Mindful Habits for a Healthier Holiday

December 4, 2019

mindful-holiday-eatingThe holiday season is here and in full swing. For some, that might mean multiple family and friend gatherings with tons of rich food. For others, the holiday season might be a stressful or even solitary time, where food can be a real comfort. No matter your situation, the question I hear is the same: “How do I stay on track with healthy eating habits during the holiday season?”

My advice is simple: the holidays should not be about deprivation, guilt, or gorging. While many individuals focus on getting through the holidays without overeating, in the process, they forget about other joys of the season.

Take the time to step away from holiday stress and hype and focus on self-care and mindful eating, instead.

To help you, here are my time-tested tips for staying positive and healthy this holiday season:

  • Get a good night’s rest. If you can, sleep at least seven hours per night. The more rested you are, the more likely you are to be the happiest version of yourself (and the less likely you are to overindulge with food and drinks).
  • Move your body or keep up your normal exercise routine – physical activity can help you avoid unwanted holiday pounds. Plus, it’s good for your mental and emotional health.
  • Observe and listen to yourself and others with empathy and kindness. While the holidays can be a time of joy, there can also often be stressful moments, whether it’s trying to keep up with unrealistic expectations or ignoring some of your needs. Be patient with yourself and others.
  • Eat a high protein or high fiber snack before you go to a gathering so you aren’t ravenous when you get to the refreshment table.
  • Fill your plate with vegetables and fruits or other plant-based offerings before indulging in sweets.
  • Savor and enjoy the taste of two or three bites of items such as cheese, fatty meats, or homemade special occasion sweets. Then, take a break and step away from the food table and focus on something else, such as talking to someone new.
  • Skip fatty chips and any highly processed or packaged snacks, candy, or desserts – if it’s not special, just don’t eat it.
  • Keep libations light by alternating alcoholic drinks with glasses of water.
  • Sip slowly and savor your meals and party foods – mindful eating can be enjoyable and gives you the time to appreciate and relish in what you are eating.
  • Reach out to others – socialize with new and old friends or family.
  • Forge new traditions and make new memories by taking in a new play, concert, church or spiritual service, or other activity.
  • Try a new recipe, such as my favorite Roasted Carrots with Orange, Honey, and Dill. It’s easy to make, tastes great, and is healthy too!

And to help you with those “healthy” New Year’s resolutions, remember that older adults 60 and over living in Iona’s service area (Ward 3 and parts of Ward 2 and 4) may be eligible for Iona’s Active Wellness Program at St. Alban’s, home delivered meals, or nutrition counseling services subsidized by the DC Department of Aging and Community Living.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact our Helpline today.

By Rose Clifford, RDN, MBA


Rose Clifford, RDN, MBA has practiced as a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Washington, DC area for over 30 years. Her current primary work as the Nutrition Program Manager for Iona Senior Services focuses on helping older adults maximize their nutritional health so they can live active, full lives in their own homes. 

2 thoughts on “Mindful Habits for a Healthier Holiday”

  1. Thank you Rose, I appreciated you long list of helpful things to help us all live and feel better and be safe. I have started a home delivery food service called FRESHLY. They cook with salt and butter but it sure is good. I would be interested in finding out how much salt I should have daily and how much is too much. If you have a couple of minutes please answer, if you are busy which I can imagine, I will find out some other way. Happy holidays!!
    Anne Jarman

    1. Thanks for your kind words and question, Anne. When it comes to salt intake, it depends on a person’s health concerns, goals, and overall dietary pattern. So there isn’t a simple answer. About 40% of table salt is sodium. That said, an upper limit of 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium daily is a science-based general recommendation for reducing the risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease and high blood pressure. We will contact you directly to follow-up.

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