Here is the claim:

Traditional Thanksgiving Meals Top 4,500 Calories On Average

A recent study reported that the average Thanksgiving meal will consist of about 4,500 calories.

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner in America can consist of a Turkey, Ham, Mashed Potatoes, Yams, Stuffing, Green Beans, Cranberry Sauce, Gravy, Pumpkin Pie, Rolls, and all kinds of other goodness. Some families will eat the traditional pumpkin pie, while others may also indulge in some pecan pie or sweet potato pie. Whatever your favorite, you may be sure to gorge yourself tomorrow.

Is the claim, about the number of calories, true?

  • Is the quote talking about a meal for one person, or for a whole family?
    – ThatOneGuy
    Nov 29, 2014 at 11:09
  • This will depend heavily on portion sizes. Anecdotally, though, I would say most adult males consume easily that much on Thanksgiving, and more if you include pre-game snacks, beers and cocktails.
    – Jonah
    Sep 6, 2015 at 0:29

1 Answer 1


If you break it down by the numbers, it seems to be closer to the 3K than 4,5K, but the variation can be huge depending on what drinks and snacks there are.

According to research from the Calorie Control Council, the average American may consume more than 4,500 calories and a whopping 229 grams of fat during a typical holiday gathering from snacking and eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and all the trimmings.

Here's the detail:

The average holiday dinner alone can carry a load of 3,000 calories. And many nibble through another 1,500 calories, downing appetizers and drinks before and after the big meal. Combined, that's the equivalent of more than 2 1/4 times the average daily calorie intake and almost 3 1/2 times the fat -- with 45 percent of calories from fat. The average person may consume enough fat at a holiday meal to equal three sticks of butter.

This is the original source.

If the question is about the number of calories in a typical Thanksgiving meal, we can try to calculate the calories for each individual food using the USDA values.

What constitutes a traditional Thanksgiving meal?

Turkey seller Butterball, itself a holiday institution for many families for years, recently conducted an online regional holiday survey to collect data about Thanksgiving preferences. It found the top five side dishes Americans must have on their Thanksgiving table are mashed potatoes (95 percent), cranberry sauce (81 percent), candied sweet potatoes (63 percent), green bean casserole (59 percent) and gravy (41 percent).

Their approximate values according to the USDA:

  • Turkey: 189 c / 100 gr
  • Mashed potatoes: 88 c / 100 gr
  • Yams (no sugar): 118 c / 100 gr
  • Cranberry Sauce: 150 c / 100 gr
  • Pumpkin Pie: 243 c / 100 gr

If someone has 300 gr of Turkey, that alone is almost 600 calories (without the filling or gravy), add a couple of pumpkin pies, you are already over the thousand. With rolls, alcohol and snack you might get to the 4500, or not. There is a lot of variation.

In both cases, the single meal is over the daily recommended ingestion, which is around 2000-2500 calories a day.

  • 'Your calculations' might be off-topic because of the site's "no original research" policy. But if you can find a published (preferably peer-reviewed) study that says anything (whether 3000 or 4500) about the calories in one "average American Thanksgiving" meal, that would be an on-topic answer.
    – ChrisW
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:08
  • @ChrisW Closest to peer reviewed I found was this article. It's peer reviewed by Monsanto. By my calculations I meant the USDA calorie count for the foods, which I added. Also added a source for "the typical TG meal".
    – Yisela
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:23
  • That foodnutritionscience.com/articles/… looks good to me. Maybe you could replace your calculations by referencing and quoting theirs. Also, your fist sentence, IMO it would be better if you removed "Yes. If you break it down by the numbers," so that it reads, "... Control Council, it seems to be etc."
    – ChrisW
    Dec 2, 2014 at 20:27

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