The holiday season often brings joy through family and religious gatherings, but it will look different this year in the COVID-19 pandemic. With some work, it is still possible to have a safe holiday connecting with loved ones over food despite the limitations with travel and social gatherings. Some tips to stay healthy and happy over the holidays include practicing food safety, connecting with others virtually and understanding how to share food with others if you wish to do so.
Practicing safe food handling
COVID-19 mainly spreads between people in close contact with one another. Even though droplets from infected individuals can land on surfaces, they are not thought to stay on food or its packaging long enough to pose a serious risk for consumption. Health Canada states that there are no reported cases of the virus being spread through food, but it is still important to continue following basic food safety practices that were important beforehand as well. These habits can prevent you from touching your face with potentially contaminated hands and reduce your risk of foodborne illnesses. The main recommendations are to wash your hands:
- Before and after grocery shopping,
- Before and after unpacking your groceries,
- Before and after making food, and
- Before and after eating.
Should you touch your face or blow your nose during these activities, you should rewash your hands. Washing produce with water can be helpful, especially if you plan to eat it raw, but disinfectants or soap should not be used on food or its packaging. Finally, it is also important to regularly clean all surfaces that come in contact with food, such as kitchen counters.
Connecting with loved ones virtually
Gathering with family or friends who do not live with you can increase the risk of getting or unknowingly spreading COVID-19 since the virus can be spread before you get any symptoms. With the current COVID-19 situation in our community, the safest choice is to only come in close contact with people living in your household and to maintain a two meter physical distance from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with one other household. To help feel more connected, consider virtual get-togethers. Some ways to do this include:
- Doing a video chat with another household while having supper. Better yet, plan to both make the same new meal to experience it together. Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Facebook video are all free video-call platform options that you can try.
- For some evening entertainment, download free apps like Houseparty and Bunch where you can have game nights virtually with friends. Make gingerbread muffins or cinnamon-spiced nuts for something festive and nutritious to snack on (recipes on the https://mfht.org website).
- For cozy downtime, sip on peppermint tea while watching a Christmas movie virtually with others through Netflix Party.
Sharing food with others
Giving food is a common way for people to express their love, and this should be done with safety in mind during the pandemic. To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, practice safe food handling when preparing and delivering a care package, as well as when you receive one. For ready-to-eat food, some experts recommend taking the food you received out of its packaging, discarding the original packaging, then washing your hands again before eating. That said, the largest risk of transmission is when the food is being passed off, which is why physical distancing and wearing a mask remain important in these situations as well. Consider leaving the package at the front door, then backing up a couple meters so the person can receive the food safely.
Connecting with others through food may look different this year with COVID-19 in our community. Steps taken to reduce the risk of transmission can help us feel safer and “flatten the curve.” Wishing you a worry-free holiday season with warmth, love and cheer.
Michelle Stevens, Registered Dietitian