Healthy Thanksgiving cheat sheet

For many of us the holidays are a nonstop feeding frenzy that kicks off on Thanksgiving.  By New Year’s the average American will have gained 9 to 11 pounds, but you don’t have to. Here’s how to enjoy your Thanksgiving without guilt, deprivation or weight gain.

Eat breakfast

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that by skipping breakfast you can eat more later on. In reality, sitting down hungry at your big meal sets you up to overdo it on holiday treats like stuffing, creamy casseroles and rolls that pack a lot of calories and fat. Start your day with a light and filling breakfast that combines some fiber and lean protein, such as a bowl of hot whole grain cereal and an egg-white veggie omelet.   

Fill your plate well

This tried-and-true “plate method” lets you enjoy the feast without going overboard:  Divide your plate into thirds and in the first section fan out white meat turkey without skin. Then fill the second section with salad and low-fat vegetables, avoiding creamy dressings or sauces. Use the third section for starchy foods like potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Go ahead and take tasting portions of those special holiday foods and you won’t feel deprived.

Pace yourself

Have a tall glass of water before you sit down to your meal and then eat slowly, putting your fork down between bites and consciously savoring each mouthful. By slowing down you’ll experience more fully the flavors and aromas of your food and you’ll probably eat less because your stomach will have time to signal your brain when it is full.

Just say no

Never feel pressured to eat what you don’t want. Politely take a pass on any food you’d rather skip, and that goes for second helpings, too.   

Keep your hands busy

Instead of nibbling on fattening chips, cheeses and fried appetizers, keep a low-cal beverage in your hand. Good choices include a wine spritzer (70 calories), a glass of red or white wine (about 90 calories), and zero-calorie drinks such as water, iced tea and seltzer.

Indulge in three bites

The most decadent dessert won’t send your diet off the rails if you stick of the “three-bite rule.” Studies show that people always rate their first and last bites as the best, so three bites let’s you enjoy any dessert completely without worry.   

For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, family-friendly recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my latest book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City and the author of two bestselling books:  The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber (Hyperion), and The F-Factor Diet (Putnam). Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website For nutrition news you can use, product tips, restaurant reviews and delicious recipes sign up for Tanya’s weekly newsletter!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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