- During meals on Thanksgiving Day, the typical American consumes about 3,000 calories and 150 grams of fat.
- The calorie count can be even higher with larger servings, second servings and high calorie drinks.
- Experts say there are sensible ways to indulge yourself without feeling guilty about binging.
Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. But you might also want to think about how many calories you’re consuming at the big feast.
Let’s break it down: Many of us will have turkey, or maybe ham, as our main course. Then there’s a cornucopia of toppings such as vinaigrette – maybe more than one kind – mashed potatoes, gravy, bread rolls and hopefully some vegetables including, of course , the classic green bean casserole.
Don’t forget the pre-game festivities. This year, in addition to NFL football starting at 12:30 p.m., there’s World Cup action starting at 5 a.m. ET.
This leaves plenty of room for appetizers, including cheese and crackers, fries, deviled eggs, and drinks. Finally, after the main courses are eliminated, there are the desserts, which probably include pumpkin, sweet potato or pecan pie.
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How many calories are in a Thanksgiving dinner?
Add it all up and the typical American consumes about 3,150 calories and 159 grams of fat in a Thanksgiving meal, according to the Calorie Control Council.
But that doesn’t count on coming back for a second wave of turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy. “You can push that calorie count to 4,500, after adding calorie-dense beverages, large portions, and high-fat desserts,” said Kirstin Taylor, registered dietitian and director of nutrition services at Cooper Clinic in Dallas, in Texas.
For normal days, the Food and Drug Administration’s recommended daily calorie intake is 2,200 and 2,800, respectively.
Another way of seeing things? At Thanksgiving, you can easily eat the calorie equivalent of five to eight — yes, eight — Big Macs (550 calories and 30 grams of fat each).
Thanksgiving poses a portion problem because we’re likely to eat larger portions at a holiday meal, said Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, chair of the department of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State University.
“Turkey (especially white meat) is a relatively low calorie and low fat protein choice, but if you eat large portions with large servings of sides, it adds up quickly,” he said. she stated.
How to eat fewer calories on Thanksgiving?
►Don’t starve yourself earlier in the day. Eat a balanced breakfast — think eggs — and, at lunch, a sandwich or beans if your Thanksgiving dinner is later in the day, said Illa Garcia, CEO of The Millennial Nutritionist, a nutrition consulting firm of Raleigh, North Carolina. Otherwise, she says, “your body will try to get you to eat more calories if you’re in a hyper-hungry state.”
►Smart snacking and drinking. During pre-meal foraging, “try to stick to fresh vegetables and salsas to help curb your appetite without loading up on extra calories and fat,” Taylor says. And if you’re drinking before a meal, alternate alcoholic beverages with sparkling water or a mocktail to help cut calories, she said.
►Pack your plate wisely. When it’s time to party — it sounds simple, but it’s often forgotten — think about what you put on your plate, said Meghan Windham, dietitian with student health services at Texas A&M University.
Fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits. Pork on a green salad, as opposed to dressing. “It’s hard not to get carried away when there are so many choices,” she said. “The key is to enjoy the foods you eat, but be careful with portions and use mindful dietary advice throughout the day.”
►Take a pass. Don’t feel obligated to partake in every item served, Windham said. “Use a smaller plate for desserts and check with yourself to gauge hunger or fullness,” she said.
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How long does it take to burn Thanksgiving calories?
It takes about 10 minutes of movement to burn about 100 calories, said Meridan Zerner, dietitian nutritionist and wellness coach at the Cooper Clinic. “It would take 30 minutes of jogging at a 10-minute pace to burn off even a small slice of pumpkin pie. It’s very difficult to ‘exercise’, especially on vacation,” said she declared.
If you’ve consumed 3,000 calories, that’s about five hours of activity needed. So trying to burn your dinner that day is not realistic.
But you can burn calories ahead of time. For example, some individuals and families participate in a turkey trot race earlier in the day. You could ask your family and friends to help you complete some gardening work. “Raking the leaves would be a good way to burn calories,” Lanningham-Foster said.
After dinner, consider an away game of soccer or football, Windham said. “Walking around with others and chatting can also be a great way to get your afternoon moving instead of just sitting on the couch talking with others,” she said. “All movement matters, so staying active by walking, playing with the grandkids, riding a bike, or even taking part in a competitive outdoor game are great ways to get moving.”
I have eaten too much. What do I do?
Remember, our bodies are still burning calories, typically 1,000 to 2,000 per day, Lanningham-Foster said. So the occasional party is OK. “We eat food for many reasons – to nourish our bodies, but also to celebrate with friends and families,” she said. “Eating more or eating special foods to celebrate holidays is common in all cultures.”
And don’t put off Thanksgiving guilt until tomorrow. “It’s just one day,” Garcia said. “The best thing you can do is not blame yourself the next day if you end up overdoing it. Try to go for a walk the next day and feel better about yourself and move on.”
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.
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