(NEW YORK) -- The world of competitive eating is probably the last place you'd expect to get good advice on reining in the calorie count on Thanksgiving. But Crazy Legs Conti, an International Federation of Competitive Eating champ, can teach you a thing or two about keeping the damage to a minimum on Turkey Day.
Conti has reverse engineered some techniques that help major league eaters scarf down almost 9 pounds of sweet potato casserole in 11 minutes and nearly five pumpkin pies in 12 minutes to help you eat less on a day when the average American devours more than 4,500 calories, according to the Calorie Control Council.
Read on for Conti's six tips on eating wisely this holiday:
Avoid Flavor Fatigue
Overloading your plate with a giant pile of turkey or a Devil's Mountain-sized portion of mash potatoes leaves you sawing continuously through one flavor for a long time. That works if you're trying to eat nine pounds of turkey in 12 minutes as Conti once tried to do during an eating competition, but at Thanksgiving, it's not the best way to maximize your enjoyment. "Make your meal a symphony rather than one note," Conti said. So your taste buds don't die of boredom, Conti suggests pairing foods with complimentary tastes on the same forkful, such as stuffing and cranberry sauce, and taking a moment to savor the complexity of flavors. You'll feel more satisfied and probably wind up eating less.
Choose Lighter Foods
While Thanksgiving is hardly the day to go on a starvation diet, you'll have less regret if you bulk up on lighter foods to help cut back on the more calorific menu items. Conti says filling up on fruits and veggies can actually be pretty satisfying. As long as you allow yourself to taste everything, you won't miss consuming ginormous portions of the most fattening dishes.
Practice Liquid Management
Fizzy and sweetened beverages are a waste of calories, Conti advised. They can add hundreds of calories to the day without filling you up or slowing down how much you shovel onto your plate. A Purdue University study found that soda drinkers wind up eating more throughout the day, possibly because the body doesn't register the calories from liquids in the same way it does solid foods. Sipping a non-bubbly, no calorie beverage between bites will help slow down the pace of the meal and cleanse your palate. Obviously, you don't want to dunk your food in water to help it slide down your throat like the log flume ride at a water park, Conti said. That's what competitive eaters do to eat as much as possible.
Leave Some Leftovers
In competitive eating, the goal is no leftovers. That's probably not the best Thanksgiving strategy if you want to survive the day without a belt popping case of heart burn. However, don't let leftovers be your undoing either. Many competitive eaters eat lightly or avoid eating all together for eight to 12 hours after a contest. Many of them go for a workout too If you must dig into to the tin foil and Tupperware, Conti said to treat a leftover session like the overtime of a football game -- a nice bonus but don't dwell on it too long.
Share With Others
The true fullness and satisfaction of the holiday doesn't come from food, Conti said. I t comes from sharing your good fortune with friends and family. To help get focused on what's really important, consider volunteering at a shelter, soup kitchen or food bank this year Or donate your leftovers to someone who could use a good meal. Gluttony, said Conti, helps you appreciate altruism. Last year, Conti and some of his competitive eating buddies volunteered to load turkeys on a truck headed for the homes of needy families. He said it was so satisfying to know he was helping others have a good meal on a holiday, he wasn't even tempted to see how many of the turkeys he could eat.
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