At-Home Safety: Preparing a Safe, Healthy Holiday Meal

Dec. 21, 2010
The house is all decked out, the table is set and you’re ready to entertain your family and friends with a scrumptious dinner

The house is all decked out, the table is set and you’re ready to entertain your family and friends with a scrumptious dinner. But if you’re dining on turkey as the main entrée, do you know how to safely defrost and prep the bird before you pop it in the oven? Two experts offer tips for cooking up a safe and health holiday meal.

Ryerson University professors Marilyn Lee, School of Occupational and Public Health, and Yvonne Yuan, School of Nutrition, offer their expertise how to safely roast that perfect turkey, as well as how to have a healthy dinner that’s easy on the waistline.

Turkey prepping 101:

1. First, thaw the turkey in the fridge. If it’s a big bird, it will take a few days, so plan to buy the bird at least a week in advance of your holiday meal. After the turkey is defrosted, make sure all the juices are wiped up, the paper towels thrown out and the surfaces or utensils that the meat juices touched are washed in hot sudsy water, rinsed and disinfected. Always wash and disinfect your cutting boards and utensils when alternating between cutting up raw and cooked ingredients. A good disinfecting solution can be made from half a teaspoon of household bleach added to a cup of water. Don’t forget to wash your hands!

2. A turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) to ensure that salmonella bacteria are destroyed. Don’t wiggle the leg or judge by how it looks to determine if the turkey is done. Purchase a thermometer that has a probe long enough to reach the middle of the bird/stuffing and that can be left in while the turkey cooks.

3. Stuffing for the turkey is best prepared on the stovetop. If you decide to stuff the bird, it will take longer to reach the necessary temperature of 180 degrees. Make sure the probe thermometer goes all the way to the middle of the stuffing.

4. After enjoying that tasty bird with your relatives and friends, don’t leave it out at room temperature and then make turkey sandwiches for supper (or a midnight snack). Instead, after enjoying your meal, take the meat off the carcass (you can have some big chunks), put it in a container no more than 2 inches deep, cover and refrigerate.

Healthy Holiday Meals

Follow these tips to stay healthy even through the holidays:

1. Roast turkey without the skin is a good source of protein. There’s about one ounce of protein per serving. White breast meat also has about half the fat of dark meat.

2. Enjoy a variety of colorful vegetables with your turkey. Traditional holiday favorites such as baked/roasted or candied sweet potatoes and yams are good sources of fiber and vitamin A. Butternut and acorn squash, beets, brussels sprouts or bok choy are delicious as side dishes – they add not only color but also vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to your holiday dinner.

3. To round out your plate, include a variety of whole grains such as brown rice. You also can be a little adventurous by trying quinoa or bulgur wheat for a different texture and nutty flavor to complement your meal. Beans and lentils will provide protein as well as fiber to your plate.

4. Finally, here is a guide to estimate appropriate serving sizes: For lean meats, one serving is about the size of a deck of playing cards; for vegetables, a serving is half a cup or one cup for leafy raw vegetables or salad; for grains, a serving is half a cup of cooked rice or pasta; and for breads, a serving equals one slice of bread or half a pita/tortilla.

This holiday season, don’t be a turkey – be safe and healthy throughout your festivities.

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