Baylor College of Medicine


Tips to serve food safely on Thanksgiving

Kaylee Dusang


Houston, TX -

It may seem like there is not much to be thankful for this year due to COVID-19, but that does not mean you have to throw out all your Thanksgiving plans. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine offers ways you can minimize the spread of the virus and still enjoy the Thanksgiving meal with your loved ones.

“We have learned from this disease that even people with no symptoms can pass it on to others, so we cannot let our guard down at this time of the year,” said Isabel Valdez, physician assistant and assistant professor of general internal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. “We can enjoy our loved ones but we need to do it as responsibly as possible by wearing masks, handwashing and social distancing.”

Whether you are hosting or attending a Thanksgiving lunch or dinner, Valdez provides a few tips on how to serve food and keep COVID-19 away from your plate:

Avoid a buffet line

The most common way to serve food at Thanksgiving is buffet style, but Valdez recommends avoiding a buffet line this year. Instead, choose a designated server who has followed all safety precautions to prepare and serve the plates.

If you are serving or preparing the food, remember to wear a mask and wash your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds or more before and after you serve.

Move the meal outdoors

If the weather allows and there is space, Valdez said the best option is to move the meal outside where there is less risk of transmission. Remember to space tables and chairs at least 6 feet apart when people are eating together.

If it is not possible to sit outside then consider spreading people out by setting up small serving tables and eating areas throughout the house. Opening up the windows and keeping fans on is another option to help with ventilation indoors.

At the dinner table

  •  Wear a mask at the table until it is time to eat
  •  Wash your hands before and after you eat
  •  Watch your drinks – avoid leaving them unattended so no one accidentally drinks after you
  •  Avoid passing plates, sharing food or eating off each other’s plates

If you are hosting, make it easier for guests by keeping hand sanitizer, soap and clean towels for washing hands readily available throughout the house. You can also send them a reminder ahead of time to bring masks and to wear them except when eating. If you are attending a gathering, bring a mask and your own hand sanitizer to keep with you just in case.

Watch for symptoms

If you begin experiencing any COVID-related symptoms, Valdez said it is best to stay out of the kitchen and avoid attending the gathering altogether.

“If you have been invited to someone else’s home and you start feeling sick a day or two before the gathering, it would be safe, responsible and understandable if you opt to stay home,” Valdez said. “The same thing applies to those who are hosting – if the host or anyone in their family is feeling ill, it would be wise to skip having the dinner with others or reschedule the event for another time.”

Keep it small

If you are hosting a Thanksgiving gathering, Valdez adds that an essential way to avoid transmission at the dinner table is by keeping it small with only a few trusted family members and friends.

“We know the phrase “the more the merrier” but this time of year it’s going to be the fewer the safer,” she said.

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