Stay healthy and remember food safety this holiday season

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With the holidays right around the corner there are a few things we should remember to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.

It is important to practice safe cooking, have a strong immune system and reduce the risk of becoming ill. There are many steps to make sure that your kitchen is safe and contains foods that can support a healthy immune system. Let’s get started because the holidays are quickly approaching.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne diseases. Food safety is often not thought of when celebrating holiday traditions. Some of the most common foodborne illnesses that strike Americans are Salmonella, E. Coli and Campylobacter spp. Inappropriate preparation and storage of dishes and produce are the leading causes of these diseases affecting Americans. The following recommendations are tools to reduce your risk:

  • Clean: It is important to clean all of your fruits and vegetables well before consuming. A simple and inexpensive way to wash your fruits and vegetables is using three parts water and one part vinegar. You can let them soak in the mixture for approximately 10 minutes and rinse with water. There are also specific washes available in stores that can be effective as well.
  • Prepare: When preparing your fruits, vegetables and meats one very important word to remember is cross-contamination. This means you should not use the same cutting board or devices to chop chicken as you will to chop your apples for a pie. Any possible bacteria present could be passed from one food to another.
  • Cook: When preparing meat or dishes with dairy it is vital to cook your dishes to the appropriate temperature. Foods held in the “danger zone,” between 40 -140 degrees Fahrenheit, are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Casseroles or similar type dishes should be cooked to a minimum of 165 degrees in the centermost portion. Ground beef and eggs or egg dishes should be cooked to 160 degrees, poultry to 165 degrees, and fresh beef, pork or fish to 150 degrees in the center or thickest portion of the meat.
  • Store: After you have eaten your meal remember to get your foods back in the refrigerator as soon as possible to prevent bacteria from multiplying at an exponential rate. Also, put foods into shallow dishes so that they can cool to a safe temperature rapidly.

According to the CDC the flu season can begin in October, peak in January or February and last as long as May. It is important to keep your immune system strong. The following tips can help ward off those pesky bugs that want to ruin our holidays:

  • Exercise: Busy schedules during the holidays often take the place of our exercise routine. Exercise may help by flushing bacteria out from the lungs thus decreasing the chance of cold, flu or foodborne illness. Aim to find at least 30 minutes of your day to be active. Even better, get the family to join you.
  • Probiotics: Yogurt, sauerkraut or kefir are a few examples of foods rich in probiotics. Probiotics are important to maintain the health of our GI tract. It is often noted that more than half of our immune system is housed in the GI tract. By keeping it healthy, it can fight pathogens it may come in contact with through foods.
  • Carotinoids/Bioflavinoids: Fruits and vegetables that are full of deep dark colors are very rich in vitamins and minerals that help support a healthy immune system. Often times we are told to take a multivitamin. I am one who believes that you can get the nutrients you need through food. Always remember to go with foods that are in season, such as butternut squash, apples and pumpkin. These foods are also rich in fiber which can help maintain a healthy GI tract.

The holidays are a special time of year. With these helpful tips you can reduce the risk of not feeling well and spend more time decking the halls. Happy Holidays!

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