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Can You Gain Weight From Thanksgiving? (Here’s What You Need to Know)

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and you’re probably thinking about the scrumptious meal you’re going to share with your family. But then again, the idea of how much food you’re going to consume may keep you pondering about the possible weight gain you’ll get. Cue in the guilt.

Family holding hands together during Thanksgiving dinner

Is It Possible To Gain Weight From Thanksgiving?

In a study conducted by the Department of Health and Exercise Science of the University of Oklahoma, it was determined that an average of 0.5 kg or 1.10 pounds could be gained during the Thanksgiving holiday. Generally, this increase in weight is negligible.

However, it could have a detrimental effect on people with health conditions like obesity, heart problems, and diabetes.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving is a significant holiday where you can spend time with the people you love and care about. And part of the tradition is a feast-like dinner. So, it’s pretty challenging choosing between being too careful with what you eat and restricting your diet.

Nonetheless, you can always take some precautions without souring the fun. Check out how you can prevent Thanksgiving weight gain without feeling left out.

What Are the Average Calories of a Typical Thanksgiving Meal?

The Calorie Control Council says that a typical Thanksgiving dinner has 3,000 calories. This goes beyond the recommended calorie intake of 2,000 calories for women and 2,500 calories for men.

Nonetheless, a little exceedance for a single day won’t have a serious effect, especially if you’re on a weight loss journey. But if this becomes a habit, you might regret letting yourself go during Thanksgiving.

Healthy and Unhealthy Thanksgiving Foods

Research published in The New England Journal of Medicine highlights that Americans gain an average of 0.2% during Thanksgiving.

While this increase can just be swept under the rug, it is still noteworthy to identify which foods on your Thanksgiving dinner might trigger some underlying conditions.


Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts may not be the favorite dish on Thanksgiving, but no one can deny that they are packed with nutrients that improve your health.

For starters, Brussel sprouts are low in calories. It has plenty of fibers and lots of different vitamins. Then, it has also been associated with properties that alleviate chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.

Herb Roasted Turkey

An organic turkey roasted in different herbs is not just a delicious centerpiece that the entire family can gobble up. It’s also a source of nutrients like Vitamin B, zinc, phosphorus, pure protein, and other macro and micronutrients that help your body build immunity and function well.  

Roasted Vegetables

When it comes to healthy foods, in general, vegetables always go on top of the list. So, it comes as no surprise that one of your healthier options during a Thanksgiving meal is roasted vegetables typically made of potatoes, cauliflower, carrot, broccoli, asparagus, etc.

This mix is full of fiber and a spectrum of nutrients that would be good if you have conditions associated with your metabolism.


Green Bean Casserole

This may seem a bit confusing, considering that green beans are vegetables. However, it’s no mistake that green bean casserole was bumped to the unhealthy side of Thanksgiving dinner.

Generally, green beans are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, when it is cooked as a casserole where it combines with cream soup, soy sauce, and other ingredients, the nutrition diminishes. Instead, what you get is a dish high in sodium and fats.


Stuffing is the hodgepodge of delicious yet unhealthy ingredients. The bread and butter alone pack tons of calories. Some recipes include sausages and certain types of meat which increases calories and fat content.

Pecan Pie

If you have diabetes, it is best to steer clear of the pecan pie. This dessert is made of tons of corn syrup or brown sugar that can spike your blood sugar levels. Likewise, the same goes if you’re trying to regulate your weight.  

Mashed Potatoes

Potatoes are already starchy by nature, which means it’s high in carbohydrates. Turning it to a mashed potato dish not only increases its calories, but it also becomes high in fats as butter and cream are added to the mix.


Gravy is a mix of flour, saturated fats, and some nitrates. The taste may be appealing, but the ingredients are undoubtedly unhealthy for those trying to lose weight.

What Are the Health Effects of a Big Thanksgiving Meal?

Thanksgiving sure is the time for perfectly stretchable pants. It has been part of the tradition to binge eat. But, again, if it’s a one-time thing, you don’t have much to worry about.

Nonetheless, if you have been diagnosed with a condition, it’s time to be extra careful with the effects of a big Thanksgiving meal.

People digging into different foods during Thanksgiving dinner.


Your stomach will blow up like a balloon depending on how much food you ate. Unfortunately, bloating is sometimes accompanied by gas, so that’s one thing you should watch out for, especially if you’re around people.

Abdominal Pain

Overeating can cause stomach aches from time to time. If you’ve eaten a lot more than you can bear, expect some round of abdominal pain on the way.

Acid Reflux

Regurgitation, or the phenomenon wherein your food backs up, is pretty common when you binge eat during Thanksgiving. Remain still if your stomach is upset, or try drinking some herbal tea.


You can have diarrhea if you are allergic to some of the foods served or if the preparation itself was tarnished by contamination. Nonetheless, if the entire company is experiencing this type of digestive distress, it’s best to seek medical assistance, depending on the severity of the situation.


When your stomach is full, blood flow is redirected to your gastrointestinal tract. More food means more work; hence blood is reduced from other body parts. Due to this setup, your brain has reduced efficiency and induces sleepiness to preserve energy.

Increased in Heart Rate

Since the digestive system demands more energy to digest the overwhelming amount of food properly, your heart will push itself to pump more blood to the area. This is why people with heart disease are advised not to overeat during thanksgiving.

Increased in Blood Sugar Levels

Your blood sugar will inevitably spike with the number of carbohydrates and fats during the holiday. If you have diabetes, this is definitely bad news. Therefore, most diabetic individuals are reminded to avoid overeating and be selective with their Thanksgiving meal.

How Can I Avoid Gaining Weight During Thanksgiving?

If you are trying to regulate your weight, skipping Thanksgiving dinner altogether may not work. For one, it’s a family tradition that allows you to socialize with your loved ones. Simply put, it can be good for your mental health.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to worry as there are practical ways to avoid weight gain during Thanksgiving.

Family saying cheers during Thanksgiving meal.

1.      Limit your food intake.

Don’t go to Thanksgiving without a plan. Make sure to retain sufficient consciousness when eating a Thanksgiving meal. Just put enough food on your plate. Small portions of each dish can be helpful if you’re torn between their taste and your health.

2.      Find time to exercise.

You may not be able to go to the gym, but there are other ways you can be physically active during Thanksgiving. First, of course, you have the classic football in the backyard. Not only will it keep you moving, but you’ll also get to spend quality time with family.

3.      Eat before the actual dinner.

Never go to a Thanksgiving feast starving. If possible, grab a quick bite, so your stomach is not completely empty. Also, drinking a glass of water 30 minutes before mealtime can help control your appetite.

4.      Eat slowly.

Savoring your meal does not only allow you to enjoy and appreciate the tastes even more, but it also makes you full faster compared to when you eat too fast. With that, you can have just enough food yet still feel satisfied.

5.      Don’t wear loose clothes.

Tight clothes are actually helpful during Thanksgiving if you’re trying to control your food intake. For one, it becomes uncomfortable to eat more when you are wearing restrictive clothing. But, on the other hand, loose clothing will only give you excessive freedom to overeat.

6.      Lean towards healthy foods.

Keep your eye on the healthy side of the dinner table and ignore the unhealthy ones. If you have a medical condition, this could be imperative. Being selective with your food not only prevents rapid weight gain during Thanksgiving but also cultivates a healthy attitude toward clean eating.

Other Healthy Habits to Consider During Thanksgiving

While Thanksgiving may be the perfect time to let yourself lose a bit, it won’t be worth it if your health will hang by a thread. Nonetheless, there should be a perfect mixture of fun and moderation.

Aside from your eating habits, here are other acts you can do to make the most of your Thanksgiving celebration.

1.      Limit your alcohol intake.

Booze is like a staple beverage in any major event or celebration. However, if you’re diagnosed with diabetes or high cholesterol levels, you may want to take it easy with the alcohol.

2.      Check your blood sugar and blood pressure before and after the feast.

For those with diabetes and heart disease, it would help to have your blood sugar level and blood pressure measured first. If the results are beyond the normal range, you may have to skip some foods altogether or ask your host to prepare an alternative meal. Of course, you can also bring your own just to be safe.

3.      Enjoy your time with family and friends.

Thanksgiving is all about spending happy moments with the people that matter to you most. If you spend the day thinking about weight gain, you may miss some of the fun and quality time your company enjoys. You can stick to your eating game plan but don’t wrap your head around it the entire time.


Thanksgiving is a holiday of food, family, and football. So naturally, combining these three opens tons of temptations that involve eating and drinking. No wonder people are concerned about weight gain during Thanksgiving.

Nonetheless, while it is true that you can have a slight weight gain after partaking in the Thanksgiving feast, for an average person, it is negligible. This means that you can lose the extra weight in the following days if you go back to your usual calorie intake and increase your physical activity.

However, if you have a chronic condition like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, it is imperative to take extra precautions during Thanksgiving. Avoid overeating and adopt healthy habits to prevent complications in your health status. 

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