The Shocking Amount of Calories in a Thanksgiving Dinner vs McDonald's

Fall isn't the stereotypical time for dieting, with Halloween candy and roasted marshmallows, roast meats, and rivers of gravy at Thanksgiving.

And while we may only eat Thanksgiving dinner once a year, there's no denying that it's not a meal for the fainthearted.

Robin Applebaum from the Calorie Control Council told Newsweek that an average Thanksgiving meal can contain approximately a whopping 3,000 calories. To put this in perspective, to burn 3,000 calories, you would need to run for four hours, swim for 4.2 hours, or cycle for 3.75 hours straight.

The American Heart Association recommends that you eat 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 Getty

And while part of the appeal of the Thanksgiving dinner is 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 consuming the equivalent of a Thanksgiving meal, and more.

Sometimes it can be hard to picture just how calorific something really is. So, Newsweek has researched how many items you could eat from McDonald's, Wendy's, and Domino's menus, which would equal a Thanksgiving dinner.

McDonald's

Here are the items you could eat at McDonald's which would equal the same calories as a Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese

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

  • Large French Fries

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

  • Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips (5 pcs)

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

  • Vanilla Triple Thick Shake (32 fl oz)

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

  • Large Coke (32 fl oz)

310 calories, 86g sugar

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

One Thanksgiving meal can also be the same as four burgers, six portions of french fries, four portions of chicken strips, three vanilla milkshakes, or ten Cokes from Mcdonald's.

Wendy's Memorial Day
Wendy's Justin Sullivan/Getty

Wendy's

Here are the items you could eat at Wendy's which would equal the same calories as a Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Triple with Everything and Cheese

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

  • Honey BBQ Boneless Wings

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

  • Large Natural Cut Fries

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

  • Baja Salad

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 sugar

  • Fanta Orange

180 calories / 49g sugar

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

One Thanksgiving meal can also be the same as three burgers, five portions of wings, six portions of french fries, five salads, five chocolate milkshakes, or 17 Fantas from Wendy's.

domino's pizza fast food minimum wage
Domino's Pizza

Domino's

Here are the items you could eat at Domino's which would equal the same calories as a Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Meateor, Double Decadence

3,379 calories / 153g fat / 73g sat fat / 6.42 sodium / 124.3g sugar

  • Twisted Dough Balls: Pepperoni

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

  • Garlic and Herb Dip (100g)

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

  • Domino's Cookies

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

  • Strawberry ThickShake

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

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

One Thanksgiving meal can also be the same as one pizza, four portions of dough balls, four portions of dip, four portions of cookies, or seven milkshakes from Domino's.

The Health Implications Of Regularly Eating Fast Food

Newsweek investigated the nutritional elements of America's favorite fast foods, and spoke to the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife Nutrition, and member of the Dietetic Advisory Board Susan Bowerman, about what we put in our bodies.

"The best way to think of calories is that they represent the energy that is locked up on the foods," explains Ms. Bowerman, "and that energy needs to be released—though metabolism—in order to fuel all activities in the body.

"Just as gasoline has energy locked up in it, the energy isn't released until the gas is ignited by the engine. Similarly, we can utilize the energy (in the form of calories) that is locked away in the protein, fat and carbohydrate that we eat until the food has been broken down and metabolized. If you take in more calories than you need, the excess gets stored in the form of body fat."

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

The word 'saturated' refers to its chemical structure, i.e. the hydrogen atoms surrounding each carbon atom. "They tend to be solid or semi solid at room temperature," explains Ms. Bowerman. "Think cooled bacon grease. A diet rich in saturated fats can drive up cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke."

Don't Overindulge

If you lead a healthy life, a little indulgence is often nothing to worry about. "It's just important to make sure that this trend for overeating doesn't carry on into the New Year," says Ms. Bowerman.

"Studies seem to suggest that weight that is gained over the holidays is typically small (1 or 2 pounds or so), but that weight gain is often not lost either."

For people who like to indulge over the holidays but are concerned about weight gain, Ms. Bowerman suggests moving the focus away from food. "Focus instead on the people around you," she suggests, "play games or go on walks with friends and family."

Fat, salt and sugar are the ingredients that make food taste good, but excess consumption can also have detrimental effects on our overall health.

"For those who are salt sensitive, excess salt consumption over the long-term could contribute to hypertension," explains Ms. Bowerman. "In the short term, it usually leads to excess thirst, and depending on what people drink to satisfy their thirst, that could mean extra calories."

Sugar can be snuck in to lots of things we're not aware of including, as the USDA National Nutrient Database reported, standard white bread, which can contain 3g of sugar in just two slices. "With sugar," says Ms. Bowerman, "the short-term effects a large intake of sugar can lead to include spikes in blood sugar which are often followed by a rapid decline.

"When blood sugar drops rapidly, it can cause people to feel hungry, irritable, decrease ability to concentrate, and send them on a search for more sugar to bring blood sugar levels back up. Over the long term, excess sugar consumption is likely going to 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 on the festive time.

"The holidays seem to have a lost a bit of their sense of meaning," she suggests, "and I suppose some people feel grateful to have an abundance of food to eat but is that really what the holidays are about?

"Not to put a downer on 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 rather than overeating ourselves, perhaps we can reflect on the meaning of these holidays and find ways to help others."