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Healthy & Safe Holiday Dining

Enjoying food with family and friends is a special part of the holidays. I really enjoy planning and preparing meals with others. At Christmastime, I prepare food items from recipes that were passed down from my grandmother. My mother made special foods, including desserts, just for Christmas and so do I! I find it both relaxing and enjoyable. Meals shared with others help to nourish the mind, body and soul!

Healthy Holiday EatingWhen nourishing the body and the mind, it is important to have good food choices. Healthy foods can be just as festive as traditional recipes. You could also start a new tradition during the holidays by adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your meals. Here are just a few tips to remember when planning and preparing food for the holidays:

  • Don’t forget to plan in the fruits and vegetables. Vegetable or fruit plates can be placed on a plate to resemble a Christmas tree or wreath with a healthy fat free yogurt dip.
  • Watch the amount of sweets and sugar used. You can cut down the sugar in most recipes by 25% and still have a tasty result.
  • Try to replace shortening in recipes with oil. Canola, olive and corn oils are good options.
  • Replace sour cream with plain non-fat yogurt in dips and creamed soups.
  • Make your own bean dips. It is fine to use canned beans but try to find ones with no salt or reduced sodium. If you have a regular can, at least drain and rinse to reduce sodium.

Older adults are more vulnerable to food poisoning. Food safety during the holidays is also important! Here are some food safety tips:

  • Wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. Proper hand washing helps to eliminate a large percentage of food poisoning cases. It is your BEST protection!
  • Keep kitchen surfaces and appliances clean.
  • Use cutting boards only once. Do not prepare raw food items next to ready to eat food items.
  • Use separate spoons and forks to taste, stir and serve food.
  • Food thermometers are the most reliable way to determine the doneness of your food. Turkey should be roasted until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Ham needs to be reheated to 155°F.
  • Do not leave food out on the counter for too long. Food needs to be refrigerated within two hours. Make sure your refrigerator is set at the proper temperature—between 36-40°F.
  • Never allow food to defrost at room temperature. Defrost items in the refrigerator (making sure it is stored in a container so raw juices will not drip on other foods.) If you use the microwave to defrost items, foods should be cooked immediately afterward.
  • Don’t eat raw cookie dough if eggs are in the batter, unless you use pasteurized eggs.
  • Keep foods at correct temperatures when transporting.
  • Cool down foods in shallow containers and make sure there is room in the refrigerator to allow for air circulation.
  • Leftover food items should be eaten in 3-4 days and reheated to 165°F.
  • Remember, do not take a chance with leftovers. “When in doubt, throw it out!” You cannot smell or taste bacteria in food.

Enjoy the holiday season with safe food preparation and healthy flavorful meals!