Football season is in full swing, but it's not too late to encourage your workers to make healthy choices when they partake in America's favorite fall pastime: tailgating.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in six Americans – 48 million people – get sick from foodborne illness each year.
To help minimize the number of post-football sick days in your workplace, Dianne Killebrew offers a numbers of tips for healthy tailgating.
Killebrew, who is a licensed dietitian and certified health and wellness coach at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, notes that some foods are almost always safe.
This group includes:
- Dry foods or those high in sugar.
- Cakes (without cream filling).
- Fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cookies and crackers.
Foods Requiring Extra Attention
Meanwhile, there are a number of foods that require extra attention. They include:
- Poultry, fish and shellfish.
- Milk and milk products.
- Pasta or potato salad.
Killebrew notes that the list of foods requiring extra care and attention contains a few items that might be a surprise to some. They include sliced melons, sliced tomatoes, potatoes, rice and tofu.
Safe Food-Handling Practices
So, what exactly does "extra attention" mean?
When dealing with meat, poultry and fish, it means separating the raw from the cooked.
It also means marinating meat in the refrigerator prior to traveling and keeping it chilled in a cooler before grilling.
When transporting raw meat, tightly seal the meat in a plastic wrap or zip bags to prevent juices from contaminating other food items in your cooler.
And when taking food off the grill, put it on a clean platter – not back on the same one that it was on when raw.
Bring waterless hand sanitizer to keep hands clean, and pack clean, wet, disposable cloths or moist towelettes and paper towels for cleaning surfaces.
Hot Foods Hot, Cold Foods Cold
Killebrew emphasizes the importance of cooking foods thoroughly.
Cook raw ground beef, pork, lamb and veal to 160 F, and cook all poultry to 165 F.
Keep hot foods above 140 F.
To avoid the challenge of keeping leftovers at a safe temperature, cook only the amount of food to be eaten.
Just as tailgaters should keep their hot foods hot, they should keep their cold foods cold. Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice, icepacks or frozen gel packs, and use a thermometer in the cooler to make sure food is at 41 F or below.
Throw away perishable tailgate items before entering the game. Foods should not be left unrefrigerated for more than two hours. In hot weather, this time is reduced to one hour.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with thinking outside the box a little bit. Killebrew suggests considering healthy alternatives for tailgate parties, such as:
- Fresh fruit, sliced or in salads or kabobs.
- Assorted vegetables with low-fat dips, salsas or hummus.
- Low-fat snacks such as pretzels, baked chips, trail mix.
- Lean meats, seafood and low-fat cheeses.
- Whole-grain breads and buns.
- Salads made with light dressings.
- Thin-crust pizza with Canadian bacon, pineapple and mozzarella.
It's always a good idea to drink water throughout the day. It's even more important when consuming alcohol, which causes dehydration.
Killebrew recommends drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. She notes that bottled water is the best form of hydration.