How Many Calories Will You Consume This Thanksgiving?


Thanksgiving meal photo

In 1621 the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians joined together for a harvest feast that was called the First Thanksgiving. It wasn't until 1863 that former President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Today,150 years later, while Thanksgiving is still a melding of family and friends, it's also a gorge fest.

Calorie Consumption

Today, according to the Calorie Council, the average person consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day and 3,000 calories in just the main meal.  

“Many of us toss our typical eating plans and healthy-living strategies to enjoy the winter festivities and just expect to gain weight during the holiday season,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., a wellness coordinator and adjunct professor in the UAB Department of Human Studies on GalTime. "But if you play the holiday season by the numbers, you can have your pie and eat it, too."

Tara Parker-Pope over at The New York Times figured out the calorie counts on some of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes. Four ounces of dark meat turkey comes to 206 calories and two ounces of light meat turkey comes to 96 calories. An average serving of stuffing with sausage is 310 calories and a dinner roll with butter is another 310 calories. And the list goes on, adding up to a serious gorge fest. 

“In order to lose one pound of fat, a person must burn 3,500 calories more than they consume,” Whitt explains on GalTime. “In order for a 160-pound person to burn off the 3,000 calorie meal, they would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles.”

Tips for Avoiding Thanksgiving Gorging

1.Wake up with a jog. If you know you’re going to be overdoing it, consider starting the scale in your direction. Every mile equals 100 calories.

2. Avoid appetizers.

3. Design your plate for success. Choose the lighter dishes first like white meat turkey, green salad, and cranberry sauce. And then fill in the blanks with tastes of the heavier dishes like mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and green bean casserole.

4. Avoid excess alcohol. 

5. Limit yourself to one small serving of dessert.

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Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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