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Easy ways to lighten up this Thanksgiving

Stuffing ourselves with food we don't normally eat, drinking fancy beverages instead of our normal water, keeping so busy we can't keep on our exercise schedules -- this describes what many of us fondly refer to as "the holiday season."

But you CAN enjoy the holidays and all that it offers and still stay on track with your weight-loss plan by keeping three things in mind:

1. Now more than ever, keep up with your exercise plan.

Exercise will keep your metabolic rate up, thus burning more calories each day. It will also reduce stress and help keep you feeling positive about your body. It's important to feel positive -- many of us tend to overeat when we are stressed, depressed, or feel bad about ourselves.

2. Strive for balance.

It's important to strike a balance between allowing yourself some of foods you want to taste and enjoy and those that will keep the weight off. One key is to keep portions sizes modest. Also, don't forget to eat ONLY when you are hungry and stop when you are comfortable -- especially during the holiday season.

Some people cut out needless "extras" by simply not eating or drinking after around 7 p.m. Faced with a late holiday party? Substitute sparkling water for wine and munch on crunchy raw foods, such as sliced veggies. Your mouth will be busy and you won't feel deprived.

3. Lighten up your holiday favorites everywhere you can.

Believe me, lightening those recipes can add up to big savings! If you cut 110 calories here, 130 calories there, and 90 calories in a third dish, you've trimmed off 330 calories from that one meal alone. You can lighten recipes by using less fat or oil than called for in the original recipe, and by substituting reduced-fat or reduced-calorie versions of some of the ingredients (such as using light cream cheese instead of regular cream cheese or fat-free half and half instead of regular half and half.)

Here are three lightened Thanksgiving recipes to inspire you to do the same to some of your own family favorites.

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