It's the time of year that every dieter dreads: the holidays. In most people's minds, Thanksgiving is a holiday that seems invented solely for the purpose of stuffing yourself. That “giving thanks” business is nice, but it's the food we really look forward to every year.

Well I've got news for you: one of the many things you have to be grateful for is your health, and a holiday isn't a “get out of jail free” card to abuse it. Instead of gorging on gravy and spending the weekend watching football, make some changes this year that boost your energy level and don't bust your waistband.

  1. Manage your hunger before the meal. Have a healthy snack an hour or two before Thanksgiving dinner starts. If you're starving before you start to eat, you're more likely to overindulge and choose less healthy foods.
  2. Drink responsibly. It can be tempting to get tipsy to survive the stress of a family get-together, but limit your tippling to a drink or two. Alcohol is no dieter's friend, and you're more likely to make unwise food choices once you start feeling squiffy.
  3. Make water a priority. The list of positive benefits of drinking water is miles long. It helps curb your appetite, and helps you lose weight by flushing toxins from your body. Drinking water also aids in digestion and keeps your skin looking young and fresh.
  4. Fill your plate wisely. Think before you serve. Keep the portion sizes reasonable, and swap foods for their healthier alternatives when you can. Switch dark meat for the breasts, steer clear of the skin, and keep the gravy to a minimum. A simple strategy for filling the plate is to divide it into sections: half the plate should be vegetables and fruit, a quarter should be protein, and the final quarter can be grains and starches.
  5. Choose your plate wisely. Pick a plate that's a sensible size. The bigger the plate, the more likely you are to overfill it. Stick to smaller dishes, even if they don't match the “nice China” the other guests are using.
  6. Consider cooking. If you're playing host for Thanksgiving dinner, the menu is entirely up to you. Don't be afraid to include the high-cal classics, but have enough healthy options to feel satisfied. If you're not hosting, politely offer to bring a healthy dish or two of your own.
  7. Just say no. To seconds, that is. If you're worried you might still be hungry, wait 20 min or so before considering taking seconds. It will help reduce your cravings, and give your body time to register that it's full.
  8. Limit your leftovers. I love the leftover turkey sandwiches, but some leftovers are better un-left. Give away as much as you can to your guests, and don't offer to take home any of the unhealthy food if you're a guest yourself.

Now that's a heaping helping of Thanksgiving health!