Virtual Thanksgiving: What to do if you’re at home

Doing Thanksgiving in practice is a bit different than what we’re used to for the holiday, but it’s not impossible.

After practicing gratitude as a way to cope, we’re ready to make it work for a seriously delicious meal.

Staying home for a virtual Thanksgiving means you can start your day with yoga instead of a cramped train or crowded airport and cook all your favorite recipes while skipping your favorite foods.

Studies have shown that cooking and baking can boost your mood.

Since we like to tweak and do whatever it takes to get the best results from our workouts, we wanted to apply that same thing to Turkey Day.

Here’s our guide to having a fun and festive Thanksgiving at home.

1. Get some friends and family time

A Thanksgiving feast can take several days to prepare. All the time in the kitchen is a great way to reconnect with friends and family — call or zoom them for all their juicy secrets on making the perfect pumpkin pie or roasting a turkey.

“It’s a great way to share across generations,” says Wesley McWhorter, DrPH, MS, RDN, LD, CSCS, national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “You can help your parents or grandparents get better at using Zoom and they can teach you their recipes.”

2. Tidy up (or at least hide the mess)

Sure it’s virtual, but you still have guests Wear something that makes you feel good, and clear your laptop off the dining room table.

“Work on your lighting so people can see you and make sure your kitchen is clean,” McWhorter says. “Looks like a big mess and you still want a nice presentation.”

He recommends wearing wireless earphones so people can hear you even when you’re far away. “It also reduces kitchen noise like chopping so you can focus on talking to each other.” (But don’t forget to mute yourself when running the blender or mixer.)

3. Work with what you’ve got

“Many of us have small kitchens, but you can use your microwave and range to make side dishes,” says McWhorter.

If you’re going to multitask with a turkey on the stove, she makes sweet potato hash as a healthier alternative to sweet potato hash on the stove.

“I peel the sweet potatoes and boil them with some pecans, a touch of butter and some maple syrup,” he says.

4. To make a whole turkey – or not?

If you’re up for the challenge, roasting a whole turkey means delicious lean protein and leftovers that you can get creative with day after day.

Alternatively, it’s much easier to roast a turkey breast for one or two servings.

“You can also get a roast turkey from a supermarket or a restaurant, which is a good way to support local businesses,” says McWhorter.

That means more time to focus on making your favorite side dish.

5. Material control

“One of the best things about cooking at your own home is that you can decide what goes into each dish,” says McWhorter. “You can avoid processed foods, add more vegetables, use whole grains, and cut back on unhealthy fats and sugars.”

Don’t overlook frozen vegetables either. They are picked and frozen at their peak, so they are a tasty and inexpensive alternative to fresh produce.

Just look for ones without added salt and/or sugar.

Traditional Thanksgiving feasts start out pretty healthy, until you drown the vegetables in cans of processed soup or gravy.

You can change classics like healthy green bean casseroles without losing flavor.

6. Vegetables, vegetables and more

Whether you’re hosting a virtual Friendsgiving with plant-based recipes or cooking traditional meals with your family, focus on vegetables.

Thanksgiving began with a feast for a successful harvest and working together. From pumpkins to sweet potatoes, it’s all about having fun with those seasonal vegetables.

“Roasted vegetables are so easy to make and they add texture and flavor to your plate,” says McWhorter. “Thyme, rosemary, garlic, fingerling potatoes or Brussels sprouts roasted with some olive oil, and then tossed with a drizzle of truffle oil when you take it out of the oven really enhances any dish.”

Need inspiration? We’ve also got a great Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts recipe.

7. Indulge with the mind

However, that being said, sometimes you just want to make your favorite holiday recipes the way they’ve always been made – butter, sugar, all of it.

“If you want to use some butter for flavor, that’s fine,” says McWhorter. “Thanksgiving is the one day of the year and it’s important to feel like you’re celebrating.

It’s good to eat mindfully and enjoy it.”

For those rich, tempting meals and desserts, she recommends having a realistic portion. And consider cooking just enough for one or two.

To celebrate mindfully, have a serving of your indulgent treat. Remember, there will always be next year, so you don’t have to overindulge and feel sick from it.

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