How many calories are in the average Thanksgiving plate?

You should be able to eat whatever you want on Thanksgiving, right? I think so (as long as you have a consistent, healthy eating regiment normally). In the case you were interested in learning about the caloric truth of your favorite eating holiday and finding a modest approach, you probably want to scan the breakdown of the traditional plate below (from the recent Consumer Reports article "How Many Calories Are in Your Thanksgiving Dinner?").

According to the Calorie Control Council, many Americans eat around 4,500 calories at the Thanksgiving feast. But the meal we created contains less than half that, yet still provides plenty of food.


This 3-½ oz portion of white meat with skin (about the size of a deck of cards) delivers just 177 calories, 6 g of fat and 30 g of protein. The same amount of dark meat with skin has 206 calories, 10 g of fat and 27 g of protein. To lighten the calorie load, skip the crispy skin and save roughly 30 calories per serving.

“The skin is also very high in saturated fat, which can raise your blood cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Consumer Reports’ dietitian Maxine Siegel, R.D.

Moody Wisdom: As great as it tastes, you may want to ditch the dark meat and skin and save the calories for a glass of wine instead (if you're focused on weight loss during this time).


We spooned out ½ cup of stuffing (the size of an ice cream scoop), adding about 195 calories to the plate.

But in addition to that rather hefty calorie count, the stuffing contains 480 mg of sodium. Making a healthier stuffing requires just a few tweaks. Most of that sodium comes from broth, so you can reduce it by using a low-sodium version.

And to lighten the calorie count, add chopped veggies like carrots and celery. That way you’ll be eating less stuffing and more lower-cal vegetables in the same ½-cup portion.

Moody Wisdom: The stuffing is my favorite...I'd hate to remove this from my plate. If you can control the way it's made, the small modifications like removing the butter can go a long way.

Sweet Potatoes

Four ounces (equivalent to 1 medium sweet potato) of home-made candied sweet potatoes adds 187 calories. These nutritional powerhouses are brimming with antioxidants that help fight inflammation and may protect against some types of cancers.

The problem is that candied sweet potatoes are also high in sugars. True, sweet potatoes naturally contain some sugars, but just about 7 grams. This serving of candied sweet potatoes has 20 grams of sugars, meaning that 13 g, or about 3 teaspoons, of sugars are added.

To get the sweet potato goodness without the added sugars (and calories) opt for a plain baked sweet potato (103 calories), or roasted sweet potato chunks (about 120 calories per cup).

Moody Wisdom: If you love pie and other treats, maybe you should save your sweet tooth for dessert.

Green Bean Casserole

This classic dish containing green beans, cream of mushroom soup, and crispy fried onions comes in at 227 calories for a 1/2-cup serving, (we used the recipe on the Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup label.)

That’s a big calorie investment, especially considering that half a cup of plain green beans has only 20 calories.

As a lighter alternative, consider serving green beans almondine—steamed string beans sauteed in a small amount of butter, tossed with slivered almonds and lemon juice.

Moody Wisdom: Green beans almondine is my alternative to the casserole but not a worthy substitute for most people. Keep this serving in check.

Mashed Potatoes

One cup of mashed potatoes made with whole milk, butter, and salt adds 237 calories to the tally. For a lighter version, try using lower-fat milk, or replacing some of the butter and milk with low-sodium chicken broth.

Moody Wisdom: Once again, the amount of dairy in this side dish will determine how long you will be working out with your personal trainer on Friday.


A ¼-cup ladle of gravy pulls the whole meal together at an economical 25 calories. But store-bought gravy, like the one we used, is high in sodium (about 300 mg per serving), so don’t go overboard. If you make your own using the turkey drippings, separating out the fat and using little salt will yield an even lower-cal gravy that’s also lower in sodium.

Moody Wisdom: What if you remove the gravy and spread your mashed potatoes on top of the turkey instead? Just a thought, just a thought....I'm trying here...

Cranberry Sauce

This quintessential Thanksgiving side dish packs 102 calories per 1/4-cup serving. Since the berries are tart, most recipes—like the one from the Ocean Spray Cranberry package we used—call for a lot of sugar. An easy fix: Use less sugar in your recipe, and consider adding some cinnamon, cloves, and orange rind to help enhance the sweetness of the sauce.

Moody Wisdom: Accept that this side dish is a sugar bomb. It is the "quintessential" dessert for dinner. Choose how you want to spread your sugar intake.


This 3-inch by 3-inch square and adds about 198 calories to our plate. Siegel’s advice: “If there’s butter on the table, skip it. A pat of butter adds another 35 calories and about 4 g of fat. Thanksgiving dinner tends to be high in both fat and calories, and this is an easy place to avoid adding more.” Or you could consider choosing among the starchy foods—stuffing, mashed potatoes, cornbread (or rolls). Have one or two, but not all three.

Moody Wisdom: Enjoy your cornbread-I do! Skip the butter though.

Wine Whether you choose red or white, a 5 fl oz glass has about 125 calories. And the calories aren’t the only reason to stick to one glass. Studies show that alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so you may not make the best dietary choices or you may eat more.

Meal total = 1,473 calories

Moody Wisdom: Without a doubt, I'm willing to sacrifice some of the Thanksgiving dinner calories for an extra glass of wine. What are you willing to exchange? Although the plate described above is only 1,473 calories, it still exceeds the normal recommendation of 300-500 calories. It doesn't even include the average 300-1000 calories during the appetizer hour or the 200-1000 calories for after-dinner drinks and desserts. Don't beat yourself up and enjoy this day with family and friends. Just be conscious of its caloric costs and return to a healthy routine the next day.

Picture Credit:
How different will your Thanksgiving plate look?

More to Read:
When losing weight or toning up, never estimate the effects of stress on your body (even when you're eating perfectly). Find out how stress may be undermining your weight loss and fitness goals: "Why Stress Makes You Want to Eat Everything in Sight (or Nothing at All)" Review


Article Credit:

Author: Michael Moody Fitness with excerpt sourced from the article " How Many Calories Are in Your Thanksgiving Dinner? " on
How many calories are in the average Thanksgiving plate?
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Transform your life with Michael's self-help book Redefine Yourself here!