Thanksgiving…a 4,500-calorie meal?!

0 Posted by - November 26, 2013 - NUTRITION

Oh Thanksgiving.  We are just days away from the Macy’s Day parade, afternoon football, pumpkin pie and the start of the holiday season.  America’s turkey day has become a very different celebration than the original harvest feast it commemorates.  Traditions are bound to change with time.  But how did a celebration marking the colonists having enough food to survive the coming winter lead to the average American consuming 4,500 calories in a single day?

The first American Thanksgiving took place in Plymouth colony in 1621 and was attended by 53 colonists and 90 Wampanoag Indians who feasted on venison, goose, duck and lobster.  There was not a turkey, potato or pumpkin pie in sight.  In subsequent years, the pilgrims celebrated the holiday by fasting, prayers and giving thanks to God.  The first national Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed in 1789 but by the end of the century only some of the states were practicing the holiday and on varying days.  A magazine editor, Sara Hale, took up a letter writing campaign in the 1800’s to make Thanksgiving, complete with turkey and all the fixings we have come to know and love, a national holiday in order to unify the states as Civil War loomed.  Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving Day a national holiday in 1863, over 200 years after the first harvest feast, and amidst Civil War.   Parades, football games and shopping on Black Friday became national traditions in the 20th century.

Today the average American sits down with family and friends to a 3,000-calorie turkey dinner.  According to research from the Calorie Control Counsel, we consume an additional 1,500 calories on alcohol, beverages and snacks before or after the main event.  Thanksgiving meals are known to be a time to indulge and many of the dishes are particularly high in fat.  Up to 45% of the 4,500 calories consumed can come from fat, the equivalent of three sticks of butter.   The reason for the turkey coma may not be the widely blamed tryptophan but instead the equivalent of more than two-and-a-quarter times the average daily calorie intake.  Other sources site the traditional Thanksgiving meal clocking in at 2,000 to 2,500 calories but these are excluding any beverages, alcohol, or snacks.

One day or one meal is not going to ruin your healthy lifestyle. You should enjoy Thanksgiving.  It is a time to give thanks, to be with family and friends and to enjoy a good meal. Remember the holiday is not really about green bean casserole, candied yams or pecan pie.  Enjoy the celebration.  Be thankful.

Interested in a healthier holiday? Check out my 10 tips to a Healthy, Happy & Thankful Thanksgiving at

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