Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple for many. However, weight loss specialists suggest prioritizing vegetable and fruit dishes over meat and potatoes.

A Nashville weight loss specialist has three quick tips for cutting calories and staying active this holiday weekend.

“It’s a time of family gathering and friendships, and that comes with extra foods and alcohol,” said Dr. Hugh Houston, a bariatric surgeon and the founder of Nashville Weight Loss Solutions. “People may not be perfect over the holidays. If people are in one of our programs, we encourage moderation, portion control and not overdoing it.”

Thanksgiving is one of the highest calorie days of the year. According to a 2014 report from the Calorie Control Council, the average American consumes 3,000 to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, between meals, snacks and alcohol.

Houston recommends a daily diet of roughly one-third of that.

“Most people, we try to start them at around 1,200 to 1,500 calories. You get a dude who’s been eating 3,000 calories, and it’s going to be hard to have him come in and eat 1,200 versus a female who’s been eating 1,800 calories. It’s a little bit tailored, but as a general guideline, 1,300 to 1,500 range is good.”

Houston recognizes that people are going to celebrate the holiday but says they should still adhere to their weight loss and healthy living strategies.

Here are three tips for keeping up with your weight loss and calorie-lowering goals.

1. Watch your servings

Watch the amount of food and what kinds of foods you eat. Prioritize vegetables and fruit dishes over meat and potatoes.

“You can get specific,” Houston said. “(A serving the size of) a deck of cards for your meat, couple of vegetables, avoid starch. People have a hard time giving exact answers. Nothing over the top. … If you’re going to have some potatoes, have a little bit, not four portions.”

2. Watch your hydration

Drink lots of water, and it will help cut down on snacking.

“Don’t under-hydrate,” he said. “Our hunger drive is driven by nutrition and hydration. If you’re skipping meals, eating poor-quality food and not drinking enough water, you’re going to always be hungry, always overeating, snacking.”

3. Set realistic exercise goals after you eat

Find opportunities to get exercise in the hours and days after your Thanksgiving meal. If the gym is closed, go for a walk and find other ways to get active.

“Incorporate things you can accomplish on a regular basis,” Houston said. “What is a realistic expectation and then stick to something and do it. If you have a beautiful neighborhood, take a long walk after dinner.”

Houston recommends living by these rules all year round, not just during the holidays.

“It’s a lot of our core foundations for what we teach,” Houston said. “Make sure you have protein in your diet. Make sure you’re not skipping meals. Drink a lot of water. Have fruits and veggies. Watch excess carbohydrates. Watch fried foods. Most diets are all very similar. It’s all about how you handle accountability, things like that. It doesn’t change much during the holidays.”

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