How to Avoid Overeating on Thanksgiving: Let’s Talk Turkey!

Oh, the gravy. The potatoes. The sauces and desserts. What’s a person to do when faced with so many temptations on Thanksgiving and the ensuing holidays?  How do you avoid overeating when all you want to do is celebrate?  We decided to visit with Melissa De Los Santos, Dietician at the Witherell, for some answers. Melissa’s seen it all.

“On Thanksgiving and other holidays at this time of year, people tend to overeat,” she says. “But you can and should celebrate; just eat and drink in moderation. “ She also offered some valuable tips about getting through the feasts without having to be rolled through the door.

1. Don’t skip meals.

“Lots of times, people think they should skip breakfast and lunch on Thanksgiving because dinner will consist of so many tantalizing dishes,” she says. “Well, I advise people not to skip any meals, especially not breakfast. It will be better for your body and help you to avoid overeating later in the day.” She urges you to “try to stick to your routine; it will help you avoid what I call ‘huge-plate-itis.’” She also points out that when you overeat, you tend to get very sleepy, not something you want to do, especially if you’ve got a long drive home.

2. Watch out for the meal before the meal.

We’re talking about all those gorgeous little appetizers displayed so artfully that you simply can’t resist sampling each one. Spoiler alert! They can fill you up before you even get to the main event. But, if you must indulge, put four or five of the delicious little items on a small plate and drink some sparkling water after you consume them. Then, turn away and focus your attention on some footbal.

3. For the main attraction, move the sides to the center.

Once dinner is served, fill your plate with salad and vegetables such as sauteed string beans, and protein such as turkey, but cut back on the mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and creamy sauces. The veggies’ fiber can help reduce your total caloric intake, and consuming protein promotes a feeling of fullness – all of which help to prevent overeating. “Enjoy your food, but focus on the vegetables,” says De Los Santos. “And if you’re preparing or bringing dishes, use avocado or olive oil instead of butter. Coconut cream is another alternative as it contains less saturated fat.”

4. Be satisfied, not stuffed.

Try to keep the portions on your plate small and eat slowly. After you finish (but you crave more, more, more), try to wait about 10 minutes before going back for seconds. You’ll feel less hungry that way, but will still be able to enjoy the foods you liked the most.

5. Drink wisely and in moderation.

Our advice is to drink a glass of plain or sparking water before you leave home and have another glass before you sit down to eat. It will help curb your appetite. As for punch bowls and alcohol, remember this: many holiday drinks contain high calorie counts which may stimulate your appetite. Also, when your body burns calories, it will prioritize alcohol over fat.

6. Make a desert of dessert?

So, let’s be practical: Thanksgiving and ensuing holidays happen but once a year, and desserts, candy, and cookies are part of the deal. “We’re not saying you should deprive yourself, but better to have a slice of pumpkin pie or apple crumble than some rich cheesecake,” De Los Santos advises. “But if you must, don’t go overboard. One small slice won’t make or break your weight.”

7. And when you get to January 2nd, it will be time to really get moving.

“Be active,” she says. “Even on the holiday itself, if you can dance to the music on a video game or go for a walk after the big meal, it will be good for you because exercise is brings down your blood sugar levels.”


Thanksgiving Day at the Witherell

On Thanksgiving Day, the Witherell’s chefs will prepare two celebratory meals for residents. For lunch, folks will be treated to turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots glazed with maple syrup, and pumpkin pie. For dinner, glazed ham, sweet potato mash, green beans, and apple pie are on the menu.

Now that you know how to avoid overeating, we’ve got a wonderful dessert recipe to share (as in, it’s sensational!) – a fresh, spicy ginger cake from David Lebovitz, renowned cookbook author, that’s quick, easy, and mightily delicious.




  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature


    1. Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch spring form pan with parchment paper.
    2. Peel, slice, and either chop the ginger very fine with a knife, or rub off the skin with a spoon and grate the ginger. Set aside.
    3. In one bowl, mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.
    4. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
    5. Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
    6. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Then, add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.
    7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, place a piece of foil over the cake and continue baking.
    8. Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes before eating. Then, run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.


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