Day 18 – Dodging Some Thanksgiving Calories

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  It’s all about the food and family. Okay, and for some there is a third F – football.  Not so much in my family, but to each his own.

The only downside is all the extra calories that can land on your plate without you even realizing it.  In fact, never mind about the plate. The feeding frenzy starts in mid-morning in the kitchen, snacking as the main meal is being prepared.  Guests start arriving; snacking ratchets up a notch as you socialize.  You realize you skipped lunch, with all that meal prep keeping you busy, so you go for some more of the spinach-artichoke dip and more tortilla chips to hold you over until the magic happens in the formal dining room.

Word has circulated over the years that you can actually consume more than 4,000 calories in a typical Thanksgiving Day feast, although a closer look in 2012 shows it may be closer to 2,500. (1)  That closer look, however, only looked at the plate(s).  It did not count the pre-meal hors d’oeuvres, the kitchen snacking, or the beverages.  A couple of beers or glasses of wine, maybe a soda or two, an early-morning Starbucks run, . . . yeah, it’s looking like 4,000 may be possible over the course of the day.

The rule of thumb for calorie burn for runners is about 100 calories per mile, if you’re around 150 pounds.  So, you could just decide to run those calories off on Friday.  Bad news.  You would have to run 40 miles, give or take.  I’m guessing that is not really going to happen.

Let me suggest an easier way!  Knowledge is power, and the more you know, the better chance you have of navigating the holidays without gaining an ounce.  This is the list from the article I cited:

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: 140 calories
green-bean casserole: 110 calories
cranberry sauce: 15 calories
brussels sprouts: 83 calories
pumpkin pie: 316 calories
pecan pie: 503 calories
whipped cream: 100 calories

total: 2,486 calories

And, my add-ons.  These can vary widely, so my numbers are fairly conservative. Notice that I did not even try to guess at the kitchen munching that went on.

2 beers or 2 glasses of wine:   250
1 regular soda, not diet:   150
spinach-artichoke dip and tortilla chips:  400
Starbucks latte:   190

Where’s the most bang for your buck?  Decide in advance what substitutions you would be willing to make.  Plain coffee in the morning, maybe with one sugar, rather than the latte?  You just saved yourself nearly 2 miles of running.  Replace a soda with water and you can save a mile and a half.  Skip the turkey skin, and enjoy 6 ounces of breast meat, there’s another mile.  Could you bake your sweet potatoes and sprinkle cinnamon on top rather than making Grandma’s ooey-gooey sweet potato casserole with brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows? Bingo, 2 more miles removed from that hypothetical Friday run!

I used to always enjoy a little sliver of both types of pie, before I learned about my gluten issues.  The trick for me was to ask for just a sliver.  Not an entire slice, but maybe a third of a slice.  Boom! There went 400 calories, or 4 miles of restitution.  I also love the spinach-artichoke dip – but it is also great with fresh raw veggies instead of tortilla chips.  And, I’ll share a much healthier version of the dip in another post this week!

Point is, you can absolutely enjoy a day of feasting and family without feeling more stuffed than the bird.  Plan ahead, make a few small tweaks, then relax and have a wonderful time with your family and friends.


(1)  Is a Thanksgiving Dinner Really 4,500 Calories? |


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