While the fresh turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and other traditional Thanksgiving trimmings are a delicious annual indulgence, the Calorie Control Council estimates the typical holiday meal potentially packs 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat that can stick around and haunt overeaters.
"Something about the holidays makes people think it's okay to stuff themselves full of their favorite foods," said "Biggest Loser" trainer Bob Harper. "Be cautious about overindulging this Thanksgiving holiday."
Harper and other experts say even unhealthier than eating that much in one meal is eating that much and then doing little or nothing to burn off the calories.
One of the best ways to avoid caloric overload is to carefully plan out meals in the days before the holiday.
"I like to compare eating to the use of a credit card. If I have $100 to spend on Friday, I'm not going to spend it tomorrow. I'm going to try to hold on to it until Friday," said Connie Holt, a registered dietitian and associate professor of the School of Hospitality Management at Widener University in Chester, Pa. "And if I go out on Friday and I spend the money in the first hour, I'm going to have to pull out a credit card and have to pay the excess off later."
To help people get a better idea of how many calories they will be consuming and how to burn them off, nutrition experts put together a list of the calorie counts of one serving of some of the most popular Thanksgiving foods, as well as household activities that could help work off at least some of the meal.
4 ounces of turkey (dark meat): 323 calories. What will burn this off? Rake leaves for 45 minutes.
1/2 cup of stuffing: 190 calories. To burn this off, carry Black Friday shopping bags around for 30 minutes.
1/4 cup of jellied cranberry sauce. Twenty-five minutes of mopping can help work this portion of the meal off.
A slice of pumpkin pie: 316 calories. Spend 80 minutes watering outdoor plants (if it's not too cold or wet) to say goodbye to the pie calories.
A dinner roll: 82 calories. Vacuuming for 30 minutes will burn off that many calories.
A cup of mashed potatoes: 162 calories. A 22-minute game of friendly football will burn off 158 of these calories.
Another common (and easier) guideline to follow is it takes about a mile of slow running or brisk walking to burn off 100 calories, Holt said.
Harper suggested a few simple ways to cut back the calorie count while still enjoying the meal.
"Slice your slice of pumpkin pie right down the middle and avoid the whipped cream on top," he said. "Instead of eating the dark turkey meat, go for the white meat. Opting for the white meat instead of dark will trim about 100 calories off."
For those who are cooking, the American Dietetic Association has a few suggestions on how to prepare a healthier meal, such as using egg substitutes, nonfat dairy products to prepare dips or desserts, using whole-grain bread for stuffing and using low-sodium broth.