Thursday November 22, 2012

Staring down a massive smorgasbord of a Thanksgiving feast today? It's going to cost you a whole week's worth of exercise -- anywhere from 2,500 to as much as 4,500 calories, depending on who's calculating the estimate.

The Calorie Control Council, which represents the diet food industry, estimates the average American will wolf down 4,500 calories -- the equivalent of about eight Big Macs -- today from snacks and the traditional feast. That may sound enormous, but a more conservative estimate by the New York Times put the traditional Thanksgiving meal at just under 2,500 calories, or about 41 2 Big Macs, which is still considerable.

What's a calorie-conscious Thanksgiving Day reveler to do?

Kerri Hawkins, a registered and licensed dietitian and president of the Massa chusetts Dietetic Association, said that holidays shouldn't be a time to deprive oneself, but it is a time to just eat smarter.

She recommends that people savor their meals. In other words, eat slower.

"When you enjoy your food, you end up eating less," said Hawkins.

Hawkins, who runs the blog Dietitian Drive, said if you're conscientious about your weight, smaller plates or bowls might be preferable.

By simply changing a 12-inch plate to a 10-inch plate, the number of calories consumed can be significantly reduced, she said.

Since becoming a dietitian, Hawkins said she puts greater focus around the holidays on "looking beyond the food, and changing the mindset to make it more about people and enjoying what you are doing. Looking forward to seeing family and friends, seeing and making it more about the people than the food."

Theresa Chabot's table will be brimming with Thanksgiving dishes today that will include a crisp turkey, heaps of mashed potatoes, and steaming gravy, but on a table decked with delicacies the Pillsbury Crescent rolls are a favorite of her two children.

As a registered dietitian, Chabot, who lives in North Attleborough and runs Theresa's Health and Wellness, said that there's no reason why people shouldn't enjoy the feasting that comes with Thanksgiving.

However, there is a healthier way, which would preferably not include preservative-laden food like the crescent rolls.

Chabot disapprovingly states that the crescent rolls have trans fat, hydrogenated oil and other non-natural ingredients, which she would prefer stay out of her children's system.

Artificial ingredients are harder to break down for the body, she said.

There are many people who will have no idea what goes in the food they eat on Thanksgiving because they will be eating at a friend's or relative's house.

But for those who are cooking a Thanksgiving meal, Chabot's expert advice as a dietitian is to minimize the use of processed foods, which would include eating wheat rolls instead of the more processed white rolls.