Calories in Food: Popular Holiday Sides

They may be popular side dishes at holiday meals, but they’re also popular at any meals.

Mashed potatoes. Refrigerator-case mashed potatoes like Bob Evans Original and Simply Potatoes Traditional have around 150 calories in a half-cup serving. That’s how much—that is, how little—we should eat. Odds are, most people are downing closer to the 250-calorie serving you’d get in the plain mashed potatoes at a restaurant like Applebee’s or Boston Market.

Of course, those and other restaurants up the ante by also offering mashed potatoes that are “loaded” with cheese, bacon, and/or sour cream. Now the calories in your side dish are up to 310 (Boston Market), 340 (Marie Callender’s), or 460 (Applebee’s). And all have 9 to 12 grams of saturated fat (roughly half a day’s worth). Gravy, anyone?

mashed potatoes


Sweet potato casserole. Yes, a sweet potato has more vitamin A and fiber than a white potato. But a 7.6 oz. side of Boston Market’s Sweet Potato Casserole has 450 calories. Got room for that on your sides?

Macaroni & cheese. It’s a popular holiday side dish in the South, and it’s a hot item at restaurants. At Au Bon Pain, Bob Evans, and Boston Market, each serving (about 1 cup) has 280 to 350 calories.

Think that’s a lot? Panera’s small order (which you can get in a “You Pick 2”) packs 490 calories and 13 grams of saturated fat into 1 cup. That’s more than freezer-aisle mainstay Stouffer’s Macaroni & Cheese, with 330 calories and 7 grams of sat fat.

Macaroni and Cheese

Biscuits. They may look like just another kind of dinner roll, but there’s a difference. Biscuits are made with palm oil or butter. So expect about 170 calories (and 3 grams of saturated fat) in each Pillsbury Grands!

The biscuits at Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Perkins, and Popeyes pack 260 to 320 calories (and 7 to 11 grams of saturated fat).


Creamed spinach. Frozen brands like Birds Eye, Green Giant, and Seabrook Farms have just 70 to 120 calories in half a cup. Stouffer’s Simple Dishes Creamed Spinach has 200 calories (and 4 grams of saturated fat). In contrast, you get 260 calories (and 12 grams of saturated fat) in Boston Market’s Creamed Spinach. Blame it on the cream cheese.


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3 Replies to “Calories in Food: Popular Holiday Sides”

  1. I am a nutrition and exercise fanatic and for years I’ve been in great shape and very healthy. But, Thanksgiving day is my one day a year off…sorry….but pass the stuffing, mashed potatoes, turkey (even the dark meat), sweet potatoes with melted marshmallows. Then, smother it all with loads of nasty gravy. I won’t feel guilty. Friday I’ll add a mile or two to my power walk and feel thankful for my 364 healthy days a year.

  2. Jane. Will we ever get people to realize they are leading themselves down a road to poor health? Will they ever learn to eat well? I am a fitness trainer for retirees. At every class of about 50 people I talk briefly about nutrition. The feedback I get is horrible. People just want to eat what tastes good and what they see advertised. They just eat the same way. I had one lady say she can’t eat tomatoes without putting sugar on them. Needless to say she is obese. What is the secret to help them change.

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