I can smell it already… the turkey at our family Thanksgiving dinner in Newburyport. This truly is my favorite time of year. In the weeks leading up to Turkey Day, Boston becomes a seasonal food mecca. Restaurants are filled with pumpkin and autumn spiced dishes, and attention soon turns towards the big feast itself. During Thanksgiving, one of the last things we think about is our weight. But did you know that the average American gains one to two pounds during the holiday season?

Allow me to share with you my nutrition hacks:

1. No Turkey Day fasting. Often times I hear people say, well, I didn’t eat anything all day, I'm saving my calories for dinner. The reality is, by skipping breakfast and lunch you are sending your body into starvation mode and actually slowing your metabolism, which leads to weight gain and increases the likelihood that you will have an all-out gorging session by the time the turkey hits the table. Instead, have a healthy breakfast and lunch, and include a balanced pre-turkey snack—think apple and peanut butter.

2. Pick one or the other. Cheese or dessert; if you are an apple pie lover, skip the brie. Same goes for starches; load up on stuffing or potatoes, but not both.

3. Visualize your plate. You know that ideally, you want half of your turkey day plate to be veggies. Green bean amandine is a staple at our house, so I try to make those about half my plate, with mashed potatoes and turkey making up the other half. I always start with salad dressed in oil and vinegar for an extra veggie punch. By the time dessert rolls around, I'm usually feeling pretty satisfied and less tempted.

4. Step away from the food. The best thing you can do following the meal is to pack up the leftovers. Refrigerate immediately or send friends home with leftovers, especially dessert items. Keep staples around like white meat turkey, veggies and sweet potatoes, but ditch the pies and cookies; if they are hanging around, you will eat them!

5. Budget the booze. Decide how many glasses of wine you're going to drink and stick to it. If you're drinking a budget wine, make your glass last longer by adding seltzer for a spritzer, or just stick in a few ice cubes. When it comes to the good stuff—that special bottle your uncle brought from his cellar—sip slowly. Remember, extra alcohol means lower inhibitions around what you're eating. Suddenly that 300 calorie slice of pie doesn’t seem to bother you...

Thanksgiving Wine
There's no need to teetotal, but moderate the booze to cut back on unwanted calories this Thanksgiving.
Darya Petrenko

What to do in case you fall off track…

  • Make it a teachable moment. Use this slip-up to ensure that you don't make the same mistake next time; ask yourself what the trigger was and how you would have done it differently. Treat yourself with compassion, not shame, which will likely lead to a cycle of overeating. Yes, you ate too much pie, but learn what triggered it and re-set.
  • Set a short term goal. When things feel vague and overwhelming, people often don’t meet their weight loss goals. Decide on one or two small goals you want to reach over the next seven days, like limiting wine to two glasses this week, or making it outside to walk the dog every day.
  • Remind yourself why you are trying to improve your diet. What is your driving force? Is it important to you to be healthy for an upcoming road race, or to be healthy for your family? Find that root of motivation and run with it—literally.