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.
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."