Thanksgiving Nutrition Tips to Help You Have a Healthy Holiday!
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Avena

What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?

Is it the turkey? The mashed potatoes? The dessert table?

If you had to guess, how many calories do you consume during a Thanksgiving meal?

Calorie Crisis

Per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the general guideline for adults is to consume approximately 2,000 calories a day (but note that specific caloric needs will vary depending on age, gender, weight, and lifestyle).

However, a study by the Calorie Control Council concluded that the average American consumes as much as 3,000 calories on Thanksgiving Day.

As reported by USA Today, that’s equivalent to 7 Burger King Whoppers or 15 Dairy Queen hot fudge sundaes. Since all these calories at once can overwhelm the digestive system and flood the body with unhealthy levels of carbs, fats, and sugar, it’s vital to consider making healthier food choices when enjoying a Thanksgiving Day feast.

Thanksgiving Nutrition Tips

Thanksgiving Nutrition Guide | Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving | BrainMD If you know your daily calorie allowance (if not, check out this handy meal plan from the USDA), you can determine how many calories you should eat, and the types of foods those calories should be coming from, during your Thanksgiving meal.

Here’s a list of some common Thanksgiving meal items, their nutrition profiles, recommended portion sizes, and how many calories they add to your daily total. Keep in mind that this total doesn’t include any other meals/snacks you have throughout the day.

(Note: These nutrition profiles are estimates since recipes and ingredients may vary.)

Turkey Breast (4 oz with skin)

  • 0g Carbs
  • 8g Fat
  • 32g Protein
  • 200 Calories

Turkey – Dark Meat (4 oz with skin)

  • 0g Carbs
  • 13g Fat
  • 32g Protein
  • 250 Calories

Mashed Potatoes (1 cup)

  • 35g Carbs
  • 7g Fat
  • 4g Protein
  • 215 Calories

Gravy (1/2 cup)

  • 6g Carbs
  • 2g Fat
  • 2g Protein
  • 50 Calories

Stuffing (1/2 cup)

  • 22g Carbs
  • 9g Fat
  • 2g Protein
  • 180 Calories

Green Bean Casserole (1/2 cup)

  • 11g Carbs
  • 5g Fat
  • 2g Protein
  • 100 Calories

Corn (1/2 cob)

  • 11g Carbs
  • 1g Fat
  • 1g Protein
  • 60 Calories

Sweet Potatoes (1/2 cup roasted)

  • 24g Carbs
  • 2g Fat
  • 2g Protein
  • 120 Calories

Cranberry Sauce (1/4 cup)

  • 27g Carbs
  • 0g Fat
  • 0g Protein
  • 100 Calories

Corn Bread (3×3 inch square)

  • 28g Carbs
  • 5g Fat
  • 4g Protein
  • 180 Calories

Calorie Totals

  • White Meat Meal – 1,205 calories
  • Dark Meat Meal – 1,255 calories

Beverages and Desserts

Other Thanksgiving meal staples are beverages and desserts. Beer, coffee (especially with added sugar or creamer), egg nog, and soft drinks (which are loaded with sugar), are often high in calories. Even a 6-ounce glass of wine has over 100 calories.

Heading to the dessert table also can be a risky proposition. An average-sized slice of pumpkin pie, even without whipped cream, can exceed 200 calories. Of course, adding a second slice of pie, cookies, candies, or other sugary snacks just keeps increasing your caloric intake.

Since research suggests that most people won’t lose the weight they gain during the holiday period, it’s important to avoid eating too much, and too many of the wrong foods, during the holidays.

Here are some of the best Thanksgiving nutrition tips to help you maintain a healthy diet and keep you from overindulging this holiday…

10 Simple Ways to Keep from Overdoing It This Thanksgiving

  1. Start with Veggies

Most people don’t get enough vegetables in their diet, so take this opportunity to eat the healthier options first. Vegetables are rich in nutrients, high in fiber, and low in calories. By filling up on veggies first, you may find you have less room to gorge on desserts.

  1. Don’t Skip Meals

While it can be tempting to skip meals earlier in the day to save room for the big event, this strategy can seriously backfire. It’s important to have your regular meals because when you get overly hungry, the temptation will be to overeat!

  1. Proper Portions

Get rid of large entrée plates and serve meals on smaller appetizer-size plates (or salad bowls) for better portion control. Try using appetizer-sized cutlery to help you take smaller bites. Also, many stores sell portion-sized plates and storage containers that can help you adjust the portion size of your meals.

Though it’s an optical illusion, the same amount of food looks larger on a small plate than it does on a large plate. Plate size can have a significant impact on meal size – the bigger the plate, the bigger we perceive the meal should be.

  1. Fill Up First

Rich, sweet, and salty foods are hard to resist, especially when you’re hungry. Before attending a family gathering or holiday party where you know unhealthy foods will be served, eat a low carb and high protein meal first. That way, you won’t feel hungry and will be less likely to eat unhealthy foods.

  1. Three-Bite Rule

The first few bites of food might be the most satisfying. If that’s true for you, follow the three-bite rule: take three bites so you can really concentrate on enjoying the food. After the third bite, move on to a different food so that you don’t overindulge on any one food.

  1. Get Moving

Physical exercise is a great way to increase self-control, which is crucial for combating holiday cravings. Exercise helps increase blood flow, which raises the level of oxygen in your body and brain.

Exercise also improves impulse control, helps reduce stress, and improves your mood. Make it a new family tradition to play flag football, go ice skating, or do a 5K together, rather than mindlessly snacking while watching sports or a TV marathon all day.

  1. Limit Alcohol

Alcohol can be a triple whammy: alcoholic drinks are often high in calories, bad for the health of your brain, and can decrease your resistance to temptations. You’ll need all your willpower to resist the cheese dip and delicious desserts, so staying sober is the best policy during the holidays.

A good strategy is to be prepared with a healthy alternative before you’re tempted to drink. If you’re invited to a meal or party where you know alcohol will be served, consider bringing your own non-alcoholic beverage. This will help ensure that you don’t drink, or drink too much, at the gathering.

  1. Chew Slowly

Try to eat slowly and wait at least 20 minutes before you go back for a second helping or dessert. It can take time for your brain to get the message from your digestive system that you’re full. After allowing your food enough time to settle, you may find that you’re satisfied and don’t need to eat anything else.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Here’s one of the most basic Thanksgiving nutrition tips. The human body needs water to function. Your brain also needs water, so avoid anything that can dehydrate it.

Drinking water can help manage your cravings by making you feel sated so you’ll eat less. Remaining well-hydrated prevents fluid retention; your body won’t typically try to retain water if it’s getting enough. It’s a good idea to drink water before you eat – it can take up space in your stomach, is calorie-free, and is good for your health!

  1. Just Say No

Don’t eat to please others. It’s okay to kindly tell a food-pushing friend or relative that you’re full. Just because Aunt Suzie made her famous pumpkin cheesecake doesn’t mean you have to eat a slice.

Indulge Sensibly

Since it’s much easier to avoid holiday weight gain than it is to lose the pounds afterwards, keep a close eye on your caloric intake by using the above Thanksgiving nutrition tips.

Also, implementing these 10 strategies can help prevent setbacks in your diet and ensure that you won’t be tempted to engage in overeating this holiday season.

The BrainMD team wishes you and yours a safe, healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!

At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients to improve your physical health and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of brain healthy supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.


Keith Rowe