As mentioned yesterday, I’ll be breaking down the calorie content of my various Thanksgiving recipes. Before I do, though, I’d like to share a comment a friend of mine made on Facebook yesterday:
You should really be careful with counting your calories on holidays. It usually only makes the diet worse because you don’t get those ‘relieve’ moments. Is it a holiday, enjoy and don’t worry about calories. Next day get back to the programme.
I think this is a great point. See, here’s the deal: I’m not on a diet. I’m not cutting back on foods I love until I lose a little weight, and then going back to business as usual. I’m changing my diet, which means changing the way I eat. As part of that, though, I’m not punishing myself. Thanksgiving (and Christmas, in a month) is a holiday that, traditionally, involves lots of good food. So I’m calculating the calorie counts of these items to make myself aware of what I’m eating. And then I plan to eat responsibly, and stop when I’m full. I won’t aim to go over my calorie budget, but if I do then one day won’t kill me.
Just one day, though. If I go over on Thanksgiving, then I’m back on task on Friday.
Now back to the recipes! We’ll start off with “My Favorite Bread Stuffing”, from Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything. I use this recipe, slightly modified, because it’s pretty much identical to the recipe my mom made when I was a kid. I’ve paraphrased the instructions, but the details are the same.
My Favorite Bread Stuffing
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter: 1,620 calories
1 cup chopped onion: 46 calories
1 cup chopped celery: 16 calories
1/2 cup chopped cashews (optional): 628 calories
6-8 cups bread crumbs (80 cal/slice for the whole wheat I buy, so 480 – 640 calories)
1 teaspoon dried sage
- Melt butter in large skillet. Cook onions and celery in butter until softened, about five minutes. Add nuts (if used) and cook, stirring constantly, for about three minutes.
- Add bread crumbs and sage and toss to mix.
- Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, or pack into the turkey’s abdominal cavity and roast with the turkey.
- Assuming eight cups of bread, this is 2,322 calories for the recipe (2950 calories if you use the cashews, which I won’t be doing this year because one of my guests has nut allergies). I usually get between 10 and 12 servings out of this, so we’re looking at 232 calories per serving. You can also reduce the calories some by using chicken broth in place of one or both sticks of butter – that knocks 594 calories off if you substitute one stick of butter for a cup of broth (about 173 cal/serving), and 1,188 if you substitute for both (about 114 calories/serving). What I’m saying here is that butter has a ton of calories. (I’ll weigh the ingredients on Thursday, and report back with a per-ounce calorie count then.)
Speaking of a ton of calories, what’s Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? Turning again to How to Cook Everything, here’s the recipe:
2 pounds potatoes: 704 calories
1 cup 1% milk: 105 calories
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter: 405 calories
- Peel and cube the potatoes, then boil them until tender. A fork should easily stab into one of the cubes. Drain, return pot to stove.
- Melt butter with milk in pot. Rice potatoes by hand (which is a fancy way of saying to loosely hand mash them with a fork or potato masher – a step that isn’t mandatory, but which makes things go faster). Return potatoes to stove, cook and stir constantly until desired consistency is reached. (Alternately, process with hand or stand mixer until desired consistency is reached.)
- This was surprisingly less calories than I anticipated – 1,214, if you eat the entire thing. There’s 44 ounces here, less any weight lost to evaporation, so you’re looking at 27.5 calories per ounce. I do love me some mashed potatoes, so I’d guess that I eat 8 to 10 ounces. Call it 10, so that makes it 275 calories.
Actually, this is looking pretty reasonable so far. I mean, I’ll probably end up eating about a half pound of turkey as well, but that’s… hmmm… call it 10 ounces, for my rough estimate… 540 calories. Which puts my estimates so far up to 988 calories (I’m planning on substituting broth for half the butter in my stuffing). Not too bad for a *big* meal, so far.
Tomorrow, I’ll try to work out the calorie count of gravy. And then I’ll horrify myself by working out the calorie count of my traditional family dessert. It involves cream, so I’m expecting to be traumatized. And then to eat it anyway, because I love it. And I’ll probably outline the whole Thanksgiving menu as well.
Oh, I guess I should check in. Let’s see… I walked 5.7 miles, ate 1,953 calories, and burned 4,473 calories. Pretty good, I think.