Holiday Dining Tips for Diabetes-Friendly Meals

November is American Diabetes Month. According to the 2020 Center for Disease and Prevention Report, over 1 in 10 people have diabetes and approximately 1 in 3 have prediabetes. Managing diabetes through diet, physical activity, and medication can be challenging anytime, but it can be even more difficult during the holidays.

November also begins the ‘holiday eating’ season as tempting foods are everywhere through December. Whether it’s a neighborhood party, work function, or family gathering, following a meal plan that limits the sugars and fat found in our favorite holiday foods can be overwhelming. Check out these healthy holiday eating ideas that will help you maintain good control of your blood sugar levels and allow you to still enjoy your favorite dishes.

1. It’s all about the carbs. Some holiday foods may be too tempting to resist. But you can still savor the flavor of these foods by consuming them in portions based on your diabetes meal pattern and by keeping track of the number of grams of carbohydrates you consume. Below are foods found on the USDA MyPlate and the number of grams of carbohydrates they contain:

  • Starches:(potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, cereal, beans, corn, etc.) 15 grams per serving
  • Non-starchy vegetables:(carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, etc.) 5 grams per serving
  • Fruits: 15 grams per serving
  • Milk and yogurt: 15 grams per serving
  • Meat and other protein: 0 grams per serving except for foods like beans

Note, beans (kidney, black, red, white, etc.) are starches and contain 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving You can find out more about serving sizes by visiting the USDA MyPlate website

2. Choose carbohydrates wisely. Limit the amount of starches you eat, and try consuming non-starchy vegetables. They contain 1/3 of the carbohydrates and calories in starches and do not cause big spikes in your blood sugar. Consuming whole fruits with skins are better than canned fruit or juices because they contain fiber, which prevent spikes in blood sugar. Include low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt in your holiday meals. Milk and Greek yogurt are excellent sources of protein, calcium, and other nutrients and can be substituted in some of your favorite dishes. For example, use fat-free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream in your favorite dips and low-fat milk in your eggnog recipe.

3. The scoop on alcohol and diabetes. If you don’t currently drink alcohol, then don’t start. However, if you plan to indulge in some alcohol, consult with your healthcare team first. Whether you can consume alcohol if your diabetic is very personalized and may be based on your medications and other health conditions.

4. Work it out. Make time to be physically active. The more you stick with your year- long routine during the holidays, the more likely you will keep focused on your fitness and blood sugar goals too. 

5. Host your own holiday event! Take control of the ‘party foods’ you serve by providing your guests a list of healthy holiday foods they can bring. It reduces time you  spend preparing multiple dishes and provides your guests the opportunity to create festive healthy options that all can enjoy. For example, instead of cheesy dips, ask someone to bring a festive vegetable plate with hummus dip and red vegetables and green vegetables. You can also add a red and green fruit platter to the list too. 

Try this fruit tart recipe from the Dining with Diabetes program. It’s easy to make and one of my favorites. Wontons sheets are available in the produce section of the grocery store. To learn more about upcoming Dining with Diabetes program I’m teaching at the University of Maryland Extension, feel free to reach out to me at:

Happy holidays!

Fresh Fruit Tarts

Serving Information: Serves 12 (1 serving = 1 tart)


  • 12 wonton skins
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar-free jelly or fruit spread
  • 1 1/2 c. diced fresh fruit*
  • 1 c. non-fat yogurt, any flavor
  • Cooking spray

*Select fruit combinations based on what is in season. Any of the following could be used: bananas, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, raspberries, peaches, orange sections, etc.


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Small saucepan
  • Muffin tin


  • Preheat over to 375 degrees F and spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
  • Press wonton skins into muffin tins allowing the corners to stand up over the edges.
  • Bake wontons until lightly brown, approximately 4-6 minutes. Watch carefully, as wonton skins bake very quickly.
  • Remove from oven; carefully take each wonton out of the muffin tin and allow time for cooling.
  • Warm jelly or fruit spread and lightly coat bottom of each wonton.
  • Fill each wonton with fruit and a rounded dollop of yogurt on top.
  • Garnish with small piece of fruit or a dab of jelly/spread and serve immediately.

Walking Safety in the Woods

Earlier this month, we talked about how our communities can make themselves more walkable. Specifically, we talked about how safety issues in a community can make people feel more or less comfortable walking there. But what if you are someone who prefers to exercise outdoors and not in your local neighborhood? Well, Maryland has some beautiful trails for all those looking to get out and do some hiking! But, there are still some important things you’ll want to do to stay safe on the trail.

A group of friends hiking. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

First, you want to be prepared for everything the outdoors can throw at you! Weather is a big part of that. You might start your hike under sunny skies only for a sudden storm or shower to appear. So, you’ll want to bring layers. Ideally, you want to have some warmer or waterproof clothing you can put on or remove, depending on the situation. You’ll also want to make sure you have good shoes. Especially if shoes get wet, they can rub and cause blisters. So, make sure your gear is going to cover you, regardless of the weather.

Another part of being in the great outdoors is dealing with bugs. Although some bugs (like ticks) are more common in the spring and summer, they are still out there in the fall. Wearing long sleeves and long pants and using bug spray can help you avoid bugs.

While appropriate clothing and weather preparedness is helpful, accidents can still happen. So, you’ll want to have at least a basic first aid kit so you can handle cuts, blisters, stings, and bites that might occur along the trail.

A first aid kit is a great way to handle small injuries, but what about larger injuries or emergencies? The best way to handle these concerns is to be prepared and have a way to get help, if needed. When you get out on the trail, you can pay attention to whether or not you have phone signal. You likely won’t have signal all the time, but if you make note of places where you had signal then you can go back to them and call for help if needed. Another great way to stay safe is to hike with a buddy or group. That way, someone is with you to get help if needed. A final idea for staying safe is to make sure someone knows where you are going and when you should be back. That way, if you end up in a position where you can’t reach out for help, someone knows where you are and when to start looking for you if you aren’t back when you should be.

Hiking is a great way to get out and enjoy the beauty Maryland has to offer! Although accidents can happen, following these safety tips can help you be prepared on the trail. If you are prepared and want to get out and experience the benefits of a great hike, check out for information on Maryland State parks and for information on some great Maryland hiking spots. Then, get out and get moving on the trail to celebrate Walktober!

To learn more about Walktober and Maryland’s official state exercise, or to sign up to participate in Walktober events, go to

DASH to Heart Health

Almost half of the American population has hypertension, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and having high blood pressure puts you at risk for things like a stroke, heart disease, or even death. Not only are the numbers high, the CDC says only 1 in 4 of those people who have hypertension, have their condition under control.

The University of Maryland Extension health and wellness team are working to help remedy that issue by offering online classes to learn the DASH-Plus high blood pressure management program. DASH-Plus: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension – Plus Physical Activities is a community-based education program designed for adults over 55 years old who are managing high blood pressure with or without medication.

The full program includes eight 1-hour sessions, presented online for easy learning from home. Classes include subjects relating to healthy eating habits and incorporating physical exercise into your everyday routine. Learn about salt solutions, dairy, the benefits of fruits and vegetables, and even grocery shopping and budgeting tips to create the healthiest diet plan for your heart.

DASH-Plus classes, led by dietitians and trained University of Maryland Extension Educators, are happening now with a new session beginning Sept. 9, 2021. Interested participants can sign up for all eight classes, or choose the individual workshops that fit your needs.

Go to to find more information, a class list and registration information for each class.

Women’s Health: Putting a Halt on Gaining Weight Over 40

Recently, several of my female friends who are over 40 noticed they gained weight in the last few years. After a visit to their healthcare provider and finding out that the weight gain was probably not just related to hormones, I was the next one they called, their friend, the Registered Dietitian. My friends assumed I could provide them with a ‘magic bullet diet’ that could melt away 10 pounds quickly. 

Instead, I deliver the news that as we mature our metabolism decreases and how our body stores fat changes. Also, there is no ‘magic bullet diet’ for losing weight quickly that is healthy and can be maintained. In fact, diets in general don’t work; however, having healthy behaviors (diet and physical activity) can promote weight loss, and are easier to maintain than restrictive diets. 

Here are some of the tips I shared with my friends for slimming down after 40.

1. Eat more plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables. These colorful powerhouse foods are low in calories, full of nutrients, and high in fiber which provides satiety or ‘a feeling of being full’, and therefore, you will eat less calories. Add some whole grain-rich foods for an added boost of fiber.

2. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast. ‘Breaking the fast’ with a morning meal will jump start your metabolism and burn more calories. Eating breakfast will also prevent that mid-morning hunger which may cause you to eat something that is high in calories. Eating small meals frequently is also a good option for keeping your appetite in check throughout the day.

3. Consider the timing of your meals. There is some evidence that consuming most of your calories by mid-afternoon (before 3 p.m.), may help drop some pounds as opposed to eating a big dinner meal or heavy snacks in the evening. Regardless, it matters what you eat. To reduce calories, make it a habit to choose lower calorie options of the foods you enjoy. 

4. Cooking methods matter. Pay attention to the way you prepare food. Instead of frying food or cooking it in butter or oil, try grilling, baking, or broiling. Do the same at good restaurants too; skip foods that are fried or that come in creamy sauces. 

5. Get moving! Aim for 150 minutes of physical activity each week and schedule it! Make sure it’s on your weekly calendar, and ask a friend to join you. Having an ‘activity partner’ will keep you both motivated.  Also, mix up the activities and your partners. I run with one friend, bike with another and take a fitness class with yet another friend. It’s a great way to socialize and get those weekly minutes in. 

Don’t be hard on yourself. Accept that your body and metabolism is changing and embrace your ‘maturity’. This could be a great opportunity to revisit your health behaviors and really focus on your health for the next 40 years (or more).

For more weight loss tips and information about women’s health issues, check out these websites:

Get Moving with Cycling

Lately, I feel like I have been seeing bicycles everywhere and hearing about them much more often than I had in the past. For me, it started last summer when my husband suggested that he and I get bicycles as a way to stay active despite COVID-19 closures that meant we weren’t able to do some of our other favorite activities. We began looking for bicycles and quickly learned that we weren’t the only people looking to hop on the bike. New bicycles were in short supply and it took weeks of searching available used bicycles to find ones that would work for us. 

Almost a year later, bicycles are still in high demand! My hometown of Hagerstown, Md has been hosting bike races and the Olympics feature a variety of cycling events. So, I decided to spend a little time talking about bicycling. Why do people enjoy it so much? What do you need to consider if you want to get into cycling or biking? 

Let’s start with why cycling is so popular, especially right now. For some people who live close enough to their workplace, cycling is a quick and physically active way to commute to work. It can be a great way to build physical activity into a daily routine. But, for people who can’t bike to work, there are still reasons to start cycling! For me, it has been a fun way to explore my local area. Last fall, I got to spend an afternoon biking around Antietam National Battlefield and found out it was a great way to experience historical areas. 

Physically, cycling can also be a great way to be active without putting as much pressure on your joints as you might when jogging or running. For some people, that can mean that cycling is a great way to increase physical activity without joint pain. Otherwise, cycling has many of the same benefits that other forms of physical activity have (like improving your cardiovascular health). 

So what do you need to think about before jumping on the bike? Well, first, like with many other exercise programs, you’ll want to check with your doctor to make sure your health will allow you to start engaging in this type of physical activity. Then, you’ll want to check out the laws in your area. Some places have different rules about where you need to ride and what type of safety equipment you need to have (although even if your area doesn’t require a helmet, it is always a good idea to wear one anyway). You can even check out bicycle safety information from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Finally, you’ll need to figure out where you want to ride! You can go online and search for bike trails in your area. In Maryland, you can check out this website to find information on available bike trails in your area. 

So, if you are thinking about getting into bicycling for the first time, it might be challenging to find a bike at the moment (although it might be a little easier to find a used bike rather than a new one). If you have a bike or manage to find one, then I encourage you to get out and hit the road or trail for a fun way to be active! 

Cheap (Or Free!) Summer Activities

Right around the corner is summer! It’s time to start thinking about how to spend your time with the warm days and late evenings, especially after being stuck inside for the past year —  getting outside for your physical and mental health is important. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are facing financial hardships whether it be from the impacts of COVID-19 or in the increasing price of goods. Some of us just want to save some money. Whatever the reason, I would like to share a few ideas for cheap or free summer activities to get you and your family outside.

Summer Concerts – Cities both large and small host concerts and festivals to promote downtown revitalization efforts. Check your local tourism website or listen to your local radio station for more information. 

Couple walking and holding hands in the park

Local, State, and National Parks – The activities at parks are endless. You can pack a lunch and enjoy the outdoors. There are an endless number of trails to hike. Depending on the park, you may have the opportunity to sit by the pool or even the beach. Many parks offer educational programs and children’s activities. To find out more visit the website of your local park or your travel destination. 

Museums – When you think of museums, you often think of large museums like the Smithsonian Museums in Washington D.C. Many people don’t realize that small museums are located throughout towns and counties, and are often tied to historical events in the community. 

Libraries – Local libraries offer much more than just books. Libraries coordinate activities for both youth and adults. It is also a meeting place for groups and organizations who provide free activities that are open to the public. Ask your local librarian for a list of summer programming. In addition to books, check out the audio tapes and videos that are also available. 

Fishing – I just could not help but add fishing to the list. If you are an adult, you will probably need to get a license. Some areas offer license-free fishing spots or days, but make sure you find out the rules in the location you plan to fish. In the late spring and early summer, you may be able to find a free fishing derby for youth. Some of my best memories as a child are fishing. It’s fun, entertaining and relaxing all at the same time. 

I listed just a few activities that you can engage in with little or no cost. The opportunities are almost endless, you just need to spend a few minutes searching on the internet for what is available in your area. To start, visit your local tourism board. This will give you an idea of what the major events are in your area. When it comes to parks, visit the website for your state or county’s park service. You will find there are more parks out there than you realize with many within a short drive. 

Whatever you decide to do this summer, stay busy and active. Take a break from your television or computer screen. Remember that getting out improves both your physical and mental health.

5-2-1-0: Four Simple Strategies to Help Your Family Stay Healthy

Have you heard of 5-2-1-0? 

The idea is to use this simple set of numbers to help people remember four important strategies for keeping kids healthy! 

  • Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day
  • Limit screen time to two hours or less
  • Get at least one hour of physical activity every day
  • Drink zero sugary drinks

Health promotion groups across the country are promoting 5-2-1-0  and using the strategies to design programs aimed at helping families find ways to keep their children healthy and reduce childhood obesity. 

Even during these times, where social distancing is so important for the health of our communities, there are still innovative activities available to help families incorporate these strategies into their daily lives. 

I, along with several other amazing organizations, recently started working on a program centered on two of these important strategies: The LiveWell Frederick Story Path. It is a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors, take a break from screens, and enjoy physical activity. 

I can’t claim credit for the idea. Story Walk was developed by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT with the help of Rachel Senechal and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. The idea was simple, take a story book, separate the pages, and then place the pages on signs. Once you have the book on signs, you can place them in a park, along a popular walking path, or in some other outdoor area. The Story Walks offered a way to get moving while enjoying a story. These Story Walks have become extremely popular and all 50 states and 12 additional countries have some sort of Story Walk. 

Here in Frederick, Md., we thought the Story Walk idea was brilliant and decided to implement our own, which we called Story Path. You can check out more info at

Currently, the Story Path is set up at Utica Park and will be for the rest of the summer. Six books will be on display and all of them focus on themes centered around healthy eating and physical activity. 

While the Story Path is an excellent way to encourage more physical activity and less screen time, there are many other fun ways to help your family live the 5-2-1-0 lifestyle. 

You could try:

  • Selecting a new fruit or vegetable to try as a family
  • Starting your own garden (check out container gardening for limited space options)
  • An activity jar – write activities on slips of paper and place them in a jar. Then, draw one out whenever you need a fun family activity
  • Find a Story Walk near you
  • Check out a local park

Although it can be challenging, 5-2-1-0 resources, like these from Pennsylvania State University, can help you find a place to start. The most important thing is that you and your family find ways to maintain your health and strength.

Practice Self-Care During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all been stuck in the house, consuming new information, working from home, while also taking care of our loved ones. We have been practicing “social distancing” and staying indoors. This can take a toll on our mental health and it is important that we stop and take some time each day to practice self-care. 

image-from-rawpixel-id-2302332-originalWhat is Self Care? 

Self-care is an activity or practice that we do purposely to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It is time we take for ourselves to recharge and feel good. By practicing self-care you choose a simple activity that makes you feel good and incorporate it into your daily or weekly routine. One way to practice self-care is to write it in a calendar and also tell others to help increase your commitment. An increase in self-care activities has been seen to improve one’s mood as well as reduce stress and anxiety. It also has positive effects on our self-esteem and self-awareness. 

How To Practice Self-Care? 

  • Take a Break from the News 

Different platforms such as social media, online news sources and websites, and the tv, have constantly been putting out information about COVID-19, and we are being bombarded by messaging, which can be stressful. One thing you can do each day to practice self-care is to take a break from those platforms, helping to decrease stress and anxiety. 

  • Eat Healthy 

image-from-rawpixel-id-435608-jpegNourishing your body during this time is very important because it is the foundation of health. You don’t have to “diet” but eating healthy fruits and vegetables daily can help you feel good throughout the day. Cooking a healthy delicious meal for yourself or your family can be a good practice of self-care because you’re taking your time to provide a well balanced and nourishing meal. 

  • Exercise

image-from-rawpixel-id-2317499-originalNot being able to go to the gym has taken a toll on many of us, but it shouldn’t stop you from exercising at home. Exercising is a good practice of self-care because it can improve your mood and also releases endorphins to make you feel good. It increases your energy and can help you maintain a healthy weight while at home. There are many different apps and videos online to help you work out right in the comfort of your living room. 

  • Do Stress-Reducing Meditation 

Mediation is one form of great self-care. It is a calming activity used to help you release stress and anxiety. Mediation can be done daily for about 10 minutes and it can help improve your health as well as sleep. Self-care must include taking time to get in touch with your thoughts and emotions. 

During these times we can easily feel worn-out and have a lack of energy but a little self-care each day can go a long way to helping you feel motivated and optimistic. 

This post written by River Philbert, Class of 2020, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland.