Times have changed since 1621, when the pilgrims and native Americans chowed down for the first Thanksgiving. Their meal likely consisted of venison, turkey, fish, cabbage, squash, corn and berries. They certainly didn't have potatoes or the rich desserts we have today, which helped their meal be a lot less fatty.
The Calorie Council estimates that the average American consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. I put that number to the test by breaking down the calories for the typical Thanksgiving feast, then offer some lower-calorie alternatives.
Learn the truth about Thanksgiving calories.
Typical Thanksgiving Meal
- 6 oz. serving of turkey with gravy (145 cal, 5.4g fat).
- One plentiful scoop of mashed potatoes with butter and gravy (181 cal, 9.5g fat)
- One scoop of stuffing (110 cal, 1g fat)
- One scoop of green bean casserole (71 cal, 4g fat)
- Dinner roll with butter (114 cal, 5.7g fat)
- Slice of cranberry sauce (86 cal, 0g fat)
- 1/2 cup of glazed carrots (45 cal, 1.5g fat)
- Sweet potato casserole (190 cal, 3.5g fat)
- Glass of apple cider (120 cal, 0g fat).
- Slice of apple pie with a scoop of ice cream (361 cal, 21g fat)
- Slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream (338 cal, 14.4g fat).
Total: 1,761 calories with 67.1g fat.
Did you happen to eat breakfast, have a few more beverages, snack on a few appetizers and make a leftover turkey sandwich for a light supper? If so, it's quite possible you will consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day without trying too hard.
Will one day of overindulgence set you up for failure? Of course not. Everyone deserves to go a little overboard every now and then—but the message is to be reasonable about it. You will already be taking in a high number of calories for the day, so make some smart compromises and avoid feeling nauseous and sluggish. And if you have real health concerns, be especially careful. More people have heart attacks around the holidays than at any other time of the year. A lot of them are because of the indulgent foods we eat and the added stress we feel around the holidays.
Try these tips to cut out significant calories and fat from your holiday meal:
- Taking the skin off the turkey and avoiding the dark meat can save you 30 calories and 4.1g fat.
- Making mashed potatoes with skim milk and no butter saves you 60 calories and 8.1g fat.
- Pour your gravy into a separator to cut over half the fat.
- Swap traditional pie crust with a lowfat graham cracker crust to save over 100 calories and 9g fat.
- Avoid unnecessary extras like dinner rolls, appetizers and high-calorie drinks.
- Start with a small serving of everything and go back for seconds only for the foods you really love.
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