How many calories are there in a Thanksgiving meal? To find out, the Rossen Reports team organized an early holiday dinner for the Lemieux family of Monroe, Connecticut, including turkey, ham, macaroni and cheese, and stuffing.
The family of 10 adults thought it was for the purposes of a general story about Thanksgiving and families. What they didn't know was that Rossen Reports producers were logging every bite they took — and that Cornell University Professor Brian Wansink, author of "Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life," was in a car outside, crunching their caloric intake numbers.
The calories started adding up before the Lemieuxs even sat down to eat, with Jackie Lemieux having three glasses of wine and two rolls before dinner. And once the meal was served, the Lemieuxs didn't hold back, going back for seconds and even thirds before having such treats as pecan pie and cheesecake for dessert.
After the meal was over, Jeff Rossen revealed the real reason for the event, and the grand total of calories the family had consumed together: 24,165.
Surprisingly, the dish with the most calories per serving was not mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese, as some family members guessed, but sweet potatoes. Macaroni and cheese came in a distant second.
Jackie Lemieux turned out to be the family member who had consumed the most calories: 3,690, 1,290 of them before she even sat down for dinner. T.J. Garvin came in a close second with 3,390 calories.
While calling the counts "amazing," Wansink also acknowledged that the Lemieuxs' meal was "no different than any other Thanksgiving in America.
"About 20 percent of all the calories they ate were eaten before the meal even started," he said. "The problem is, you're picking food the whole day, you're drinking, you're essentially losing track of everything that's going on."
Lori Lemieux summed it up: "It's just time to be together. We don't think about the calories."
Wansink suggested that the best way to avoid some of those holiday calories is to put the unhealthy dishes like sweet potatoes and macaroni and cheese on a side table, because most people won't want to get up for seconds and will choose healthier alternatives in front of them instead.
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