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Tips to help you survive Thanksgiving Day

“Today”  food editor Phil Lempert shares ways to ease the stress, whether it's your first time making the bird or you're hanging with the family.

The main dish is coming! The main dish is coming! Oh boy, it's here. Well, really, who am I kidding? It's been here for almost a month now. Halloween pretty much marked the first day that the stores change out the glow-in-the-dark spider webs for three-dimensional Pilgrim wall-hangings. Yep, Thanksgiving is here.

So, what exactly does that entail? Traditionally, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, but it has turned into something else completely, and it can entail different things for everyone. It could be turkey, cranberries, stuffing, rolls, cornbread, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, apple pie, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin mousse, and pumpkin bread. It could be Aunt Gertrude's incessant cheek-pinching and Grandma's constant "compliments" of your looks by comparing it to how ugly and fat you used to be. Thanksgiving could be just one meal on Thursday evening, or it could be a non-stop feast from Wednesday afternoon until Sunday brunch. It could be your favorite day of the year; it could be the most stressful.

Whatever it might mean for you, there is no doubt that Thanksgiving brings the 3 F's together: Food, family, and fret. Have no fear, your Thanksgiving Day survival tips are here.

If this is your first Thanksgiving at your own place
If this is your first attempt at making your own feast, plan ahead! Make lists. Figure out what you want to make, if you will be having guests, what tools or supplies you may need, and how you will set up. Plan to have about one pound of turkey per person, make sure you thaw it in the refrigerator (24 hours for every 4 to 5 pounds) or in cold water (30 minutes per pound) and keep an eye on your bird! Your best bet is to get a meat thermometer to get the perfect doneness. Bye-bye black bird, no need to overcook poor Tom. You want him to be about 180 to 185 degrees in his thigh (not touching bone). Since this is your Thanksgiving, make it what you want. You don't have to make the green bean casserole you despise but are forced to eat at your grandparents’ house. Don't feel like you have to do anything the traditional way. Shoot, make your own traditions. Go out on a limb and make turkey tamales or turkey burgers!

If its time for ‘the significant other’ family turkey day Not only do you have a hard enough time dealing with your own family, but now you have to see what someone else's family is like during this crazy time of year. If it's the first time meeting them, stay positive, be yourself, and be open to new traditions. Don't compare them to your own family or his/her mom's stuffing to your mom's (your mom's will always win!). Be a gracious guest, respect their ways, and let them see you for you. It's never a bad idea to bring along a gift for the host or hostess. A bottle of wine, flowers, a dessert, maybe a special dish from your family.

If it’s the same ’ol, same ’ol, your family thing
Take a deep breath, mentally prepare yourself, and give yourself about a week's worth of internal ego-boosting. You know there are certain members of your family that will do anything and everything to grind your ego into the ground. Say to yourself: "It's OK that I'm still single," "so what if I still don't have a real job," "I'm beautiful, I'm talented, I'm successful, and I don't care what they think," and "I am entitled to my own opinions and I'm an adult now." Try to take any negative comments with a grain of salt and just enjoy the day. Let yourself be spoiled by your parents, relax as much as possible, and if all else fails, try the avoidance method. Just somehow end up on the other side of the room, table, house, or whatever of your nagging relatives.

When you are trying to diet and grandma's middle name is butter
Definitely the most significant scenario. Thanksgiving is not a time for diets, no doubt. Part of the holiday is enjoying yourself and indulging. However, that does not mean you have free reign to gorge yourself silly for five days straight. Take Thanksgiving for what it is. A day. A day, not five. Let yourself enjoy your favorite foods without guilt, and then go back to your normal eating habits the next day. Make choices that will really satisfy you. Don't pick something that might be a little healthier than what you really want, if you know you will end up eating four servings of it to compensate. Go for the gusto and have one serving of what you really want. Also, another key here is not to starve yourself all day so you can blow all your calories at dinner. This only sets you up to overeat because you will be famished and completely enticed by everything you see on the table. Have a healthy breakfast and choose healthier snacks like veggies, fruit, etc. to keep you satiated throughout the day. If you are worried that there won't be any healthy snacks or even healthy side dishes, offer to bring something. Your willingness to help out will be appreciated, and you can then control what goes into your dish.

When you are so popular that you have to make multiple appearances
Back and forth, here and there. This is a very tiring and wearing way to spend the holiday. This is for those of you who have separated or divorced parents, those who go to both in-laws' houses, those who have friends who they also spend the day with, pretty much anyone that has more than one Thanksgiving in one day. Key here is to allow yourself to fully enjoy each place you go to and spend as much or as little time as you need or want to there. You make the call, you say when it’s time to "switch" or if you want to stay a bit longer.

Be careful here, though, that you don't end up eating three full Thanksgiving dinners. That will zap your energy and make you feel sick! Maybe have dinner at one and dessert and coffee at another. If it really is too much, maybe dinner at one and Friday brunch of leftovers at the other. Make sure you are enjoying your day though, don't just drive all over town completely frustrated and annoyed. That defeats the purpose!

Yes, it's possible to actually enjoy yourself. Remember what the day is really about, giving thanks. Give thanks for your health, your family, your friends, and if nothing else, for the fact that this holiday means that Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s is just weeks away!

For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at .