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Avoid a stuffing: Tips to curb overeating during holiday season

Thanksgiving kicks off a season of festive feasting and seemingly non-stop noshing on sweet treats and traditional meals.While you may want to partake in the merriment, nutrition experts advise not trying to gobble up everything in sight.

"Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy and indulge in some favorite family recipes, but moderation is an important thing to keep in mind to help with weight management," says Julie Garden-Robinson, associate professor and food and nutrition specialist at North Dakota State University Extension Service Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

Still, nutritionists know that certain foods are important parts of time-honored traditions and aren't telling diners to do without family favorites.

"I don't want to tell people what's good and bad, especially with Thanksgiving and those traditional foods. Those family recipes are sacred, traditional," says Abby Gold, nutrition and wellness extension specialist with North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota.

"Some people, you just don't mess with the menu," Gold adds.

Here are some tips to a healthy approach to holiday eating.

* "Socialize in an area out of reach of the food. If food is near you, you are more likely to continue to munch," Garden-Robinson advises. "Snack on high-volume, low-calorie appetizers such as fresh fruits and vegetables before the meal."

* "Eat what you like, but that doesn't mean eat everything in front of you," Gold says, recommending to approach a Thanksgiving spread as you would a buffet. You don't go through a buffet and take one of everything. Eye up the options and make a plan of what to eat. You can deviate from the plan, but start off with an idea.

* Garden-Robinson says you can even trick yourself into eating less.

"Choose a smaller plate. Visually, smaller portions will appear larger on a small plate, and you may eat less," she says, adding that hosts can use smaller serving utensils to help.

* One approach to serving is the Idaho Plate Method, Gold says. Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with protein and a quarter with starch and carbohydrates.

* Gold acknowledges the holidays can be tough for some people dealing with difficult relatives. When people find themselves full of stress, they should be aware of overeating to deal with anxiety.

* "Keep in mind how you feel as you eat," Gold says. "When you start feeling food in the back of your throat, you're overeating."

* Garden-Robinson stresses eating slow. "Remember that it takes about 20 minutes to register that you are full," she says.

* If you're inclined to go for seconds, Gold suggests starting with salad and green beans. Only take seconds on one carbohydrate.

"You really want to save room for pumpkin pie and apple pie," she says.

* Taking a walk before or after dinner will help get your metabolism up and also help with digestion, Gold says. And if you're reluctant to leave the cozy confines of the home or stray too far from the couch, instead of just watching a game on TV, play an interactive video game like the Nintendo Wii.

"Get out your family aggressions," Gold says.

Kitchen conscience

If you are trying to cut calories in the kitchen, Garden-Robinson offers these suggestions.

* White meat turkey is lower in fat and calories than dark meat, so consider white when serving. Also, remove the skin before eating, which is high in fat.

* Reduce the fat in gravy by freezing the pan drippings and then remove them before making gravy.

* Keep candied yams sweet but healthier by adding orange juice and cinnamon instead of adding margarine, butter and marshmallows.

* When mashing potatoes, use skim milk instead of cream.

* Make single-crust pies because crusts are high in fat and calories.