Exercise and Holiday Meals

How much does exercise offset those holiday meals?

You’re with friends and family that you haven’t seen in some time. Frequently, the focal point of the gathering is the meal. Well, what does the meal add up to in calories and how much exercise do you have to do to burn those calories? Here’s some food for thought.

red wine3.5 ounces75
white wine3.5 ounces80
regular beer12 ounces160
light beer12 ounces95
80 proof alcohol1.5 ounces95
90 proof alcohol1.5 ounces110
egg nog8 ounces340
cola12 ounces160
fruit soda12 ounces150-180
fruit punch8 ounces113
whole milk8 ounces150
2% milk8 ounces120
skim milk8 ounces85
canned cranberry sauce1 cup420
bread stuffing1 cup420
black eyed peas1 cup190
string beans1 cup45
brussel sprouts1 cup60
carrots1 cup35
corn1 cup135
peas1 cup125
mashed potatoes1 cup225
baked sweet potatoes1 potato115
canned sweet potatoes1 cup260
white meat turkey3 ounces (2 slices, 1/4″)135
dark meat turkey3 ounces160
roast beef3 ounces (1/4″ thick)315
gravy1/2 cup95
cheese cake1 slice280
apple pie1 slice (1/6 9″pie)405
pumpkin pie1 slice320
choc. chip cookie4 21/2″ diameter180
sugar cookies4235
oatmeal cookies4245
shortbread cookies4155

Now if you add up the calories for a holiday meal, along with the drinks, and deserts – and this doesn’t even include those caloric depositories called appetizers – a realistic intake is over 2000 calories at a single sitting. That’s right, 2000 calories. When we calculated this we considered 2 beers, 1 glass of wine, 1 piece of apple pie and no cookies in our total!!

If you are a 150-pound person feeling a little guilty about all that, you might consider taking a walk. If you walk 3 miles in 45 minutes (not too shabby, and you’ve waited at least one hour since eating) you will have burned off less than 1 sixth of that meal – 300 calories. That’s the bad news.

Here are some other equivalents for exercise for a 150-pound person in better than average condition. (These are approximations and will vary from one individual to another, but you’ll get the point)

walk, 15 min/mile60 min400
golf, walking270 min600
jogging 10 min/mile60 min660
skiing – alpine120 min660
skiing x-country60 min420
tennis, singles60 min420
basketball60 min540
rowing60 min700
stationary cycling60 min600
weight lifting60  min350
stair climber60 min600
chopping wood60 min444
raking leaves60 min200
snow shoveling60 min700


Excess intake of calories around the holidays is only partially offset by exercise. The levels of caloric expenditure above are for a relatively fit individual, and it is unlikely that someone who does little physical activity will be able to attain these expenditures. The best plan is to exercise restraint in eating and drinking. It will take as much exercise exercise as one individual can normally do in one week to work off one average holiday meal.