Full Plates This Thanksgiving
Most of us heap a little more food on our plates during the holidays—but how much exactly? Nielsen crunched the numbers and tallied how much Americans are buying, from the turkeys we roast in our ovens to the cinnamon we sprinkle in our cider. Read on to see how Americans will be setting the table, plus pick up some helpful hints about how to make your holiday more enjoyable this Thanksgiving.
Americans tend to buy 365 million pounds of turkey during the last week of November—most of that in the form of whole turkeys. Although it's considered the cornerstone of the holiday meal, turkey was probably not served at the first Thanksgiving between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe. More likely, guests enjoyed other fowl: ducks, geese, and even swans.
Americans consume 250 million pounds of potatoes (all varieties)—and buy $3.7 million dollars worth of deli mashed potatoes—during Thanksgiving. If you want to buck the trend—and save calories—try mashed cauliflower instead.
Weighing in at 77 million pounds, ham is another popular main dish at Thanksgiving. If you're digging in this year, be aware that prepared hams may contain preservatives that have both helpful and harmful effects. Also keep in mind calorie content, sodium levels, and portion size.
Americans buy upwards of 40.5 million rolls for Thanksgiving—fluffy, white, and often forgettable. For a more memorable meal, be selective with your carbs: Choose whole grains and hearty seeded breads. This will prevent over-indulgence—and add new flavors to the menu.
Remember sweet potatoes garnished with marshmallows? Banish those days forever. Roast your sweet potatoes with garlic and rosemary for a savory-sweet side-dish. That’ll mean less wasted of the 57 million pounds of sweet potatoes purchased for Thanksgiving.
Prepared foods are a mixed blessing. They save time and energy—but what you gain in convenience, you may compromise on healthfulness and taste. Americans often prefer time-savings—and spent $88.8 million on deli entrees, mashed potatoes, and stuffing for Thanksgiving 2017.
What's more American than apple pie? Pumpkin pie, of course. This orange squash, native to the American continent, was cultivated by the Iroquois for centuries prior to the arrival of European settlers, often grown alongside beans and corn (known as the "three sisters"). Today, pumpkin is as popular as ever, with Americans buying 483,000 pounds of fresh pumpkins each Thanksgiving.
Breading and Stuffing
We rarely eat stuffing at any other time of year, yet we splurge on this Thanksgiving treat—spending $96 million on seasoned bread crumbs. Be mindful if your guests have dietary concerns. You can make or buy gluten-free and vegetarian-style stuffing to appeal to guests with different appetites.
Spices and Seasoning
Over $112 million goes to spices and seasoning for Thanksgiving dinner each year. Yet, the price is worth it. Flavorful compounds in cinnamon, for example, have major health benefits, helping to reduce inflammation and lower blood sugar.
Jams and Jellies
They may be tasty, but fruit preserves pack a wallop: $37 million spent during Thanksgiving week alone. Jam will also hit your waistline: Each tablespoon contains about 10 grams of sugar. Enjoy in moderation.
The 1950s saw a surge in “time-saving” products, including baking mixes. Fortunately, ingredients have improved, with more brands offering gluten-free and organic options. During Thanksgiving, Americans spend $97 million on packaged mixes for sweet breads, cakes, and cookies.
Did your Mom serve glistening, canned cranberry sauce when you were little? Grocery stores stock it for $1.65, but top gourmet brands will run you upwards of $12 to $25. In total, Americans spent $42 million on canned cranberries last Thanksgiving – showing that memories can be worth the price.
Estimates vary, but the same conclusion holds: American eat at least 1,000 to 2,000 more calories at Thanksgiving dinner than typical meals. For a happy and healthy Thanksgiving Day, be mindful of your portion sizes. Limit alcohol consumption, and don’t starve yourself before the meal—eat normally throughout the day.
Here's a number that will make your head spin: 40 percent of food in the U.S. is wasted, and $293 million in food waste is generated during Thanksgiving alone. Not only is that waste hard on your wallet and our environment, but it's downright shameful when 40 million Americans struggle with hunger. To cut your own food waste, plan your recipes carefully, be ready to freeze leftovers or send them home with dinner guests, put food scraps to work, resolve to finally start that compost pile—and find ways of reducing hunger in your community. Now, that's the kind of American ingenuity we can all be thankful for.
With such a bounty, don't feel bashful having seconds—even thirds! And you can always freeze the holiday leftovers to enjoy later this season.
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