By Chuck Barney

Ah, Thanksgiving -- the holiday that wages war on our waistlines. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) estimates that the average citizen inhales 4,500 calories and gains 3 to 7 pounds on Thanksgiving. But it really doesn't have to be that brutal. By making better choices you can still indulge without breaking the caloric bank. With that in mind, we invite you to check out these five strategic alternatives.

  • Turkey

    That drumstick might look inviting, but dark meat is about twice as fatty as white meat. A four-ounce slice, with skin, carries 206 calories -- even more if it's cooked in loads of butter.

    Healthier option: Sticking with breast meat -- with a portion the size of your fist -- will save big on calories and fat.

  • Pie

    At 450-500 calories per slice, pecan pie is a big, gloppy disaster just waiting to happen. Proceed at your own risk.

    Healthier option: Go for the pumpkin pie (330 calories) instead -- and don't be so quick to pile on the whipped cream.

  • Stuffing

    Traditional stuffing is loaded with fat and sodium and the calories pile up even more if it's cooked inside the bird.

    Healthier option: If a green bean casserole (without the cream sauce) is on the table, it's your better choice at only 100 calories per cup.

  • Potatoes

    Those candied sweet potatoes -- all covered in marshmallows -- are more sinful than sweet, packing up to 250 calories per half-cup.

    Healthier option: The mashed potatoes are your better bet -- especially if you don't slather your spuds in gravy (170 calories per serving).

  • Spirits

    Mixed drinks tend to have a high amount of concentrated sugar and quickly add empty calories.

    Healthier option: Wine is typically the most diet-friendly choice. Each five-ounce glass carries about 100 calories with no cholesterol, sodium or fat. Or save the calories for dessert and drink water.

    Sources: ACE, Men's Health, calorieking.com.