A Nutritional Warning to Feast Responsibly
Updated: Sep 21
It's that time of the year. The cold wind has blown in and the trees are vibrant shades of yellow-orange and red. Thanksgiving is upon us and everyone is ready to feast. Well, everyone except for me. I'm not a huge fan of the meal but we will move on anyways. The underlying feasting mentality of Thanksgiving is not ideal and I will offer one piece of knowledge to keep in mind as we dive into this meal: Summer bodies are made in the winter.
Before the Feast
For many homes, Thanksgiving is a feast accompanied by good people and good food. Your Thursday may begin with drinks and snacks leading up to the main dinner event. Alcoholic beverages are not exactly healthy and the more 'healthy' ones don’t feel very connected to the spirit of fall. A drink of eggnog is 460 calories and having a Bloody Mary won't help keep your sodium levels low. Common pre-feast snacks are along the lines of charcuterie which, again, means more salt. Not exactly ideal for your blood pressure or kidneys. Now on to the feast!
The Main Meal
The centerpiece of the meal is the 'big bird', also commonly known as the turkey. Just for reference, a whole turkey can weight 8-16 pounds. Thankfully, turkey is pretty lean meat but it still comes in at a whopping 7197 calories in its entirety. However, there is a silver lining. In an ideal serving of 3.2 ounces, there are 29g of protein and 7g of fat at 189 calories. Even I will admit that those statistics are pretty hard to beat. That’s relatively healthy. Just make sure to watch the seasoning during the roasting.
The potato makes an appearance at the dinner table in many different forms depending on where you live and where you grew up. However, be warned of the sweet potato. Its 19 grams of sugar and 270 calories may make you regret not choosing a regular baked potato that only has 2 grams of sugar and 100 calories.
Cranberry sauce follows this same sugary narrative with 11 grams of sugar in just 2 tablespoons. To put it into perspective, a can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. Proceed with caution with this sauce, or don’t, but just know that it doesn’t count as a serving of fruit.
With roasted vegetables, you are typically going to get 35% of your daily intake of sodium. If you have gravy, you'll get an additional 3%. No big deal, right? Yes, but only if you skip the stuffing. Indulging in the stuffing means another 58% of your sodium. At this point, you have taken down 96% of your sodium in one sitting. If there is bread and mac and cheese, you can expect the carbs to sore! Who’s counting though?
The Finale: Dessert
This part of the meal alone is enough to tip the scales on any meal but we are American and maxing out a binge is what we do. Remember that 96% of sodium? At this point, you should only have one ounce of pie if you haven't had any other source of sodium yet. Indulging in a whole slice of pie is an additional 13%, which means you'll be over the recommended daily amount. I don’t think I need to go in-depth into the statistics of cookies and other sweets but just know that they are primarily carbs and sugar. At this point, you've probably started to battle the onset of heavy eyes and slowing thoughts. To fix your dozing, coffee or tea is a great choice. However, please try not to add sweeteners. We have covered, your sugar and sodium levels are probably already off the charts.
Let's face it. When it comes to a Thanksgiving feast, there is no way to have everything and not throttle your body into a food coma. Your only hope is if you don’t love the meal. This is a uniquely American eating event where people are enticed into a mantra of 'go big or go home.' With that being said, it's not all bad. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to share a meal with your loved ones and a time to reflect on what you're thankful for. With a little restraint, you can change this colossal collapse of health into a regular cheat meal. Please feast responsibly.