How to Avoid Overeating During the Holidays

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As a nutritionist, Laura McCain is accustomed to all eyes on her while she strolls the Thanksgiving buffet line. “What is she going to eat?” everyone wonders, as they watch the chef and Munson outpatient nutritionist cruise through the assortment of traditional treats on the table. No, she doesn’t start at the beginning of the table and fill up her plate as she passes each dish. Laura has a game plan to avoid overeating during the holidays. After taking several laps around the buffet table, she thinks to herself, “What are the top five things here I’d be sad I missed out on?” Cranberry salad, turkey and gravy all make the list. Plusby no surprise due to her line of workshe’s a fan of vegetables, so they make the list, too.

“It’s always, always about volume and frequency,” Laura says, no matter if you’re a healthy individual or face the challenges of diabetes. “Celebrate the hospitality of the holiday and the fact that you don’t have to be in a big rush. Don’t approach it saying, ‘oh I have diabetes, I can’t eat that food.’”

In fact, Laura wants diabetics to remember the goal isn’t to be rigid and sad you can’t eat certain things. “Eat the dessert! Just don’t eat to be sick. Know which foods will raise your blood sugar (starches, etc). And know that proteins and vegetables won’t. Then layer in the fun stuff that does raise your blood sugar. Make a balanced plate of food,” she says. “You get to decide if it’s the pasta salad or the mashed potatoes and gravy—and eat until you feel comfortable, not stuffed.”

A tip for everyone to combat the urge to overeat: Laura recommends remembering what if feels like when you are stuffed as you fill your Thanksgiving plate. “No matter how good the food tastes,” she says, “You want a good memory of that food.”

Laura also has overeating advice for the cook, as under eating before a meal directly impacts the likelihood of overeating. “Don’t go too long without food so you’re starving,” she says. “You need more help in the kitchen so this is a nice holiday for you, too.

“You really don’t want to come to the meal starving. It’s what everyone with or without diabetes should do. Pace yourself. Enjoy the day. Have joy. And don’t feel guilty.”

Last but not least, Laura reminds us to sneak in some physical activity on Thanksgiving Day. She suggests a shuffle through the leaves or to take the dog for a walk before dinner. “Make it a part of your game plan,” she says.

Looking for healthy Thanksgiving recipes to share? Try Laura’s Brussels sprouts with walnuts or kale salad with pine nuts. Also, check out these pumpkin scones

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts, Fennel and Sweet Onion
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, frozen
  • 1 large sweet onion, sliced in half, then thick sliced
  • 1 cup walnut halves
  • 1 large bulb fennel, sliced in half, then thick sliced, using the bulb and just a little stem
  • 2–3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat oven to 400o.

Place frozen Brussels sprouts into large mixing bowl. Add onion, walnuts, fennel and toss. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place on a sheet pan (line with parchment paper if you have it for easy clean up). Spread out evenly.

Place in oven. Roast for about 12–15 minutes, or until sprouts are just starting to brown and are fairly easy to pierce with a fork.

Serve immediately.

Kale Salad
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (about ¾ pound)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place raisins in a small bowl. Add the hot water and allow the raisins to soak while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Remove the center ribs from the kale (if the leaves are large) then cut the leaves very thinly into shreds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, salt and 1 tablespoon of the raisin soaking water. Add the dressing to the kale and massage it in with your hands so the kale is well coated and begins to soften, about 30 seconds.

Drain the raisins and add them to the kale along with the pine nuts, and toss to combine.

Written by Courtney Jerome


Shape Up North is a community collaboration dedicated to helping northern Michigan residents benefit from healthy eating habits and an active lifestyle. Living a healthier lifestyle can and should be an enjoyable adventure. Small changes in habits at school, work, and home can have long-lasting, positive effects on your health. With an abundance of great local foods and a four-season playground right outside your door, you and your family can lead a healthy, fit, and fun life.