We’re not here to burst your Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon, but if you’re concerned about calories on Turkey Day, you might want to take note.

According to the Calorie Control Council, most Americans will consume around 4,500 calories next Thursday — and that’s during dinner alone!

As if that’s not bad enough, most of us are in denial. According to a Basis Science survey, most Turkey Day diners expect to consume just 1,780 calories, and 75 percent of diners estimate their meal will clock in under 2,000 calories.

While ignorance can be bliss, your pants will always know better. And you should, too. From appetizers to dessert, we took a look the calories in a traditional Thanksgiving holiday menu.

Too scared to read on? No need. We won’t ask you give up gravy — or pie.  You can have an enjoyable holiday feast without depriving yourself. Just be mindful of what you’re piling on your plate. You can have a bit of everything, as long as you don’t go overboard. While it’s tempting, you can really run into trouble when you go to get seconds — or thirds.

Still, don’t forget to eat breakfast. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you arrive ravenous to a full spread feast. Eat a small breakfast and lunch and you’ll be better prepared to approach the meal with a bit of caution.

Here’s what else you should know:

Hors D’Oeuvres

If your host is serving hot appetizers, be careful. These calories add up fast. Just one ounce of brie is about 100 calories. Two crackers clock in at 80 calories. A few (3) pigs in a blanket will cost you about 150 calories. Spinach and artichoke dip, with its mayo and cheese base, can have as many as 150 calories per 2 tablespoon serving.

Healthy move: If you’re going to eat hors d’oeuvres, stick to the cold stuff, like grapes, apple slices and almonds. Splurge with one slice of bruschetta for just about 50 calories. Or for something more substantial, choose three jumbo cocktail ship with a teaspoon of cocktail sauce, which will set you back just 60 calories.

The Main Event

It can be tempting to pile your plate sky-high, but reach for reasonable portions first. If it’s not on your plate in the first place, you won’t feel guilty having to eat everything you took.


A 3.5-ounce portion of white meat turkey with skin is (about the size of a deck of cards). This comes in at just 177 calories and 6 grams of fat. The same size ported of dark meat has 206 calories and 10 grams of fat.

Healthy move: Skip the skin and save about 30 calories.


A half cup of stuffing adds about 195 calories to your plate.

Healthy move: If you’re looking to cut back, definitely don’t overdo the stuffing. Or skip the rolls to minimize your carb calories.

Sweet potatoes

Eat the equivalent of 1 medium sweet potato in a casserole and you’ll add 187 calories to your meal plus a ton of sugar — nearly 3 teaspoons.

Healthy move: Skip the casserole and opt of a plain baked sweet potato if possible.

Green bean casserole

Creamy soup and fried onions. This dish is going to top out at around 230 calories per serving.

Healthy move: Steamed green beans are just 20 calories, so this dish is a huge investment. Stick with green beans almandine or greens sautéed with butter and lemon juice for a tasty, healthier alternative.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving Day must. But a cup of them made with whole milk will add 240 calories to your meal.

Healthy move: Use a lower fat milk and less butter if you’re making them. If it’s out of your control, definitely don’t add more butter. Eat pat of butter adds another 35 calories and about 4 grams of fat.


You might spoon gravy over everything, but know that each quarter cup ladle of gravy adds on about 25 calories.

Healthy move: Stick to one or two ladles and consider what you really need it drizzled on.

Cranberry sauce

Because cranberries are naturally tart, most cranberry sauces include a ton of sugar. A quarter cup serving of this sauce will set you back about 100 calories.

Healthy move: Substitute sugar in your recipe with cinnamon, orange juice and cloves to help tame the tartness without overloading on sugar.


A portion of cornbread can add nearly 200 calories to your plate. Add butter, and the calorie count climbs even higher.

Healthy move: Skip it. There are already more delicious carb options on the table — sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cornbread. Choose just two of these.


Drinks can be all over the map with fancy frozen concoctions hitting into the hundreds of calories and vodka seltzers hovering around 90. It’s worth knowing how many calories your favorite drink will cost you.

Aside from that, your host is also likely to have wine — of which a standard 5-ounce glass is about 125 calories, red or white.

Healthy move: Have water or unsweetened ice tea with dinner. There are already so many great flavors on the table, consider if alcohol for dinner is really necessary. If you’re going to drink to celebrate, have a glass, but sip slowly to cut back on the number of drinks overall.

Pumpkin pie

A classic 9-inch pie pumpkin pie, made with Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie recipe, is typically cut into 8 slices. Each slice has just 280 calories. Add two tablespoons of whipped cream for just 15 calories more. As far as dessert goes, 295 calories isn’t terrible.

Healthy move: Have just half of a slice of pie to get a taste. Or skip it all together and go straight to the coffee.

Pecan pie

One slice of pecan pie will set you back a whopping 500 calories. Sure, some of those come from healthy pecans, but overall, it’s a total dietary bomb.

Healthy move: Go for the pumpkin pie instead.

Apple pie

A 1/8 slice can cost about 400 calories and tons of sugar.

Healthy move: Pumpkin pie is still the healthier choice.

Also see, 16 Grocery stores that will be open on Thanksgiving Day.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.