Safe food for the holidays

Published: Wednesday | December 12, 2012 Comments 0

Charlyn Fargo, Contributor

Food is as much a part of holiday gatherings as football, candles and carols. This holiday season, keep food safety in mind as you prepare food for family and friends.

"Preparing a buffet of food can be overwhelming, so proper preparation and additional attention to food safety is key to keeping your friends and family safe from food poisoning, according to Joan Salge Blake, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Here are four of her recommendations for keeping food safe:

1. Proper planning: Make sure your kitchen is equipped with what you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for storage, paper towels and soap. Store foods in the refrigerator at 41F or below, or in the freezer at 0F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

2. Safe shopping: It's important to keep food safety in mind as you shop, according to Salge Blake. Whether in the shopping cart, reusable grocery tote or the car trunk, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don't purchase bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the grocery store. Remember to always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours.

3. Working in the kitchen: In a holiday kitchen filled with family and friends, all hands may be on deck, but are those hands clean? Make sure everyone washes his hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food. When baking delicious holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs.

4. Wrapping up leftovers: "As you eat and visit with family and friends, keep in mind how long the food on the buffet table has been sitting out unrefrigerated. Remember that you can't tell if a food is unsafe by taste, smell or appearance alone. Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, airtight containers and label with an expiration date. Check out: 'Keep It Cool: Food Storage Chart' or 'Is My Food Safe?'' app to determine how long to keep leftovers. Reheat leftovers to 165F, and do not eat expired foods as this

The Paleo diet

Q: What are the pros and cons of the Paleo diet?

A: The Paleo diet is based on foods presumably eaten regularly during the Paleolithic era. This includes lean meat, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, roots, eggs and nuts, but not grains, dairy products, salt or refined fats and sugar. One benefit of this popular diet is the emphasis on vegetables and fruits, which provide important nutrients and protective phytochemicals. Nuts and seeds are also included and provide protein, fibre, and sometimes omega-3 fatty acids.

The emphasis on meat, seafood and eggs means plenty of protein, along with iron and vitamin B12. On the negative side, the emphasis on animal protein may lead to eating large amounts of red meat, which is linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer and Type Two diabetes. But the most controversial parts of the Paleo diet are the rules that exclude added fat, all grains, beans and dairy products. These rules are not backed by research. Healthful types of oils used in moderate amounts do not promote weight gain and fit well in eating patterns linked with lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Paleo diet proponents say that whole grains contain indigestible components that have negative health effects. But whole grains are rich in fibre, which strong evidence links to reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Whole grain consumption is also linked with lower rates of heart disease and a decrease in waist fat. And whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidant phytochemicals. Another downside to the diet is that its calcium content is below current government recommendations.

Paleo proponents say this isn't a problem for bone health because the overall diet composition actually improves calcium absorption. Bone researchers generally disagree, however. Keep in mind that many of the health benefits touted by Paleo diet proponents are theoretical and not tested in controlled studies.

You don't need to follow a Paleo diet to adopt healthy habits. Instead, try a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables and includes lean meats and plant protein like nuts and seeds, is low in processed foods and added sugars, and also contains whole grains, dairy, beans and healthful oils.

Information courtesy of the American Institute for Cancer Research.

RECIPE

Here's a reduced-calorie pumpkin pie to try that doesn't sacrifice flavour. A typical slice of pumpkin pie has 260 to 290 calories per slice. This one has 122 calories per slice. It's from Judy Doherty, from Food and Health Communications, Inc.

Best Light Pumpkin Pie

Crust:

1/2 prepared pie crust

Filling:

15 ounce can pumpkin

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup Splenda

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup egg whites

12-ounce can evaporated skim milk

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare crust according to package directions. Mix the filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl and pour into the crust. Bake until knife comes out clean from centre, about 35-45 minutes. Refrigerate and slice in 10 wedges. Each serving: 1 slice. (Note: if you cut the pie in 8 slices, each slice has 150 calories).

Per serving: 122 calories, 4.5g protein, 20g carbohydrate, 3g fat, 2mg cholesterol, 105mg sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian from Springfield, Ill. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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