How to navigate the holiday table without overindulging

by Tallahassee Table

If you have prediabetes, diabetes, are trying to lose weight or have other dietary restrictions, nutritional experts can tell you how to enjoy these special occasions and not overdo it.

Navigating the holiday table isn’t easy if you’re watching your weight, have prediabetes or diabetes or have some other type of dietary restrictions. It’s hard to resist so many temptations with mac ‘n cheese, turkey and gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie and all the other Thanksgiving and Christmas classics there for the splurging.

Still experts will tell you it’s possible to enjoy your favorites without throwing your body out of whack. Planning and portion control play a part. Here are some tips from dietitians and physicians for dealing with the holiday table — or really any other special occasion meal.

Here are a few recommendations from a story I wrote, along with recipes for healthy dishes, and how a University of Miami surgeon overcame a diagnosis of prediabetes. For more information, please see the Miami Herald.

Dr. Omaida Velazquez, chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at UHealth, was diagnosed with prediabetes in the spring, but with guidance from University of Miami gastroenterologist Dr. Michelle Pearlman, Velazquez changed her eating habits and established a daily exercise regime. As a result, she’s lost 30 pounds and her blood levels are back to normal. She’s swapping summer squash for sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving. 
Photo Credit / PEDRO PORTAL [email protected]

▪ Plan ahead. “Don’t rely on willpower,” said Cleveland Clinic’s Candace O’Neill. “If you arrive at the table hungry, willpower goes out the window. Rely on having a solid plan and a good nutrition strategy for improving health.”

▪ Don’t skip meals. Not eating correctly can result in problems with blood sugar levels. “Fasting in the morning can backfire because when you do that, you tend to overeat at the holiday meal or mindlessly eat,” said O’Neill. Your blood sugar level could go too low early in the day then too high when you have a huge meal. Try to stay as close as possible to your typical carb counts throughout the day, eating a healthy and balanced breakfast and lunch.

▪ Bring your own healthy dish. “Make sure you plan ahead by offering to bring a carb-friendly dish or a dessert that has less sugar and less calories than a typical dessert,” said Memorial’s Sonia Angel. Another tip: Try improving traditional recipes with a noncaloric sweetener like Stevia or monk fruit, she said.

▪ Portion control. “A lot of times people just want to taste things and not eat a whole bowl of everything,” said University of Miami’s gastroenterologist, Dr. Michelle Pearlman. She suggested sticking to one plate to minimize mindless eating. “Take one plate and whatever fits is what you eat. Don’t go back for more.”

▪ Exercise: Activity helps with glucose control, said O’Neill. “Going for a walk after dinner or a family sports game or dancing creates memories that aren’t only food centric. After any meal, go for a walk to help bring down blood glucose immediately,” said Baptist Health South Florida dietitian Carla Duenas. “It’s not a good idea to lie down.

Chia Seed pudding, submitted by surgeon, Dr. Omaida Velazquez

Here are some recipes for holiday options.


(from Dr. Omaida Velazquez chair of the DeWitt Daughtry Family Department of Surgery at UHealth)

Chia Seed Pudding from UHealth

2 tablespoons chia seeds

½ cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

¼  teaspoon almond extract

⅓ teaspoon Stevia

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl. Mix well. Place in refrigerator and chill until mixture gels into pudding consistency. Serve on a bed of sliced fruits (preferred fruits are golden kiwi and berries). For one serving.

Recipe courtesy of Rebekah Kramer Sherwood, ARNP

Guiltless Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

From Cleveland Clinic (See top photo, credit: Cleveland Clinic)

1 (8 oz.) block of reduced fat cream cheese

½  cup low fat ricotta cheese

½  cup pumpkin puree

2 teaspoons vanilla

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons powdered sugar

Puff Pastry Mini Cups – 2 packages

Blend ingredients in food processor for one full minute. Scrape the sides of the food processor and blend for another 30 seconds. Spoon two tablespoons of the mixture into each mini pastry cup and serve.

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