Happy Healthy Holidays – How to manage your work and health while indulging in holiday treats and parties

Laura Akgerman Disability Services Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility

Most of us still continue to work through the holiday season. If you farm, the animals still need fed, the equipment needs inspected and repaired, and next year’s work needs planned. And just like the work that needs done, don’t stop paying attention to your eating, health and exercise just because holiday obligations are on the calendar.

During the holiday season it’s easy to eat, drink and be merry, and forget that you have diabetes, or another health condition that is impacted by your diet. Take time to assess your health, see where you could make improvements, and make a plan for better eating, more exercise, and ways to work smarter, not harder. Ohio AgrAbility has a Farming with Diabetes fact sheet that offers helpful tips for managing your diabetes while working on the farm. For other Ohio AgrAbility fact sheets, please see the Ohio AgrAbility resource page at https://agrability.osu.edu/resources .

If you don’t have diabetes, but have a family member or friend who does, please consider their dietary restrictions when preparing holiday meals, or gifts of food & drinks. Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring food. Although fruits and vegetables are not as fun to eat as candy and cake, they can still be delicious, and planning healthy meals can keep you, your family and friends safe and healthy through the holidays (no one wants to go the emergency room because their blood sugar is too high or too low). This article has several suggestions for healthy eating, for more options and recipes, an Internet search for easy holiday recipes for diabetes will give you many, many resources. 

If you are making food for holiday gifts and snacking, look at healthy options – nuts with spices and herbs, salsa or bean based dips (instead of cream cheese dips), good quality dark chocolate instead of brownies, shortbread instead of frosted cookies, sparking water and fruit juice instead of soda. Portion size is important also, don’t expect anyone to cut a brownie or cookie in half before they eat it! Cut small portions, if you are wrapping individual gifts, use small pieces, and include nuts with the cookies.

The Centers for Disease Control offers 5 Healthy eating tips for the holidays, these are good tips for anyone, with or without a health condition.

Holiday proof your eating plan
Eat at or near your usual meal times to keep your blood sugar steady. If you are eating later than normal, have a small (healthy) snack, then eat less of your meal later. If you have dessert, or another sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (potatoes or bread) during the meal.
Outsmart the buffet
Start with vegetables and fruits, and take your time eating, it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize your full. If you are hosting – make sure there are plenty of fruits and vegetables available, and consider a healthy fruit tart or berries and cream dessert instead of a heavy cake or pie.
Fit in favorites
Eat the foods you love in small amounts (especially if you only have them at the holidays), and balance sweets and healthy food with lighter, healthier food (vegetables and fruit).
Keep moving
Exercise and physical activity help reduce stress, and can help you maintain your weight and health if you are eating more than usual. If you don’t have time, break your activity into smaller sessions – take the stairs, walk with family and friends after a meal, or take the dog for a long walk.
Get your Zzz’s
Getting enough sleep is important to maintain your health, manage stress, and stay healthy during the holidays. If you are sleep deprived, it is harder to maintain a healthy blood sugar, and being tired can add stress, make you more susceptible to illness, and make you overeat.


If you want more information, or help developing a structured eating and meal planning regimen, OSU Extension has an interactive online program called Dining with Diabetes: Beyond the Kitchen, that teaches you how to manage your diabetes at home, while grocery shopping, planning weekly meals or eating at restaurants. This program would also be very helpful if a member of your family is diabetic, and you need help planning and preparing meals. For a simple way to think about eating and meal planning, the Eating Healthier with Diabetes placemat is a simple way to see what (and how much) you should be eating.

For more information about Ohio AgrAbility visit https://agrability.osu.edu/ or contact Laura Akgerman, Ohio AgrAbility and OSU Extension Disability Services Coordinator, at Akgerman.4@osu.edu, or 614-292-0622.