Post-holiday blahs brought on by excess avoirdupois can be avoided, a nutrition specialist says, by taking part in food preparation and using common sense when it comes to fat, calories and cholesterol.

Holiday feasts typically are packed with foods that are high in fat and unnecessary protein, said Mark Kantor, nutrition specialist with the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service.

"Very simply, if you eat too many calories, you're going to gain weight," Kantor said. "Most people do tend to put on a pound or two during the holidays."

But holiday meals do not "have to be a pig-out."

"There's no reason why you can't stick to reasonable amounts of food -- while also cutting back on calories -- if you're part of the food preparation team," the nutritionist said.

Some of Kantor's hints to the weight conscious include avoiding prebasted turkeys, and instead eating turkey that has been basted only with broth or apple juice.

Gravies made with butter, flour or drippings also are taboo for those watching their waistlines and cholesterol.

Instead, Kantor suggests making a low-fat gravy by mixing one tablespoon of cornstarch and one tablespoon of skimmed turkey broth, then adding it to one cup of broth that is simmered and stirred until thickened.

Stuffing should be cooked outside the turkey so it does not absorb extra fat.

Prepackaged stuffing mixes are not recommended because they contain saturated fats and salt, Kantor said.

In recipes calling for chocolate, substitute cocoa powder and polyunsaturated cooking oil, he said. Those ingredients can be substituted for chocolate baking squares, which are high in saturated fat.

And to avoid unnecessary cholesterol, two egg whites can be used for each whole egg in cake recipes, Kantor said.

Bread sticks, rice crackers and whole-grain breads should be served instead of croissants and pastries. The proof that they are not a dieter's friend is evident on the "grease marks they leave on napkins," he said.

Salt is unnecessary in all baking recipes except for those calling for yeast.

For dessert, Kantor suggests serving fresh fruit or those packed in their own juice rather than those packed in heavy syrup.

Kantor said apple cobbler should be substituted for apple pie, and that all pies and pastries should be avoided.

Other recommendations include using frozen or fresh vegetables instead of canned unless they are marked "low salt" or "no salt."

Salt also should be left out of the water when cooking pasta or rice, using vegetables instead of potato chips and replacing sour cream with yogurt in dips, and avoiding process lunch meats that are high in sodium and fat.