Find out how your Thanksgiving dinner stacks up against burgers, burritos and more. We did the math.
Even if you’re trying to watch what you eat, nutritionists say that during the holidays, you shouldn’t deprive yourself too much, or your good intentions to keep our weight in check may backfire. But holiday meals are admittedly decadent, so we consulted some experts about how much the average American really eats on Thanksgiving.
The typical Thanksgiving meal weighs in at about 4,500 calories, which is more than twice the recommended amount of daily calories for adult men and women. To put it into perspective, one Thanksgiving dinner is about the equivalent of seven Burger King Whoppers.
“Thanksgiving is a holiday and it’s meant to be enjoyed, so enjoy it. But there’s a difference between tasting everything that you want and gorging yourself. Yes, it’s fine to eat more than you would at a typical meal, but it’s much better to stay in the 800-1000 calorie range than the 4500 calorie range, which is as much as most women would need for two and half days,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietitian and author of the upcoming cookbook, Eating in Color.
Here is a rundown of how that meal compares to other high calorie favorites, thanks to Largeman-Roth and some of our own calorie counting:
- 9 large boxes of fries at McDonald’s
- 5 XXL Grilled Stuft Beef Burritos Taco Bell
- 7 Whoppers from Burger King
- 4 carnitas burritos from Chipotle
- 2 medium pepperoni pizzas from Pizza Hut
- 37 chicken drumsticks from KFC
- 4 medium cookie dough blizzards from Dairy Queen
- 16 snack boxes of popcorn shrimp from Long John Silvers
- 11 Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers from Wendy’s
- 10 classic Beef n’ Cheddar sandwiches from Arby’s
- 48 traditional chicken wings with Honey BBQ sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings
- One order of Fried Macaroni & Cheese, one order of Beer Battered Fish and Chips, and one order of Beef Ribs at The Cheesecake Factory
- An order of Stuffed Mushrooms, Italian Sausage Flatbread, Fettuccine Alfredo, and Chicken Cacciatore at Macaroni Grill
That’s a lot of food, so remember to balance all that eating with some exercise. Largeman-Roth recommends starting before Thanksgiving and continuing after the holiday. You can even get in a run on the morning before cooking starts by signing up for a local 5K Turkey Trot. Not only does it balance out what you’re about to eat, working out can reduce the stress from planning the big meal (if you’re hosting) or dealing with ornery family members (for everyone else).
And remember, the average meal contains about 4,500 calories. Your holiday dinner doesn’t have to. “Eat only what you love,” says Largeman-Roth. “Some people feel as though they need to take a little bit of everything to be polite. But why waste your calories on a green bean casserole when it’s not not something you really enjoy? I’d rather save a few calories to go back for more stuffing or enjoy some ice cream with my pecan pie.”