OMG, where did this year go? Can you believe it will be Thanksgiving in a few days? This is the time of year many people start to panic about how the start of the Holiday Season will impact their waistlines. If this describes you, take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. In the famous words of Patriots QB Tom Brady, “R-E-L-A-X.”

The good new is it matters less what you will eat between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day than what you have consumed between New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving. If your food choices during the year were mindful, then your waistline will forgive virtually any Thanksgiving overindulgence with a little boost to your exercise and decrease to your calories by the end of January. So stick to your playbook and enjoy the game.

But what if your jeans are already snug, dresses tight or energy level low? Yikes…the holiday eating frenzy hasn’t even begun yet…what to do? To help you develop a successful strategy, I offer Trainer Joe’s five Turkey Day nutrition questions and answers designed to help you hack the Thanksgiving food fest without incurring a penalty flag.

Q: Since the centerpiece of most Thanksgiving dinners is the turkey, what are some good birding tips?

A: When deciding what type of turkey to serve, avoid the self-basting type. They are loaded with fat. Baste your bird using low-fat broth instead of pan drippings. Stick with eating the white meat. A 3 ½ ounce serving has about 160 calories and 3.2 grams of fat compared to 220 calories and 11.5 grams of fat for dark meat.

Deep fried turkey has become popular recently. A six-ounce portion of deep fried turkey breast contains about 350 calories, compared to 175 calories for a roasted turkey breast. You decide if it’s worth it.

Q: What about the stuffing?

A: At about 400 calories per cup, traditional bread stuffing packs quite a calorie wallop. One way to reduce the caloric kick and still enjoy this holiday favorite is to cut down the serving size. Another suggestion is to bake the stuffing in a separate casserole dish without the drippings, thus reducing the amount of fat and calories even more. 

Q: What can be done for gravy, that third staple of Thanksgiving dinner?

A: Cool the gravy before serving. Remove the fat that has risen to the top. Then reheat before serving. Drizzling gravy over food instead of covering it will help reduce calories even further.

Q: What can be done to keep vegetables, potatoes and other side dishes healthy?

A: Keep it fresh and natural. Generally speaking, fewer ingredients and less preparation equal reduced calorie content. A tossed salad has negligible calories and no fat. Use a low-fat dressing or balsamic vinegar on the side. A serving of green beans has no fat and contains 25 calories. Compare this to the 250-calorie per serving traditional green bean casserole with fried onions on top!

As for potatoes, sweet potatoes baked in their skins vs. honey glazed and topped with brown sugar and marshmallows are a less caloric choice. When preparing mashed potatoes, use low-fat milk, plain low-fat yogurt or broth instead of butter. Leave the skins on the potatoes for extra fiber.

Q: How can I save some calories on desserts?

A: If you really love those special, decadent Holiday desserts like pecan pie, don’t deprive yourself; just eat a bit less of it. Make your favorites in petit four-sized portions and eat one or two.

Also, remember that alcoholic drinks have lots of calories in them. And they may indeed impair your judgment as to how full you are. Pino Noir, Beaujolais and Zinfandel pair well with turkey and only contain about 150 calories for a five-ounce serving.

The overarching theme of your Holiday eating should be to enjoy what you really want, as deprivation might lead to guilt, frustration and overindulgence. Just cut back whenever and wherever you can on food and drink that is pedestrian rather than festive.

On the exercise half of the equation, stay committed to your program as best you can. Walk some extra steps by taking the stairs rather than the elevator. Park as far as you can from the store. Maintaining your strength and cardio routines, even with reduced frequency, will help you stay focused on a healthy lifestyle. Indulgences will be less guilty as they will be balanced by other healthful activities.

Even though we’re in the two-minute drill, there’s still time on the clock between today and December 31. If you eat smart and exercise throughout the Holidays, you can avoid being sacked by another painful resolution to make on New Year’s Day. What are some of your Holiday hacks to shave off some calories. I’d love to know.