Thanksgiving Help Line

Evan Sung for The New York Times

The commonly cited statistic is that the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone. That’s according to the Calorie Control Council, which represents the people who bring you diet foods. After thinking about how much 4,500 calories really is, I was skeptical of the claim. I decided to create a gluttonous Thanksgiving feast of traditional foods and count the calories along the way (with the help of several online calorie counters). Here’s what I found.

Let’s start piling our plate with a generous 6-ounce serving of turkey, with the skin of course. Since dark meat has more calories, we’ll go with 4 ounces of dark meat (206 calories) and 2 ounces of white meat (93 calories). Did I mention we’re eating the crispy skin? Don’t forget the stuffing. I picked a not-so-healthy sausage stuffing (310 calories). Since it’s a holiday, let’s throw caution to the wind and eat lots of starchy, buttery foods. A dinner roll with butter (310 calories) plus two kinds of potatoes – a big serving of mashed sweet-potato casserole made with butter, brown sugar and topped with marshmallows (divide your casserole dish into 8 servings and it will be 300 calories each) plus a half-cup of mashed potatoes with butter and gravy (140 calories).

You’re not getting full are you? Let’s add 2/3 cup green bean casserole (110 calories), a dollop of cranberry sauce (about 15 calories), and roasted brussels sprouts because our mother made us eat them (83 calories). And since we don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, we’ll take one slice each of pumpkin pie (316 calories) and pecan pie (503 calories) with generous dollops of homemade whipped cream on each slice (100 calories).

O.K., now I feel sick. How much have I eaten? The grand total is: 2,486 calories.

The point is I had to work pretty hard to finding enough servings of fat-laden, sugary foods to get to about 2,500 calories. Throw in a few glasses of wine, breakfast and some snacks and it’s certainly possible to binge your way to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day, but I’m not convinced it’s as common as the diet food companies would like us to believe.

For one thing most people would have a hard time eating that much. After about 1,500 calories in one sitting, the gut releases a hormone that causes nausea. Average stomach capacity is about 8 cups, although it can range from 4 to 12.

The average meal takes 1 to 3 hours to leave the stomach. But a large meal can take 8 to 12 hours, depending on the quantity and fat content. Eating too much can lead to indigestion (painful) and flatulence (you probably won’t be invited back). Another reason to pace yourself and avoid a gluttonous binge is that big meals can raise the risk for heart attack, blood clots and gallbladder problems and make you a dangerous, drowsy driver on the way home. Bon Appetit!

How Many Calories Do You Really Eat on Thanksgiving?

How many calories are in your Thanksgiving meal? I know it’s not fun to think about, especially on a day like Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday precisely because it becomes socially acceptable to sit on the couch all day and eat), but the reality is that Americans consume a ton of food on Thanksgiving. The American Council on Fitness estimates that the average person consumes around 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving and 229 grams of fat. Ouch! So we rounded up an example of a typical Thanksgiving meal and went to registered dietitian Tara Gidus to figure out how many calories it might be. She gave us some easy tips on how to cut almost 1,000 calories while still being able to enjoy all of your Thanksgiving favorites.

The meal:

• Turkey, white and dark meat, with skin (6 ounces)

• Gravy, (one-third of a cup)

• Mashed potatoes, (1 cup)

• Cranberry sauce, (one-third of a cup)

• Green bean casserole, (1 cup)

• Sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows (1 cup)

• Dinner roll, (1)

• Butter, (1 tablespoon)

• Pecan pie, (1 slice)

• Vanilla ice cream (one-half of a cup)

• Red wine (one glass, or 5 ounces)

The verdict:

“This meal probably contains around 2,400 calories,” Gidus says. “And that’s without going back for seconds!”

But Gidus stresses that you don’t have to deprive yourself of anything.

“The traditional holiday menu contains some wholesome, good-for-you foods,” she says. “It all depends on how you cook them and how much of them you consume.”

Here are some of Gidus’ easy ways you can cut calories and enjoy your Thanksgiving meal:

• Turkey: “Stick to about 3 ounces of white meat and no skin,” Gidus says. “That’s about the size of your credit card or a deck of cards and about an inch and a half thick.”

• Gravy or cranberry sauce: One-third of a cup is the recommended serving amount for each.

• Mashed potatoes: One cup of mashed potatoes contains around 210 calories, so if you stick to the recommended amount of half of a cup, you can slash the caloric intake to 105.

• Green beans: Instead of making green bean casserole, serve them stir-fried or grilled with a little olive oil and garlic. Since green bean casserole tends to be made with canned soup and fried onions, it’s like a heart attack waiting to happen. But if you really can’t give up the the idea of green bean casserole, try this healthy recipe instead.

• Sweet potato casserole: Simply make the sweet potato casserole as you would and forego the marshmallows on top.

• Dinner roll: Stick with one, or skip it altogether.

• Butter (2 tsp): Replace the butter in your meal with margarine instead to reduce the amount of saturated and trans-fat in the meal.

• Pecan pie (1 slice): Pecan pie comes in at a whopping 503 calories and 27 grams of fat. Swap it out for a slice of the healthier pumpkin pie or apple pie. If you can’t resist the pecan pie, check out this nifty infographic which shows you exactly how big of a slice to eat and not exceed 200 calories.

• Low-fat vanilla ice cream or cool whip: Instead of topping your desserts with full-fat ice cream this holiday season, substitute lower fat or reduced-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt.

• Red wine (5 oz): “Alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram itself, which makes it nearly twice as fattening as carbohydrates or protein (both contain about 4 calories per gram) and only just under the caloric value for fat (9 calories per gram),” Gidus says. “If there are carbs (like in beer and some in wine) in the alcohol, too, or if you are mixing hard liquor with high sugar mixers, the calories compound. This means that if you are watching your weight this holiday season you will want to stick to the lighter or lower-calorie drinks.” Your best bets? Lighter spirits such as vodka, wine, light beers or tonics.

“It’s really all about portion control,” Gidus says. “By reducing portions, you’re able to enjoy all of your holiday favorites, and your pants will still fit. You don’t have to enjoy Thanksgiving all in one night-leftovers are just as good, if not better!”

  • By Alanna Nuñez

Those of you who plan to eat yourselves into a food coma this Thanksgiving aren’t alone.

As our second favorite holiday nears, tallied how much food we’ll pack away on November 28 (and the days following).

1. Let’s start with the turkey. According to the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association, we’ll eat about 46 million turkeys on Thanksgiving. That’s roughly one turkey for every person in Spain. And with the average turkey weighing 30 pounds, Americans will consume nearly 1.4 billion pounds of bird.

2. All that food means all those calories. Calorie Control Council estimates we’ll each eat about 4,500 calories on turkey day. The New York Times said it’s much less — 2,500 — but stilll about a full days’ calories in one meal.

3. About 40% of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup yearly sales will be next week, so we can make green bean casserole.

4. It might be Americans’ least favorite side dish, but we’ll still eat about 80 million pounds of cranberries, including 5,062,500 gallons of canned, jellied cranberry sauce, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center.

” Survey: What is America’s least favorite Thanksgiving menu item?

5. You can’t have Thanksgiving without potatoes. Well, you can, but why? According to the National Grocers Association, we’ll buy about 214 million pounds of potatoes and 50 million pounds of sweet potatoes for the holiday. That doesn’t include the 3 million pounds of prepared mashed potatoes people will buy. For perspective, Insider stated, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier weighs about 204 million pounds, according to 24/7 Wall Street.

” Georgia grocery stores, pharmacies open on Thanksgiving Day 2019

6. With all the cooking going on, it’s not unheard of to buy some items already prepared. That seems to be true for pies. Whether pumpkin, apple or pecan, we’ll buy 18.9 million pies for Thanksgiving, according to the National Grocers Association.

” Places to buy delectable Thanksgiving pies in metro Atlanta

Don’t think you need to contribute to these numbers, though. Atlanta has lots of restaurants open on Thanksgiving. You can even get your Thanksgiving dinner to-go and eat at home, if that’s your thing.

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How many calories are in that Thanksgiving meal? (And what does it take to burn it off?)

Jay Cannon USA TODAY Published 7:53 AM EST Nov 27, 2019

It’s probably the last question you want to be thinking about on Thanksgiving Day: How many calories are you actually eating on Turkey Day?

Thanksgiving feasts aren’t like a bag of Doritos or a bottle of root beer; nutrition facts aren’t readily available and portion sizes tend to differ quite a bit. But while Thanksgiving feasts vary, there’s generally one theme that holds true: People eat a lot on the holiday.

Accounting for appetizers and desserts, the average American consumes a little over 3,000 calories and 150 grams of fat in a Thanksgiving meal, according to the Calorie Control Council. And that’s without going back for seconds!

However you slice it, many Americans are taking in significantly more calories than they will actually burn off.

“A 160 pound person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.

As daunting as those physical tasks might sound, there are several things you can do to combat the monstrous-size meals that don’t involve, say, hitting the pool for five hours.

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To compensate for the high-fat foods often served on Thanksgiving, the council recommends you plan ahead and target light, low-fat foods for the days following.

Thinking of starving yourself the morning of Thanksgiving? Think again, the council says. It’s best to look for low-fat options for breakfast and lunch that day. Egg whites for breakfast followed by a salad for lunch, for instance, would make for a great start.

Expecting a crowd? A group walk after dinner can be great to connect with family and friends while getting some steps in. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, a “Turkey Bowl” pick-up football game can burn off some calories (and ignite sibling rivalries).

Turkey Trots have made Thanksgiving Day the most popular day for a race in the U.S. That’s according to Running USA, which reported that more than 1 million runners registered to run or walk in races of a variety of distances across the nation in 2018.

Finally, if your diet gets off track around the food-friendly holiday, don’t panic! Having a thoughtful diet plan for the days before and after Thanksgiving gives you enough time to account for the day’s festivities, the council notes.

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Published 7:53 AM EST Nov 27, 2019

Homemade Roasted Thanksgiving Day Turkey with all the Sides (iStock)

Gobble, gobble indeed: Though calculations vary, Americans could consume several days’ worth of calories on Thanksgiving.

“A typical holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories,” the Calorie Control Council (CCC), an association representing the reduced-calorie food and beverage industry says, noting that “many nibble through another 1,500 calories, downing appetizers and drinks before and after the big meal.”

The CCC says a normal Thanksgiving meal has 3,150 calories and 159 grams of fat. That includes some appetizers, turkey, several side dishes, a glass of sweet tea, a slice of pecan pie and the use of a tablespoon of butter.

There have also been lower-calorie estimates. Looking at a different assortment of dishes and portion sizes, the New York Times reported in 2012 that a Thanksgiving meal contains 2,486 calories. That figure, however, didn’t include any beverages.

The calories in your Turkey Day dinner be much higher than either estimate.

“It ranges, but on average anywhere from 3,000 to 4,500 calories,” dietitian Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD, previously told Fox News. That range is just for the Thanksgiving meal and desserts — and doesn’t include cocktails or appetizers, she explained.


Calories in your Thanksgiving meal can be reduced several ways. (iStock)

If these amounts seem steep, Zuckerbrot had several options for a lower-calorie Thanksgiving meal, including:

  • 6 ounces of white, skinless turkey (220 calories and 6 grams of fat) instead of 6 ounces of dark meat turkey with skin (374 calories and 12 grams of fat)
  • 1 cup of mashed cauliflower (60 calories) instead of 1 cup of regular mashed potatoes (237 calories)
  • 1/2 cup of baked sweet potato (80 calories) over 1 cup sweet potatoes with marshmallows (610 calories)

“Be mindful of how much you serve yourself,” Amy Keating, R.D., a nutritionist at Consumer Reports, said in a recent blog post. “If you double or triple your portions — which is easy to do — you could consume a sky-high number of calories.”

When it comes to dessert, Zuckerbrot recommended “going topless” and picking a slice of pumpkin pie, which doesn’t have a top crust. A pumpkin pie slice has 316 calories, versus 526 calories in a slice of pecan pie and 436 calories in a double-crust slice of apple pie, according to Zuckerbrot.

She also suggests treating Thanksgiving like a regular dinner.

“Don’t walk in ravenous. Have your breakfast and have your lunch,” she said. Eating lunch, she said, offsets an inclination to overeat during the big meal.

Bring a low-calorie appetizer instead of an entree to assist the host or hostess, Zuckerbrot added.

That way, Zuckerbrot said, you can “keep hands busy and away from the buffet.”

The biggest calorie bomb at Thanksgiving dinner & 10 fun Thanksgiving food facts

There’s a lot that’s changed about Thanksgiving in the years since the Pilgrims gathered for their first meal of thanks. For instance, they weren’t were watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade while they basted their bird (that started in 1924) or rummaging through sale racks for a bargain sweater the day after on Black Friday. Here are a few fun Thanksgiving food facts to mull over while you enjoy your meal.

1. Thanksgiving Hasn’t Always Been a National Holiday
What do nursery rhymes and Thanksgiving have in common? Sarah Josepha Hale, a magazine editor who also happened to write “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” She lobbied for making Thanksgiving a national holiday. Seventeen years and five presidents later, Abraham Lincoln finally established Thanksgiving as a holiday in 1863. You go, girl.

2. Thanksgiving Hasn’t Always Been on the Same Date
Abraham Lincoln declared in 1863 that Thanksgiving fall on the fourth Thursday of November. But in order to stimulate the economy and extend the holiday shopping season during tough times, Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the date in 1939 to the third Thursday. It stayed that way for two years until Roosevelt moved it back to the fourth Thursday, where it stands today. (By the way, this year we have five Thursdays in November.)

3. We Consume an Average of 3,000 Calories at Thanksgiving
From the butter volcano in the mashed potatoes to the mishmash of sweet potato casserole and cornbread stuffing slathered in gravy, each American is estimated to consume anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 calories at the average Thanksgiving meal. (Check out this healthier menu: How to Cut 1,273 Calories from Thanksgiving Dinner (And Never Miss Them.)

But the biggest calorie bomb on your Thanksgiving table? Pecan pie! It packs a whopping 503 calories a slice (compared to 316 calories for pumpkin pie and 411 calories for apple pie). Where does this seemingly innocent pie get all of its calories? Sugar, mostly, and copious amounts of pecans, which harbor lots of fat. But on the bright side, much of that is “good fat” (including omega-3s) and pecans contain more antioxidants-compounds that sweep up tissue-damaging free radicals-than any other tree nut, according to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Pecans also provide notable amounts of zinc, a mineral that may help combat colds. In second place for calorie-packed dishes, we have sweet potato casserole at 460 calories a serving, and in third, don’t forget that wine adds up fast: 382 calories for three average-size glasses.

Don’t Miss: 3 Secrets to Perfect, Healthier Pecan Pie

4. The Original Thanksgiving Lacked A Few of Today’s Must-Haves
What wasn’t part of the original Thanksgiving? A fork! The Pilgrims ate with spoons, knives and their hands. (I hope they had plenty of napkins!) Forks didn’t become regulars at American tables until years later. Also missing from the settlers’ table: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

5. You’d Have to Run a Marathon (Plus!) to Burn Off Your Thanksgiving Calories
If you want to exercise to “erase” the calories from turkey, gravy and everything else you ate at Thanksgiving dinner, I hope you have a comfortable pair of running shoes. A 150-pound person would have to run an average of 29 miles to burn off 2,800 calories. If you weigh more, congratulations! You get to run less. But whatever you weigh, clear your calendar and get out your reflective running gear because you are going to be busy (and winded).

Don’t Miss: 5 Best & Worst Thanksgiving Foods

6. We Eat (Way More Than) A Ton of Turkey
It’s estimated that Americans consume 736 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving Day alone. That’s 368,000 tons or, put into perspective, the weight equivalent of almost 20 Queen Mary 2 cruise ships. Or about the weight of the Empire State Building.

7. Most of Our Turkeys Come From Minnesota
Which state gives us the most turkeys? Minnesota, at around 46 million birds. North Carolina comes in second at 32 million and then Arkansas at 30.5 million.

8. Turkey Does NOT Make You Tired
Sleepy? Maybe it was the wine. Contrary to popular belief, eating turkey does not make you tired. While turkey does contain tryptophan, an amino acid which when released into the brain produces serotonin-a serenity-boosting neurotransmitter-“tryptophan-containing foods don’t produce the hypnotic effects pure tryptophan does, because other amino acids in those foods compete to get into the brain,” explains Art Spielman, Ph.D., an insomnia expert and professor of psychology at the City College of New York. So turkey doesn’t make you sleepy but booze, carbohydrates and in-laws do.

9. It’s Okay to Throw Food (Well, Cranberries At Least)
It’s not always a good idea to throw your food, but it might be okay when you’re talking cranberries. How can you tell if cranberries are ripe? Use this age-old growers’ test: throw them on the ground and see if they bounce. If they’re ripe and ready to eat, the air pockets inside allow them to bounce. If a cranberry is old or damaged, it won’t have as much spring.

Don’t Miss: 8 of the Biggest Thanksgiving Cooking Mistakes

10. If You Cook Thanksgiving Dinner, You’ll Burn A Quarter of the Calories You Eat
If you’ve ever pulled off cooking a Thanksgiving dinner yourself, then you already know it’s a workout. How much of a workout? More than you might think! If you make the whole dinner yourself (that’s everything from turkey to gravy, sides and dessert, with about 4½ hours in the kitchen chopping, stuffing and rubbing), you’ll burn about 700 calories! See the breakdown here.

Here’s how many calories the average person eats on Thanksgiving — and how you can eat less without thinking about it

  • Thanksgiving is food-centric holiday.
  • As a result, the average American eats an excess amount of calories on Thanksgiving.
  • Overindulging one day won’t do much damage.
  • But if you want to lower that number, there are a few tricks to keep in mind.

Although every holiday has a food component, Thanksgiving is the only one where delicious dishes are the focal point. I mean, it’s called Turkey Day in most social settings.

Because we put such a spotlight of food this time of year, people tend to eat more than they normally do. Like, a lot more.

According to data from WalletHub, a personal finance website, the average American eats 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving. That’s almost twice the recommended calorie intake from the United States Department of Agriculture, which suggest adult females and males should consume 1,800 and 2,400 calories a day, respective. (Note: these are the calorie suggestions for sedentary adults between the ages of 26 and 40. These numbers will vary depending on your activity level and age.)

Now, before you start calculating how much time you have to spend at the gym to burn off those calories, take a deep breath. Thanksgiving happens once a year (twice if you also celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving) and eating more than the recommended amount of calories isn’t going to send you to an early grave.

“Enjoying an amazing Thanksgiving meal with people you love is a gratifying experience that only happens once a year and should be relished,” registered dietitian Malina Linkas Malkani, media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle, told INSIDER via email. This means forgetting the numbers associated with a dish and enjoying it for what it is: a tasty dose of comfort.

Eat, drink, and be merry on Thanksgiving. Gabriel Garcia Marengo / unsplash

That said, some people are going to worry about the numbers: that’s just the way they’re built. If you are hoping to consume less calories on Thanksgiving, Malkani has some advice. Her first tip, which sounds counter-intuitive, is to eat breakfast and lunch before the big feast.

“Eating regular meals makes you much less likely to gorge at your Thanksgiving dinner,” she explained. “You’ll be in a better mood, have better energy levels throughout the day, and be better prepared to handle any pre-dinner alcoholic drinks.”

When it comes to creating your dinner plate, she suggests taking smaller portions and skipping the dishes you don’t absolutely love — even if those are the “healthier” options. As Malkani pointed out, “healthier” versions can reduce the number of calories, but may not be worth it if you’re not enjoying the dish.

Above all else, Malkani said you shouldn’t avoid (or worse — fear) those high-calorie dishes.

“When we restrict ourselves too much, especially during the holidays, it can lead to cravings, overeating, and binge eating, all of which are counterproductive,” she said.

Dig in and don’t worry about calories. Element5 Digital/Unsplash

Of course, over-doing can have some unpleasant side effects like fullness or fatigue. But Malkani says that “returning to an active, healthy lifestyle the next day enables most healthy people to shake off any negative effects.”

“The way to enjoy it without letting it derail your weight management goals is to get right back to your healthy lifestyle habits,” she said.

So eat, drink, and be guilt-free! Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, and you should be able to enjoy it.

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Just How Many Calories Do Most People Eat on Thanksgiving?

I wasn’t planning on going shopping on Thanksgiving, I mean early Black Friday. But now that I know how many calories most people will eat on Thanksgiving, I am definitely rethinking my plans. All that walking and standing in line could help offset all those extra calories I consume throughout that day.

The most significant food holiday of the year is quickly approaching. Honestly, though, Americans tend to eat more calories between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. According to the Calorie Control Council, the average person will eat up to 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving.

More specifically, a person will eat 3,000 during their Thanksgiving Dinner and another 1,500 snacking on appetizers, desserts, and other things. All those dips and pies add up quickly.

What Thanksgiving items tend to be the worst things to put on our plates? Here are just a few you may want to reconsider making this year, or you can take a small taste.

1. Sweet Potatoe Casserole: It’s taste so good, but it’s so unhealthy for you. A 3/4 cup serving has 285 calories and 5 grams of fat!

2. Stuffing: I am not a stuffing fan thankfully. If you love stuffing this figure may hurt your heart a bit. A 3/4 cup has 371 calories and 19 grams of fat. Eek! Thanks, I’ll pass.

3. Apple Pie: 1/8th of the pie which is a pretty tiny slice is 411 calories and 19 grams of fat. And that doesn’t include if you heat it up and add a scoop of ice cream on top!

4. Mashed Potatoes with whole milk and gravy: This is one factoid I am going to ignore. I cannot imagine eating turkey on Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes. A cup is 237 calories with 9 grams of fat.

5. Mac & Cheese: This isn’t something that my family has at their dinner, but I know many do. I love a bite or two or mac and cheese, but it’s not something I am going to overindulge. If you’re a mac and cheese lover it will cost you 310 calories per 1 cup serving and 9 grams of fat.

It’s hard to stay on track when you can buy a 4lb. pumpkin pie for your family gatherings.

Lord have mercy! @Costco is helping you prep for those Holiday gatherings with a huge pumpkin pie! They are now selling 4lb pies! Get the info here!

— 107.9 THE LINK! (@1079thelink) October 26, 2018

The great news is there are so many ways to change up those traditional family recipes to make them healthier. Also, if you drink more water before the meal and during the meal, it can help you fill up faster and prevent you from going overboard.

Most people see #Thanksgiving as a “cheat day,” but it doesn’t have to be! Try these healthy options.

— AUG_Health (@AUG_Health) November 6, 2019


Thanksgiving is the time of year where you can gather with family and friends and enjoy a big meal.

Here are the stats to know for Thanksgiving, from turkey to tabletops.

Talkin’ Turkey

– 46+ million: The amount of turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving

– 100,000: Turkey-related questions answered by the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line each November and December.

– 4,500: The average amount of calories consumed with an average Thanksgiving meal with appetizers and dessert. (This is the equivalent to 14 pieces of pumpkin pie).

– 88%: The percentage of Americans that eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

– $48.91: The average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10

– 16: Number of minutes spent eating

– 7: Number of hours spent cooking on Thanksgiving

Where people celebrate

57% at home

38% at a relative’s home

16% at a friend’s home

6% don’t know

5% at a parade

4% at a restaurant

4% are not celebrating

2% helping out at a homeless shelter

1% other

Where meals are cooked by generation

Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73):

  • Entire meal cooked at home: 87%
  • Some dishes purchased fully cooked: 11%

Generation X (ages 39 to 54):

  • Entire meal cooked at home: 85%
  • Some dishes purchased fully cooked: 12%

Millennials (ages 23 to 38):

  • Entire meal cooked at home: 78%
  • Some dishes purchased fully cooked: 19%

Generation Z (ages 18 to 22):

  • Entire meal cooked at home: 81%
  • Some dishes purchased fully cooked: 18%

How many people are usually at your table?

16%: Less than 4

31%: 4 to 8

25%: 8 to 12

28%: More than 12

Thanksgiving meal times

12%: Noon to 1 p.m.

42%: 1 to 3 p.m.

29%: 4 to 5 p.m.

14%: 5 to 7 p.m.

4%: 8 p.m. or later

Sources: Statista, Calorie Control Council, National Turkey Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, Butterball

We eat a ton on Thanksgiving — about 4,500-plus calories, according to the Calorie Control Council. Many of us look forward to stuffing our faces and welcome the food coma that follows, but in the spirit of the original Thanksgiving meal, which consisted of indigenous foods Natives presented to the Europeans as an offering of health, we broke down the modern, most popular dishes of Turkey Day by the calories and nutrients to get back to the root of the feast.

“The meal we’re having today is an adulterated version of the original,” says Adam Kelinson, high-performance nutritionist, organic chef, and creator of Organic Performance. “Try and have an understanding of where your food came from. We tend to be so detached from the genesis of that original Thanksgiving story and meal.”

Along with Kelinson, The Manual asked two celebrity fitness trainers how to burn off the calories per dish.* Our experts include Michael Olajide Jr., a former champion boxer and fitness expert that has trained Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Will Smith, and Mark Langowski, fitness guru and sought-after trainer.

Understanding the caloric breakdown and exercise it takes to negate our favorite Thanksgiving dishes may make you more mindful when slopping on a second helping of sweet potato casserole. Or not, which is fine also. “It’s one of those meals where calories don’t count,” Kelinson says.

Let’s dig in.


Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

206 calories per 1/2 cup

Our experts agree turkey is your friend on Thanksgiving. “You’re going to have a lesser amount of calories with turkey being a leaner meat,” says Kelinson, and you’ll reap all the good nutrients if your turkey is sourced well.

  • Make it healthier: Langowski suggests to “focus more on the lean turkey meat without the skin.”
  • Burn the calories: Work strength, since turkey is rich in protein. “Use an upper-body peddler to work your arms, shoulder, and core. It burns a ton of calories,” says Olajide Jr. “Also, since you have a protein foundation, add pull ups, push ups, squats, and benches.

Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

Alice Day/EyeEm/Getty Images

89-183 calories per 1/2 cup

With all these Thanksgiving dishes, calories and nutrients will differ depending on the additional components added (i.e. butter, sugar, etc.). For the most part, “I’d say dig into the mashed potatoes and gravy because it has a lot of great fats and nutrients,” Kelinson says. “Mashed potatoes, in terms of calories, is just fat, but just because fat has the most calories it doesn’t mean it’s the worst thing for you. Your fats are going to give you satiety, so you won’t wind up eating as much.”

  • Make it healthier: “Go easy on the gravy,” says Langowski. “A cup of this will set you back about 250 calories.”
  • Burn the calories: Langowski suggests a 30-minute jog.

Green Bean Casserole

Lauri Patterson/Getty Images

250 calories per 1 cup

Looking at calories, you might not find a lot in grean bean casserole, but it comes down to how it’s prepared. Langowski suggests not thinking of this dish as a “vegetable,” and Kelinson adds that since green beans aren’t seasonal during Thanksgiving, you won’t get the most nutrient bang anyways.

  • Make it healthier: Have plain green beans instead.
  • Burn the calories: Jump rope for 20 minutes.

Sweet Potato Casserole

ftwitty/Getty Images

650 calories per 1 cup

Yes, that is a ton of calories. “With the casserole, you are adding butter and marshmallows,” explains Langowski.

  • Make it healthier: Sweet potatoes are Langowski’s go-to Thanksgiving dish, but only if they are plain and baked.
  • Burn the calories: A brisk walk around the block … for three hours.

Mac and Cheese

4kodiak/Getty Images

150-200 calories per 1/2 cup

A dense amount of calories plus a lot of fat means “you should either choose this or dessert,” says Kelinson. “If you’re looking to keep control of calories during this meal, stay away from mac and cheese.”

  • Make it healthier: Ironically, choosing full-fat cheeses will impart your mac with great fats that will be both tasty and healthy, according to Kelinson.
  • Burn the calories: Cardio. “In this dish, there’s protein, but also a lot of really high carbs, and a lot of people tend to not burn their carbs,” says Olajide Jr. Cardio will put you in a deficit when it comes to calories.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Manny Rodriguez/Getty Images

190 calories per 1 cup

Unlike green bean casserole, Brussel sprouts are “seasonally appropriate, so you’ll get your highest nutritional value,” Kelinson says. “But once again, you’re caught in the fat realm … but I don’t classify bacon as an unhealthy food, depending on where it comes from.”

  • Make it healthier: If you’re working toward a fitness goal, you’re better off eating turkey and salad. Or drinking your Thanksgiving meal in shots (just kidding).
  • Burn the calories: Olajide Jr. says, due to all the saturated fats in this dish, you need to rely on cardiovascular exercise and jump rope or get your muscle endurance going by spinning. “I tend to go for upper body cardio like boxing, running, or dance because saturated fats tend to coagulate around your midsection so you need to move your core and move it fast.” Jump rope for 10 minutes (equivalent to a 30-minute run, says Olajide Jr.).


Manny Rodriguez/Getty Images

179-389 calories per half cup

Although dense in the sense of bread, Kelinson says stuffing is at the lower end of calories, even though there’s typically another fat component added (i.e. sausage or bacon sautéed in butter).

  • Make it healthier: “In terms of calorie control, eat the turkey and leave the stuffing,” Kelinson says.
  • Burn the calories: Olajide Jr. explains that, to burn off stuffing, you have to exhaust your resources, and there’s no quicker way than jump rope intervals. Do 10 second of double-turn jumps, rest 1-2 minutes, and go again. Do 10 intervals. You’ll also get a killer after-burn.

Pecan Pie

4kodiak/Getty Images

400-500 calories per slice

Most people are shocked to learn a single slice of pecan pie can have 500 calories, which is due to a density of nutrients and tons of sugar like processed corn syrup — “that’s where you get the stickiness,” Kelinson elaborates. “You get into the realm of corn syrup, GMOs, and highly-processed foods and you’re in the danger zone. Forget about the calories.”

  • Make it healthier: Pick pumpkin pie instead.
  • Burn the calories: Thirty grueling minutes of burpees, says Langowski.

Pumpkin Pie

243 calories per slice

The “internals” of pumpkin pie typically have no corn syrup and are made with maple syrup and cream, so “this is a better dessert choice, no doubt about it,” says Kelinson.

  • Make it healthier: Don’t eat dessert. (Is that an option? No, no it’s not.)
  • Burn the calories: Pumpkin pie tastes good and has a lot of sugar, so use that spike of energy to do wind sprints. “Hit it hard and attack it, you’ll have the sugar high and energy for 30-40 yard dashes with 30-second breaks between. Do 4 sets and it doesn’t matter how fast you sprint, just be as fast as you can,” Olajide Jr. says.

*Exact calorie amounts can differ depending on ingredients, preparation, and serving size, and each man digests and metabolizes according to his own body.

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How Many Calories Are on Your Thanksgiving Plate?

Recently, the Calorie Control Council estimated that the average American could consume as many as 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s important to not feel deprived on this holiday,” clarifies nutritionist Deborah Enos, the popular One Minute Wellness Coach. “Truly, this holiday is about friends, family, food, and football. If you’re not eating the foods on the table, you might feel a bit left out. So it’s good to know what foods are calorie bombs and what foods are actually good choices.”

But according to a survey from Basis Science, creators of the Basis fitness tracker, Americans aren’t adequately accounting for the number of calories on their Thanksgiving plates. According to the survey, during their Thanksgiving dinner most Americans expect to consume just 1,780 calories and more than 75 percent of survey respondents expect to stay below 2,000 calories.

This could be due to the fact that seven out of 10 Americans do not plan to eat regular meals before Thanksgiving, according the survey. Most prefer to only eat small snacks before dinner or to fast completely, which can easily lead to overeating during the main event.

Enos recommends, “Drink a cup of coffee or hot tea about 15 to 20 minutes before you sit down to your meal. The hot liquid will annihilate your appetite. You feel full, you eat less, and this allows you to indulge in a few goodies but not every goodie that comes your way.”

“I think it’s OK to thoroughly enjoy this holiday but don’t binge,” Enos continues. “It’s hard to recover from a binge. However, just enjoying the holiday means you get a few bites of all of your favorites without passing out on the couch in a food coma.”

But you have to know exactly what the “best scenario” or even the “worst scenario” plates look like to make sure you are staying within your dietary limits. We were curious as to exactly what would be on these plates, so we broke the average American Thanksgiving dinner down, from the drinks to the pads of butter on your biscuit, to see where we typically go wrong. In our accompanying slideshow, you can find your entire dinner deconstructed so you can make the best of your Thanksgiving caloric intake.

How many calories are in the average Thanksgiving plate?

Chicago Personal TrainerFollow Nov 23, 2016 · 5 min read How different will your Thanksgiving plate look?

You should be able to eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving, right? I think so (as long as you have a consistent, healthy eating regiment normally). In the case you were interested in learning about the caloric truth of your favorite eating holiday and finding a modest approach, you probably want to scan the breakdown of the traditional plate below (from the recent Consumer Reports article “How Many Calories Are in Your Thanksgiving Dinner?”).

According to the Calorie Control Council, many Americans eat around 4,500 calories at the Thanksgiving feast. But the meal we created contains less than half that, yet still provides plenty of food.


This 3–½ oz portion of white meat with skin (about the size of a deck of cards) delivers just 177 calories, 6 g of fat and 30 g of protein. The same amount of dark meat with skin has 206 calories, 10 g of fat and 27 g of protein. To lighten the calorie load, skip the crispy skin and save roughly 30 calories per serving.

“The skin is also very high in saturated fat, which can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Consumer Reports’ dietitian Maxine Siegel, R.D.

Moody Wisdom: As great as it tastes, you may want to ditch the dark meat and skin and save the calories for a glass of wine instead (if you’re focused on weight loss during this time).


We spooned out ½ cup of stuffing (the size of an ice cream scoop), adding about 195 calories to the plate.

But in addition to that rather hefty calorie count, the stuffing contains 480 mg of sodium. Making a healthier stuffing requires just a few tweaks. Most of that sodium comes from broth, so you can reduce it by using a low-sodium version.

And to lighten the calorie count, add chopped veggies like carrots and celery. That way you’ll be eating less stuffing and more lower-cal vegetables in the same ½-cup portion.

Moody Wisdom: The stuffing is my favorite…I’d hate to remove this from my plate. If you can control the way it’s made, the small modifications like removing the butter can go a long way.

Sweet Potatoes

Four ounces (equivalent to 1 medium sweet potato) of home-made candied sweet potatoes adds 187 calories. These nutritional powerhouses are brimming with antioxidants that help fight inflammation and may protect against some types of cancers.

The problem is that candied sweet potatoes are also high in sugars. True, sweet potatoes naturally contain some sugars, but just about 7 grams. This serving of candied sweet potatoes has 20 grams of sugars, meaning that 13 g, or about 3 teaspoons, of sugars are added.

To get the sweet potato goodness without the added sugars (and calories) opt for a plain baked sweet potato (103 calories), or roasted sweet potato chunks (about 120 calories per cup).

Moody Wisdom: If you love pie and other treats, maybe you should save your sweet tooth for dessert.

Green Bean Casserole

This classic dish containing green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and crispy fried onions comes in at 227 calories for a 1/2-cup serving, (we used the recipe on the Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup label.)

That’s a big calorie investment, especially considering that half a cup of plain green beans has only 20 calories.

As a lighter alternative, consider serving green beans almondine — steamed string beans sauteed in a small amount of butter, tossed with slivered almonds and lemon juice.

Moody Wisdom: Green beans almondine is my alternative to the casserole but not a worthy substitute for most people. Keep this serving in check.

Mashed Potatoes

One cup of mashed potatoes made with whole milk, butter, and salt adds 237 calories to the tally. For a lighter version, try using lower-fat milk, or replacing some of the butter and milk with low-sodium chicken broth.

Moody Wisdom: Once again, the amount of dairy in this side dish will determine how long you will be working out with your personal trainer on Friday.


A ¼-cup ladle of gravy pulls the whole meal together at an economical 25 calories. But store-bought gravy, like the one we used, is high in sodium (about 300 mg per serving), so don’t go overboard. If you make your own using the turkey drippings, separating out the fat and using little salt will yield an even lower-cal gravy that’s also lower in sodium.

Moody Wisdom: What if you remove the gravy and spread your mashed potatoes on top of the turkey instead? Just a thought, just a thought….I’m trying here…

Cranberry Sauce

This quintessential Thanksgiving side dish packs 102 calories per 1/4-cup serving. Since the berries are tart, most recipes — like the one from the Ocean Spray Cranberry package we used — call for a lot of sugar. An easy fix: Use less sugar in your recipe, and consider adding some cinnamon, cloves, and orange rind to help enhance the sweetness of the sauce.

Moody Wisdom: Accept that this side dish is a sugar bomb. It is the “quintessential” dessert for dinner. Choose how you want to spread your sugar intake.


This 3-inch by 3-inch square and adds about 198 calories to our plate. Siegel’s advice: “If there’s butter on the table, skip it. A pat of butter adds another 35 calories and about 4 g of fat. Thanksgiving dinner tends to be high in both fat and calories, and this is an easy place to avoid adding more.” Or you could consider choosing among the starchy foods — stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread (or rolls). Have one or two, but not all three.

Moody Wisdom: Enjoy your cornbread-I do! Skip the butter though.

Wine Whether you choose red or white, a 5 fl oz glass has about 125 calories. And the calories aren’t the only reason to stick to one glass. Studies show that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so you may not make the best dietary choices or you may eat more.

Meal total = 1,473 calories>

Moody Wisdom: Without a doubt, I’m willing to sacrifice some of the Thanksgiving dinner calories for an extra glass of wine. What are you willing to exchange? Although the plate described above is only 1,473 calories, it still exceeds the normal recommendation of 300–500 calories. It doesn’t even include the average 300–1000 calories during the appetizer hour or the 200–1000 calories for after-dinner drinks and desserts. Don’t beat yourself up and enjoy this day with family and friends. Just be conscious of its caloric costs and return to a healthy routine the next day.

Picture Credit:
How different will your Thanksgiving plate look?

More to Read:
When losing weight or toning up, never estimate the effects of stress on your body (even when you’re eating perfectly). Find out how stress may be undermining your weight loss and fitness goals: “Why Stress Makes You Want to Eat Everything in Sight (or Nothing at All)” Review


Article Credit:

Author: Michael Moody Fitness with excerpt sourced from the article “ How Many Calories Are in Your Thanksgiving Dinner? “ on
How many calories are in the average Thanksgiving plate?

Learn how to lose weight from a personal trainer in Chicago.

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A 6-oz. serving of turkey (with skin) will only cost you 299 calories

Here’s something to be grateful for on Thanksgiving: your daylong holiday binge may not be as disastrously calorific as you thought.

According to the Calorie Control Council, during the state-sanctioned gorging event known as Thanksgiving, the average American can stuff down as much as 4,500 calories — nearly twice the recommended daily allowance.

(MORE: Deep-Fried Stuffing on a Stick: The Food Network’s Oddest Holiday Recipes)

The New York Times’ Tara Parker-Pope wanted to test out this theory. So she created a virtual Thanksgiving feast that would sate even the most voracious eater. Using online counters, she tallied up the calories for each serving. Here’s her menu:

6 oz. of turkey, with skin: 299 calories
sausage stuffing: 310 calories
dinner roll and butter: 310 calories
sweet-potato casserole: 300 calories
mashed potatoes and gravy: 140 calories
green-bean casserole: 110 calories
cranberry sauce: 15 calories
brussels sprouts: 83 calories
pumpkin pie: 316 calories
pecan pie: 503 calories
whipped cream: 100 calories

total: 2,486 calories

Parker-Pope says you could push your calorie count higher by downing a few glasses of wine or predinner snacks (or, adds NewsFeed, by using a Paula Deen cookbook). But at some point, the body just says no: “After about 1,500 calories in one sitting, the gut releases a hormone that causes nausea,” she writes.

Still, it may be possible to overcome your gut reflexes and stuff like a champ. You can stretch your stomach’s capacity (normally about 8 cups) by regularly overeating over time, according to Lawrence Kosinski, committee chairman of the American Gastroenterological Association, who spoke with the New York Times last year. But, with U.S. obesity rates set to reach 50% by 2030, many of us seem to be working on that already.

MORE: Thanksgiving Was Meant to be a Fast: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Turkey Day

Does a 3,000-Calorie Thanksgiving Feast Really Hurt You?

Thanksgiving may be about family, football, and giving thanks.

But it’s also about turkey, pie, and all the other fixings.

As a result, the season of holiday weight gain gets put into gear during the fourth Thursday of November.

How many calories will you eat this Thanksgiving?

Well, it depends if you go back for seconds (or thirds), how your turkey is prepared, and whether or not you’re a fan of alcohol.

But we broke down one possible Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey, sides, two kinds of pie, and two alcoholic beverages.

Thanksgiving Calorie Bomb Breakdown

turkey, whole, meat and skin, cooked, roasted 189
canned mashed sweet potatoes 258
homemade mashed potatoes w/ milk 237
homemade roast turkey 189
green bean casserole 111
cranberry sauce, canned 40
French roll 105
bread stuffing 386
pumpkin pie 316
pecan pie 503
whipped cream 101
red wine 127
beer 153
Total: 2715

The total count? Approximately 2,715 calories.

Amy Jamieson-Petonic, a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, said a hearty Thanksgiving meal likely has far more calories than you need during a single sitting.

“That could be almost double the amount of calories someone needs for a day,” she said.

The recommended amount of calories per day for women is between 1,600 to 2,400 calories. For men, it’s between 2,000 to 3,000 calories.

The effect on your body

Researchers can actually measure the toll all those calories take on the body shortly after a meal.

“It is putting a little bit of a strain on the body. It’s causing a huge spike in your blood sugar level, which tends to cause a release of insulin out of your pancreas,” Jamieson-Petonic told Healthline.

She also said that this influx of foods can cause certain proteins to be released that increase inflammation to the body.

“If you’re eating a high-fat meal, it’s causing an increase in these inflammation proteins… and all these other bad guys that really cause a lot of damage to our body,” Jamieson-Petonic said. “We can literally see damage on an ultrasound within one hour of eating an unhealthy meal.”

The Cleveland Clinic also points out that studies suggest eating a big meal can increase the risk of having a heart attack 26 hours after chowing down.

“Researchers believe that this could be because eating raises levels of the hormone norepinephrine, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate,” officials at the Cleveland Clinic explained on their website.

Then, there’s the weight

Eating an excessive meal one time isn’t likely to lead to permanent weight gain.

But if it’s just the beginning season of heavy eating, it can mean putting on a few extra holiday pounds that become difficult to lose in the new year.

“When you have to deal with all these extra nutrients, the body has to decide to use it as fuel or store it as fat,” Jamieson-Petonic said.

According to one study, people weighed approximately 0.5 percent more 10 days after Christmas than 10 days before.

“I’m not trying to be a doom-and-gloom kind of girl here, but eating this food and this type of food can cause negative health impacts over time,” Jamieson-Petonic said.

Not surprisingly, Jamieson-Petonic added most people won’t feel great after eating such a big meal.

“Eating that much food makes people feel rundown and sluggish,” she said.

How to do a healthier Thanksgiving

But if you want to figure out how to enjoy Thanksgiving without hurting your body, Jamieson-Petonic has a few tips.

First, be active during the holidays, she said.

On Thanksgiving Day, running during a Turkey Trot or even going for a walk around the neighborhood can be helpful.

“The first thing that I would recommend is to start the holiday with activity,” she said. “It will get your metabolic rate going. It will help you buffer some of those extra calories.”

She also recommends eating a healthy breakfast.

“If you don’t eat breakfast, you tend to eat more calories at lunch or Thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “So having a good breakfast will also help as well.”

If you’ve been waiting all year for your favorite pumpkin pie or stuffing, you don’t have to give it up, Jamieson-Petonic said. Instead, she recommends prioritizing what goes on your plate.

“We always tell people, if it’s not fabulous, don’t eat it,” she said. “If there’s certain favorite foods that you have that you eat once a year, by all means, enjoy them.”

In general, Jamieson-Petonic hopes that people make an effort to focus on the family over the food portion of the holiday.

“Thanksgiving is all about being thankful for what we have. It’s not about how many calories can I consume today,” she said.

Average calories on thanksgiving

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