How Well Do You Know Your Thanksgiving Portions?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Thanksgiving is coming, and let's be real: You're probably going to eat more than you normally would, and you may or may not track it. Different people take different approaches to the Thanksgiving meal. Some take a little of everything, while others just pick a few favorites to indulge in. But which is the best strategy when you're watching your weight? Here's a scenario comparing two different Thanksgiving plates.

Uncle Bob loves Thanksgiving food and wants to taste it all at least once, so he takes some of everything: Turkey, gravy, stuffing, two types of potatoes, and, of course, green bean casserole. He even saves room for a little bit of Grandma Mildred's famous pumpkin pie for dessert. Here's what Bob's plate looks like:

6 ounces turkey (white meat, with skin)
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup green bean casserole
1 cup sweet potato casserole
1/2 cup turkey gravy
1 dinner roll
2 pats butter
1/2 cup stuffing
1/4 cup cranberry sauce
½ a slice pumpkin pie

Grandpa George, on the other hand, is a no-frills kind of guy and likes to stick with the basics. Since he's watching his weight, he skips the butter and gravy. He even passes up on dessert! Here's what George's plate looks like:

6 ounces turkey (dark meat, with skin)
1.5 cups mashed potatoes
2 dinner rolls
1 cup stuffing
1 cup cranberry sauce
1 cup green bean casserole
Between Bob and George, who consumed the least amount of calories during the Thanksgiving feast? (No cheating by checking your Food Tracker—Make your best guess!)
The Winner: Uncle Bob!
Although Bob piled a lot more different foods on his plate (and even indulged in butter, gravy, and pie), his plate clocks in with fewer calories than George's. Let's check out the calorie breakdown between the two:

Bob George
6 ounces turkey (white meat, with skin): 214 calories, 6 g fat 6 ounces turkey (dark meat, with skin): 310 calories, 12 g fat
1 cup mashed potatoes: 162 calories, 1 g fat 1.5 cups mashed potatoes: 243 calories, 1.5 g fat
1/2 cup green bean casserole: 148 calories, 8 g fat 1 cup green bean casserole: 296 calories, 16 g fat
1 dinner roll: 84 calories, 2 g fat 2 dinner rolls: 168 calories, 4 g fat
1/2 cup stuffing: 178 calories, 9 g fat 1 cup stuffing: 356 calories, 18 g fat
1/4 cup cranberry sauce: 110 calories, 0 g fat 1 cup cranberry sauce: 440 calories, 0 g fat
1 cup sweet potato casserole: 235 calories, 11 g fat  
½ a slice pumpkin pie: 140 calories, 6 g fat  
2 pats butter: 72 calories, 8 g fat  
1/2 cup turkey gravy: 61 calories, 3 g fat  
=1,404 calories, 54 g fat =1,813 calories, 51.5 g fat

Notice the difference? For one thing, George chose dark meat for his main course, which tends to be higher in calories and fat than the white meat of the turkey. But more importantly, many of George's portion sizes were double the size of Bob's! So even though George skipped out on some of the fattening extras, he still didn't do himself any favors by overcompensating for what he left off his plate. He had a good strategy to just stick to a few favorites—he just failed to eyeball the correct portion sizes. Check out the cranberry sauce alone: A proper serving size is ¼ cup. George took four times that amount, and those calories added up fast from all the sugar (84 grams in a cup!).

Of course, both gentlemen could have done a better job making healthier choices. But the reality is that a typical Thanksgiving meal adds up to over a thousand calories for many people. The bottom line is that, as long as you practice proper portion control, you can still enjoy your favorites, whether you try everything on the table or just a few special dishes.

Want to slim down your plate? Review the portion guide below before the big day. Note that these are standard-sized portions, so if you want to take Bob's strategy and try a little bit of everything, you might want to cut these portions in half so the calories don't add up as quickly. If you're like George and only pick a few favorites, stick with these portion sizes—and try to resist going back for seconds!

Don't forget to Pin and Share this guide to save for later! Want to put your knowledge to the test? Take this holiday calories quiz and see how you fare! For more healthy holiday eating tips, check out SparkPeople's Healthy Holiday Survival Guide.

Do you suffer from portion distortion? What's your strategy for eating during the holidays?

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REDROBIN47 11/28/2019
According to this, I did pretty well with Thanksgiving dinner today. I just had a couple of bites of everything, even the pie. And I ate a light breakfast to save up on some calories. Report
FISHGUT3 11/28/2019
thanks Report
HOLLYM48 11/28/2019
Great Article! Report
ROBBIEY 11/27/2019
Nice Report
WOW...thanks... Report
TERMITEMOM 11/27/2019
Good article. I will remember! Report
MSROZZIE 11/27/2019
Thanks for this timely portion guide! Report
CECTARR 11/27/2019
Thanks Report
BIKERCHICK14 11/27/2019
Of course it's a whole day's food - it's the only meal my family eats that day, except for when the children were babies & very young. Report
BIKERCHICK14 11/27/2019
Of course it's a whole day's food - it's the only meal my family eats that day, except for when the children were babies & very young. Report
PICKIE98 11/27/2019
Eye-opener! Report
RCLYKE 11/27/2019
Thanks Report
AZMOMXTWO 11/27/2019
thank you Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/27/2019
ty Report
CECELW 11/27/2019
it is mind blowing when you think about what we have eaten in one days time. My real big weakness is chocolate candy and pumpkin pie Report
ALICIA363 11/27/2019
We're planning a meal at a restaurant - although it may still be too much, it will certainly be less than I'd eat at a family home! Report
NANASUEH 11/27/2019
thanks Report
MARITIMER3 11/27/2019
I live in Canada, so our Thanksgiving is in October. When I read what Bob and George would eat, I was almost sick... that's a whole day's worth of food, guys!

My Thanksgiving (and Christmas) meals are simpler... turkey, stuffing, steamed green beans, carrots, cranberries, dessert. Personally, I skip the potatoes and gravy, no roll or bread. I make my own cranberry sauce, so can control the amount of sugar. Dessert is usually something simple... pumpkin or apple pie, but 1/10 of a pie is plenty. Report
I will be enjoying a piece (or two) of pie at Thanksgiving. One thing I do is skip eating the crust or leave most of the crust on the plate. The crust tends to have a good amount of the calories because of the butter/sugar. I just eat the filling. That seems like a waste of food, but would folks rather have that waste end up on their waist ? Report
LEANJEAN6 11/27/2019
very timely blog Report
FERRETLOVER1 11/27/2019
Thank you. Report
DONNALEE-53 11/27/2019
Thank you Report
LIS193 11/27/2019
Thanks Report
RAPUNZEL53 11/27/2019
Thanks Report
CD24848958 11/27/2019
Thank you Report
JIACOLO 11/26/2019
I need to be more focused on my portions Report
RAYTOMLINSON1 11/26/2019
How about comparing apples to apples: For instance replace the dark meat with white meat and Bob is not in such good shape after all. Also both meals are almost as much as a whole day's food intake. Also you doubled most of the high calorie servings. This comparison is way out of line. This is the way statisticians skew actual results in opinion polls. Report
SPINECCO 11/26/2019
Thanks! Report
SHE_WALKS_DAILY 11/26/2019
Thanks Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks for the size comparisons Report
Thanks for the size comparisons Report
Great reminder! Easy to lose direction with all the food choices. Report
Very helpful article with Thanksgiving coming up Report
UGH, I don't understand WHY anyone would serve Green Bean Casserole at Thanksgiving; it is HORRID -- like the "mystery meals" one used to get at nursing homes and other institutions. I like festive, "harvest" vegetable dishes at holidays. And why would anyone need to eat stuffing AND baked potatoes? Report
Very helpful & useful can be used for eating out as well thank you Report
Love the visual of holiday food. Report
Great article. This goes on my refrigerator. Report
Excellent article Report
I have to try a little bit of everything. I take a tablespoon of this and a tablespoon of that. Pretty soon plate is full of all the goodies. After we eat and the table is cleared, dishes done we go for walk. Come back have hot coffee and desert. It's a great day !! Report
Thanks.... Report
This article was surely "food for thought"! Personally I prefer dark meat and by the time I put the gravy on the white meat there is only a 35 calorie saved. This is the only time of year that I have turkey and cranberry sauce and I want to enjoy it without guilt. So I will choose wisely. Report
Great article. Thanks I'm pinning it and posting to Twitter. Report
I am making thanksgiving dinner this year. I am cooking all the old favorites but with s healthier twist. I have been making these dishes all year so my family knows what they are and some have been successful, some not so much. We will have good, more healthy options mixed in with the old family favorites. It’s a win-win for everybody. Report
great article Report
Great. Report
interesting Report
interesting Report
I always need a "taste" so I end up with two bites of everything and no real serving except for the turkey. Report
great comparison Report