Turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams with brown sugar and marshmallows, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, bread, and the many desserts such as pies and cakes are just some of the menus being planned for the upcoming holiday. Do any of these foods sound familiar?

You can enjoy your holiday feasts and still maintain a healthy diet. Portion control and substituting low fat ingredients is one way in which to provide a healthy alternative.

For example, prepare the turkey without the stuffing. Instead of pasta, serve a healthy homemade vegetable soup. Replace some of the desserts with a home-baked angel food cake and decorate it with berries that are in season. You can still enjoy other desserts, as well as high carb foods such as mashed potatoes, by serving it on smaller plates and by limiting the variety of high-fat meats with low-fat substitutions.

Traditionally Thanksgiving and other subsequent holidays can last several hours. Instead of several courses, prepare four such as salad with low fat dressing, homemade vegetable soup, turkey without stuffing and homemade dessert. It can be done successfully and with a minimum amount of preparation. Serve a vegetable tray with a low fat dip for guests to nibble on before dinner.

Take one to two hour breaks before each meal. Take a walk or play football in the back yard, weather permitting. Sit everyone in the living room so they are not tempted to pick at the leftovers at the table after each course.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday and sometimes we tend to prepare too many courses. Whether it’s a new recipe we want to try or perhaps there was a wonderful side dish seen on a food channel we have to incorporate into the Thanksgiving meal. There isn’t a set amount of courses one must serve. However, perhaps this year prepare fewer courses and keep the ones you do prepare more satisfying and healthier for guests.

The spirit of Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays lies in those with whom we spend the holiday. While food preparation is important, it does not have to be so extraordinary that no one can move at the end of the meal. You’ve seen the commercial, right? Everyone is so stuffed, the men immediately take to the sofa and unbuckle their belts, while the women sit at the table and talk while picking at the leftovers.

When you begin to think about your holiday preparation, plan a menu that’s healthy and that affords those who are maintaining a diet to be able to stick to it. While some cultures will create a mini-banquet, their only choice is portion control. Serve on smaller plates and prepare fewer courses. Substitute water for cola and serve non-fat eggnog. Eat slower, chew longer and enjoy the feast!