How Many Calories Will We Really Eat On Thanksgiving Day?

The diet always starts the day after Thanksgiving, right? Because we know that every year, we’re going to stuff a large amount of fowl, potatoes, pies, dressing, rollscakesgreenbeancasserolewhippedcream etc. into our stomachs until it feels like the universe will explode into a huge, gravy-covered mess. Part of our collective overeating shame could be tied to the oft-cited statistic that the average person will eat more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. But is that really how much we’ll ingest?

The New York Times wanted to get to the bottom of that astronomically high number which is inked back to the Calorie Control Council, the people who represent diet food companies) to make sure we’re not feeling guilty and claiming to start diets we’ll most likely never start.

One way to debunk a theory is to put it to the test, so writer Tara Parker-Hope jumped right in by cooking up a Turkey Day feast. Here’s what she made:

• A six-ounce serving of turkey with the crispy skin on, including 4 ounces of dark meat and 2 ounces of white for a total of 299 calories.
• Sausage stuffing at 310 calories — go big or go home, right?
• Dinner roll with butter for 310 calories
• Two kinds of potatoes are always in order during the holidays: Big serving of mashed sweet-potato casserole made with butter, brown sugar and topped with marshmallows for 300 calories per serving, and a half-cup of mashed potatoes for  140 calories of starchy goodness.
• Green bean casserole at 110 calories for 2/3 cup, cranberry sauce at 15 calories and roasted brussels sprouts (veggies!) for 83 calories.
• Then there’s pie that has to get shoved in there — pumpkin pie at 316 calories per slice, pecan pie for 503 calories and lots of whipped cream on all of that at 100 calories.

Grand total: 2,486 calories.

No one could look at that list, eat everything on it and complain of having room left over. Even if you add in breakfast and some booze and sure, you could get close to 4,500 calories, but it’s probably not as normal of an occurrence as we think.

Our stomachs can usually only fit about 8 cups of food on average, and after ingesting 1,500 calories our bodies emit a hormone that causes nausea. Which means, “STOP EATING, self! You’ve had enough already.”

Go on and test it yourself this Thursday. But don’t feel too horrible if you’re not ready to start that diet on Friday. You’re probably not doing as much damage, calorically speaking, as you thought you were.

What is the average number of calories a person consumes at Thanksgiving dinner? [New York Times]