Let's get the bad news out of the way first: Most of us will probably consume at least 1,500 calories at Thanksgiving dinner.
More bad news: Considering Thanksgiving is just the beginning of an indulgent month or so of holiday parties and dinners with friends and family, a lot of us will consume enough calories to gain weight. And studies show our post-holiday weight-loss efforts won't bring us all the way back to our pre-holiday poundage.
Lisa Harnack, who directs the University of Minnesota's Nutrition Coordinating Center, said preventing this trend is not about avoiding certain foods. Instead, it's about keeping the quantities in check.
"Take a little bit of the things you like, but not a whole lot of anything. Calories can really rack up if you take big amounts of all the foods that are available," Harnack said.
"We do know from some studies that people tend to gain weight over the holidays. And after the holidays, people tend to lose some of that weight, but they don't lose it all," she said. "If you put on a few extra pounds every holiday season, over years it really starts to add up."
Harnack said besides eating less, there are several other things people can do to minimize the Thanksgiving impact:
-- After a meal, move away from the food. This can mean going to another room to play a board game, or going outside for a walk. It decreases the likelihood that the eating and drinking will continue.
-- Remember the leftovers. No, you don't have to have second and thirds right now. Enjoy Thanksgiving foods in the days that follow.
-- Drink water. Sure, have your beer or wine or apple cider, but take a break from it now and then by quenching your thirst with water or another low-calorie beverage.
-- Beware of the pie. As far as calories go, pie is the worst, especially if you're having it along with whipped cream or ice cream. Are you really going to enjoy it less if you take a smaller slice?
The university's Nutrition Coordinating Center calculated calorie counts -- and how many minutes of walking it takes to burn them off -- for popular Thanksgiving foods. Pay close attention to the portion sizes -- most people I know eat way more than three ounces of turkey!
Organized from most to least number of calories:
Pecan pie (one slice): 526 calories; 150 minutes walking
Apple pie (once slice): 436 calories; 124 minutes walking
Sweet potato pie (one slice): 340 calories; 97 minutes walking
Pumpkin pie (one slice): 316 calories; 90 minutes walking
Macaroni and cheese (1/2 cup): 250 calories; 71 minutes walking
Stuffing (1/2 cup): 214 calories; 61 minutes walking
Candied sweet potatoes (1/2 cup): 165 calories; 47 minutes walking
Turkey, with skin (3 ounces): 156 calories; 44 minutes walking
Beer (12 fluid ounces): 153 calories; 43 minutes walking
Wine (6 fluid ounces): 150 calories; 43 minutes walking
Apple cider (8 fluid ounces): 136 calories; 39 minutes walking
Mashed potatoes (1/2 cup): 119 calories; 34 minutes walking
Cranberry sauce (1/4 cup): 110 calories; 31 minutes walking
Green bean casserole (1/2 cup): 96 calories; 27 minutes walking
Gelatin or Jell-O (1/2 cup): 81 calories; 23 minutes walking
Gravy (3 Tablespoons): 54 calories; 15 minutes walking