Ate Too Much Sugar? We Asked a Registered Dietitian How to Find Balance

Illustration of woman sitting on floor, surrounded by candy
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

From happy hours to weekend brunch to your best friend's wedding, there are endless occasions where it's easy to overindulge. The problem? It's Monday, and those indulgences may have left you feeling sluggish and guilty. 

There's no point dwelling on your decisions, says Keri Glassman, registered dietitian, and founder and CEO of Nutritious Life and The Nutrition Studio. Instead, to get your health back on track, Glassman recommends focusing on the changes you can make today. It's possible to find balance, Glassman says, by listening to your body and choosing nutrient-packed food. We asked Glassman for her tips on finding balance after consuming a little too much alcohol, dairy, and salt.

Meet the Expert

Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and founder/CEO of Nutritious Life and The Nutrition Life Studio.


Candy, candy, and more candy: Immediately after gorging on sweet treats, "Your body experiences a surge of feel-good hormones known as dopamine, and you experience a high similar to using some drugs," says Glassman. "When you eat too much sugar, your body releases insulin, a hormone that works to remove sugar from the blood, in order to stabilize blood sugar levels."

Signs You've Had Too Much

"Once the insulin is done working, and the sugar is quickly digested, your blood sugar levels drop and make you feel completely drained. You'll feel very sluggish and tired—AKA the sugar crash." To level out your blood sugar levels, aim for a satiating protein, fiber, and healthy fats combo. And don't forget to hydrate, says Glassman.

The Cure 

  • Don't skip breakfast: "Aim for a low-sugar breakfast with protein and healthy fats," says Glassman. For example, "Try boiled eggs with sliced avocados."
  • Eat fish, raw nuts, and vegetables: "You'll need high fiber to clean out your gut and slow-digesting foods, like protein and healthy fats, to keep you satisfied and to keep your blood sugar from going high again."
  • Infuse water with lemon: "Invest in a 32-ounce bottle, and fill 'er up twice daily. I like to add lemon wedges to water to give it an antioxidant kick."


One too many cocktails: Glassman says the effects of over-indulging shouldn't be taken lightly. "Your liver recognizes the byproducts of alcohol as toxins, so your body stops processing nutrients from the food you've eaten while it takes care of the 'bad guys' first," she explains. "As a result, your body burns alcohol calories for energy while the digestion of nutrient-rich food is put on the back burner." When your body finally burns food calories, "It might not need the energy and end up storing the extra calories you've eaten as fat cells."

Signs You've Had Too Much

A slower reaction time and frequent need to go to the bathroom are signs you should (safely) leave the bar. The day after, a headache and body shakes suggest you need to rebalance your body. To recover, make hydration a priority and reach for nutrient-dense foods.

The Cure

  • Drink coconut water: "It's also important to replenish electrolytes to help with hydration. Go for miso soup, coconut water, bananas," Glassman recommends. 
  • Load up on protein: "Protein is made from amino acids and amino acids are important for overall liver function. It's generally important to eat loads of veggies, some lean protein, and healthy fats."
  • Eat a kale salad: "When drinking you'll have…nutrient loss, especially the B vitamins, which play an important role in carbohydrate metabolism, red blood cell formation, and healthy nerves," she says. "Eat whole grains and dark leafy greens." 


Cheese platters, chocolate treats, milk-rich drinks: "Cheese is loaded with fat and sodium. Fats have almost twice the amount of calories per gram when compared to carbohydrates and proteins, so even though you need some fat (even some saturated fat is okay), it is easily overeaten," Glassman explains. "Saturated fats also increase your risk of heart disease, so although a little cheese is okay, too much is, well, too much and puts you at risk."

Signs You've Had Too Much

"Overindulging usually goes hand in hand with indigestion, which is that uncomfortable feeling of fullness or pain and burning in the upper part of your stomach," says Glassman. Some people may also experience stomach pain and bloating from lactose intolerance. To calm your stomach, turn to foods that balance the body's increased sodium intake.

The Cure 

  • Snack on bananas: "It's also important to counteract the increased sodium from the cheese with potassium-rich foods like bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, [and] cantaloupe," she says. 
  • Eat loads of vegetables: "Eat a well-balanced meal including loads of veggies, some lean protein, and healthy fats."
  • Hydrate: Dairy products are often high in sodium, so be sure to drink lots of water. "Water helps keep your body functioning properly since it's important for nutrient absorption and digestion."


Pretzels, chips, and most processed snacks: Not sure if you've overindulged? According to stats, Glassman says it's likely you have. "The recommendations are to have less than 2300 milligrams (about one teaspoon), and we consume almost one and a half to two times that."

If you eat too much salt, your kidneys don't release as much water into your urine to balance out the excess sodium, which can lead to swelling.

The result is pretty concerning. "If you eat too much salt, your kidneys don't release as much water into your urine to balance out the excess sodium, which can lead to swelling," Glassman explains. "Dehydration can occur because you don't have enough water in your system to balance out the salt. Hypertension can occur because your kidneys are not excreting water into urine, which increases blood volume and causes high blood pressure."

Signs You've Had Too Much

Salt dehydrates your body, so you might notice your mouth is dry and you feel thirsty. "You could also feel bloated because of water retention. Your rings won't fit and your eyes may look puffy." Potassium-rich foods can help with that.

The Cure

  • Don't season your meal: "Avoid the salt shaker completely, and avoid all packaged and processed foods."
  • Eat cantaloupe: "Consuming foods high in potassium like bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe can help to reduce any water retention."
  • Drink plenty of water: Combat dehydration by keeping a water bottle on hand throughout the day. The Mayo Clinic recommends an average 2.2 liters of water per day. 
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Article Sources
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  1. Diabetes: Counting Carbs if You Use Insulin. Michigan Medicine. Updated December 19, 2019.

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