Thanksgiving is about family. It's about gratitude and togetherness. For most East Texas families, the food is also a pretty big deal. ABC News says the average American consumes around 3,000 calories in the main meal alone. Add all the snacks you eat before, the dessert buffet and beverages and your calorie count is far more than you'll burn in any turkey trot.

It's just one day a year. You want it to be about gratitude, not guilt. Some experts recommend replacing calorie-laden favorites with substitutes, but who wants cauliflower instead of mom's mashed potatoes? Try these tips instead.

Start Prepping Now

You're already making your guest list, planning your Thanksgiving table and baking cornbread for the stuffing. Plan ahead for your health as well.

Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat. Now is the time to add a little extra weight and do a few more reps at the gym. That lean muscle you add today will make your metabolism higher by Thanksgiving. And go ahead and sign up for the Tyler Turkey Trot. You won't burn 3,000 calories, but you'll start the day with a healthy mindset.

Research substitutions you can be happy with. You don't have to serve mashed cauliflower but think about replacing half the cream cheese, sour cream and butter in your potatoes with chicken broth for a lighter version that still tastes great.

When you do your holiday shopping, plan ahead for after the meal. Research healthy, easy ways to use the rest of that turkey and eat lighter meals.

Plan Your Plate

Don't waste your calories with mindless munching. If you're not crazy about ham, don't even take a bite to taste it. If Aunt Linda's stuffing is out-of-this-world, save the room on your plate for that.

Limit servings of high-calorie sides to less than half a cup. Choose two or three of your favorites, then fill the additional space with white turkey meat and fresh veggies. Unfortunately, broccoli rice casserole and green bean casserole don't count as veggies.

If you want to try three desserts (and who doesn't), just take a sliver of each. Don't allow yourself to stand by the dessert table and nibble, put your choices on your plate and walk away.

The most important part of staying healthy is actually in keeping with the spirit of the day. Slow down, savor and really appreciate what you're eating. Take smaller bites of each wonderful dish and think about how good they taste. Connect that taste to the people who made it and your memories of the past. Experience thankfulness as you eat instead of just stuffing yourself with stuffing.

One And Done

You can indulge for one meal without doing too much damage to your waistline. Just enjoy Thanksgiving and get right back on track. Send unhealthy foods home with guests so you don't keep munching for days. Hit the gym after Black Friday shopping. Resist the urge to indulge all season and you won't face the new year with the task of undoing any damage you've done.

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