Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends, football, and feasting. The average American will consume a hefty 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving – for dinner alone. Desserts, drinks, and appetizers can bring the total calorie count to 4,500 according to the Calorie Control Council. The most delicious Thanksgiving dishes – mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing, and pecan pie – are loaded with sugar or fat or both. The Calorie Control Council estimates that 1 cup of mashed potatoes contains 238 calories and 8 grams of fat. A cup of bean casserole comes in at 143 calories and 8 grams of fat, and a slice of pecan pie adds a whopping 503 calories and 21 grams of fat.


  • 6 oz. of turkey, with skin: 299 calories
  • sausage stuffing: 310 calories
  • dinner roll and butter: 310 calories
  • sweet potato casserole: 300 calories
  • mashed potatoes and gravy: 238 calories
  • green-bean casserole: 143 calories
  • cranberry sauce: 15 calories
  • brussels sprouts: 83 calories
  • pumpkin pie: 316 calories
  • pecan pie: 503 calories
  • whipped cream: 100 calories

…just to name a few!

Thanksgiving can throw your diet for a loop, but it is the spirt of Thanksgiving that matters more than the food. Enjoy yourself and don’t feel guilty about the food but be aware of indulging after the holiday. For those who refuse to give up their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, there are ways to make them more heart healthy. Eliminating sausage from stuffing cuts down on calories for example. Better stuffing fillers include apples, squash, and mushrooms. Replacing the butter in mashed potatoes with turkey stock and Greek yogurt provides flavor without clogging arteries. And forgoing baked brie appetizers and cheese platters with fresh seafood, such as shrimp cocktail, allows for more calories later.

Eating an additional 3,500 calories will lead to a weight gain of 1 pound. Government guidelines on estimated calorie intake vary based on age, gender and physical activity level, but for a woman 26 to 50 years of age who engages in moderate physical activity, the recommended daily calorie count is 2,000. For men who engage in moderate exercise and are 26-45 , the recommended daily caloric intake is 2,600. That number drops to 2,400 for men 46 to 65.

During Thanksgiving, try to focus on favorites and to eat mindfully. Mindful eating is the opposite of what we traditionally think of on Thanksgiving. Consciously choosing what you want to eat, eating it slowly, savoring each bite. It’s not about eating as much as you can. Mindful eating teaches you it’s perfectly fine to have your favorite slice of pie if you make room for it. Eating mindfully can also take the pressure off losing the extra pounds. According to a Cornell University study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, half the weight gained around the holidays can stick around until the summer months or beyond. The average American’s weight rose 0.2 percent during the Thanksgiving holiday, the researchers found. In the 10 days after Christmas, Americans on average weighed 0.4 percent more than they did the 10 days before Christmas.

Eating mindfully matters, but so does moving. Take a walk after dinner or even exercise before the turkey is sliced at the table. Exercising pre and post Thanksgiving should become a yearly holiday ritual. To burn 1,000 calories, a 185 pound person would need to jog for 90 minutes at 12mph nonstop for nearly 7.5 miles. If you are a walker, prepare to hit the pavement for over 3.5 hours at 3mph to burn the same number of calories. Exercising prior will help jump-start metabolism and, more importantly, provides a tangible way for a person to declare himself or herself committed to their health and wellness. People tend to significantly overestimate the amount of calories they have burned, so if you choose to framework your Thanksgiving exercise as a means to feast and overindulge, you will likely not have a healthy outcome. However, when you choose to frame the same pre-Thanksgiving exercise not as a tool to rationalize overindulging but rather as an investment in your own joy and wellness, the outcome is usually one of empowerment rather than regret.