Written by Paul Michael Marinello | Category: Rewrapping the Holidays—New Traditions Amid COVID-19

Thanksgiving and the winter holidays have traditionally been celebrated with gatherings of family and friends sharing favorite family recipes, toasting to good cheer, and (over)indulging in seasonal goodies.

This year, the COVID-19 pandemic has put these cherished holiday traditions on the back burner. A big dinner around the table, kissing under the mistletoe, and even hugging is off the menu.

Any in-person get-togethers will require careful forethought, strategic planning, creativity, and flexibility depending on your families’ risk factors. The CDC has released COVID-19 safety guidelines specific to the holidays this year, and director Robert Redfield recently warned governors that small household gatherings are “an increasing threat.

Celebrations may be smaller and quieter or contactless and virtual — but that doesn’t mean this Scrooge of a party guest has to darken your holiday spirit or deprive your taste buds! From rethinking main dishes to creating festive face masks – there are creative ways to safely share the season’s treasured flavors and festivities.

Steve Bryant, a 30 year veteran of the food and beverage industry and most recently the Food & Beverage Practice Leader for MSL shares some innovative ways to create new holiday food traditions that incorporate the latest food and health trends.

Takeout Turkey for Two, Please

2020 has seen the emergence of ghost kitchens — stripped-down traditional dining establishments that serve as large kitchens for restaurants to prepare food for takeout and to deliver to customers. The food industry has quickly pivoted to keep restaurants afloat and employees on board.

During the holidays, many ghost kitchens are offering specially-themed and gourmet menus. Since you may not be preparing a holiday dinner to feed a large extended family, why not order something luxurious just for yourself? Who says you can’t have lobster on Thanksgiving?

“If you have a favorite independent restaurant, the holidays are a perfect time to support their takeout business — but skip the delivery as it’s often unprofitable for them. You’ll not only enjoy unique new flavors and experiences, but you’ll give the gift of financial support to the kitchen workers so they stay employed and the business continues thriving.” offers Steve Bryant.

Ho, Ho, Healthy

“People are taking their extended time at home to clear out closets and reorganize their homes. That presents the perfect opportunity to also reorganize your kitchen.  When doing so, put the healthy foods within close reach and treats, chips, and sweets in harder-to-reach spots. The key is to make the healthy visible and hide the indulgences (or at least make you work harder for them)! It’s one way to fight the urge to overindulge and gain more self-care consciousness.”

These disruptions in food and activity routines have people thinking about how they redefine wellness. Making more careful food choices has emerged as a major food trend. Forbes reports that 54% of all consumers, and 63% of those 50+, care more about the healthfulness of their food and beverage choices in 2020 than they did in 2010; making healthfulness the biggest gainer in trends, even more so than with taste or cost. This represents a huge gain as it comes to Americans choosing better, healthier meals.

Home preparation of more plant-based proteins such as dry beans and lentils, tofu, and homemade veggie burgers are helping shoppers discover that good nutrition can be delicious.

While navigating the pandemic, many of us have seen the dreaded COVID-19-15. The “15” of course stands for the elusive weight gain that has accompanied the time spent at home: working, worrying, or caring for the family. Plus, during the holidays, the added temptations of cookies, candies, and sweet cocktails make us more susceptible to looking a bit more like Santa than we would like. Many do not have any viable option to exercise effectively at the gym during local shutdowns and due to the currently rising infection rates across the country.

“Some of that excess weight comes from excess alcohol calories,” Steve Bryant explains, “The antidote is physical activity, even on a moderate scale. It could be very easy to just sit out COVID-19 this winter — quite literally — but sedentary behaviors are the enemies of health. Break out some Jane Fonda videos, get outside, and get moving to counter the COVID love handles.”

Fa la la la Local

Due to sometimes mysterious supply chain issues in grocery stores throughout the pandemic, people have discovered more ways to access locally grown and produced foods to fill their pantries.

“Leaning on local foods is not just good for your community, it’s also the best way to eat with the season. Plants have a strategy for making it through winter, so adopt it as your own.  Eat more root, winter squashes, and hearty leafy greens, such as kale. If they can weather your local winter, they will help you do the same.” Steve Bryant explains.

In South Florida, locals have nature’s seasonal gifts of sun and warmth throughout the winter months that help produce an abundance of fresh, locally grown veggies and fruits.

Spread Cheer, Not COVID

However you spread holiday cheer and break bread with those you love this holiday season, celebrate in ways that capture the spirit of the season without inviting in the season’s most unwelcome guest.

What do your holidays look like this year?

Share your stories, ideas, recipes, and thoughts! Give others inspiration and discover tips for you and your family to create new traditions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Downsized Dinners?

The New York Times offers some simple recipe ideas that are perfect for two.

My Best Life Club: Powered by Treece Financial Group

Make new friends. Boost your resilience. Protect your lifestyle. 

Connect, share, and learn with other active agers within our free and easy-to-navigate digital neighborhood. Widen your social circle, share your interests, discover new ones, and find fully vetted and reliable professional and healthcare resources to help you live your best life — no matter your age!

Are you a healthcare professional or business that would like to be a part of our PRO Alliance? Click here for details.