Thanksgiving calories: Stuff your turkey, not yourself {Infographic}

By | November 19, 2012 | Health & Wellness

Thanksgiving calories: Stuff your turkey, not yourself {Infographic}

Here in Arizona, many students have the entire week of Thanksgiving off. With school starting at the beginning of August and a hectic fall, I looked forward to having this down time at home with my kiddos. You know what I mean, right? – A couple of pajama days, watching Christmas movies, putting up Christmas decorations, baking, folding 50 piles of laundry. Since we weren’t traveling or hosting any visitors, I thought it might even be fun to head up to Sedona for some hiking rather than staying home to cook a big meal.

My eight-year-old adamantly told me that we had to be home for Thanksgiving so we could cook a turkey with all the traditional side dishes. He also added, “We’re supposed to make all that food and then overeat.”

As I think back to past Thanksgivings, I guess he’s right. That’s what we see in movies and that’s what people (okay, we) have done in the past.

The experts at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have higher hopes for us. They’ve prepared the following infographic about Thanksgiving serving sizes to help us learn how to choose healthier food portions.

“Overeating can lead to unhealthy weight gain that, in the long-run, may make it harder for your body to fight off diseases like cancer,” said Mary Ellen Herndon, MPH, RD, wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.

If most men need about 2,000 calories a day and most women need about 1,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, our Thanksgiving meal should only make up about one-third of our daily calories. Were you planning to skip breakfast and lunch? Maybe you should. Maybe I  should.

And even though you’ll most likely have some leftovers the next day, Ms. Herndon recommends that you “return to eating balanced, healthy meals.” At least until we have Christmas dinner.

Infographic source: MD Anderson Cancer Center

Men: 700 calories per meal  ♦  Women: 500 calories per meal


Serving size ½ cup – about the size of a rounded handful
Calories: varies


Serving size 1 cup – about the size of a baseball
Calories: about 100-150, depending on the dressing


Serving size: 3 ounces
Calories: about 132 (white meat)


Serving size: ¼ cup
Calories: about 30-50

Potatoes (sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes)

Serving size: ½ cup – about the size of a tennis ball cut in half
Calories: about 145


Serving size: ½ cup – about the size of a standard ice cream cup
Calories: about 180 calories


Serving size: 1 medium muffin or square – about the size of a personal bar of soap
Calories: about 175 without butter

Butter or margarine

Serving size: 1 teaspoon – about the size of one die
Calories: about 36

Cranberry sauce

Serving size: ¼ cup – about the size of a golfball
Calories: about 105


Serving size: 1/8 of 9” pie – about the size of a standard light bulb
Calories: about 323 for pumpkin, 456 for pecan

Make fruits, vegetables and whole grains the biggest part of your meal.

See also: The eco-friendly guide to a healthy Thanksgiving meal {Infographic}

Spread the word!
  • 115
  • 115

Charmin Calamaris

Charmin is a wife, mom of two boys and creator of the Momiverse. The Momiverse is an online magazine for busy moms (is there any other kind?) dedicated to helping moms make time – and take time – for themselves. She traded in her career in land use planning and environmental policy to become Chief Executive Navigator of the Momiverse. You can connect with Charmin in her "online office" on Twitter or Facebook.

tell us what you think