As we start planning our Christmas and holiday menus, think of all the calories you can save by making healthy choices.

According to a recent Weight Watchers report, the average American will gain 7 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Of course, this is all contingent upon the choices you make. I put together some holiday eating tips that will still enable you to enjoy your holiday feasts and parties, without gaining a belly full of jelly.

Don't go to a party hungry. Start the day with a wholesome breakfast consisting of protein and fiber. This will keep you satisfied and help keep your cravings in check. Also, try to eat a sensible and healthy snack shortly before going to your party.

Watch your portion sizes. Although this rule should apply year round, it is especially important during the holidays because we are exposed to so many wonderful extras that we usually eat only once a year. Instead of eating a full serving of your favorites, try sampling each of them. And if you use a smaller plate, you can save yourself from over indulging.

Avoid high-fat foods such as fried foods, cream-based soup, cheese-filled casseroles, desserts and processed meats such as salami and sausages. Try to eat more fruits and veggies and foods that are closest to their natural state. And remember, eat a little bit of lean protein with each of your sittings.

Instead of drinking beer, Bailey's or Kahlua, try a red or a dry wine. Not only will you reap the health benefits, it will enhance the flavors of your food. Bloody Marys or spirits with a diet mixer are also lower in calories. Remember, calories from alcohol tend to be stored in the abdomen. People who are overweight actually gain weight more easily when they consume alcohol.

Make sure you drink plenty of water. For each plate of food you consume, you should drink at least one full glass of water, and wait about 20 minutes before going back for seconds. Water will help you feel fuller and more satisfied. If you add lemon to your water, it can also help with excess bloating and water retention.

Participate in a physical activity that involves the whole family. Make a family of snowmen for your yard. Or if the weather isn't cooperating, play a game of Pictionary or Charades. Make sure that the entire family gets involved.

Most importantly, remember that the holidays are about spending precious time with our loved ones. The memories you make this holiday season will outlast any gadget you may receive. So live, laugh and love with all your heart! Have a blessed holiday season!

Turkey Swedish Meatballs

2 lbs. ground turkey (7% lean)

1 egg

3/4 cup breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon onion flakes

2 cans chicken broth

2-3 cups homemade white sauce

Hot cooked egg noodles

Directions:

Combine the first 10 ingredients and shape into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.

In a large, non-stick Dutch oven, brown meatballs in 1 tbsp. of butter, turning carefully every few minutes to brown all sides, maintaining meatball shape.

Add chicken broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add white sauce.

(Note: I have used cream gravy or 2 cans cream soup such as mushroom or chicken to substitute for the white sauce. Both options work very well.)

Stir, heat and serve over hot cooked egg noodles.