possible as their oil is very good for you)

4) Exercise or explore your surroundings with friends and family: You can burn calories simply by going for a walk in the woods or around the block.
This is especially easy on Black Friday when you might be going out to shop - that's a marathon in more ways than one!

The key is to move, move, move for at least for one hour. (300 calories are burned if you are walking at an easy pace x four days = another 1,200 calories burned... Just 1,200 to go!)

5) For lunch, start your meal with a pure protein. Starting with a piece of chicken or fish reassures your brain and body that it's getting what it needs most (versus starting your meal with white bread or candy, which may lead the body to think it won't be receiving protein and cause it to immediately store the sugar as fat, also called glycogene reserves, in response).

Meal suggestion: Pair grilled fish with calcium-loaded baby spinach salad and a small roasted potato. Finish with a little something sweet (like three small squares of chocolate) to keep in the holiday spirit without driving the scale north.

6) Take advantage of this time off work to enjoy a power nap and help your body digest and replenish its energy stores.

7) Make sure you have an afternoon snack to keep your metabolism fired up: Try five raw walnuts and one apple, or walk to the coffee shop for a 10-calorie Chai (that's a venti tea with one tea bag of Tazo Chai and one shot of soy milk, sweetened with Splenda) and a small biscotti.

8) For dinner, consider a soup. Soup can fill up your stomach and reduce your appetite by at least 35 percent.

Apply this to the Thanksgiving meal as well -- even if you add a bit of sour cream to a tasty bowl of pumpkin soup, it can still be a healthy way to start your meal and could potentially bring the 3,000 calorie-average down to 2,000.

On the other evenings, follow your soup dinner with a few whole wheat crackers and some hummus or babaganoush, and finish with a soy yogurt and maybe another few squares of chocolate.

9) Remember that daily tasks such as cooking dinner and doing the dishes by hand count as exercise too. (75 calories over 30 minutes x four days = 300 calories burned).

If you are surrounded by kids, play hide and seek. (One hour of an activity like this will burn 250 calories x four days = another 1,000 calories gone!)

By allowing Thursday's celebratory meal to be indulgent while maintaining a healthy eating and exercise program throughout the rest of the weekend, you can enjoy the holiday as it was intended.