For about 1/3 of Americans that are considered obese and the others just shy of that category, the holidays represent a very real threat to maintaining good health.

But the holiday season doesn’t have to lead to stretchy pants and clogged arteries.

Yes, Americans typically gain one to two pounds during the holiday season. While that doesn’t seem to be dramatic it tends to stick and accumulate. On the other hand, the holidays are our best excuse to get together and eat real food with friends and family.

Thanksgiving dinner has 4,500 calories and that’s before eating breakfast, lunch and snacking after. The average amount of calories for a day is typically 2,000.

Part of the problem is portion control. When we eat out—the biggie-sizing, the super-sizing, the value-added concept—has done a number on what we think is the proper portion. Now, it’s in our brains that for something to have value, bigger is better. It’s not good for our health. It has biggie-sized us. Better choices are good carbohydrates such as whole grains and, for diabetics, intact grains like a farro, wheat berry or quinoa salad. Eat the intact grain instead of processing it into flour. Fruit and vegetables, beans.

But Americans aren’t into eating much of that stuff. They are into eating white bread, white rice. French fries are certainly their vegetable of choice. Bottom line: If it’s there we will eat it. We are paying more attention to external cues than we are to internal cues.

The French and other cultures push away from the table when they are satisfied. We push away from the table when we can’t move. One idea is definitely to not eat at all-you-can-eat buffets. Share appetizers. Share a whole entrée. While I’m not an advocate for taking food with you to a restaurant go ahead and take half home.

So, take the best of what is offered, not all of what is offered. Outsmart the overeating by going for the smallest plate. We know that if people take more food, they will eat more. Drink out of tall slender cups, not squatty short cups. Squatty holds more volume. Never go to a dinner party hungry.

Find reasons to get up and walk at work. Sign up for holiday running/walking events in your neighborhood. Plan for winter fun. Don’t over-schedule yourself, so you can schedule in exercise. Remember what exercise does for our brains. It’s associated with drop-in stress hormones; it improves our mood and increases our energy. Those are all things that we need during the holiday season.