Do Southerners Eat More Calories for Thanksgiving? | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Do Southerners Eat More Calories for Thanksgiving?

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

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UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

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  • On average, Americans eat over 4,500 calories during Thanksgiving.
  • Obesity is a growing problem in the United States today.
  •  The Top 10 list below is dominated by the southern region of America.

It’s that time of year again. The time when you gather friends and family and eat like there’s no tomorrow. Don’t get too caught up in the Black Friday buzz just yet; take a moment to think about the incoming calorie overload. We’ve all felt the effects of that larger-than-life Thanksgiving meal before, but how does your feasting stack up against that of the rest of the United States? As we get closer to this mother of all meals, it begs the question, do southerners eat more calories for Thanksgiving?

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The Calories of Thanksgiving

What’s the main attraction in the majority of Thanksgiving dinners? Turkey. There are even three U.S. towns named after the popular Thanksgiving mainstay: Turkey, TX, Turkey, NC, and Turkey Creek, LA. California leads the nation in turkey consumption at three pounds higher than the national average, but does that mean the West will receive the title of “most calories eaten on Thanksgiving?”

What does a big Thanksgiving dinner mean for your diet?

On average, Americans eat over 4,500 calories during Thanksgiving, including 229 grams of fat! As you can see in our burning calories feature, that means over five hours of running at a moderate pace at the very least to burn those calories off! We think that the trends recorded for state obesity rankings may reflect the eating habits of the different regions of America. See if you agree: we’ve broken down the calorie stats for some common northern and southern styles of cooking an entire Thanksgiving dinner, beginning with turkey. Fortunately, the Thanksgiving meal isn’t limited to just turkey.

Every family has its own preferences for the main course as well as variations of every type of side dish imaginable, so please don’t be offended if your family’s favorites didn’t make the list! All of our calorie statistics come from the USDA or

We’ll start with a traditional Northern-Style Thanksgiving Meal:

  • 1 Serving Roast Turkey – 362 Calories
  • 1 Dinner Roll – 70 Calories
  • 1 Cup Snap Green Beans – 44 Calories
  • 1 Serving Mashed Potatoes – 174 Calories
  • 1 Ear of Corn – 97 Calories
  • 1 Slice of Pecan Pie – 117 Calories
  • Grand Total: 864 Calories

Here is our traditional Southern-Style Meal:

  • 1 Serving Cajun Deep Fried Turkey – 383 Calories
  • 1 Piece of Cornbread – 173 Calories
  • 1 Serving Macaroni and Cheese – 207 Calories
  • 1/2 Cup Collard Greens with southern seasoning – 60 calories
  • 1 oz. Simmered Chitterlings – 201 Calories
  • 1 Slice Sweet Potato Pie – 404 Calories
  • Grand Total: 1,428 Calories

Obviously, methods of preparation and ingredients will vary from household to household in every part of the country. As you can see, these are very low estimates compared to what Americans eat on average. Looks like the deep-fried delights of the South could have contributed to some high rankings in the quest for the “fattest state” crown!

About the Fattest States in America Statistics

Obesity is a growing problem in the United States today. According to studies published in 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, over 30% of Americans were obese (defined as BMI of 30.0 or higher). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have monitored national obesity trends since 1985, based on what citizens reported about their own height and weight, concluding that the region of the U.S. with the highest obesity rate is the South with 29.4% of Americans in southern states being reported as obese.

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The Ten Fattest States in America

Does one’s Thanksgiving dinner affect the fattest state rankings? We believe so! The Top 10 is dominated by the southern region of America. Check out each of the Top 10 states below and see how one’s Thanksgiving dinner has a drastic effect on the rankings!

#10 – Missouri

Missouri receives the “best of the worst” award, rounding out the top 10 with 31.4% of residents being listed as obese. A respectable 34.2% of people there remain outside of the overweight and obese listings. The rest of the residents of the “Show Me State” have perhaps enjoyed too many ice cream cones since they were invented in St. Louis.

#9 – Louisiana

Louisiana continues the southern trend with 31.7% of residents ranked obese. This ties the obesity percentages of Texas, Michigan, and Tennessee, but we will include the percentage of people listed as overweight (BMI of 25.0-29.9) for our tiebreaker category, where Louisiana registers 34.7 of its population.

#8 – Texas

Texans are ranked at 31.7% obesity, with a tiebreaker overweight percentage of 34.8. So close to Louisiana, but still that much worse! Texas is known for doing everything big, but it seems as though they don’t worry about that as much when it comes to exercise.

#7 – Michigan

Michigan makes a rare appearance for the northern states at number 7 with 31.7% of Michigan residents ranking in the obese category, and 35.1% ranked as overweight. It seems like residents don’t take advantage of the easy accessibility of healthy options of fish and cranberries! Granted, they do get a lot of snow in the winter, giving many people an excuse to stay inside where it’s warm.

#6 – Tennessee

Tennessee was the last of the states to need the tiebreaker, with 31.7% of residents considered obese and 36.1% overweight. Perhaps everyone living in “The Volunteer State” is too busy lending others a helping hand to find time to stay fit.

#5 – Kentucky

Kentucky narrowly escapes the tie, although they went in the wrong direction, with 31.8% of its citizens classified as obese. Only 32.5% of Kentucky residents have managed to stay out of the overweight and obese categories. That Kentucky Fried Chicken probably doesn’t help out too much! Neither does the fact that the cheeseburger originated there as well!

#4 – South Carolina

In South Carolina, 32% of residents were listed in the obese category, and only 32.6% were outside of the overweight and obese categories. Sounds like they need to hit the gym before they think about heading to Myrtle Beach!

#3 – West Virginia

West Virginia begins our bottom 3, with 32.9% of residents listed as obese. This is significantly higher than their Virginia neighbors, who registered 26.4% as obese. Only 32.1% of West Virginians could be considered as not overweight or obese. We’re not sure if West Virginia should be considered a northern or southern state; we’ll let you settle that one at home!

#2 – Alabama

Well, Alabama residents can be proud to have scored better than their Mississippi neighbors, but that isn’t saying much. With 33% of its residents considered obese and only 30.1% in the neither obese nor overweight category, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Perhaps they need to lay off the pecans – the official nut of Alabama!

#1 – Mississippi

There’s only one state that has earned the right to be called the Fattest State in America, and Mississippi takes that title, with a whopping 34.5% of its citizens listed as obese, and only 33.5% percent falling outside of the overweight or obese categories. We don’t know if there’s a special Mississippi Thanksgiving dish to blame, but there definitely seems to be a lack of commitment to exercise!

When it’s all said and done, diet is only half of the Thanksgiving calorie battle. Exercise is a huge part of a healthy lifestyle, and it can be difficult to exercise without a workout plan. Whether you feel like you may be responsible for your state making the top 10 fattest states, or you have been working out as long as you can remember, there is always room for improvement.

Do your part to keep your home state from becoming the fattest state in America by signing up for an PRO plan for access to workout routines, personal trainers, and more. Go PRO today.

* The data shown in these maps were collected through the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), on the basis of self-reported weight and height. Each year, state health departments use standard procedures to collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults. Prevalence estimates generated for the maps may vary slightly from those generated for the states by the BRFSS as slightly different analytic methods are used.


State: Neither overweight nor obese (bmi le 24.9) OVERWEIGHT (bmi 25.0 – 29.9) OBESE (bmi 30.0 – 99.8)
Nationwide (States, DC, and Territories) 35.3 36.2 27.6
Nationwide (States and DC) 35.5 36.2 27.5
Alabama 30.1 37.0 33.0
Alaska 34.1 40.7 25.2
Arizona 34.6 40.7 24.7
Arkansas 32.9 36.3 30.9
California 38.4 36.9 24.7
Colorado 42.4 36.2 21.4
Connecticut 39.4 37.5 23.0
Delaware 36.0 35.3 28.7
District of Columbia 42.6 34.8 22.7
Florida 35.0 37.8 27.2
Georgia 34.2 35.3 30.4
Guam 39.7 32.6 27.6
Hawaii 42.8 34.1 23.1
Idaho 37.1 36.0 26.9
Illinois 36.8 34.5 28.7
Indiana 33.5 36.2 30.2
Iowa 33.8 37.1 29.1
Kansas 35.5 34.4 30.1
Kentucky 32.5 35.7 31.8
Louisiana 33.5 34.7 31.7
Maine 36.3 36.3 27.4
Maryland 34.0 38.2 27.9
Massachusetts 39.9 36.5 23.6
Michigan 33.2 35.1 31.7
Minnesota 36.9 37.7 25.4
Mississippi 31.2 34.3 34.5
Missouri 34.2 34.4 31.4
Montana 38.7 37.8 23.5
Nebraska 35.1 37.4 27.5
Nevada 39.8 37.1 23.1
New Hampshire 36.9 37.6 25.5
New Jersey 38.5 36.8 24.8
New Mexico 39.3 35.1 25.6
New York 38.5 36.9 24.5
North Carolina 34.7 36.7 28.6
North Dakota 35.2 36.8 27.9
Ohio 34.3 36.0 29.7
Oklahoma 32.8 36.0 31.3
Oregon 39.1 33.3 27.6
Pennsylvania 34.3 36.6 29.2
Puerto Rico 34.4 38.1 27.5
Rhode Island 36.5 37.5 26.0
South Carolina 32.6 35.4 32.0
South Dakota 34.3 38.0 27.7
Tennessee 32.2 36.1 31.7
Texas 33.4 34.8 31.7
Utah 42.3 34.7 23.0
Vermont 41.6 34.6 23.9
Virginia 38.7 34.8 26.4
Virgin Islands 33.8 36.2 30.0
Washington 38.2 35.6 26.2
West Virginia 32.1 35.0 32.9
Wisconsin 36.4 36.7 26.9
Wyoming 36.2 38.1 25.7

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