Revealed: How many calories do we consume for Thanksgiving dinner?

Thanksgiving Calories

Let’s face it, we Americans love any opportunity to eat good food and celebrate a special occasion, and for some, Thanksgiving dinner is the highlight of the year. Sumptuous turkey, delicious pecan pie, and a nice cold beer are the perfect food and drink to enjoy when sitting down with the family and celebrating what we’re most grateful for.

So, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, we thought it might be interesting to find out which of our favorite Thanksgiving treats are guaranteed to fill us up the most.

Finding America’s favorite Thanksgiving foods

Before we could even begin finding out how many calories were in all our beloved Thanksgiving foods, we first had to find all the foods that people across our nation love to eat at this time of year.

Using a combination of the database Statista, Walmart, and numerous food-based news articles, our team’s mouths were watering by the time we’d finalized our list of America’s 26 must-have Thanksgiving foods.

Naturally, all the classic foods were up there, including turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn, as well as more acquired tastes like crab cakes and sauerkraut, along with a host of other options. With our food list in hand, we then used the app MyFitnessPal to work out the number of calories, on average, per serving of each food.

Using all this data, we were able to work out the average calories that each American consumes for Thanksgiving dinner.

Tasty food makes for generous numbers

Combining all of our research together, we can now reveal that the average American consumes a somewhat staggering 6,300 calories with their Thanksgiving dinner: that’s including starters, mains, desserts, and drinks!

To put that another way, that’s almost three times the average recommended calorie intake for a woman per day, and over double what is recommended per day for men!

But is it any surprise we eat that much when there’s such good food on offer? Take the humble pecan pie as an example. One serving of this divine treat is the equivalent of 470 calories, which is probably why it tastes so good.

Other notable foods for high calories include sweet potato pie at 440 calories, pumpkin pie at 350, and apple pie at 340. It should come as no surprise that our research revealed that the most calorific foods were all desserts. In fact, if you personally have a sweet tooth for all the Thanksgiving foods, you could consume 2,000 calories alone by indulging in the good stuff.

Of course, dessert wasn’t the only guilty party. Most Americans also love an ice-cold beer with dinner, or maybe three. If you are a three-beer person, you’ll be adding another 420 calories in refreshing drinks alone.

The items making up the top 10 were revealed as*:

  1. Pecan Pie (470 calories)
  2. Sweet Potato Pie (440 calories)
  3. Beer (420 calories based on consuming around three)
  4. Pumpkin Pie (350 calories)
  5. Apple Pie (340 calories)
  6. Wild Rice Casserole (302 calories)
  7. Mac n Cheese (250 calories)
  8. Mashed Potatoes (230 calories)
  9. Turkey (210 calories)
  10. Scalloped potatoes (210 calories)

*Average calories for one serving

Reducing our Thanksgiving calorie count

If you’re feeling a bit guilty about how much you might be eating this Thanksgiving, don’t be. There are plenty of ways we can offset how much we eat, whether that’s through a bit of exercise, or substituting calorific foods for equally tasty alternatives.

As part of our research, we looked at studies done by Harvard University to find out the average number of calories we burn when doing just 30 minutes of light exercise. Going for a run or bike ride will help burn an average of 288 calories while thirty minutes of soccer will burn 252. Jogging and swimming are also good options, burning 216 on average apiece.

Now, we’re not suggesting you go and exercise straight after Thanksgiving dinner. That’s a recipe for disaster. By all means, sit back and relax on Thanksgiving Day, but maybe put in some extra exercise effort in the days after while eating a little less.

And speaking of eating, if you’re interested in some healthy alternatives to classic Thanksgiving foods that still taste great, we’ve listed our favorite suggestions below:

  • Substitute roast potatoes for more vegetables
  • Swap normal potato mash for sweet potato mash
  • Choose a non-alcoholic beverage such as 0% beer
  • Consider making sugar free desserts
  • Where possible, use oil substitutes such as low-calorie cooking sprays

Of course, you’re still allowed to be indulgent on Thanksgiving – after all, it only comes around once per year. And is eating that much once a year really such a bad thing?

For more recipe inspiration and food trends, such as America’s favorite foods by state, head on over to our blog.

Happy holidays!

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