A guide to Thanksgiving serving sizes

Nov 22, 2013 at 12:01 p.m. ET

It's easy to load up your Thanksgiving plate with gobs of your favorite foods. Ever wonder what the correct portion sizes actually are? So did we!

Bite of pumpkin pie

We know, we know. Thanksgiving is all about stuffing yourself into oblivion and then still having room for pumpkin pie and eggnog, right?

While Thanksgiving is no holiday to be on a diet, it's not necessarily a good decision to pig out, either. This year, learn the correct portion sizes of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes — still allowing you to indulge but preventing you from feeling sick once the meal's over.

According to the Calorie Control Council, the average person consumes more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day. For the average woman, that's about three days worth of food. For the average man, it's two days worth of food. Something tells us it's not the turkey that's putting us to sleep, it's the fact that we've stuffed ourselves to the core and can no longer move.

Correct Thanksgiving serving sizes

Note: Calories will vary depending on specific recipe and ingredients used. These are rough estimates.


Serving size: 3 ounces (think deck of cards)

Calories per serving: 100

How to roast a turkey >>

Caesar salad

Serving size: 1 cup (think tennis ball)

Calories per serving: 180

Mashed potatoes

Serving size: 1/2 cup (think scoop of ice cream)

Calories per serving: 110


Serving size: 1/3 cup (think golf ball)

Calories per serving: 40


Serving size: 1/2 cup (think scoop of ice cream)

Calories: 150

Sweet potatoes

Serving size: 1/2 cup (think scoop of ice cream)

Calories: 110

Try these chipotle mashed sweet potatoes >>

Cranberry sauce

Serving size: 1/4 cup (think spool of thread)

Calories: 100

Green bean casserole

Serving size: 1 cup (think glass of wine)

Calories: 140

Dinner rolls

Serving size: 1 roll (think bar of soap)

Calories: 100-150

Pumpkin pie

Serving size: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie

Calories: 300-350

Pecan pie

Serving size: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie

Calories: 500-550

Try these pecan pie bites >>

Apple pie

Serving size: 1/8 of a 9-inch pie

Calories: 350-400

Pumpkin cheesecake

Serving size: 1/12 of a 3-pound cheesecake

Calories: 500-700

Bonus: How much food should you cook?

Ah — the million dollar question. In general, you'll need 1 pound of turkey for each guest. But, we all want leftovers, right? We recommend having 1-1/2 pounds of turkey per guest.

  • 6 guests = 9 pound turkey
  • 10 guests = 15 pound turkey
  • 12 guests = 18 pound turkey

As far as side dishes, we like to have almost as many dishes as guests. If 12 people are coming, for example, you should have roughly 8-10 sides. Of course, this can vary greatly depending on your guests' appetites, if kids are coming, etc.

For desserts and pies, make one for every four guests. Again, assuming you have 12 people, you'll want to have three desserts or pies. This allows everyone the chance to try each dessert with plenty to spare!

Quick tip

If you end up with too many leftovers for yourself, send each guest home with a doggie bag!

More Thanksgiving recipes

Farro, spinach and cranberry salad
Cheesy Hasselback potatoes
3 Whole wheat pumpkin desserts