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December 1, 2023

Celebrate Mindfully with Mindy McCullough, MS, RD, LDN

by Mindy McCullough, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES

The holidays can evoke a multitude of feelings ranging from joy to stress to loneliness.  These emotions along with disrupted routines can make it difficult to put health first this time of year. Goals are often put on hold from Thanksgiving until the New year due to time, stress, and extra holiday goodies.

Continuing to put your health first during the holiday season shouldn’t induce stress and doesn’t mean that you must forego holiday activities and traditional foods.  It does mean that you need to practice mindfulness this season.

Practicing mindfulness is all about taking time to tune into your bodies, their needs, and their habits.  It helps you become more intentional in all aspects of your health.  We can use mindfulness to know when to rest, to tune into hunger and fullness, and to evaluate our stress levels.  It can take work to make mindfulness a habit, but once you do, it could change your relationship with yourself and your health.

Moving Mindfully

With decreasing temperatures and less sunlight, it can make it difficult to feel motivated to exercise.  This can be a great opportunity to try something new inside. There are a variety of free workout apps that have videos and easy to follow plans with options ranging from beginner to advanced and equipment or no equipment.  Fit On, NTC, YouTube, and Fitness Blender are just a few.  Some gyms still offer discounted membership rates for virtual classes that can be done in your home. If you have been wanting to try yoga or Pilates this would be a great time to do it.

Adding extra steps into your day, shouldn’t be underestimated. Consider taking an extra lap at the grocery store, use the stairs, vacuum your home, rake leaves, or take a lap around the office every hour. It is important to try and stay active during this time for your health and stress levels. Be sure to include movement that brings you joy.

Eating Mindfully

The goal with mindful eating is not deprivation.  Eating mindfully involves listening to what your body needs, honoring your hunger, and stopping when satisfied.

Think moderation versus deprivation.  Make sure that your other meals are healthy and nutrient dense.  Don’t skip meals and snacks to save up for dinner.  This will leave you ravenous and more likely to overeat.  Consider increasing vegetables and healthy fats at the meals surrounding the festive dinner.  This could include adding a light salad, a vegetable soup with whole wheat crackers, or avocado on whole wheat toast.

Have more healthy options available.  You don’t have to swap out any traditional dishes but consider increasing the number of healthy options that are present.  Add more vegetable dishes to the dinner table.  Get creative with adding onion, herbs, garlic, infused olive oils, and vinegars for flavor versus heavy creams and cheese.  Have raw veggies and fruits cut and washed for quick snacks. A simple way to increase vegetable dishes is to offer a salad or a vegetable appetizer before dinner is served.

Slow your pace of eating.  When we eat too quickly, we can eat more than our body needs and end up feeling uncomfortably full.  By slowing down and taking pauses in between bites we are giving our body time to signal if its satisfied, but also allowing ourselves time to check in with how we are feeling.

Portion, portion, portion.  Being mindful of portions will help you indulge wisely and keep on track with your health goals.  Aiming to not be overly hungry at the start of the meal will help with portion control and your ability to make the best decisions for you at mealtime.  If you can, try to balance your plate with a protein, veggie, and carb.  No matter what you choose to eat at the meal, try stopping after 1 plate and evaluating how you feel.  Remember you can always have more later if you are hungry.

Drinking Mindfully

Be mindful of sugar sweetened beverages, festive punches, and the variety of hot and cold holiday drinks.  Plan and decide if you must have a sweetened drink, which one will you enjoy the most and stick with 1 cup of that.  Moderation and portion control that is practiced with food can be applied to sugary beverages.

If you choose to imbibe in alcohol over the holiday season, set your expectations for remaining mindful around your alcohol consumption.  Plan by setting a drink limit in your mind.  If you feel comfortable, consider sharing this goal with an accountability partner. Be aware of the pace you are drinking the beverages. Slow yourself down, savor the taste, put the drink down, and sip on water. Try to bring or make your own drinks.  This will help you know how much alcohol you are having.  If your goal is to decrease your alcohol consumption this holiday season, consider taking on a responsibility where you cannot over consume.  Offer to drive family members home or play games with the kids.

Socializing Mindfully

The holiday season can often involve visiting with family members and friends that you only see at this time of year.  Many people find themselves stretched thin and stressed over the extra social commitments.  Try your best to plan.  Check in with yourself on how much time you want to spend catching up with family and friends.  Do you need time for yourself?  Are there events you will need extra support at due to high-stress relationships?  Consider what you need to take care of yourself and plan time for it.  Meditation, yoga, exercise, reading, alone time, build it into your days this season.

Being Mindful about Rest

Prioritize getting enough sleep. Research suggests 7-9 hours of sleep every night for proper rest, recovery, and repair.  Enough sleep supports your immune system and metabolic health.

Studies suggest that adequate sleep can lower the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and help with focus and memory. Feel anxious and emotionally distressed?  Sleep can help with that too!

We hope everyone enjoys this celebratory season.  If you are interested in learning more about healthy eating that will fit your lifestyle, an Avance Care dietitian is available to help. Book online at


8 Ways to Indulge Mindfully & Stay Healthy During The Holidays


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