Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself: How to Deal with the 3,000 Calorie Holiday Meal

According to research from the Calorie Control Council, a typical holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories (chart). Nibbling through another 1,500 calories, downing appetizers and drinks before and after the big meal would bring the total to more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat.

From an overall perspective, snacking and eating a traditional holiday dinner with turkey and all the trimmings is the equivalent of more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat — with 45 percent of calories from fat — with enough fat to equal three sticks of butter.

Many of us will figure that we’ve blown our diet and the holidays are to be enjoyed, so why worry about weight? But even if you start the holiday season off with gastronomical excess, you can quickly get back on the right track by watching your calories.

First, identify where the calories are coming from. Visit the Council’s list of the most common holiday foods or its calorie calculator. Secondly, make over your meal for health. You can enjoy many of the same dishes while still reducing calories by using lower calorie ingredients. (Some popular makeover recipes are here.) Reducing the amount of fat and calories in your snacking and main holiday meals can help prevent weight gain over the holidays (from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day).

Also, try these “Low-Fat Holiday” tips from the American Heart Association:

  • Eat lower-fat and reduced-calorie foods for days in advance of the holiday feast, and for days after.
  • Prepare for handling your worst temptations; if you want both pecan and pumpkin pie, take a tiny slice of each, instead of a full serving.
  • If cooking, provide low-fat foods, or ask if you can bring a low-fat dish.
  • After the meal, start a tradition — a holiday walk, for instance.

Remember, you can lighten your holiday feasting and still have a jolly good time!

faq2Do you have questions about low-calorie sweeteners? Want to learn more about maintaining a healthy lifestyle? You asked and we listened. Our resident Registered Dietitians answered the most popular questions about low-calorie sweeteners.