How many calories does the average person eat on Thanksgiving? Much too much! I know what you are thinking—way to be obvious Dr. Taz! But truly, how do you avoid over-eating on Thanksgiving?
AVERAGE THANKSGIVING CALORIES
Putting a number on Thanksgiving day eating is difficult. A lot of the data you see is funded by various segments of the weight loss industry. If you feel like doing a little of your own research by using one of the many calorie counting apps available on your smart phone you can probably get an idea of how much you consume on this holiday. Just plug-in what would be a heaping plate—a cup or so of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, turkey (and some crispy skin), cranberry jelly, sweet potato casserole, a roll with butter, and don’t forget dessert. Did you forget to count what you had for breakfast, and all the appetizers you noshed on before you were called to the table? Add it all up and you’re probably somewhere between 3,000 to 4,500. This adds up to more than double what most people need. And that might leave you feeling more full, or downright sick, than grateful by the end of your day. Chalk that up with the fact that your body releases hormones that make you feel nauseous when you eat so much. BLAH. Consider also that one big, heavily sugared and fatted meal, increases health risks including painful indigestion, bloating, and gas. And supersized meals raise your risk of heart attack, blood clots, and gallbladder problems.
3 Worst Offenders
So let me introduce to you what I consider to be three of the worst offenders, and how to make healthier choices:
Offender #1: Stuffing, often made with sausage, bacon, turkey drippings (fat), and/or giblets, and butter. And if you use the old packaged sort stuffing, know that it’s designed to STUFF you full of salt, trans fats, and overly processed gunk. One cup size scoop can be 500 calories.
Lightened Up: You can lighten this up considerably by cutting just about all the butter and turkey drippings (use chicken broth instead); make homemade bread cubes, and replace the fatty meats with chopped celery, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic.
Note: If you’re thinking of mashed potatoes as a healthier substitute for stuffing—don’t. These spuds are typically made with lots of butter and cream, and if you serve it with gravy (and who doesn’t) you’re looking at around 600 calories for an average size serving!
Lightened Up: You can make a lighter version by using a combo of potatoes and mashed cauliflower, or mashed turnips (no one will notice), and cut way back on the butter, and use unsweetened almond milk.
Offender #2: Candied Sweet Potatoes with Marshmallows (aka Dessert-for-Dinner) is a classic Thanksgiving dish that contains anywhere from 300 to 450 calories per serving. This dish is loaded with so much brown sugar, butter, and cream—not to mention the marshmallows.
Lightened Up: While you’ll find all sorts of “healthier” versions of sweet potato casseroles online, you don’t need to bother. I think there’s nothing yummier than the roasted up goodness of whole sweet potatoes. These are decadent all on their own with just a small touch of butter and a little drizzle of real maple syrup. Plus, sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and B vitamins.
Offender #3: Pecan Pie (Nuts are good for you right?). Coming in at around 500 calories a slice, not so much. This pie is traditionally made with corn syrup and brown sugar (because one sweetener just isn’t enough), and lots of butter or lard.
Lightened Up: Make this fantastic, healthy, and gluten-free pumpkin pie. Pumpkin is highly nutritious, rich in vitamins and fiber, but low in calories. I have reduced the sugar, added healthy fat, and reduced inflammatory foods—gluten and dairy—by using a gluten-free crust and coconut milk in place of evaporated milk. This is delicious and easy on your digestion.