Planning your Thanksgiving meal means more than just choosing the high calorie ingredients.

With Thanksgiving next week, many of us are finalizing our meal plans. Often this meal will contain more fat, sugar, salt, and other ingredients that we often limit on a daily basis. Why sabotage your healthy diet just for this one meal? How can you make adjustments to what you are planning on cooking that will keep you healthy, feeling light, and not gaining a bunch of weight?

First of all, lets consider the hor d'oeuvres - often there is a cheese plate, or some dip whose base is cheese, or a heavy cream. This will not only be high in calories, but also fat. Consider hummus and roasted garlic in place of the cheese. Another classic is frozen items that you can quickly bake in the toaster oven (as the oven will be filled with the turkey usually) - these are often going to be high in salt, and unknown items as they are processed somewhere. Consider veggies, fruit, and roasted (but unsalted) nuts instead. However, don’t be bland with your choices.

Often, the meal is not even needed after you have spent the past several hours eating hor d’oeuvres until you are stuffed, but dine we must as that is the tradition. As a vegetarian, turkey is not an item that is on my menu, but when cooked correctly this can be a good and healthy source of protein for those that do eat meat. My husband is now a vegetarian too, but he has his favorite meat recipes locked away in his head. Take, for example, the now classic Alton Brown brined and roasted Turkey. The benefit here is that by brining ahead of time, or buying the turkey pre-brined, you can eliminate the need for salt on the table for your meat.

Though we are a vegetarian household, Tofurkey never makes a place on my table as I a not really sure what it is to be totally honest. I would rather go for a squash filled ravioli and roasted veggies. And the ravioli/veggie combo makes a half way decent replacement for something like mashed potatoes. Remember, the amount of fat and salt that you are putting into the potatoes make them creamy and delicious. However, don’t forget you just dumped a bunch of fat and salt into a lot of starch. If you insist on a “mashed” dish, try mashed cauliflower this year instead of the mash potatoes. You’ll still have the fat and salt with that dish, but at least you’ve tried to reduce the starch in that case.

Other culprits of indulgence this holiday season are canned cranberry sauce, bread and butter (my husbands favorite), and a salad overdressed with dressing. And don’t forget about the stuffing either. How many carbohydrates do we really need to have at one meal; special, or not?

Let us not forget about the drinks. Each glass of wine you enjoy while trying to spend time with family is another source of calories. Same goes for juices, or even the after dinner coffee (with cream that is) when dessert comes around. If you want to enjoy a bit of alcohol consider mixing red wine with a bit of sparkling water, and making a wine spritzer (well, maybe use a cheaper wine for that).

I left desserts for the end as they are often the last thing that we try to shove into our already over stuffed body. Desserts are high in sugar, calories, fat and are often overkill, and unnecessary when paired with some of the sweeter options that end up on our plates during the regular Thanksgiving meal. Consider having a bite, and I mean a single bite, of the dessert instead. Or, try just making small cookies, for example, where they are literally a few bites and you are done. Remember, you don’t want to ruin all the positive work you have made on losing weight, and/or maintaining weight over the year on this one day.

Considering the above items, it is no wonder that we all want to sleep after we are done eating, as we have eaten ourselves into a carbohydrate coma. Also, please remember that if you are going to be drinking, to make sure you have a designated driver, or that you are staying over. And, for every glass of something other than water make sure you have at least one glass of water to stay hydrated.

I am not saying to don’t yourself, but to just be conscious of everything that is going into your body. Be Thankful for all that you have in other ways this year too; what about just being with friends and/or family? As is probably clear at this point, I’m recommending that you plan a light and healthy meal that will keep you on track with your health goals.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, and safe travels in the coming week.