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The Caloric Price Tag of The Thanksgiving Meal

November 24, 2013 0 Comments

downloadToday’s post is not meant to dampen your holiday spirits. I enjoy Thanksgiving as much as anyone (as an adult it has become more my favorite holiday) and I do not intend to allow one day of enjoyable, perhaps gluttoness eating ruin my holiday spirit or waistline. It’s more to just shed some light and awareness about not only the caloric consumption of the Thanksgiving meal (just the meal itself, not the day) and what it would take to burn those calories off. In my experience, most have no idea about how many calories they consume in a day let alone what it would really take to burn them off. In turn, rather than enjoying the holiday, they have fears of enjoying the day when in reality they don’t eat well or exercise consistently enough throughout the other 364 days that the point is moot.

Chow Time

According to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume between 3,000 and 4,500 calories during the Thanksgiving meal alone. That’s considerably more than the estimated 1,600 to 2,400 that women need and 2,000 to 3,000 that men need in an entire day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. So how does a Thanksgiving Dinner stack up?

  • 1 cup Mashed Potatoes, 237 cal
  • 1 cup Green Bean Casserole, 230 cal
  • 1 cup Candied Yams, 203 cal
  • 1 cup Canned Cranberry Sauce, 418 cal
  • 1 cup Stuffing, 350 cal
  • 1 cup Turkey Gravy, 100 cal
  • 1 Biscuit, 128 cal
  • 1 Dinner Roll, 84 cal
  • 1 pat Butter, 36 cal
  • 3oz Turkey Breast with Skin, 134 cal
  • 3oz Turkey Breast without Skin, 88 cal
  • 3oz Turkey Dark Meat with Skin, 136 cal
  • 3oz Turkey Dark Mean without Skin, 106 cal
  • 1 slice Pumpkin Pie, 323 cal
  • 1 slice Apple Pie, 411 cal
  • 1 slice Pecan Pie, 456 cal
  • 1 cup Whipped Cream, 154 cal
  • 1 cup Vanilla Ice Cream, 289 cal

Time To Go To Work

So how much work would it really take to burn off that holiday feast? Let’s use an example of a 150-pound person and what it would take to burn off 3,000 calories. Keep in mind that personal calorie burn will vary with intensity, body composition, age, gender, and weight. Here are 12 examples:

  • Brisk walk (greater than 3.5 mph) of 13 hours
  • 9 hours of casual downhill skiing
  • 15 hours of nonstop dancing
  • Running with a respectable 6 mph pace (10-minute mile) for 4 hours
  • 6.5 hours on the elliptical
  • 8.5 hours of an intermediate Pilates class
  • 3 hours and 40 minutes of a competitive squash match
  • 6 hours of lap swimming
  • 15 hours of weight training
  • Moderate cycling indoors or outdoors for about 5.5 hours
  • 5.5 hours of snow shoeing
  • 17 hours of hatha yoga

Yes, Thanksgiving is a once-a-year celebration but the average person gains about one to three pounds during the holiday season — and doesn’t lose it over the course of the rest of the year. There are a couple of things you can do to combat the holiday-season bulge such as keeping portion sizes in check and opting for healthier  substitutions. The other option of course is to keep up with a regular exercise routine, not just a pre and/or post turkey burn workout.

Have a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving with your families!

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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