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It's Thanksgiving this week in America. Last year, we talked about the myth that turkey makes you sleepy. I argued that there's nothing special about turkey that would make you tired. But, we pointed out that a super large meal, and excessive alcohol consumption, could make you want to take a nap. But how caloric is the feast? Let's get some answers. This is Healthcare Triage.

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It's Thanksgiving this week in America. Last year we at Healthcare Triage talked about the myth that turkey makes you sleepy. We argued that there's nothing special about turkey that would make you tired. But we pointed out that a super large meal and excessive alcohol consumption could make you want to take a nap. But how caloric is the feast? Let's get some answers. This is Healthcare Triage.



A couple of years ago the Calorie Control Council made news by stating that the average American consumed more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat at Thanksgiving celebrations. For the record, that was 3,000 calories at dinner and another 1,500 in snacks and drinks before and after. But is that accurate? Tara Parker-Pope from the Well blog at the New York Times did the math. Here's what she found.
Six ounces of turkey; four of them dark, two of them white, with skin - 299 calories. Sausage stuffing - 310 calories. Dinner roll and butter - 310 calories. Sweet potato casserole made with butter, brown sugar and topped with marshmallows - 'cause how else are you going to do it - 300 calories. A half cup of mashed potatoes and gravy - 140 calories. Two thirds of a cup of green bean casserole - 110 calories. A nice dollop of cranberry sauce will get you 15 calories. Roasted Brussels sprouts - 'cause you'd better have something green - 83 calories. For dessert, one slice of pumpkin pie - 316 calories. One slice of pecan pie - 503 calories. And of course, whipped cream on both - 100 calories. Add that all up: 2,486 calories for your Thanksgiving meal.
Now she argues that most people wouldn't eat that much. I'm not so sure. I could see people including myself eating a bit more. It's not a big stretch to get to the 3,000 calories that the CCC said Americans eat in a Thanksgiving meal.
Plus, two glasses of wine might get you another 250 calories. A pre-dinner drink could bring that up to 500. Couple crackers with cheese - 210 calories. Quarter cup of mixed nuts - 220 calories. An ounce of chips with dip - 225 calories.
We just added another 1,150 calories. So let's just own that this is a gluttonous day. I haven't even included breakfast, lunch or a late night snack. Or any soda, juice or other caloric beverages, including milk. For the record, if we go conservative and assume that instead of the triple C's 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat, people really only eat 3,500 calories and 178 grams of fat, that's still a lot. That's the same as six and a half Big Macs. Or if you prefer, four and a half Big Macs plus two orders of large fries. And that's just the meal itself.

 The Rest of the Year

But lest you think that this is the only way to consume a crazy amount of calories in one meal, let's remember that this is America. We should also acknowledge the hard work of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. I've been blogging about their extreme eating awards for years, and 2014 was no disappointment. A premier favorite of the awards is the restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory. For instance, they highlighted the Bruleed French Toast, which, along with a side of bacon, is 2,780 calories and 93 grams of saturated fat. Would you sit down and eat 24 slices of frozen French toast with a side of two and a half eight-ounce tubs of cream cheese? 'Cause that would have the same nutritional content. Just one piece of their Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake cheesecake is 1,500 calories. Or head on over to Red Robin, get a Monster A.1. Peppercorn Burger, they always have bottomless fries at 370 calories per serving. Couple it with a Monster Salted Caramel Milkshake and you've hit 3,540 calories and 69 grams of saturated fat. That's if you don't get seconds on fries. One of my favorites, 'cause I think I've actually eaten this, came from the 2011 awards. A porterhouse steak at Morton’s has 1,390 calories, 36 grams of saturated fat, and 1,200 milligrams of sodium. Add in a side of their mashed potatoes and half a side of cream spinach and your dinner is 2,570 calories, 85 grams of saturated fat, and 2,980 milligrams of sodium. That's with no salad, no appetizers, no dessert and no drinks. As the report concludes, that's the calories of eight pieces of original recipe chicken, plus mashed potatoes and gravy, coleslaw and four biscuits at KFC, with an extra one and a half days of saturated fat on the side.


My point is that yes, we're all going to overeat on Thanksgiving. Own it. That might be OK if we weren't doing it all the time. The problem is that there are plenty of ways, on any day of the year, to consume an insane number of calories. Obesity is a complex problem requiring a holistic solution. We need to work on it all 365 days of the year, not just this one. 'Cause this one ain't gonna change. We also wanted to tell you that is having a big Black Friday sale. It's your chance to get all their merch on the cheap. Make sure you pick up a Healthcare Triage mug and poster for everyone in your life.