The Nutritional Breakdown of Thanksgiving Dinner

nutrtional breakdown of thanksgiving dinner

Ah, Thanksgiving. That special day when we all get together with the people we love, reflect on everything we have to be thankful for, and usually stuff ourselves silly. The holidays have a way of making the scale’s needle creep upward, don’t they? Let’s take a look at some of Thanksgiving’s usual suspects, and their nutritional breakdown.


What Thanksgiving meal would be complete without turkey? For most folks, this big bird has become an integral part of the Thanksgiving holiday. So, how does turkey stack up in the nutritional department?

If you have an 4 oz. serving (about two slices), you’ll be taking in around 210 calories. But, turkey is also an excellent source of protein, and it’s low in saturated fat. Plus, it’s a great source of selenium, phosphorous, and B vitamins.

Mashed Potatoes

A 1-cup serving of mashed potatoes contains a little over 200 calories, and is rich in vitamins A and B6, and magnesium. But, what do most of us like with our mashed potatoes? That’s right: gravy. Adding half a cup of your average gravy will bump your calorie count up to about 350. We’re not going to talk about the nutrition benefits of gravy, because well, that’s not what gravy is for. However, vegan mushroom gravy is not nearly as sinful as your typical turkey gravy, so opt for that if you can.

Green Beans Casserole

Green beans? They’re healthy as heck. Vitamins C, A, and B6 are all present and accounted for. Ditto for magnesium, iron, and calcium.

Now, wait just a minute. What about the “casserole” part? You know… the butter, fried onion rings, cream of mushroom soup, and cheese. That’s how green bean casserole gets ya. The actual numbers depend on how it’s made, but for half a cup of this Turkey Day staple, assume you’re taking in about 180 calories, give or take.

Cranberry Sauce

Here’s another case where the problem isn’t the star of the show, it’s the supporting cast. Cranberries contain a wealth of vitamin C and fiber, plus they have more antioxidants than just about any other fruit or veggie. Eating a fistful of cranberries is a really healthy thing to do, but who does that?

Cranberry sauce, on the other hand, is a Thanksgiving delight. It’s also full of sugar. That’s why half a cup of the stuff has 190 calories.

Candied Sweet Potatoes

Here we go again. We don’t have to tell you that sweet potatoes are a superfood. Iron, Magnesium, B6, C, D… sweet potatoes have it all. But add some brown sugar, butter, and maybe some marshmallows to top everything off, and you’re looking at around 200 calories.

It All Adds Up

So far, we’re at 1,345 calories, but we haven’t even talked about ham, wine, pumpkin pie, rolls, stuffing, eggnog, nor have we added up the bourbon that goes so well with the eggnog, the glass of wine with dinner, or the inevitable all-day pre-dinner snacking.

Many elements of Thanksgiving dinner are nutrient-rich, but it’s easy to see how one day of feasting can add up to like, three days worth of calories. And, it’s not like we fast for days after. Those leftovers aren’t going to eat themselves.

What to Do?

There’s nothing wrong with taking a day to enjoy the good things in life with friends and family. But if you’re looking for ways to curb the calorie count, try these out.

  • Eat slowly. You’ll fill up faster.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Start with half your normal serving size, and get more if your still hungry.
  • Go for an after-dinner walk, instead of taking a nap.

Above all, enjoy the holiday.

Oh, and if all this talk about Thanksgiving dinner has you eagerly anticipating the flavors of the season, stop by Laughing Planet for one of our Holiday Burritos.  We’ve tweaked the recipes of all of the delicious parts of your typical Thanksgiving favorites and made them as healthy as they can be. Stuffed full of local roasted turkey, mashed potatoes (made without butter or oil), green beans, sauteed onions and celery (in lieu of your usual fattening stuffing) and cranberry relish, and served with a side of our savory vegan mushroom gravy, it’s sure to hit the holiday spot!

[Photo Credit: brooklyn.mamasnetwork]

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