The Cranberry Sauce Dilemma: How Many Calories Are in My Thanksgiving Dishes?


The Cranberry Sauce Dilemma: How Many Calories Are in My Thanksgiving Dishes?

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, bringing with it the promise of meticulous cooking and ample food for the dinner table.

Though swimmers are often characterized as enthusiastic eaters, they pose little competition to the average American this coming holiday. According to an ABC News article from 2016, the average American consumes 3,000 calories in a Thanksgiving dinner, and up to 4,500 calories when including drinks and desserts.

To compare, here are the daily average caloric intakes for:

  • The Average American (Business Insider, 2013): 3,600 calories
  • Katie Ledecky (Spoon University/ESPN, 2016): 3,100-3,500 calories
  • Michael Phelps (USA Today, 2017): 8,000-10,000 calories
  • Ryan Murphy (GQ Magazine, 2017): 4,000-5,000 calories

While Michael Phelps might have eaten the equivalent of two Thanksgiving meals a day in the prime of his training, these numbers indicate that the average American eats as much for Thanksgiving dinner as Olympic champion backstroker Ryan Murphy eats in a day.

For most swimmers, eating this much, even in one sitting, won’t constitute too drastic an issue. Based on data by Harvard Medical School, swimming for 30 minutes burns 180 calories for a 125-pound person, 223 calories for a 155-pound person, and 266 calories for a 185-pound person. 

By this logic, a Thanksgiving meal can be completely burned off with 12.5 hours of general swimming or less. Most club and college swimmers will surpass this timeframe in less than a week of training. The rate of calories burned also goes up with added intensity in practices, quickening the process described in this data.

This considered, the majority of swimmers don’t need to monitor their caloric intake too closely this Thanksgiving. But for those trying to watch their weight or simply keep track of their calories, here is a collection of popular Thanksgiving dishes and their respective calories and nutritional values.

Disclaimer: These dishes can be made in various ways, with different ingredients and portion sizes. Not all recipes include nutrition facts, but checking the internet or household cookbook for a specific recipe’s calorie counts is a good place to start when looking for a more accurate estimate.

Dark Meat Turkey (no skin)

Turkey Breast (no skin)

Mashed Potatoes

  • Serving size: ½ cup
  • 136 calories
  • 8.57 grams fat
  • 2.14 grams protein
  • 1.4 grams fiber
  • 2.14 grams sugar
  • Source: 

Pillsbury Biscuits

Creamed Corn

Baked Mac and Cheese


Green Bean Casserole

Cranberry Sauce

Deviled Eggs