Stuffing on Thanksgiving Day won't kill you. Neither will the turkey, mashed potatoes, yams, cranberry sauce, biscuits, corn, green bean casserole, gravy, butter and pumpkin pie - with a dollop of whipped cream.
In fact, some might argue that it's a human need to binge from time to time.
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But too much of a good thing — like holiday meals — can add a few extra pounds to the scale and it often results in post-dinner discomfort.
It's called overeating. And it's the American way.
Because it's the one day devoted to food, many people think they're given a pass to overindulge when they sit down at the Thanksgiving table, said Jeanne Rhodes, nutritionist, wellness consultant and director of Rhodes Preventive Health Institute in Hagerstown.
"But if we work in harmony with the miracle known as our bodies, we'll never allow eating to get out of control — even on a holiday," she noted.
In fact, most people regret their overeating about the time they push themselves away from the table.
"The only thing people want to do is lie on the sofa," Rhodes said. "What does that tell you? It says — overload.'"
That doesn't mean you can't enjoy your Thanksgiving meal.
"It means everything in moderation," she said."Plus there are some things you can do to cut the fat, calories and bad carbs — making the meal much healthier."
During the month of November, Rhodes has been presenting a class that deals specifically with holiday dinners. What she tells participants, she said, is that you can enjoy all the traditional foods — just give them a healthier tweak.
For instance, if you eat 4 1/2 ounces of turkey, you normally would consume 10 grams of fat. But if you take off the skin, you're trimming the fat to 3 3/4 grams.
"You're not reducing the amount of food, you're reducing the fat," she noted.
Love mashed potatoes? You can still have a serving, but instead of butter, use a butter-flavored substitute. Even better, try mashed cauliflower, she said. Compared to 1 cup of mashed potatoes, equaling 12 grams of fat, the cauliflower will take those grams to zero.
Rhodes said coleslaw "is not your healthiest friend because it's usually made with mayonnaise and sugar. "If you must have slaw, always use a low-fat mayonnaise," she said. "You'll have a little bit of fat, but not a harmful amount."
Instead, she recommended adding salads to the menu.
"Salads are mostly water and fiber. It's a calorie-free food and will help you feel less hungry," she said. "Just be sure to use a healthy dressing — and use a light touch."
When making your stuffing, "no eggs and no butter— even if you're using Stove Top," Rhodes said.
And defat the broth in your gravy, which can save you 18 grams of fat.
If you're a lima bean lover, forgo the butter and you can take the fat content from 8 grams to zero, she said.
And don't forget the pumpkin pie.
"Everyone wants a little dessert on Thanksgiving," Rhodes said. "But there's an alternative to the butter-rich crust we usually use. Instead, make the crust with high-fiber bread. Crumble it into a plate, add a touch of olive oil and press into the pie plate."
By making changes here and there, Rhodes said it's possible to reduce the grams of fat in your meal from 120 grams to 12 grams "and you don't have to cut back on the food."
Rhodes said the average American can gain as much as 10 to 15 pounds during the holidays.
"And it's belly fat," she said. "That's exactly where it goes."
In addition to restraint, Rhodes offered some advice to prevent overindulging when gathering with family and friends at the Thanksgiving table.
"Always eat breakfast, especially good protein," she said. "Some people think that if they don't eat breakfast, they'll be leaving room for the holiday meal. But you're setting yourself up to overeat. When your blood sugar is below normal, that brings on the hunger pangs. Protein can curb your appetite; for instance, omega 3 eggs that are so healthy."
The second rule, she said, "is simple but often ignored. Increase fiber and decrease fat."
Rhodes also suggested eating small amounts of food throughout the day.
"Your body needs nutrition every 3 to 3 1/2 hours," she said. "Maybe you can have a fruit-and-nut snack mid-morning, raw veggies in the afternoon — finger foods that regulate your blood sugar."
While it sounds like a diet for diabetics, Rhodes said it's an eating lifestyle that she has been proposing to clients for more than 30 years.
"It's about eating healthier," she said.