Friday, September 18, 2020
Sept. 18, 2020

Linkedin Pinterest

Just how many calories are in that Thanksgiving meal?

Thoughtful use of the serving spoon can leave you with heartwarming memories, not heart-harming excess

By , Columbian Health Reporter
3 Photos
Homemade turkey Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green beans.
Homemade turkey Thanksgiving dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green beans. Photo Gallery

This Thursday, many Americans will stuff themselves as much as the holiday bird on the menu.

Thanksgiving dinner is full of comfort food: roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie with a dollop of whipped topping.

But how many calories are in those holiday favorites, and which dishes are the best — as far as your waistline is concerned — for second helpings?

A typical Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, bread stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and a roll can top 1,400 calories. Throw in the slice of pumpkin pie with frozen whipped topping, and you’re up to more than 1,800 calories.

But the meal isn’t all about the calories.

That dinner and dessert comes with 75 grams (300 calories) of added sugar, 18 grams (162 calories) of saturated fat and nearly 3,500 milligrams of sodium, according to figures available in the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Tracker.

That one big plate of food contains as many calories as health officials recommend an adult eat in an entire day — and more sugar and sodium.

The average American adult should consume somewhere between 1,800 and 2,400 calories each day, depending on gender and activity level, according to U.S. dietary guidelines. Adults should also consume less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium and limit saturated fat and added sugar consumption to less than 10 percent of the day’s calories.

So when it comes to second helpings, it might be wise to skip the stuffing in favor of more turkey or another scoop of green bean casserole.

A 1-cup serving of bread stuffing is loaded with 404 calories and nearly 1,100 milligrams of sodium. Grabbing four medium slices of light and dark turkey meat, however, has half the calories and sodium. A 1/2 -cup scoop of green bean casserole has only 72 calories.

If it’s sweets you’re craving, consider this: A second slice of pie — this time, apple pie — is an additional 363 calories and 111 calories of added sugar. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re piling on another 137 calories and 44 calories of added sugar.

And don’t forget about those holiday drinks.

A cup (8 ounces) of sparkling cider has 114 calories, while a 5-ounce glass of wine has 125 calories. If you break out the nonalcoholic eggnog, you’re looking at 224 calories and 59 calories of saturated fat in an 8-ounce glass. The alcoholic variety has nearly 400 calories and 114 calories of added sugar.

In the end, whether you watch your calories or pile your plate high, whether you make it a daylong eating affair or stick to one plate at dinner, enjoy the time with loved ones and have a happy Thanksgiving.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546;;