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The Thanksgiving table is set with the traditional fare—roast turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls, and pumpkin pie.

It’s a feast meant to be enjoyed. But if you’re tempted to overindulge, beware: an average Thanksgiving meal contains upwards of 2,000 calories.

Before you spoon up that second serving of Grandma’s green bean casserole, consider what it’s going to take to work off the meal.

“No one wants to be the food grinch,” said Lee Murphy, a lecturer in UT’s Department of Nutrition. “All foods can fit into a healthy diet, even our most beloved rich, indulgent holiday dishes. But we want to practice moderation, as too much of a good thing can be trouble. Before you’re stuffed, push back from the table and enjoy some other traditional holiday fun, like a pickup game of touch football or a family stroll around the block. Whatever you do, find something where you enjoy being active.”

As incentive to stay in line, here’s an example of the amount of exercise the average 150-pound person needs to do to burn off Thanksgiving meal calories:

  • Six ounces of roast turkey, 230 calories—45 minutes of power yoga
  • One cup of dressing, 356 calories—30 minutes of swimming
  • One and a half cups of sweet potato casserole, 530 calories—an hour-long conditioning class
  • One and a half cups of mashed potatoes, 384 calories—44 minutes of jogging
  • One cup of green bean casserole, 200 calories—an hour of Pilates
  • Half cup of cranberry sauce, 171 calories—47 minutes of walking
  • Two rolls, 155 calories—24 minutes of cycling
  • One-eighth of a pumpkin pie, 316 calories—45 minutes on the elliptical machine

Thanksgiving tradition usually includes watching football, so here’s another weighty thought to ponder: the average 150-pound person would burn only about 95.2 calories an hour sitting on the couch watching football. In other words, it would take about twenty-five hours of football watching to burn the total 2,342 calories consumed in a typical Thanksgiving meal.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,