The shocking amount of calories in a Thanksgiving dinner compared to McDonald’s

Fall isn’t the stereotypical time for dieting, with Halloween candy and toasted marshmallows, Thanksgiving roasts and pouring gravy.

And while we may only eat Thanksgiving once a year, there’s no denying that it’s not a meal for the faint of heart.

Narrated by Robin Applebaum of the Calorie Control Council news week that an average Thanksgiving meal can contain about 3,000 calories. For comparison, to burn 3,000 calories you would need to run for four hours, swim 4.2 hours, or ride a bike for 3.75 hours.

The American Heart Association recommends consuming 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day, depending on your biology and lifestyle.

Composite, Thanks Giving and McDonald's
In this combination photo, a stock image of a Thanksgiving family dinner and an inset of the McDonald’s logo

And while part of the appeal of Thanksgiving dinner lies in its seasonality, 83 percent of American families eat at fast-food restaurants at least once a week, and the average American eats fast food one to three times a week, often including that Equivalent of a Thanksgiving dinner and more.

Sometimes it can be difficult to imagine how high in calories something really is. So, news week researched how many dishes one could eat from the menus at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Domino’s that would equate to a Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are the things you could eat at McDonald’s that would equate to the same calories as Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Double quarter pounder with cheese

740 calories / 42g fat / 19g saturated fat / 9g sugars / 1380mg sodium

500 calories / 25g fat / 3.5g saturated fat / 350mg sodium

  • Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (5 pieces)

660 calories / 40g fat / 6g saturated fat (28 percent of the daily value) / 1680 mg sodium

  • Vanilla Triple Thick Shake (32 fl oz)

1110 calories / 24g fat / 16g saturated fat / 370mg sodium / 145g sugar

310 calories, 86 grams of sugar

= 3,320 calories / 44.5 g saturated fat (220 percent of daily intake), 2,400 mg sodium, 240 g sugars

A Thanksgiving meal can also consist of four burgers, six servings of french fries, four servings of chicken strips, three vanilla milkshakes, or ten McDonald’s Cokes.

Wendy's Memorial Day
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Here are the things you could eat at Wendy’s that would equate to the same calories as Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Triple with everything and cheese

1030 calories / 63g fat / 29g saturated fat / 1860mg sodium / 11g sugars

570 calories / 18g fat / 3.5g saturated fat / 1950mg sodium / 34g sugars

520 calories / 25g fat / 4.5g saturated fat / 630mg sodium

550 calories / 33g fat / 14g saturated fat / 1610mg sodium / 12g sugar

  • Chocolate Fudge Frosty Shake (large)

540 calories / 13g fat / 8g saturated fat / 270mg sodium / 80g sugars

180 calories / 49g sugar

= 3,390 calories, 60 g saturated fat (300 percent of daily intake), 6,320 mg sodium, 186 g sugars

A Thanksgiving meal can also be three burgers, five wings, six fries, five salads, five chocolate milkshakes, or Wendy’s 17 Fantas.

Domino's Pizza Fast Food Minimum Wage
Domino’s Pizza

Here are the things you could eat at Domino’s that would equate to the same calories as Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Meateor, double decadence

3,379 calories / 153g fat / 73g saturated fat / 6.42 sodium / 124.3g sugars

  • Twisted Dough Balls: Pepperoni

748 calories / 30g fat / 10.4g saturated fat / 1.03g sodium / 7.3g sugars

  • Garlic Herb Dip (100g)

675 calories / 73.8g fat / 5.1g saturated fat / 0.30 sodium / 1.6g sugars

694 calories / 30.7g fat / 15.5g saturated fat / 0.49g sodium / 54.6g sugars

446 calories, 14.6g fat / 11.5g saturated fat / 0.09g sodium / 59.0 sugars

= 5,942 calories, 115.5g saturated fat (564 percent of your daily intake), 246.8g sugars

A Thanksgiving meal can also be the same as a pizza, four bowls of dumplings, four bowls of dip, four bowls of cookies, or seven milkshakes from Domino’s.

The health effects of eating fast food regularly

news week examined the nutritional elements of America’s favorite fast food and spoke to Susan Bowerman, senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition and member of the Dietetic Advisory Board, about what we put into our bodies.

“The best way to think of calories is that they represent the energy locked up in food,” explains Ms. Bowerman, “and that energy has to be released – through metabolism – to fuel all activity in the body.

“Just as gasoline contains energy, the energy is not released until the gas is ignited by the engine. Similarly, we can use the energy (in the form of calories) locked up in the protein, fat, and carbohydrates we eat until the food is broken down and metabolized. If you eat more calories than you need, the excess will be stored as body fat.”

Saturated fats are commonly found in butter, meat, cheese, coconut oil, palm oil, and some baked and fried foods.

The word “saturated” refers to its chemical structure, that is, the hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. “They tend to be solid or semi-solid at room temperature,” explains Ms. Bowerman. “Think chilled bacon grease. A diet high in saturated fat can raise cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.”

Do not exaggerate

When you lead a healthy life, a little indulgence is often nothing to worry about. “It’s just important to make sure this trend of overeating doesn’t continue into the new year,” says Ms. Bowerman.

“Studies seem to indicate that weight gain during the holiday season is usually small (1 or 2 pounds or so), but that weight gain is often not lost either.”

For people who like to treat themselves over the holidays but are concerned about gaining weight, Ms. Bowerman suggests shifting the focus away from food. “Instead, focus on the people around you,” she suggests, “play games or go for walks with friends and family.”

Fat, salt and sugar are the ingredients that make food taste good, but overconsumption can also be detrimental to our overall health.

“For those who are sensitive to salt, over the long term, excessive salt consumption could contribute to high blood pressure,” explains Ms. Bowerman. “In the short term, this usually leads to excessive thirst, and depending on what people drink to quench their thirst, that can mean extra calories.”

Sugar can be sneaked into many things we don’t know about, including, as the USDA National Nutrient Database reported, standard white bread, which can contain 3g of sugar in just two slices. “With sugar,” Ms Bowerman says, “the short-term effects of large sugar intake can lead to spikes in blood sugar, often followed by a rapid decline.

“When blood sugar drops rapidly, it can make people feel hungry and irritable, reducing their ability to focus and sending them looking for more sugar to get blood sugar levels back up.” Over the long term, excess sugar consumption will likely lead to weight gain, and it will also contribute to tooth decay.”

Ms Bowerman argues that alongside the overly commercial elements of the holidays, overindulgence and overeating has become a potentially unfortunate focus of the festive season.

“The holidays seem to have lost some of their meaning,” she suggests, “and I suppose some people are grateful that they have plenty to eat, but is that really the point?

“Not to spoil anyone’s celebrations, but I think this time of year is a good reminder that there are still many people in the country who struggle to afford to put food on the table, so can.” Maybe instead of overeating, we can think about the meaning of these holidays and find ways to help others.” The shocking amount of calories in a Thanksgiving dinner compared to McDonald’s

Rick Schindler

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