With Thanksgiving approaching quickly, many people are preparing for their annual feast. However, before you dive into a plate stacked high with sweet potatoes, cornbread, stuffing, and, of course, turkey, consider this: the average holiday meal contains 3,000 calories. That’s way more than what most people need in a day, let alone at a single sitting.

So, how can you enjoy Thanksgiving without adding inches to your waistline? The answer is simple. Take the time now to plan a delicious Thanksgiving menu with some lighter choices. It does not take much effort to slim down your feast. Plus, your guests will never guess that this food is healthier for them. All these light options are full of flavor and flair for your holiday meal.

For many, the Thanksgiving feast begins with some appetizers. Your best bets for keeping things slim is to pair fresh fruit and vegetables with a light dip. You can find lighter versions of premade dips in stores, or make your own with a simple recipe. Also, instead of cheese or cream based dips, try something different like hummus (which comes from chickpeas) for veggies or fat-free Greek yogurt for fruit. If you want some fancier appetizers for your guests, consider a simple shrimp cocktail recipe. Shrimp are remarkably low in calories and high in heart-healthy omega-3s. Another great pick are miniature kabobs and meatballs. Just make sure you pick lean meats like chicken and turkey.

To start your meal, prepare a simple, broth-based soup. This light course is actually proven to help you eat less during the rest of dinner. Try something new, like pumpkin or squash soup, or stick with a traditional staple, like hearty vegetable. Just try to avoid adding noodles or meat to your soup. You will have plenty of turkey and stuffing to make up for it later.

Next on the menu are side dishes. A simple rule of thumb is to AVOID CASSEROLES! This means steering clear of sweet potatoes candied with marshmallows and green beans bathed in cream or topped with fried onions. Instead, pick some lighter sides that actually appear classier at the table. Some good options are roasted butternut squash or steamed vegetables in a light dressing. As for the stuffing, try switching the eggs in your traditional recipe to egg whites. You can also ditch richer breads for some hardened, light whole wheat slices. Another trick is to double the amount of vegetables in your recipe and dice them extra. This will help you and your guests fill up on vegetables instead of carbohydrates. Willing to take an even bigger step? Get rid of traditional bread stuffing and try something else. Mushroom and barley stuffing or wild rice pilaf are great healthy alternatives, but you can surely find others.

Of course, no Thanksgiving feast is complete without the Turkey. If you are willing to be bold, skip the whole bird and get a boneless, all white meat breast instead. Not sure it’s Thanksgiving without the bones and legs? Serve yourself a skinless piece of white meat. Dark meat is not as lean and the skin adds unwanted fat and calories. Finally, top your feast off with some lightened desserts. Look for a great crustless pumpkin pie recipe to save calories on a classic. You can also serve baked apples instead of a loaded apple crisp or crumble, or get creative and make some mini fruit tarts with puff pastry. Just remember, this holiday is about enjoying friends and family, not about stuffing yourself silly!

And if you find yourslef splurging more than you should, pick up a ChaLEAN Extreme cardio workout, or even a P90X cardio, and work off that holiday feast. Happy Thanksgiving!