Thanksgiving doesn’t mean your good nutrition habits have to suffer or go completely off track. The traditional elements of a Thanksgiving dinner, when paired together, can be a balanced—turkey, buttery green beans and sweet potatoes—but add the crusty bread, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, marshmallow salad and candied cranberries and things have quickly gotten out of control. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you head out to, or host your own, feast.

No such thing as "saving room."  Try not to skip eating all day before the big meal; that plan to “save room” always backfires. Imagine how hungry you’ll be once the appetizers come out. You’ll be tempted to eat everything in sight! Not just that, but not eating all day will cause your blood sugar to dip and make you cranky, which doesn’t make for a fun Thanksgiving. The best advice is to start your Thanksgiving Day with a balanced breakfast. 

Off limits.  We suggest avoiding anything laden with sugar, refined flours and trans fats. All these artificial foods are very addicting and can be hard to resist once you’ve started. It’s not a lack of willpower that makes you reach for roll after roll; it’s your brain chemistry thrown off from all those artificial ingredients. Give your brain a break and know that certain things just have to be off limits.

Look for homemade.  There are just so many hidden ingredients in store-bought foods. Try to avoid those processed goods (loaded with the hazardous trans fats, sugars and refined flours we mentioned above) and stick with the homemade items. At least you know homemade was crafted with real ingredients.

Bring your own.  If you’re invited to a gathering, offer to bring a dish, the perfect opportunity to add some real food to the day’s events. You’ll know that if all else fails you’ll have your dish to snack on. For instance - green, black, Kalamata and garlic-stuffed olives not only look festive, but they also taste delicious. Bonus, the fats in the olives are healthy and sure to keep your blood sugar stable. Balanced blood sugar means clear thinking, vibrant moods and good energy. 

Balance your plate.  Fortunately when it comes to a Thanksgiving buffet there are a lot of real food options to make balancing your plate easy. For instance, turkey is a great protein. (A rule of thumb for protein serving size is to look for cuts of meat roughly the size of your palm).  Thanksgiving staples like green beans, I sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts are perfect options. Better yet, they’ve likely been cooked in some butter giving you a quality fat as well. 

One last piece of advice, don’t get mad at yourself! Mistakes happen. If you goofed up on Thanksgiving, don’t give up on all healthy eating until next year.  The morning after Thanksgiving, get right back to your healthy habits with a balanced breakfast and maybe a light workout or a walk.