Dr. Kevin Most: The Annual “Doc Most Ruins Our Thanksgiving Meal” Segment

Dr. Kevin Most

Thanksgiving Week, the week we all look so forward to, unless you are a turkey, in the US we eat 46 million turkeys at Thanksgiving. Family, Friends, Football Games, Parades, time off work and the “Doctor Most Ruins Thanksgiving Meal segment” are traditions we all love. Don’t we just love traditions?? Now I don’t see it as ruining Thanksgiving Dinner, I see it as a chance to make sure we are all aware of the impact one meal can make on us, and hopefully get you to think a little bit about the meal as you eat. Does ½ cup of stuffing taste as good as 1 cup of stuffing ? I can tell you this is my favorite meal and holiday of the year, it is a day to share Thanks, to be with friends and families and not be focused on gifts. I love the tradition of Thanksgiving meals, football games and family, and be honest how many of you want just a little wind in NY for the parade with the balloons?.

So let’s take the next few minutes and look at it as an education time, a chance to learn some fun facts about a holiday tradition we all enjoy, and maybe it will impact the amount we eat. I also look at it as if we all eat the right amount we will have leftovers for those great sandwiches the next day. $6 million Turkeys eaten on Thanksgiving, average weight is 16 pounds that comes to 750 million pounds of turkey consumed that day, this is the same weight of the Empire State building.

The average individual needs somewhere between 1,800 to 2,500 calories a day, depending on your gender and your activity level. Most women are closer to 2,000 while most men approach the 2,500 calorie number. In the ideal world the calories are separated into 3 meals with the larger meal being at lunch. This calorie intake allows us to maintain our weight and stay healthy. As we discussed recently, with the winter upon us and the time change pushing us into the dark more than light, we are exercising less, sleep more and thus need fewer calories. However in the winter we often eat heavier meals which have more calories, we eat less vegetables, due to availability and cost and thus we are setting ourselves up for weight gain. The goal thru the winter should be to maintain weight.

The world is starting to take this a bit more seriously. Restaurant menus now often post calories for each dish. It allows you to weigh the benefits versus the consequences as you choose your meals. Maggiano’s took a different strategy. If you remember the old Maggiano’s they served huge bowls of pasta which no human could ever or should ever eat. Everyone had leftovers, which were boxed up for you to take home. The new strategy is to give you a normal serving of pasta and then let you choose another one to take home for free. They were smart and showed that they saved money with this strategy as the time to box the leftovers took server time and slowed the turnover of tables. They ended up giving the same amount of pasta and now patrons leave with “an extra meal” not leftovers. This company also allows for the choice of a meal being prepared on the “lighter” side, it may be less butter, or less cheese, but it makes a big difference in the caloric intake. The staff is also not spending time boxing left overs so the they can serve more patrons. This change was for a business reason but it actually also helps the health of their customers.

So let’s take a look at Thanksgiving Meal, spoiler alert, you will not like what I have to say. I noted above that most of us can live on close to 2,000 calories, would you believe that Thanksgiving Meal alone can range from 3,000- 6,000 calories, including 229 grams of fat, depending on seconds and alcohol consumption. So the big message is moderation and preparation. If you eat an appropriate size of a meal you will get a calorie count that is close to where you want to be. If we prepare foods with less butter, cheese or sausage we see a dramatic drop in calories without giving up much flavor.

So let’s go thru the list and start with appetizers

Spinach dip 2 tablespoons – 115 calories
Pigs in a blanket- 70 calories each
Meatballs- 90 calories each
Stuffed mushrooms 50 calories each
Vegetables- it all comes down to the dip

If you have a little bit of each of these to be polite, you are approaching 500 calories and that is without a drink. Add 150 for a beer or 130 for the glass of wine and you are near 650 before dinner starts.

On to the main course

Turkey with gravy- 8 oz. slice 440 calories. Ben Franklin wanted the Turkey to be the national bird, not the bald eagle.
Stuffing- 1 cup 400 calories ( 18 grams of fat and 500 mg of sodium) think about dropping the sausage
Green bean casserole made with cream based soup- 1 cup 350 calories. Campbell’s soup sells $20 million dollars of cream of mushroom soup
Mashed potatoes with butter and gravy- 1 cup 443 calories
Sweet potatoes with marshmallows and brown sugar- 610 calories
Cranberries sauce ½ cup 200 calories
Biscuit with butter 200 calories

Any seconds? You are close to 3,000 calories for the dinner portion

Still hungry? Of course you can’t pass on dessert

Pumpkin pie 300 calories, add the whipped cream throw on another 50 calories. Estimates are that 50 million pumpkin pies are eaten Thanksgiving day
Pecan Pie- 500 calories
Apple Pie 425 calories and 150 for the ice cream scoop

The meal alone is close to 3,000 calories, add the 650 for the appetizers, 450 for a slices of the pie, have 2 drinks and you are approaching 4500 calories for the Thanksgiving experience. That is twice the calories you need for the day and that is assuming no breakfast or other snacking before the big meal.

So what can we do to still enjoy the meal, enjoy the company, don’t offend anyone by skipping whatever they made? The biggest is portion control and preparation. Sharing with the family that you used low sodium chicken broth and no butter in the stuffing will be appreciated. Taking the skin off of your piece of turkey knocks down the calories and the fat intake. Sweet potatoes are a great vegetable until we throw them in brown sugar and marshmallows. They are loaded with Vit A and C, calcium and iron they are great, figure a new way to prepare them with less fattening ingredients, there are recipes everywhere.

Dessert – absolutely no change, it is the one time a year that dessert should be enjoyed as a family, those calories come off when finished and sitting around laughing hard with families and friends.

So the intent was not to ruin your meal but was meant to be aware of the calories for moderation portion control and preparation.

Happy Thanksgiving to all

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