TIME Food & Drink

This is What Alcohol Does to Your Sleep

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Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, but drinking more alcohol often adds up to less sleep

You may want to think twice before pouring that nightcap—it turns out alcohol could be wreaking major havoc on your sleep. Even though it’s the season for spiked hot cocoa, extra glasses of wine, and alcohol-fueled holiday parties, climbing into bed after downing all those drinks can leave you feeling less than jolly the next morning.

Alcohol wakes you up at night.

While knocking back a glass or two might help you fall asleep faster, going to bed with a buzz may also lead to a worse night’s sleep. Scientists reviewed 20 different studies and concluded that the tradeoff to dozing off after consuming alcohol is waking up more easily later on in the night.

It cuts into your REM sleep.

REM sleep is essential to a good night’s rest. It has a long list of benefits, including daytime alertness, improved learning, and better long-term memory, as well as allowing us to process our emotions, saysDr. Philip Gehrman, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. The problem with alcohol is that it has a significant impact on REM sleep, which can hurt long-term memory and make us more irritable. “Basically, alcohol is a REM suppressant,” saysGehrman. “The more we drink, the less REM we get.”

Too many drinks can trigger heartburn.

And that uncomfortable burning sensation wake us up or keep us awake in the first place. Alcohol has been known to relax the lower esophageal sphincter, the muscle between your stomach and esophagus that’s supposed to be closed except for when you’re swallowing food. However, when you throw too many drinks into the mix, the muscle can relax and stay open for too long, causing stomach acid to come back up, which results in a burning feeling. Unfortunately, caffeine can have a similar effect, so if eliminating alcohol doesn’t decrease your heartburn, you may want to cut back on that too.

It sends you to the bathroom.

While “breaking the seal” may be a total myth, alcohol’s effect on the bladder is a real one. The fact is that consuming alcohol, a diuretic, can make you go more. Our bodies generally produce less urine at night than throughout the day, allowing us to sleep about six to eight hours without needing to visit the bathroom. However, drinking alcohol before bed can cause us to wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to go, disrupting our sleep cycle.

Alcohol and sleeping aids absolutely do not mix.

Whether you’re taking a prescription or leaning on other sleep aids, mixing them with alcohol can be harmful and sometimes downright dangerous. Both alcohol and most sleep medications target the neurotransmitter GABA, which calms our nervous activity. Because many sleep aids and alcohol target the same neural system, drinking too much can turn into a deadly combination, inhibiting parts of the brain that are necessary for survival like breathing and heart beating, Gehrman says. While many new sleep medications may not have as large of a risk, the safest bet is to never mix any kind of sleep aid with alcohol.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Food & Drink

7 Ingenious Hacks to Make Hot Chocolate Even Better

Yes, it's possible. Check out these clever tricks

What’s better than a steaming mug of thick, creamy hot chocolate on a chilly day? Not much—except maybe a mug scented with cardamom, cinnamon and other chai spices, or a grown-up version spiked with amaretto and sea salt. Can’t decide? You don’t have to. Take a look at our rich and chocolatey master recipe—plus a few of our favorite hot chocolate “hacks”—all of which are as easy to make as they are indulgent.

hot chocolate chart
Graphic by Onethread Design

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME advice

A Foolproof Guide to Building a Better Fire

Oh the weather outside is frightful... here's how to build a fire that'll be so delightful

Building a wintertime fire doesn’t have to be intimidating—we demystified the process with this simple chart.

fire lifecycle
Graphic by Katie Field

One last tip: The process is the same for a woodstove—except it’s more forgiving. There’s no need to stress about using wood that doesn’t spark or leaving the fire unattended. Reference the stove’s instructions, but in general keep the primary and secondary vents fully open for 10 to 15 minutes. Then leave the primary vent open a crack and the secondary open a third of the way.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME advice

7 Habits of Thoughtful Gift Givers

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Need a little help channeling your inner Santa? These simple tips make it easy to get into the spirit of giving

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” ― Mother Teresa

‘Tis the season for giving. And research suggests that doing so may help bust stress, promote happiness, and even lead to a longer life. Looking to get in touch with your generous side? Embrace these seven habits of truly thoughtful gift givers.

They plan ahead.

Considerate gift giving is as much about planning as it is about how well you know the person. Take time to think about the recipient’s personality and interests to figure out how he or she will get the most value or gratification, suggests Elizabeth Hebda, shopping expert at LivingSocial. Map out a list of your ideas to help you stay organized and make sure you find the perfect fit for everyone.

Thoughtful gift givers don’t focus on cost.

The practice of thoughtful giving offers a wealth of benefits, but that doesn’t mean givers should focus on big price tags. In fact, thoughtful gift givers don’t dwell on the cost of presents. It seems that having more cash could actually reduce compassion, according to Berkley research, and isn’t compassion what this time of year is all about? So don’t sweat it if you don’t have a lot to spend. Instead, get creative.

They make gifts personal.

Gifting is an opportunity to let a person know how much you appreciate and love them, and show how well you know them, says Nancy Soriano, living editor at Rue La La. “Even when I gift an item that is store bought, I personalize it in some way,” she says. “I have been known to re-wrap Trader Joe’s dark chocolate dinner mints in clear cellophane bags with silver silk ribbons—perfect for a dinner party.”

If you’re buying for someone who seems to have everything, consider gifting an experience, saysHebda. Book a massage, take them to a wine tasting event, or grab a couple of tickets to a concert or show. If you’re buying for a parent, taking their kids for an evening could be the best gift of all. “Think back to your last conversation,” says Hebda. “Did they talk about wanting or needing something? Are they going on any upcoming trips? Was there a particular topic that got them excited?”

And they enjoy giving more than receiving.

Nothing beats the feeling of giving a gift, and a recent study may prove it. Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbra found that people would rather take on costs themselves in order to help others. In another study, participants chose to give away an average of 40 percent of a gifted sum of cash rather than keep it for themselves. There was also a clear difference in their brain activity. When people donated money, the dorsal and ventral striatum and the ventral tegmental area, the part of the brain we would expect to show activity when receiving a reward, actually lit up more than when the participants acquired the money for themselves. The bottom line? Our brains consider the act of giving a positive reward.

Thoughtful gift givers can also get crafty.

Homemade gifts can add a bit of sparkle to the holidays. Love to knit? Keep your friends or family warm with mittens, a scarf, or a hat. Right at home in the kitchen? Whip up some special treats and place them on a pretty, vintage dish. “One of my favorite things to make and gift is a ‘baking canister,’” saysSoriano. “I fill a canister with ingredients for a cake, brownies, or pancake batter with exact measurements. I attach a handmade recipe card around the top of the lid.”

They think about the presentation.

Thoughtful gifters pay attention to detail, including how their gifts are wrapped. See what you have around your house to customize generic packaging. Soriano recommends using pretty fabric or towels to cover something like a bottle of wine. You can also tie on a decoration that fits the theme of your gift, such as a small gingerbread ornament to hang on the tree if your present is a batch of homemade cookies.

When in doubt, they ask.

There’s always someone on the list who leaves you stumped. If you’re truly at a loss, it’s totally OK to ask for a little help from a close friend or family member of even the person you’re shopping for. Also, remember that the old cliché​ about the thought counting is often spot-on. “The act of giving a gift is in itself a thoughtful gesture,” says Soriano.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME Food & Drink

9 Classic Christmas and Holiday Cocktails Everyone Should Know

Hosting a holiday party? Or just having a festive night at home? Whip up one of these delicious drinks

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to make merry! No matter what you’re celebrating, this is the perfect time of year for sharing a festive cocktail with family and friends. Craving the warming wallop of a hot toddy or the tart, sophisticated tickle of a champagne cocktail? We’ve got you covered with this roster of classic holiday cocktails—every one of which is worth cheering.

holidaygraphic
Graphic by Onethread Design

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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TIME advice

One Sneaky Way to Boost Your Mood

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RuslanDashinsky—Getty Images

New research shows that your strut might have the power to cheer you up or bum you out

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

A person’s walk is a good indicator of how he or she is feeling—a slumped, sluggish gait might indicate sadness or distress, while someone with a bounce in her step is clearly in high spirits. Now a small new study published in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry suggests that the reverse may work, as well. Changing your walk could just change your mood along with it.

(MORE: 30 Secrets Your Body Language Gives Away)

Researchers at Queen’s University in Canada primed 39 undergraduate students to mimic the walk of depressed or happy people. Participants were shown a list of positive and negative words, and then walked on a treadmill while scientists measured their gait and posture.

(MORE: 7 Tips to Keep You Calm)

Without the subjects’ knowledge, scientists manipulated their walks to be happier or more depressed by asking them to adjust according to a gauge. Certain students were asked to walk so the gauge moved to the right, and others, to the left—and for the scientists, each direction corresponded to a mood. Afterward, participants were asked to recall as many words as they could from the original list. Those who had been manipulated to walk in a more depressed manner remembered more of the negative words.

(MORE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

While we’ve known that walking as a form of exercise can be a mood booster and stress reliever, this suggests that even walking to lunch can have an impact on your mind. A depressed walking style (with less arm movement and shoulders rolled forward) might lead to a depressed mood, instead of simply being an indicator. So give it a try: Pull your shoulders back and stand up straight on your next stroll.

(MORE: Why Your Sibling is Good for Your Health (According to Science))

“If you can break that self-perpetuating cycle, you might have a strong therapeutic tool to work with depressive patients,” study co-author Nikolaus Troje said in a statement.

(MORE: How Yoga Helps to Keep Your Brain Healthy)

TIME career

The Best (and Worst) Advice From Bosses

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Sometimes managers spout words of wisdom and other times, you'd rather take their knowledge with a grain of salt

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Many of us are lucky enough to work under intelligent leaders we can learn from. Other times, bosses say the darndest things. We asked our Facebook followers for the best and worst advice their bosses ever gave them. These are a few of the highlights.

The Best Advice…

“Dress [for] where you want to be, not where you are.” —April C.

“I was talking to my boss about how I’d like to go college, but by the time I graduated, going just part time, I’d be 30. She said, ‘Well, aren’t you going to be 30 in a few years anyway?’ It woke me up! I got my degree when I was 30 and now I’m 50. Thanks, Carmen!” —Janie M.

(MORE: New Poll Shows Parents Are Really Stressed… And Really Happy)

“Some days you’re the bug. Some days you’re the windshield.” —Kelly Z.

“My boss told me never to make coffee for my supervisors unless I wanted coffee myself. That said so much.” —Karen D.

“Take HALF of [the net amount of] any raise and apply it toward your mortgage. [I] paid off my mortgage before I was 35.” —Lynn S.

(MORE: One Sneaky Trick to Boost Your Mood)

“[It’s] not exactly advice, but I had a general manager who would come up with a unique, not often used word of the day. It helped expand our vocabularies, was fun, and I now practice this with my children.” —Charlene C.

“For me it’s been more [about] how I am treated. An ideal boss supports your work, has your back, allows you to grow, and does not micromanage your work. Mine happens to also have a great personality.” —Lisa C.

(MORE: Why Your Sibling is Good for Your Health (According to Science))

The Worst Advice…

“You’ll have to ask someone else; that’s beneath my pay grade.” —MJ H.

“If someone asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, just make up something. They’ll never know the difference.” —Becky W.

“If work was meant to be fun, it wouldn’t be called work.” —Beth G.

(MORE: Why Dogs Are Good for More Than Just Snuggling)

“And I quote, ‘You think too much. We aren’t paying you to think about it, just read the script.'” —Heather R.

“‘You will never make it…’ Guess what… I MADE IT BIG TIME.” —Nerina H.

(MORE: Is Your Dog Smarter Than a Five-Year-Old?)

TIME health

How to Make Sure Your Sandwich Doesn’t Ruin Your Diet

sandwich
David Prince

A recent study reveals sandwiches are a major contributor to daily sodium intake. Here, two registered dietitians explain how to build a healthier one

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Instead of eating out, you decided to be both economical and healthful by packing your own lunch. But what’s inside that brown bag? If, like many Americans, you favor a turkey sandwich, your midday meal is probably a lot less nutritious than you think.

A new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reveals that a standard sandwich can account for approximately one-fifth of a person’s total daily sodium intake, yet 49 percent of adults in the United States eat at least one sandwich on any given day.

Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average person should cap their daily sodium intake at 2,300 mg. People 51 and older, African Americans, and those who have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should not exceed 1,500 mg of sodium per day. Based on these guidelines, approximately half of the population falls into the latter category, yet the average American consumes as many as 3,300 mg of sodium each day (eating too much sodium can put you at risk for serious health conditions, like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke).

(MORE: 3 Easy Hacks to Get Healthier at Work)

Why are sandwiches eating up such a large portion of our sodium allowance? For starters, two major components of a sandwich—bread and lunch meat—both fall into the American Heart Association’s “salty six,” a list of popular foods that contain excess sodium. When these ingredients are layered, as they are in sandwiches, and paired with accompaniments like chips or soup, the amount of sodium can really add up—and quickly.

While a typical homemade sandwich (not the jumbo sandwiches they serve at most dining establishments) can have as much as 1,500 mg of sodium, there are ways to create a less sodium-laden lunch, explains Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet. If you’re set on a sandwich, heed this expert advice on building a better one:

Bread

When selecting bread, check nutrition labels to find a low-sodium variety. Generally, an item with 5 percent or less sodium is considered low-sodium (anything with 20 percent or more is considered high-sodium), explains Blatner.

If you can’t find a low-sodium option or are dining out, choose plain bread (like whole wheat honey oat) instead of cheese varieties (like parmesan crusted), suggests Toby Smithson, R.D.N., author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.

To further reduce the sodium content, opt for an open-faced sandwich or ask to have your bagel or roll scooped out. Wrapping your sandwich in dark leafy greens, like collard greens, is also a healthier choice.

(MORE: 11 Superfoods You Should Know About)

Lunch Meat

“Fresh meats such as fresh turkey or chicken slices are a better choice than deli meat for lowering the sodium content of your sandwich,” says Smithson. “Cook extra for dinner and use the sliced leftovers for lunch.”

Rotisserie chicken, which is often pumped with flavorful and sodium-rich brine may be a shortcut, but it’s not a good substitution if you’re trying to cut your sodium intake, warns Blatner.

Instead of lunch meat (six thin slices can contain as much as half of your daily recommended sodium intake), try a hummus and vegetable sandwich, like this Real Simple favorite, or a savory nut butter sandwich, like this one.

(MORE: 9 Healthy Predinner Snacks)

Cheese

Always choose the less processed option, explains Blatner. Selecting Swiss cheese over a heavily processed cheese, like American, will save you about 360 mg sodium per ounce, adds Smithson.

Opting for extra thin sliced cheese at the grocery store will also save on sodium, says Blatner. Or, if you’d prefer to swap out the cheese altogether, avocado will provide the same creamy fattiness cheese has.

(MORE: The 30 Healthiest Foods)

Accompaniments

Condiments like mustard, pickles, jalapeno peppers, and banana ring peppers may seem like small additions, but they can also be high in sodium, says Smithson. Load up on fresh veggies (leafy greens, tomato slices, or onion) instead.

Piling up on vegetables—particularly those rich in potassium—has more than the obvious benefits: It can help balance out all the salt and protect you from some of the ill-effects of sodium, adds Blatner.

(MORE: 24 Nutritious (and Tasty) Snacks)

TIME Food & Drink

Thanksgiving Pies Worth Making Room For (No Matter How Full You Are)

sour cherry cranberry pie
Roland Bello

There’s only one way to end a holiday meal: with a dessert that’s just as satisfying as the main event. From the unexpected, like Chocolate Whiskey Pecan Pie, to the old standbys, like Sweet Potato Pie, we’ve got a dozen dessert ideas that’ll leave your guests wanting just one more sliver

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

Sour Cherry and Cranberry Slab Pie

If you’ve been hesitant to make a crust from scratch, now is the time to take the leap. This pie is easy to patch if the rolling out goes a little sideways. When starting to make the piecrust, shape the dough into rectangles instead of disks. This will make rolling it out to the right shape and size much easier.

Get the recipe.

Chocolate Cream Pie

This decadent chocolate pie requires no oven time, which is perfect for Thanksgiving when you’ll need all the oven space you can get. To make it yourself, whip up the rich chocolate custard on the stovetop in less than 10 minutes, pour it into the pie crust, and chill until firm. Garnish with freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Get the recipe.

(MORE: Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes Everyone at the Table Will Want to Gobble Up)

Caramel Walnut Pie

Stir walnuts into a rich, golden brown caramel sauce made with sugar, water, heavy cream, and butter to create the decadent filling. Take this indulgence a step further by using a mix of nuts, such as pecans, pistachios, and even hazelnuts. This pie requires no top crust, so it’s easy for beginners.

Get the recipe.

Cranberry Apple Pie

Ready to mix things up this Thanksgiving? Depart from the standard apple pie recipe and give this updated version a try—it’s sure to be a new family favorite. Tart cranberries, Granny Smith apples, and lemon zest help ensure this pie isn’t too sweet, while a crisp granola topping provides texture and crunch.

Get the recipe.

(MORE: How to Create an Epic Kids’ Table)

Dutch Apple, Pear, and Raisin Pie

The crispy crumble topping—a delicious combination of brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter—will make this a new Thanksgiving favorite. Use a variety of apples and pears for a delicious mix of flavors. For the best results, use pears that are ripe but not soft. Overripe pears will break down and become mushy when baked.

Get the recipe.

Coconut Custard Pie

It takes just four ingredients—coconut milk, sweetened condensed milk, egg yolks, and salt—to create this rich and creamy coconut custard. Once you’ve prepared the filling, pour it into the pie crust and bake until the center is set but still slightly wobbly, 50 to 60 minutes. Top with toasted coconut flakes.

Get the recipe.

(MORE: 5 DIY Place Cards to Dress Up Your Thanksgiving Table)

Easiest Sweet Potato Pie

Canned pureed sweet potato helps this pie come together with just 15 minutes of hands-on prep time. If you have extra time and prefer to roast and puree your own sweet potatoes, don’t add flour to the filling, since fresh sweet potatoes are naturally thicker than the canned variety.

Get the recipe.

Chocolate-Whiskey Pecan Pie

This irresistibly delicious pie (you’ll want a second slice even after a big turkey dinner) is prepared the same way as the traditional version, but has a few surprising upgrades. A couple tablespoons of whiskey give the filling a decidedly boozy kick, while semisweet chocolate chips add an extra punch of sugar.

Get the recipe.

(MORE: Thanksgiving Turkey Recipes That Are Way Better Than Your Standard Roasted Bird)

Lemon Cream Pie

Skip the store-bought variety and make your own crust: Puree gingersnap cookies in a food processor, then add butter, granulated sugar, and salt and pulse until moistened. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. After baking and cooling, top with homemade lemon custard, whipped cream, and freshly grated lemon zest.

Get the recipe.

Cranberry Custard Pie

Fill a parbaked pie crust with a simple and irresistibly creamy custard filling and bake until the center is set but slightly wobbly. Once the pie has cooled (about 4 to 5 hours in the refrigerator), cover the custard with a hefty serving of the zesty cranberry mixture and serve immediately.

Get the recipe.

(MORE: How Long to Cook a Turkey, in One Easy Chart)

Pecan and Walnut Pie

Store-bought pie crust makes this holiday classic a cinch to put together. Simply whisk together the corn syrup, brown and granulated sugars, eggs, butter, vanilla, and salt to create a gooey caramel filling. Then, add the walnuts and pecans and bake until the center is set, 45 to 50 minutes.

Get the recipe.

Maple Pumpkin Pie

This crowd-pleaser requires just 10 minutes of hands-on prep time, thanks to convenient items like store-bought piecrust and canned pumpkin puree. Just whisk the pumpkin puree together with the remaining ingredients, pour the mixture into the pie crust, and bake until the center is set (about an hour). Top with whipped cream for an extra-special treat.

Get the recipe.

TIME advice

How to Build a Healthier Thanksgiving Plate

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Experts estimate the average American can consume thousands of calories at Thanksgiving dinner. Here's how to approach the holiday like a nutrition pro

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

No one ever said Thanksgiving dinner was healthy. But there are certain tricks to make it a littlehealthier—and to avoid riding out an uncomfortable food coma on the couch for the rest of the night. Whether you’re doling out your own portions, or you’re at the mercy of Aunt Ida passing out plates piled high with “a little bit of everything,” knowing which foods you should be eating more of—and which you should only enjoy a few bites of—will help you make the best possible choices.

Start by filling half your plate with vegetables, then pile one-quarter up with turkey breast, and leave the remaining one-quarter for starchy sides. Here, some more expert-approved guidelines for keeping portions in check this Thanksgiving Day.

Start with soup.

Pour yourself a bowl of seasonal veggie soup, suggests Katherine Tallmadge, RD, author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations. She recommends a butternut squash soup, or a broccoli and carrot soup with potatoes and thyme. Kicking off your meal with soup will help you slow down while eating, and research has shown it may even reduce the number of calories you consume at your main meal.

Go crazy with the right veggies.

Fill up 50 percent of your plate with non-starchy veggies. This may include Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, bell peppers, or a green salad, says Lori Zanini, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Stick with smaller portions of starchy (read: higher-calorie) veggies, such as corn, potatoes, green peas, and winter squashes.

In charge of the prep? Put colorful vegetables together in dishes and use herbs, spices, onions and garlic to flavor them with fewer calories—try cooked carrots and cumin or Brussels sprouts with garlic. You can also add a healthy twist to classic comfort foods, like replacing green bean casserole with some grilled green beans flavored with garlic and red pepper flakes, Zanini says.

Make an array of interesting vegetable dishes, instead of lots of starchy dishes, suggests Tallmadge. “We tend to passively overeat when presented with variety, so if you want to give your guests a medley of dishes, have them be veggie-based,” she says.

(MORE: 100 Things to Be Thankful For This Year)

Fill up on skinless turkey breast.

The turkey itself is relatively low in calories if you stick to skinless white meat, so most of our nutritionists don’t mind if you eat a little more than the recommended 3 ounces of protein (about a size of a deck of cards or an iPhone 6 Plus, which is 5.5 inches long). “I have certainly seen individuals pile their plates with more than three times the appropriate portion size on Thanksgiving Day,” says Zanini.

“I am a big fan of protein because it keeps you fuller for longer so I would serve myself the equivalent of nearly two decks of playing cards of turkey,” says Liz Ward, RD, author of MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better.

Scoop sides on sparingly.

Choose your favorite “special” sides that you only see around the holidays and keep servings to a half-cup. Stuffing? Worth it. A plain-old everyday roll? Not so much. One serving of starchy sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing, yams, and cranberry sauce is equal to ½ cup, which would look like half of a baseball.

Count “casseroles” of any type as your starch. “Since I am originally from the South, I know too well that even ‘veggie’ casseroles, like broccoli casserole and green bean casserole, often call for creamy soups, sticks of butter, and large amounts of cheese in their ingredient lists,” says Zanini. “Not only do these types of dishes contribute excessive amounts of calories, but they’re also very high in sodium.” Remember sodium leads to water retention and belly bloat (a.k.a. one more reason your pants won’t button tomorrow).

(MORE: Thanksgiving Games to Get the Whole Family Moving)

Practice portion control with your favorite dessert.

Most 9-inch pies are meant to be cut into eight slices. If your pie is only sliced into six pieces, your portions are probably too large. One trick if you’re trying to cut back? Tallmadge recommends limiting variety—if there’s only one type of pie to choose from, you’ll probably stick to one slice. Don’t feel like additional ice cream or whipped topping is a requirement, but if you are going to finish a slice off with some, keep it to a golf ball-sized amount.

Beware sneaky calories.

You might be patting yourself on the back for bypassing the stuffing and gravy, but if you munched on cheese and crackers all day while cooking, know that those calories add up, as well. If you’re hungry while cooking, nosh on raw veggies and hummus or fruit, suggests Tallmadge.

Drinks count, too. Many of us have large wine goblets and beer mugs and don’t even know what a proper serving looks like in those glasses. Using a measuring cup if you need to, pour 5 ounces of wine into a glass so you know the line that marks one serving. “And never refill your wine glass when you’ve had just a few sips,” Ward says. “Drink it to the last drop and then pour some more. That’s how you keep track.” A serving of beer is 12 ounces, and a serving of 80-proof distilled spirits (like gin, vodka, whiskey) is 1.5 ounces. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily intake to one drink for women and two for men.

And remember, the first couple of bites of any food are often the most enjoyable. “Don’t waste your calories, but don’t avoid your favorite foods, either,” Ward says. “Eat foods that you love and that aren’t available at other times of the year, like homemade cranberry sauce, specialty sides, and pumpkin pie, and forgo everyday foods like chips, rolls, and mashed potatoes.”

(MORE: How To Host An Incredible Thanksgiving Without Losing Your Mind)

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