It’s likely that the fall activities you normally have on your calendar have changed this year. With restaurants open to limited capacity, football tailgating canceled, and large family gatherings indoors off limits, what can you do to stay engaged with family and friends?

I’ve often said if you want to make a change in your life you need a plan. When you want to make changes in your dietary habits, planning out goals and ways to achieve them is the only way to make it work. The same goes for changing your behavior during a pandemic. The holidays are right around the corner, so you need a plan.

Keep it Small but Engaging

By now you are probably highly aware of how important social time with friends and family is. Zoom meet-ups are great, but nothing beats an in person conversation. Gathering for a meal is a special way to be together. Many people are becoming fatigued of the “new normal”. While it’s easy to go into denial, this new coronavirus is still spreading, and continues to be somewhat unpredictable. That’s the tricky part. Asymptomatic people can spread it, so the best prevention against that is to maintain distancing, and to not be less than 6 feet away from people you don’t often see for more than 15 minutes.

There are lots of ways to have fun and gather safely, without risking virus spread.

COVID-friendly Entertaining Tips for the Holidays

  • Keep your gatherings to small groups of 6 to 10 people.
  • Encourage clean hands. Offer some liquid hand sanitizer around for guests, along with an option to wash hands or use hand wipes.
  • When possible, plate up individual servings
  • Stay distanced. Be sure to space everyone appropriately. Use smaller tables or trays to allow everyone to space out through the dining and living areas.
  • You can wear a mask indoors too if you’re hanging out for a while with people “out of your bubble”. It may seem weird, but it’s doable to wear the mask while watching television for instance. Then remove it to eat or drink.
  • Offer mini tongs or serving spoons for everyone to serve themselves. Or offer to serve everyone from the buffet (to prevent too many fingers on serving utensils)
  • No drink sharing. A pandemic is a great time to use those wine class charms so nobody’s glass gets mixed up. Or, write names on cups so everyone knows which ones theres.
  • When possible, spend part of the time outdoors. If you are in a colder climate, make use of that heater that’s been collecting dust. If you have a fire pit or other outdoor heating source, use it. Give everyone a blanket and enjoy dessert or a glass of wine outside together.

Host a Brunch Instead

Perhaps in lieu of a giant holiday meal, you can take advantage of the last few weeks of great weather with an al fresco brunch. Hosting a brunch at home is a low-fuss and economical way to have a small gathering. Having family and friends over for brunch has a few advantages:

  • It takes less time, so the “togetherness” is still fun but, unlike larger dinner gatherings, doesn’t go on all day. It’s easy to keep a brunch to a 2 to 3-hour time slot. Then everyone leaves and moves on with their day.
  • It’s less expensive. A brunch can be as simple as a Continental Breakfast, or just three or four food items to choose from. The important thing is being together with good conversation and laughter.
  • Brunch is very conducive to a buffet (use the “COVID-friendly entertaining” tips). Offer items that are single serving or easy to pick up (see my Fall Brunch Menu below).~

Brunch, like any meal, should be well balanced and feature all aspects of a healthy diet: Protein, healthy carbs, and plenty of fruits and veggies. I like to include a fun coffee bar (with tea bags and hot cocoa too) where people can serve themselves (hand gel on hand – always keep food safety in mind) and garnish to their liking. Finally, no brunch is complete without a signature cocktail (usually a choice of Bloody Mary or a sparkling wine cocktail).

A good Bloody Mary has a great garnish! To make a veggie garnish for your blood Mary simply skewer a slice or chunk of cucumber, pepper, olive, a cooked shrimp, and sweet gherkin onto a celery stick.

Fall Brunch Menu

🍴 Veggie Egg Cups made with spinach, spinach (or veggies of choice) and cheese

🍴 Fresh fruit kabobs (skewer grapes, chunks of melon, pears and apples)

🍴 Mini bagels with smoked salmon and light cream cheese

🍴 Coffee, tea

🍴 Sparkling wine splashed with pomegranate or orange juice

🍴 Bloody Mary, garnished with veggies

Be responsible while enjoying your loved ones this holiday season. Stay safe and stay healthy.