A Weight Watchers guide to Thanksgiving

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Weight Watchers began a week early, helping members plan their way to a Thanksgiving dinner they can enjoy and not regret.

The international company claims that many people who lose control over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, give up their weight-loss efforts and end up eating their way through Christmas or Hanukkah as well.

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While meeting leaders are happy to see people come back in January, ready to begin again, they are concerned about those who won't come back, ashamed or angry at themselves for putting a big dent in the progress they've made up to that point. Learn about Dr. Oz and Weight Watchers' million dollar challenge, learn how to register

1) Plate size. Weight Watchers suggests that a good place to begin the game plan for a healthy holiday is to learn about the size of the plate you will use for Thanksgiving dinner. A 9 inch pie pan is the model. Since most restaurants serve with dishes big enough for at least two people and private party hosts might drag out the "good china" that are generously proportioned, beware of plate size.

2) How to fill the plate. Once you've got the dish size down, you should plan to fill half with healthy veggies or fruit. A quarter of the plate should contain protein and the rest with grains, potatoes or other starches. That doesn't include dessert, which is a challenge all by itself.

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3) Have a plan. WW recommends you have a plan of attack for Thanksgiving day and night, because there are those little left-over morsels to deal with. Some people have to eat two separate Thanksgiving meals to accommodate different sides of the family and having a blueprint for how to manage it all is essential.

4) Make it yourself. Ask your hostess what she is serving in advance and if she knows you are on an eating program, she might just ask if there is something special she can prepare for you. If you feel comfortable, inquire about whether there will be some veggies that aren't covered in butter, for example. If not, and you aren't concerned about insulting her, offer to bring something for the group, assuring yourself of at least one safe side dish or dessert.

5) Be careful what you keep in the 'fridge. If you are hosting the holiday meal then watch out for nibbling while you cook. Have a way to deal with leftovers, which can make your life difficult if they are in the refrigerator calling your name. A suggestion is to try and send home as much as you can with guests. If you have family spending the weekend, store leftovers in sealed containers and push them to the back of refrigerator shelves, keeping less guilty pleasures easily accessible.

The new Weight Watchers PointsPlus program assigns a value to anything and everything. Members are asked to stick to 29 per day and are given an extra 49 to use on treats throughout the week, or at one big session at the buffet table. Read: Links between weight and breast cancer

Standard Thanksgiving meal dishes and an estimated PointsPlus value:

Stuffing: 1/2 cup = 5 points
Gravy: 1/4 cup cream gravy + 4 points and one cup of canned turkey gravy = 1 point
Roast Turkey: 1 slice cooked breast or thing, with skin = 3 points. A "slice" for these purposes should not exceed size of your palm.
Mashed Potatoes: 1/2 cup = 3 points, without gravy and extra butter
Candied Sweet Potatoes: 1/2 cup = 5 points
Green Bean Casserole: 1 cup = 6 points
Cranberry Sauce: 1/4 cup canned = 3 points
Pumpkin or Apple Pie: 1 slice of a 9 inch pie = 11 points
Pecan Pie: 1 slice = 14 points.

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There are plenty of other tips and ways to control the damage, or cause none. Click over to weightwatchers.com

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Patrick Fitzgerald
PointsPlus and Weight Watchers are registered trademarks of Weight Watchers, International.

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