Beware of Thanksgiving calories

Thanksgiving is known as a time for friends, family, and lots of food.

Julie Shelhamer, a clinical dietician with Warren Memorial Hospital, said that according to the Calorie Control Council, “the average person in America consumes about 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day.”

This includes the dinner, as well as appetizers, drinks and desserts that are eaten throughout the day.

Stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes are the biggest offenders for high calorie foods eaten on this day, she said.

Butter, gravy, whole milk, heavy cream, and sour cream are often used to prepare these dishes, which also adds to their high caloric content.

“However, all of these dishes can be ‘lightened’ to make them healthier,” she said.

One example, she said, is to try plain roasted potatoes. They don’t need butter, brown sugar or milk added to them.

Desserts can be hard to resist at Thanksgiving, but they contain some of the highest calorie counts.

A single slice of pecan pie is about 500 calories, a slice of apple pie is about 400 calories and a slice of pumpkin pie is about 300 calories, she said.

“We also have to be mindful of what we drink and snack on throughout the day,” she said.

A light beer is about 100 calories, but some beers can be as much as 200 calories. A glass of wine is about 125 calories, mixed drinks can be a few hundred calories, and a 12 oz. soda is about 140 calories, she said.

“To cut calories with drinks, a person could forego alcoholic beverages, juice, and soda. Drink water throughout the day or drink a glass of water in between caloric drinks. Or for wine drinkers, make a wine spritzer with half wine and half sparking water,” she added.

There are other ways to reduce the calories but still have a good Thanksgiving meal.

“Portion control is key,” she said.

Survey the buffet table first before deciding on what to eat and follow the Choose My Plate style of eating, which recommends filling half your plate with vegetable and fruits, one quarter protein, one quarter grains, with a dairy on the side.

She also said to take smaller portions of foods with a lot of calories and to “be choosy and choose wisely.”

Choose foods that you love and pass on foods that you just “like.”

“When you are eating the main Thanksgiving meal, eat slowly. It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full,” she said.

To burn off some of these extra calories that are taken in throughout the day, Shelhamer recommends taking a brisk 20 -minute walk. This walk can potentially burn about 200 calories. But don’t stop at just one walk. She suggests walking the following day as well.

“Also, the next day, you can make a healthy wrap for lunch including leftover turkey breast and raw veggies with a side of fruit. For dinner, you can have turkey noodle soup made with chicken broth as your base,” she added.

Food is not the only component of Thanksgiving. Good conversations with family and friends can keep you away from the buffet table.

“Keep in mind that Thanksgiving is not just about the food, but also the quality time spent with your family and friends,” she said.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com