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Gobble responsibly

You can take steps to ensure you won't gorge yourself silly on Thanksgiving

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Next weekend -- if you believe the statistics -- you'll begin your annual, inevitable weight gain.

According to a Tufts University study, the rule applies most to currently overweight people who apparently will pack on about five pounds between Thanksgiving and the new year.

The prediction makes sense if you're the type to gorge on turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes and pie until your waistband snaps.

Instead of becoming a statistic on Thanksgiving, which we will celebrate next weekend, why not approach your dinner feast with some restraint?

Here's a reminder about how you can still enjoy the occasion and all of its culinary delights while keeping your weight and your health intact:

Don't overlook the nutrients already on your table.

In your quest to restrain yourself, don't forget about the powerful fall nutrients hidden in most Thanksgiving suppers. Think sweet potatoes, jewel-toned gems that are loaded with beta-carotene. This precursor to Vitamin A is proven to help skin, tooth and mucous membrane health. (A 31/2- ounce serving of sweet potato, by the way, gives you about 90 per cent of Health Canada's daily recommended dose). Cranberry sauce, especially if you can make it yourself and limit its amount of sugar, is packed with Vitamin C. Turkey, when you take off the skin and eat the white meat, is a satisfying source of lean protein, which is essential to red blood cell function.

Don't starve for the feast.

Your instincts might tell you to fast the day of your dinner so you can eat what you want without gaining weight. Don't give into that gut feeling. Instead, eat a healthy breakfast and a lunch that contains healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein. This will keep your metabolism buzzing and will help you avoid overeating at dinner.

Curb your drinking.

It's easy to get carried away with high-calorie, high-sugar beverages since they don't contribute to a feeling of fullness. Keep in mind that a glass of wine can cost you an extra 150 calories. Meanwhile, a creamy, sweetened drink can add up to 400 or more. If you must drink alcohol, limit yourself to a drink or two of something unsweetened. (One shot of vodka contains about 60 calories and no sugar. Mix it with soda water to extend it). Keeping tabs on your drinking can help you make better decisions about what you're putting on your plate.

Create imaginary borders on your plate.

Divide your plate into sections and reserve each for particular foods or food groups. My favourite option: Fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables. (These tend to be lower in calories and sky-high in fibre, vitamins and phytonutrients, a class of beneficial compounds found only in plant-based foods). Reserve another quarter of your plate for mostly slow-digesting grains and beans. Fill the other quarter of your plate with lean protein. (Think white turkey with it's skin removed). This ratio of food groupings can keep your blood sugars in check while ensuring you're getting the most nutrients out of your meal).

Get off the gravy train.

You may not realize that gravy is almost all fat -- the drippings from the bird. If your turkey is already moist, succulent and tasty, ask yourself if you really need to pour on the gravy. If you love what gravy does to your turkey, keep it on the side for dipping so you can control how much you use for each bite. As well, eat your turkey without skin, which is just fat. Need something creamy on your dessert? Consider un-whipped whipping cream over vanilla ice cream. (One tablespoon of un-whipped whipping cream contains about 56 calories. Meanwhile, one cup of vanilla ice cream contains about 540 calories and 42 grams of sugar).

Don't go back for more.

Instead of blindly filling your plate with a second helping, ask yourself if you're truly still hungry. If you're not, don't bother with seconds. On the other hand, if going back for seconds is a ritual you can't do without, make your first helping smaller.

Create a calorie deficit in the days ahead.

This week, make a pact to eat reasonable portions of food and exercise every day for at least one hour. Add to your healthy lifestyle by taking the stairs whenever you can and park as far from the door as possible. By making enough of these small changes, you'll create a calorie deficit so you'll be less likely to pack on the pounds when turkey day comes around.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 1, 2012 D1

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