5 Thanksgiving Day Healthy Eating Strategies

By Lisa Schneider

Nix the word "diet" - the goal here is simply to enjoy in moderation!

1. Don't "save room"

Excited for the big meal? Can't wait for your favorite foods? Going to skip breakfast and lunch so you have room for all the goodies? Forget it!

Making conscious decisions to eat a bit lighter the weeks around the holidays so you can "earn" a few extra calories at special meals is a good idea, but starving yourself the day of is definitely not. All you'll do is ensure that you're too hungry to make good decisions, and probably eat way too much before you even realize it. (Like I did the other night, when I came home from a 12-hour day fueled by one salad and one protein bar. I inhaled a full plate of food and recapped my trip in about 2.3 minutes. DH's jaw was on the floor - and that was only leftovers!)

Instead, eat a few light, healthful meals or snacks with plenty of protein and fiber - so when you get the the meal you'll be hungry but not starving.

Check your own eating strategies with this Are You Diet Smart quiz!

Plus: 8 Diet Secrets From Around the World

2. Take time to savor

When you eat quickly, you ingest food before your body has time to signal your brain that it's full. It actually takes about 20 minutes for the amount you ate to really register!

Remember, the spirit of the holiday is to enjoy time with those we love and reflect on our blessings, so relax and eat slowly.

Help everyone else do the same by sharing some of these 9 Funny Thanksgiving Quotes - they'll be too busy cracking up to overstuff!

3. Drink plenty of water

It's common to confuse thirst with hunger, and whether you're putting the last-minute touches on the meal or fighting traffic, it's easy to get sidetracked on this busy day and forget to hydrate up.

Sharing some toasts? Alcohol dehydrates you even further!

Everyone knows the drill: aim for eight, 8-oz. glasses of water a day. Getting bored of the bland? Decaf tea counts, or spice up a pitcher of water with slices of lemon and orange and throw in some mint (looks festive on the table, too!).

Plus: 7 Tricks to Drop Pounds

4. Plan your plate

Eating smart at the holidays doesn't have to mean skipping your favorite treats. It is a celebration after all! Just sample certain goodies in moderation, and fill up on lean protein and fiber so you feel satiated.

A simple plan: make sure your plate is about 1/3rd turkey (if you have the willpower, skip the skin!), 1/3rd salad or other veggies, and only 1/3rd stuffing, mashed potatoes, and other high-fat favorites (like my yummy but heart-unfriendly butternut squash souffle. Did I mention I cheat and use frozen squash?!).

Just have to sample dessert? It's overkill to try a taste of everything, but do go ahead and take a modest slice of your favorite pie with a side of fresh fruit to fill you up.

5. Exercise

Honestly, that run just isn't going burn enough calories to justify the whole meal. But that's not the point. Taking time to exercise regularly and keep up your routine during the holidays keeps your metabolism at its peak and makes you feel fit and healthy. One healthy habit begets another, so if you feel you've taken good care of yourself so far it will be easier to "keep up the good work" by eating mindfully even at a feast.

Don't have time for your usual routine? Remember that even 10 minutes of activity whenever you can grab it adds up - everything counts!

And most of all, enjoy!