how much we eat Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The whole family travels from all over the country to our house in Larkspur, California. There are adult children, their children, cousins, cousin-in-laws, parents, parents-in-laws, and friends and friends’ friends. It is a big gathering for the Michaeli-Salber clan. It is also, hands down, the biggest eating day of the year.

Let’s take a quick inventory of the typical (when you are really honest) adult Thanksgiving plate:

  • Turkey leg with the skin on (most likely basted with butter)
  • Stuffing (about 1 cup)
  • Cranberry sauce – 1/2 cup
  • Green beans (with butter and almonds) about 2/3 cup
  • Yams (plus or minus miniature marshmallows) (yam lovers eat about ½ cup)
  • Mashed potatoes (yam haters eat about a cup, so do yam lovers)
  • Gravy (1/2 cup)
  • Salad (almost an afterthought, but it gets eaten, too) 2 cups
  • Pumpkin pie and one other type of pie (usually apple for us) 2 “small” slices
  • Vanilla ice cream (makes the pumpkin pie taste better) 1 scoop (minimum)

All of this is washed down with white wine, then red wine, then a little bit more red wine.


The caloric damage of Thanksgiving dinner

Not to be a spoilsport, but what’s the caloric damage? I calculated these using Natow and Heslin’s comprehensive book, “The Most Complete Food Counter, Second Edition” and’s “Thanksgiving Calorie Calculator“:

Are you ready? Here we go:

Turkey leg with skin (1.2 pounds) = 1,133 calories (can you believe that???)

Stuffing, bread as prep with water and fat (1 cup) = 302 calories

Cranberry sauce (1/2 cup) = 209 calories

Green beans with almonds 2/3 cup + 1 pat butter = 96 calories

Yams (no marshmallows) ½ cup + 1 pat butter = 208 calories

Mashed potatoes + 2 pats butter) = 294 calories

Gravy (1/2 cup) = 150 calories

Salad with low calories dressing = 70 calories

1 slice pumpkin pie = 180 calories

1 slice apple pie = 410 calories

1 scoop (1/2 cup) vanilla ice cream = 145 calories

3 glasses of wine = 360 calories

GRAND TOTAL =3,557 calories


Oops, I forgot the appetizers

Now, if you are like us, you didn’t starve yourself all day and then sit down to eat dinner with an empty tummy. You most likely ate breakfast. You snacked while you were getting the dinner ready. And then, you ate some appetizers when the guests first arrived. Here is what we usually have:

  • Jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce
  • Brie and crackers
  • Spinach dip and fresh French bread
  • Chips and salsa
  • Olives
  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Soda
  • Etc, etc. etc. (I feel like I am forgetting something…)


Any credit for the morning hike?

No problem, you say. We are going to go for a hike Thanksgiving morning…that is what we usually do. Well, to work off the 3,500 plus calories from the dinner alone, you would have to walk (are you ready for this?) 35 miles to burn it off. That’s right 35 miles!

So, what I am suggesting is you might want to show just a little restraint tomorrow. Use some portion control, please.

If you cut everything on the dinner plate in half and you cut back on the vino, you can get this meal down to a more reasonable number (~1,800 calories). Now, drink sparkling water during the cocktail hour instead of beer and munch on some celery (sans dip). That should fill you up and make cutting back on the Thanksgiving goodies easier.

If you are really, really careful and keep your total intake for the day (counting breakfast, lunch, meal prep snack, appetizers, and the dinner itself) to below 3,000, it should only take you a week or two of vigorous exercise combined with healthy eating to get back in energy balance again.

Happy Thanksgiving