This Is What Thanksgiving Dinner Will Do to Your Body — And What You Need to Do Right Back

AP

Hello, Thanksgiving! Goodbye, non-elastic pants.

Over the past four centuries, Thanksgiving has evolved from being about family, football and mass avian slaughter to a nationwide excuse to gorge ourselves swollen, then sleepily recuperate by watching Jingle All the Way on cable.

What toll does this autumnal orgy of starch and sugar take on our bodies? Does eating a half-portion of Aunt Zelda's kale and quinoa salad balance out the third helping of Aunt Mimi's pecan pie à la mode? How many sit-ups do you need to do to compensate for the chips and dip you ate in wee fistfuls while watching the big game? Does debating politics with Uncle Mike burn enough calories to free up room for a crescent roll, or does it just give you an ulcer?

We've constructed an entire Thanksgiving Day meal, as well as the calorie counts for each menu item, as recorded at the local Whole Foods. Armed with the knowledge of how much damage your T-Day will do to your waistline, and with some suggested workouts — jogging (85 calories per mile), sex (300 calories per hour) and the Chicken Dance (600 calories per hour) — to make that turkey gravy disappear, you're prepared to grab Thanksgiving by the horns. 

Cheese platter

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

It's not just an expensive add-on at wine bars — a cheese platter is both a seasonal (fall is the best time for most cheeses!) and practical (it doesn't require an oven!) way to start off a Thanksgiving meal. Organic dairy is chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help alleviate joint pain, boost your mood and lower levels of the kind of fat that causes heart disease. But it's also crazy high in sodium, and most of the fat in cheese is saturated. Plus, cheese usually comes paired with unhealthy breads, preserves and crackers.

According to Real Simple, the best cheese platter contains a combination of aged, soft, firm and blue cheeses, with roughly 4 total ounces of cheese for each person:

Gouda (aged): 110 calories per ounce

Brie (soft): 100 calories per ounce

Raspberry preserve (1 tablespoon, because eating brie without jam is a sin): 50 calories per tablespoon

Manchego (firm): 127 calories per ounce

Stilton (blue): 110 calories per ounce

Wheat Thins: 9.375 calories per cracker

Total calories: 534.5 

To burn off those calories, you would have to jog 6.3 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 47 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 54 minutes.

Cocktails

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

In addition to lubricating the awkward conversation with your grandfather about how grad school is going, seasonal alcoholic drinks have numerous health benefits. The juniper in gin combats infection and lung congestion, and the quinine in tonic is a natural anti-malarial.

Gin and tonic (2 glasses, because grad school's not panning out): 208 calories per glass

Total calories: 416 

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 4.9 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 23 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 42 minutes.

Rolls

Food based in grains provide fiber and vitamins — and are also the origin of carbohydrates, which are basically the devil.

Pillsbury Crescent Roll (2 rolls): 100 per roll

Land O'Lakes salted butter (2 pats): 100 per tablespoon

Total calories: 400

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 4.7 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 20 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 40 minutes.

Mashed potatoes

Source: AP
Source: AP

Potatoes can lower blood pressure, the fiber in their skin is good for your digestive system and, depending on their preparation, they're actually fairly low calorie — until you start lathering them in butter, whole milk and sour cream.

Mashed potatoes, prepared with butter and whole milk (2 cups): 237 calories per cup

Total: 474 

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 5.6 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 36 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 48 minutes.

Sweet potatoes

Source: Tqn
Source: Tqn

Crammed with Vitamin A and beta-carotene, sweet potatoes are excellent for your skin, eyes and immune system. The attendant marshmallow topping, however, is a sugarbomb with zero nutritional value.

Sweet potatoes with marshmallows (just 1 cup, you animals): 480 calories per cup

Total calories: 480

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 5.6 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 36 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 48 minutes.

Green beans

Source: AP
Source: AP

Green beans are impressive antioxidants. That's pretty much all there is to say about green beans.

Green beans (1 cup): 44 calories per cup

Total calories: 44

To burn off those calories, you would have to run half a mile, have sex for eight minutes or do the Chicken Dance for four minutes.

Cranberry sauce

Source: AP
Source: AP

Cranberries have been known for their ability to prevent urinary tract infections forever, but recent research has also concluded that the unique water harvesting of cranberries boosts the antioxidant properties in the berries. The amount of sugar needed to offset their bitter taste (we usually just pair cranberry juice with vodka, honestly) isn't negligible, though. In our exhaustive research, we have yet to find anyone who actually eats cranberry sauce, however, so feel free to take a bye on the canned goods.

Cranberry sauce (¼ cup): 110 calories per quarter cup

Total calories: 0 calories (well, 110, but really, 0)

Macaroni and cheese

Did you know that macaroni and cheese is a common Thanksgiving staple in the South? We did not, and we are delighted to add it to our menu — although not for health reasons. High in calories, high in sodium and formerly high in artificial dyes, it's fortunate that this is just a side dish this year.

Mac 'n' cheese (1 cup): 280 calories per cup

Total calories: 280

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 3.3 miles, have sex for 56 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 28 minutes.

Gravy

Source: AP
Source: AP

You didn't seriously think that there was anything good for you in gravy, right?

Turkey gravy (1 ½ cup): 121 calories per cup

Total calories: 181.5

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 2.1 miles, have sex for 36 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 18 minutes.

Stuffing

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

The only thing heavier in sodium than stuffing is an actual block of licking salt (available at your nearest feed store). There are tons of fiber though!

Stuffing (1 cup): 232 calories per cup

Total calories: 232

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 2.7 miles, have sex for 45 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 23 minutes.

Wine

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

In case the gin and tonic didn't do it for you, white wines may contain even more antioxidant properties than red wine — plus, you can pretend to be the classy young person that your grandmother still thinks you are. We'd include red wine, but since you're pairing with white-meat turkey, we're going to save you the embarrassment.

White wine (2 glasses): 120 calories per glass

Total calories: 240

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 2.8 miles, have sex for 49 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 24 minutes.

Turkey

Source: AP
Source: AP

Suitable for the most important part of the meal, turkey is one complicated foodstuff. Depending on whether you're eating white or dark meat, skinless breast or a skin-covered wing, turkey can either be a lean meat rich in protein and omega-3s or a greasy ball of gristle and fats — and no, the tryptophan in turkey doesn't make you sleepy. That's likely just overly physical eating.

The average bird sold on Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which breaks down into 70% white meat and 30% dark meat. You're advised to account for three-quarters of a pound for every guest with a bird over 12 pounds, so that equals 12 ounces of bird per person, plus 3 ounces more for seconds. While everyone has their preferences (hands off the dark meat, Cousin Skip) for the purposes of this menu we've gone for a more ecumenical approach, with equal meats from all parts of the bird.

White with skin (3 ounces): 138.75 calories per serving

White no skin (3 ounces): 118.5 calories per serving

Dark with skin (3 ounces): 154.5 calories per serving

Dark no skin (3 ounces): 137.25 calories per serving

Total calories: 548.75

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 6.5 miles, have sex for 1 hour and 49 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 55 minutes.

Pie

Source: Webkite
Source: Webkite

We've only Googled "health benefits of pie" three times before (breakups are hard) and we were not disappointed this time. Pumpkin pie is loaded with vitamins that aid brain health; the apples in apple pie are great sources of dietary fiber; pecans are rich in antioxidants, anticarcinogens; and Vitamin E, which is good news for pecan pie fans — even if you do pronounce it as "PEE-can." However, each slice of pie is loaded with carbohydrates, butter and sugar — and that's not including the toppings.

Apple pie (½ slice): 205.5 calories per half-slice

Pumpkin pie (½ slice): 158 calories per half-slice

Pecan pie (½ slice): 250 calories per half-slice

Ice cream (2 scoops): 260 calories

Cool Whip (1 dollop): 25 calories per dollop

Total calories: 898.5 calories

To burn off those calories, you would have to run 10.6 miles, have sex for 2 hours and 59 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for one and a half hours.

Assuming you followed our menu — and added cranberry sauce to your plate to widen the color palette rather than to consume it — the total calories consumed for your Thanksgiving dinner is ...

4,729.25 calories. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that an American male between the ages of 18 and 30 eat 2,400 calories every day. Congratulations! You don't have to eat for the next two days.

Want to put that away? To burn off those calories, you would have to run 55.6 miles, have sex for 9 hours and 46 minutes or do the Chicken Dance for 7 hours and 53 minutes.

Source: Nymag
Source: Nymag

Happy dancing.