Nutrition Articles

Make the Perfect Amount of Food This Thanksgiving

A Handy Calculator for Planning the Big Meal

So, you're hosting Thanksgiving this year. You know you're going to buy a turkey, and you've probably started searching for casserole recipes. But how much of everything should you make to ensure you don't run out of food on the big day? We're taking the guesswork out of planning your feast with this handy calculator! We've listed estimated portion sizes per person, so simply multiply each serving size by the number of guests you're hosting to get just the right amount of food. (Don't forget to "Pin" this graphic for easy reference!)

Some additional tips for a perfectly-portioned Thanksgiving feast:

The amount of appetizers you buy or make depends on how long your guests will be hanging around. If you're hosting an early dinner, they won't need as many nibbles. Plan on 6-8 appetizers per guest per hour up until the big meal. Veggies and dip, cheese and crackers or fruit are good choices to whet the appetite without leaving guests feeling stuffed before the turkey is even done.

One pound of (uncooked) turkey per person might seem like a lot, but this amount evens out since some people will be big eaters, while others will eat less. This also ensures that you'll have some leftovers for next-day soup and sandwiches!

Side Dishes
When deciding how many sides to make, assume that most people will eat 4-5 different sides per trip to the buffet table. For individual items like baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, plan to have one per guest, with the exception of rolls (1.5 per guest). People tend to eat more than one roll!

Most standard 9'' pies will serve 6-8 people, so make sure to provide at least two pies if you're having 12 people for dinner. Or, you could serve up a variety and send the leftovers home with people (or keep them for yourself!).

In terms of alcoholic beverages, a good rule of thumb is to get one bottle of wine for every five drinkers in attendance, or 1-2 drinks per person per hour. However, the amount of alcohol you'll need may vary depending on how long your celebration is--and how much your guests like to drink--so plan accordingly.

With a little calculating, you'll be guaranteed to have enough food to feed all your guests for your big feast. Happy cooking, and Happy Thanksgiving! 

Additional research by Stepfanie Romine

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Member Comments

  • Our family happens to LIKE leftovers. These portions are fairly carb heavy; I'd up the veggies & cut some of the stuffing/rice/pas

    But a drink or two an hour? I hope that party doesn't last long or there are designated drivers. Yikes.
  • I always freeze some of my things so later on the next week I can pull it out.
    1 lb of turkey per person . . . having 4 people and an 18 lb turkey!!!! Hmmm, glad turkey freezes . . . great article. I always have way to many leftovers. This will help me keep a handle on the day!

About The Author

Melinda Hershey Melinda Hershey
Melinda has a bachelorís degree in health promotion and education and is an ACE-Certified Personal Trainer. Before working as an editor for SparkPeople, she developed and taught health programs for several non-profit organizations. She enjoys writing, interval training, yoga, and cooking with friends.

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