Turkey Toss: The scary caloric truth about what we gobble down
Many Canadians will be sitting down to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast this weekend, but while the fall celebration is meant to be a time for family and giving thanks, it can also be an opportunity for culinary overindulgence. (AP / Matthew Mead)
Published Friday, October 11, 2013 7:07AM EDT
Many Canadians will be sitting down to enjoy a Thanksgiving feast this weekend, but while the fall celebration is meant to be a time for family and giving thanks, it can also be an opportunity for culinary overindulgence.
In fact, if you’re not careful you could actually consume two days’ worth of calories in that one meal.
Registered dietitian and nutritionist Stefanie Senior breaks down the caloric cost of what is offered at a typical Thanksgiving dinner table.
- Roasted Turkey with skin (5 oz.): 360 calories
- Roasted Extra-Lean Ham (3 oz.): 150 calories
- 1/2 cup Thick Homemade Gravy: 100 calories
- 1/4 cup Traditional Cranberry Sauce: 110 calories
- 1 cup of Cooked Carrots: 58 calories
- 2 pieces of Bread with 1 tsp. butter: 300 calories
- Medium Baked potato: 160 calories
- 1 cup Mashed potato: 210 calories
- 1 cup Stuffing: 296 calories
- 1/6 of Pumpkin Pie: 265 calories
- 1/6 of Pecan Pie: 500 calories
- 2 Beers: 300 calories
- 2 glasses of Wine: 250 calories
- Total: 3000 calories
Add a second helping of your favourite dishes, those handfuls of potato chips and extra hor d'oeuvres you snacked on while the dinner’s aromas tempted you, and one could easily add another 1,000 calories. If you’ve ever indulged in the menu above, you have consumed what an average-sized person should have in six meals -- in just one sitting.
But that doesn’t have to be the case. With a few simple swaps and saves, you can have your turkey dinner and pie too.
Skimp, swap or just avoid
There are two majorcaloric culpritson your typical Thanksgiving plate. The first, not surprisingly, is dessert.
Thanksgiving often features multiple dessert options. Pumpkin and pecan pies are regular attendees and now pumpkin cheesecake is becoming a new sweet trend.
“With desserts like those you have refined sugars, flour, butter and creams. This will spike your blood sugar levels,” nutritionist and author of ‘Naturally Sweet and Gluten Free’ Ricki Heller says.
Heller suggests making some simple ingredient swaps like choosing coconut sugar over refined sugar and whole grain flour instead of white flour to help make your dessert calories work for you.
If dessert involves grandma’s family recipe, which would be sacrilege to modify, just stick with one small serving and skip the ice cream and whip cream offerings.
The second-worst item on the Thanksgiving dinner table? Surprisingly, it’s stuffing.
“Stuffing is very high in calories and fat, which is what makes it so delicious,” Senior says, who also runs a weight management private practice in Toronto.
But does this mean we have to skip this must-have turkey dinner accomplice? Nope. Instead of saying no to certain dishes, you can modify your methods to avoid a caloric catastrophe. If you are not the chef in charge, offer to bring a waist-friendly dish. Just make sure not to label it as “healthy” until after everyone has had seconds.
“Try doing something unique with stuffing, like using whole wheat bread, nuts, and lighten up on fatty additions like sausage,” advises Nanci S. Guest, a registered dietitian and owner of nutrition and fitness service Power Play.
Other items on the menu to avoid are the dark turkey meat, the skin of the bird, and drinking alcohol before the meal.
“Alcohol is a dis-inhibiter, so it makes it really easy to make poor food choices while at the table, especially if you’ve had a few drinks before dinner,” Guest says.
Finally, pile up on the healthy stuff. Serve yourself the healthiest dish first and then slowly make your way to the more glutinous items. Often you’ll find there is little room left on your plate.
“Ensure your plate is half vegetables, that will make it a ‘healthier’ day, and choose non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots,” Senior advises.
Meal moderation failure? Take it outside
If your attempts to curb your Thanksgiving intake fail, there is still hope. It’s time to convert some of those calories into usable energy before they turn to stored fat.
“Get-togethers don’t have to be around food. Instead, go for a nice hike with the whole family when you arrive at the relatives’ house. That way you earn your dinner,” Guest says.
If you know your family won’t be leaving the couch, then take it upon yourself to hit the gym or do something active the morning before the big feast.
Lastly, if you do overindulge and go all out on Thanksgiving, don’t repeat the same menu for days after the feast.
“Don’t continue the party the day after it’s over. A lot of people eat the same leftovers for days to come and that’s why they gain weight,” Senior says. “One day of overindulging isn’t going to throw off a healthy eating plan at all, but it’s when people keep going that they get in trouble.”