TULSA - Thanksgiving is a feast that focuses on food which makes it difficult for those trying to watch their weight. Experts say, it doesn't have to be that way... If you "choose this, not that."
An impromptu survey of shoppers at Tulsa's Whole Foods market revealed everyone has a favorite that symbolizes the holiday.
"Turkey and dressing," said one delivery man.
"My aunt makes a cranberry apple pie that's amazing," a young woman told 2News.
An older man shopping in the cheese section said, "Have to have? Probably pumpkin pie."
"I have to say sweet potatoes or yams. Marshmallows, brown sugar - if it's on it, I'll eat it!" another woman said.
We all have Thanksgiving favorites but when it's time to grocery shop for the holiday, Chris Esau has a different strategy.
"The best foods for you are the foods on the outside of the market."
And when he's planning for a feast, Esau advises, "You always want to start with salad." He chooses vegetables first because it was only two years ago when he tipped the scales at 422 pounds.
Check out Chris' Before and After photo by clicking through the pictures to the left.
"When my doctor told me I was going to die," Chris Esau said. "That's when I got serious about weight loss."
With the help of Weight Watchers, and a supportive family, Chris lost 227 pounds. He doesn't hesitate to say it has been hard at times. "As long as I kept making those choices it got easier but it's still a difficult process. I still have to rein myself in to stay at this weight."
So, Chris makes new choices. Before Thanksgiving when building a salad to fill up on before the feast.
Green leafy lettuce
Spring mix lettuce
Chow mein noodles
Tuna and pasta salads made with mayonnaise
Chris told us Weight Watchers suggests piling half of your Thanksgiving plate with vegetables. Beware of those fattening family favorites. Most people end up piling on two to four times the calories of the basic version of the same food, experts warn - and that's before going back for seconds.
Baked potato - 130 calories/serving
Mashed potatoes made with butter - 250 calories/serving
Baked sweet potato - 150 calories/serving
Sweet potato casserole with butter, brown sugar, nuts and marshmallows - 440 calories/serving
Steamed green beans - 45 calories/serving
Green bean casserole - 275 calories/serving
"For weight to come off, change has to happen," said Suzanne Mobley, Weight Watchers leader. The weight loss organization suggests size, selection and substitutions are critical to avoiding the traditional holiday weight gain.
SIZE: Focus on controlling the portions you place on your plate.
· 1 cup of mashed potatoes is about the size of a tennis ball
· ¼ cup of gravy equals 4 tablespoons
· 3 ounces of turkey equals a computer mouse or a checkbook
· ½ cup of green bean casserole fits into a small cupcake wrapper or an ice cream scoop
"I think people are out of touch with what a true portion size is because of the way we see food served in restaurants," Mobley added.
SELECTION: Be choosy about which foods and drinks will give you the most satisfaction.
Water - 0 calories
Egg nog - 420 calories/cup
Soda - 155 calories/12 oz.
wine or light spirits - 100 calories/4 oz.
hard liquor such as vodka - 130 calories/2 oz.
White meat turkey - 140 calories/4 oz.
Dark meat turkey - 265 calories/4 oz.
Pumpkin pie - 200 calories/slice (Cut calories nearly in half by skipping the crust)
Apple pie - 350 calories/slice
Pecan Pie - 500 calories/slice
SUBSTITUTIONS: The goal here is to substitute ingredients in the recipe in order to lower calories and fat.
Low fat or fat-free mayonnaise
Low-fat or fat-free salad dressing
Regular salad dressing
Heaping serving spoonfuls
Clothing with elastic waistbands
"But if pecan pie is your favorite, have a bite," Chris added. "You're not going to be really happy unless you have that bite. So go ahead and take it then tell yourself, 'I'm stopping there."
Above all, weight loss experts advise us to choose to make the holiday more about family than food.
"Focus on the people in your life. Focus on your family and friends," Suzanne Mobley suggested. "Don't make everything about the food. Definitely take the time to just enjoy the season."
As for Chris, when asked if he will ever regain the weight he lost, Chris said emphatically, "No. I've made a complete lifestyle change and I will NOT let myself get back to that again."
"So many choices," said Karen Larsen. "So many choices, yeah," Chris replied. "But you can make the right ones - and you'll feel, when you make the right choices,