The Illustrated Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner Like You've Never Seen It Before

The average Thanksgiving dinner is between 3,000 and 4,500 calories. How many sandwiches would you have to eat to total that much? What about granola bars? The answer might surprise you!
The Illustrated Guide to Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Day is not a time to be counting calories—enjoy yourself! But while nomming on a rich meal once a year isn’t exactly a healthy diet deal-breaker, it’s smart to keep an eye on what you’re consuming so you don’t go too crazy with that fifth slice of pie.

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average American chows down on 4,500 calories worth of turkey, stuffing, and cornbread at Thanksgiving dinnerThe American Council On Exercise and The New York Times aim a little lower, saying the number is really around 3,000 calories. Either way, all sources estimate that we eat more in one sitting on Thanksgiving than we’re normally advised to eat in an entire day!

If that data is tough to visualize, here’s a breakdown of what 3,000 calories looks like in a few non-holiday foods. 

The Illustrated Guide to the Amount of Calories in an Average Thanksgiving Meal
Graphic by Kim Steinhilber

The moral of this story? It’s possible to cut down a teeny, tiny bit on Thanksgiving  (without feeling deprived) and save the amount of calories in four or five Taco Bell tacos. Think about it!

Turkey Day Tips

In years past, we've created a slew of guides and recipe roundups to help you enjoy a healthier holiday. Here are some of our favorites:

1. This Is What One Serving of Thanksgiving Foods Really Looks Like

What's 4 ounces, 78 grams, or a ¼ cup exactly? This handy guide compares classic Thanksgiving dishes to common household objects to help you enjoy your holiday meal—minus the elastic-waisted pants.

2. How to Enjoy Thanksgiving On Any Diet

This guide includes instructions for how to handle traditional Thanksgiving dishes for gluten-free, vegetarian/vegan, and no-nut folks—we know those are hardly the only diets out there, but everyone can modify these guidelines to suit their own particular eating habits.

3. 34 Healthier Thanksgiving Recipes

Find all the recipes you could possibly need to prepare a successful dinner for any sized family.

4. 33 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes Made With Real Food

Our favorite vegetarian main dishes that are far from boring, tasteless, or the dreaded (and oft-joked about) Tofurkey.

5. How to Cook the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

We’ve pulled together the best tips and hacks on how to craft the most beautiful, tastiest Thanksgiving turkey, from fridge to table.

6. 44 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes So Good You Won't Miss the Turkey

Vegans—who choose to eschew all animal products and byproducts for environmental, health, and/or ethical reasons—are particularly hard-pressed to find viable fair amidst traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Luckily this recipe roundup is here to help.

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