Play Your Way Through the Holidays

By Patrice Powers-Barker, OSU Extension, Lucas County
The Truth Contributor

This week the Ohio State University’s Live Healthy Live Well team kicks off the annual six-week email challenge with the 2021 theme of Play Your Way Through the Holidays. They ask:  Does the holiday season stress you out instead of making you smile? Do you feel like you don’t have time to spend doing the important things?

Consider joining the “Play Your Way Through the Holidays” six-week email wellness challenge for tips, research, and resources to help you navigate life so you can spend time doing things that are truly important to you. It’s free, you will need an email and you will need to sign-up by the end of this week at

This topic made me wonder, can you play your way to eating healthy food? One of the dictionary definitions of play is “activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation.” I would not recommend eating just for recreation purposes, but we can eat with enjoyment.

Some suggest that slowing down while we eat can make it more enjoyable. We can appreciate the food and the time that it took to prepare it and to eat it. We can pay attention to all our senses such as the temperature and taste of the food. We can also be aware of our fullness. When we slow down to eat verses rushing through the meal and multitasking, we pay more attention to the food as well as our bodies. This can lead us to healthier choices.

Another advantage of enjoying your healthy food and playing your way through the holidays is that we can notice when we are feeling better. We might feel a little clearer, healthier and find it easier to add more steps to the day. More energy will allow us to do more play in other areas of life!

As adults we might remember during childhood, being warned: do not play with your food! Although we don’t want children making a big mess, there’s a different understanding now about children’s development.

Now, parents might encourage young children to play or explore with their food. They can use their hands to touch it before putting it into their mouth. They might squish new food around in their mouth as they make a decision about it. Maybe adults can take an example about playing with food. Once again, this is not to suggest that we’re making a mess. For adults, playing with food might look like:

  • Have a mix-up of different cuisines. Think of a fusion restaurant where more than one type of food is served together. It’s a nice way to mix up the menu and try some new tastes.
  • Try “old” foods in new ways. Can you think of a vegetable from childhood that you didn’t particularly care for? Maybe it was just the way it was served. For example, many people might not have fond memories of overcooked vegetables. Roasted vegetables taste good and don’t taste like what you remember of those far away, overcooked memories!
  • Keep trying the new food over and over. While this might not sound like play, with more exposure to a food we can train ourselves to like – and maybe even crave – that new food. Just a small amount is fine. Keep trying it over and over to retrain your brain!
  • Match the new and unusual food with some of your favorite menu items. It’s a good way to look forward to new foods because you already know you will have a favorite food on the plate.
  • Play with the table by adding a different centerpiece, candle, or tablecloth. Do something different to change the scene. It doesn’t have to be anything major but go for a playful and enjoyable update.

How will you actively engage in play for enjoyment when it comes to your meals? Can you play your way through the holidays with healthy meals, traditions, gratitude, activity, and laughter? And some new food?

One additional resource offered this month is a Dining With Diabetes online webinar to recognize Diabetes Awareness Month. Join the Dining with Diabetes Team for a FREE virtual class to learn how to manage your diabetes while still enjoying festive holiday foods and seasonal family gatherings. Our statewide team will be offering a Take Charge for the Holidays webinar on November 17, 2021, at 12:00 – 1:00 PM. You can register at: