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Eat light tonight — cash in calories on Turkey Day

Creamy mashed potatoes, rich stuffing, a butter-basted breast of turkey and the ubiquitous pumpkin pie — you may not be able to escape the traditions of Thanksgiving, but you don't have to bust your belt line.

Connie Mobley, Ph.D., an associate professor at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, says even the strictest dieters can indulge in the holiday feast — if they just balance their calories like a bank book.

"You can actually budget for your Thanksgiving dinner — eat less the day before, so your calorie intake will even out over a two-day period," Dr. Mobley said.

The average adult needs between 1,800 and 2,000 calories a day. Dr. Mobley says a typical Thanksgiving dinner racks in between 3,000 and 4,000 calories. While Dr. Mobley says it is mathematically possible to gain about half a pound by overeating on Thanksgiving Day, most people won't, especially if they follow a few other tips including:

Exercise — eat early enough to exercise after dinner, or plan to work out the day after Thanksgiving;

Don't go to the table hungry — eat fresh fruit or raw vegetables approximately an hour before your meal. If you are starving you will be tempted to overeat;

Watch the extras — butter, sauce and gravy add a significant amount of calories and fat. If you want to put gravy on your potatoes, try eating your turkey with cranberry sauce;

Choose desserts with fruit — while high in calories, they will probably have less fat;

Choose fresh foods — simple trimmings prepared from fresh produce are likely to be lower in calories and fats;

Watch your portions — you can taste everything on the table if you just have a small portion of each item;

Don't drink too much — have one glass of wine instead of two.

Most importantly, remember why you are celebrating Thanksgiving. "Focus on the people you are with and not the food, because that is what the holiday is really about," Dr. Mobley said.

Contact: Amanda Gallagher or Aileen Salinas