Your Thanksgiving Dinner Is Equal to 7 Burger King Whoppers

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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.

(MORE: License to Eat: Why You Shouldn’t Deprive Yourself This Thanksgiving)

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.”

30 comments
TenaciousJim
TenaciousJim

Yeah but I won't be able to eat anything till Monday so it balances out!

Jeditard
Jeditard

This is insanely absurd. I do not understand how a regular meal of turkey and veggies will amount to 4500 calories. I think at most I will eat 500 calories at my Thanksgiving dinner and that is even a gross overestimation.

shapiro.len
shapiro.len

the hardest thing to swallow on thanksgiving is all the b***sh*T

SlaneyMullen
SlaneyMullen

Shame on you Time ! Comparing the calories of a celebratory meal made from scratch to fast food is trashier than the mentioned fast food


AlexTrabal
AlexTrabal

This article is soooooo stupid. Why would you compare the caloric intake to a Whopper's? It's not the calories that matter, it's the amount of FAT!

jaybee97
jaybee97

The author states "The typical Thanksgiving meal weighs in at about 4,500 calories" - if you follow the link provided, the Calorie Control Council actually says 1500 of those calories are snacks and drinks, and the meal is 3000 calories - I don't see a breakdown of that 3000, but they provide calories for popular holiday dishes - 1400 calories for mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, and cranberry sauce...probably over 500 more for meat (turkey and ham) ... add bread and butter, maybe some more sides, and a dessert or two with whipped topping and the total calorie count can be inflated to 3000...looking forward to it!!!

CodyWebb
CodyWebb

maybe instead of the turkey, you should shove the stuffing up YOUR ass


TomHanson
TomHanson

My first son was born three days before Thanksgiving.  Mom and I were so tired we didn't even drive to anyone's house.  We had Jack in the Box.

LeeRutter
LeeRutter

This story would be interesting if it would list what they consider a typical turkey dinner consists of.  I would love to have them detail out how they came up with their 4,500 calories!!!!!

Soakee
Soakee

I'll echo the comments of several other here.  If you're eating right and exercising on the other 360+ days a year, one meal won't wreck your diet.  If you're not eating right and not exercisng anyway, then you won't care how many calories you take in with the Thanksgiving dinner.

RichardJorgensen
RichardJorgensen

Is anyone else sick of these stupid stories every holiday season.  We drink to much, we eat to much, heck some will smoke to much weed, that is why we call it A PARTY. Now get off our backs nanny staters.

SarahJowett
SarahJowett

Too bad it doesn't tell you what this "4500 calorie" Thanksgiving meal is....

annsrum
annsrum

Even if you eat 4500 calories, it is not going to be a big deal if you only do it one day.  Most people's problem is they eat several days before with holiday parties at work and then the  Meals on Thanksgiving and then they eat leftovers for several days after (and I'm not talking sensible meals either).  That is where you can gain some weight. 

montclairdad
montclairdad

It's one day. For the love of God, just relax food police. 

daoud
daoud

Who really gives a rat's a$$.  No one gets outta here alive anyhow.  Happy Thanksgiving, enjoy it like it's your last. 

mhanf
mhanf

The Cheesecake Factory doesn't have ribs, so I wonder how that was calculated in the caloric intake lol

AlyssaGB
AlyssaGB

I agree with AnthonyBowe. I wish that meal had been broken down into how much turkey, stuffing, pie, etc.

Plus - seriously, a 5k is NOT going to "balance out" a 4,500 calorie meal. A 5k will burn about 250-500 calories (roughly, depending on your size and exertion level.) Seriously.

AnthonyBowe
AnthonyBowe

This is an entertaining piece, but I wish you identified what the "typical" Thanksgiving meal consists of for this study. Without knowing that, this info doesn't mean a whole lot.

Northwestallen
Northwestallen

Great information! Moderation is key! Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

Winchestermom
Winchestermom

But, this holiday is so much fun!!

And it's only one day.

LeeRutter
LeeRutter

@SarahJowett So true!!!! Why don't they list it out? Too bad. This would've made a much better article.

gillis.greg
gillis.greg

@SarahJowett - A breakout of how they came to that amount, and what we people can do to avoid or substitute certain food items would have required an actual reporter.  This is Time we're talking about here.

SarahJowett
SarahJowett

@annsrum I agree.. one meal on one day is not going to do you long term damage. But leftover is probably the problem.  That is one reason we go out: with just two of us, doesn't make any sense to make or buy a big meal.

ValerieWang
ValerieWang

@AlyssaGB These are the sort of comments and articles that reflect the obsession with body image of modern society. Why care so much how many calories your run burns? It should be about better mental and physical health. 

Rando
Rando

@AlyssaGB 250-500 cal if you're a regular runner. 2-3x that if not more

RichardJorgensen
RichardJorgensen

@AnthonyBowe 


Written by desk warming fatasses who are mad most of us will work out and not blow up like the Hindenburg for the holiday