Traditionally, Thanksgiving is the ultimate food fest. It's likely that most people don't even realize how many calories they'll be consuming from appetizers to the actual feast.
One University of Alabama expert says the thing most people won't be able to digest is opting for sensible choices when they sit down for the holiday meal.
“Many of us toss our typical eating plans and healthy-living strategies to enjoy the winter festivities and just expect to gain weight during the holiday season,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., a wellness coordinator and adjunct professor in the UAB Department of Human Studies. "But if you play the holiday season by the numbers, you can have your pie and eat it, too."
Astoundingly, it's estimated that the average adult will consume nearly 3,000 calories, just during the typical Thanksgiving or Christmas meal. This figure doesn't even account for the extra calories consumed during the Thanksgiving pre-game (appetizers) and dessert time! Add those in and you could easily be pushing 4500 calories total for the day! That's double the calories an average man or woman consumes on any other day. Whitt notes that doubling the caloric intake on one given day can be seriously detrimental to your health.
“In order to lose one pound of fat, a person must burn 3,500 calories more than they consume,” Whitt explains. “In order for a 160-pound person to burn off the 3,000 calorie meal, they would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles.”
So what are we to do to avoid the pitfalls of the eating frenzy during the holiday season? Whitt offers the following tips to cut down on the calories and still enjoy your day!
• Remove turkey skin to deduct 50 calories
• Switch from whole milk in mashed potatoes to fat free or skim — or consider using new potatoes instead, which have less sugar
• Enjoy one less piece of bread: cornbread is about 200 calories a piece, and each dinner roll will cost you 80
• Opt for a fresh dessert instead of a baked one: a single slice of pumpkin pie is packed with about 350 calories and Southern pecan pie has more than 500 calories. A fresh fruit sorbet: only about 100 calories
“I can’t stress enough how important portion control plays into the bottom line. If your portions are twice the size they should be, even if you don’t go for seconds, your caloric intake will be exceptionally high,” Whitt says.
• Cranberry sauce is about 110 calories per quarter-cup serving — the size of a medium egg
• Sweet potato casserole can be up to 620 calories per half-cup serving — the size of half a baseball
• Mashed potatoes are about 237 calories per one cup serving — the size of a tennis ball
“You can practice give and take with your favorite holiday foods. If you love sweet potato casserole but aren’t interested in taking in that many calories, try just a spoonful to get a taste of it,” Whitt suggests.
Whitt also points out that it is possible to win the war against too many calories but just using sensible portion-control. Either way you might want to consider some light cardiovascular exercise before and after (park far away from that mall!) the meal to burn off some of that pie or those sweet potatoes. For more information and tips check out the full study.