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It’s the most wonderful time of year! The season of unbuttoning your pants at the dinner table and taking a turkey-induced nap is upon us. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are all about spending time with loved ones, usually by gathering together around a meal. As much as we love this delicious tradition, it (unfortunately) is the cause of the highest influx of weight gain in Americans all year. Avoid being part of the statistic by making healthier choices while still enjoying everything the season has to offer. Here are some tips on how to save calories and add nutrients to this year’s holiday menu.

White meat over dark meat
When it comes to that beautiful bird, opt to eat the white meat instead of dark. This will save you about 50 calories per serving.

 Replace your potatoes
If you are in charge of the menu, try replacing mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower. Potatoes contain more calories with lower nutritional value than cauliflower, and this easy replacement’s texture is so similar your family might not even notice the difference! Sweet potatoes are another good option to swap out for traditional mashed potatoes. Though they are about the same calorie-wise, sweet potatoes have nearly double the vitamins of a regular potato.

Add vegetable options to your menu
Having yummy vegetable dishes on hand along with your more indulgent sides will create a happy balance on your plate. If you are in charge of bringing a side to your holiday meal, opt to prepare a fall vegetable medley. This way, you won’t feel as guilty about having that serving of mac and cheese because you are still eating your veggies!

 And on that note, don’t let the vegetable casseroles fool you…
Sure, some casseroles have vegetables in them, but they are often packed with breading and fat- and preservative-laden canned “cream of” soups. Don’t mistake these for your vegetable servings! If you’re responsible for cooking, maybe skip the green bean casserole and provide a more nutritious green bean option.

Sauces are not your friend
Holiday table fixtures like cranberry sauce and gravy are packed full of unnecessary calories. Cranberries themselves contain tons of nutritional value, sure, but those store-bought gelatin sauces are full of refined sugars, so instead try making your own. If you couldn’t imagine taking a bite of your aunt’s overly-dry turkey sans gravy, our advice would be to pour it lightly.

The dessert dilemma
Pumpkin pie is a traditional part of the fall and holiday season and lucky for the calorie concerned folks it’s also a ‘not so bad’ dessert option! Choose this over sugar packed options like pecan and chocolate pies or banana pudding.

 Don’t drink your calories 
In some families, a holiday get-together might include a cocktail (or three). Do your body a favor and replace fattening drinks like beer and eggnog with low-calorie options. Try getting festive with these fall wine spritzers.

Making healthy choices is always a good idea no matter the occasion, but we know that life sometimes calls for a bit of indulgence. Being more aware of what you are consuming should not keep you from treating yourself! No matter what you choose to eat this holiday season, we hope you will enjoy it with family and friends!