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Thanksgiving meals are great, especially when you get to share them with loved ones. However, traditional Thanksgiving dishes are high in carbs and calories, which can be counterproductive in achieving your weight loss goals.

Here are five ways you can have a healthier Thanksgiving this year:

1. Substitute high-carb sides with vegetables

Turkey is a lean meat, so it’s not the culprit when it comes to a big Thanksgiving meal – the sides are. Traditional Thanksgiving side dishes, like potatoes, cranberry sauce and casseroles, are loaded with sugar and carbs. Substituting them with vegetables, such as green beans or steamed carrots, will keep you on track with a healthy-eating plan.

2. Control your portions

No matter what dishes are on your Thanksgiving table, it’s important to watch your portions. Even healthier options can add up in calories when you take too much.

If you do opt for carb-heavy sides, try to limit yourself to smaller portions. For gravy, try taking only a golf-ball-sized amount – a little goes a long way. Or instead of a whole serving of carb-heavy dishes, limit yourself to a bite. You get the taste, but not all the calories, carbs and sugars.

3. Include activity in your day

Burn off some calories before or after your meal by planning time for physical activity. Make it a family affair. Take a hike, play a game of tag football – anything to get moving.

4. Limit alcohol

Try sparkling water or infused water to help you stay hydrated and limit added calories from alcohol.

5. Don’t skip meals

It may sound logical to skip breakfast or lunch to prepare for a big feast, but that actually makes you hungrier and more likely to overeat. Instead, have a small healthy snack so you aren’t starving waiting for the meal to be ready.

Try to keep the focus of the day on friends and family, instead of food. With these easy adjustments, you can enjoy the meal without the guilt.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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