Tis the season for feasting! With a little nutrition know-how and kitchen common sense, you can prevent your festive meals from turning into foodborne-illness disasters.

“Food safety is an important ingredient for every holiday meal,” says Tamara Alvarez, Food and Nutrition Services Director at Christian Health Care Center (CHCC).

Ms. Alvarez and her team offer the following food-safety tips to help avoid a recipe for disaster during the holiday season.

  • First and foremost develop a master plan. Timing and organization are crucial, especially since holiday meals typically have abundant dishes which need to be maintained at proper temperature to prevent the growth of bacteria. Assess your refrigerator, freezer, and oven space, and plan the number and type of menu items accordingly.
  • Wash your hands before, during, and after food preparation.
  • Ensure that your refrigerator is set at or below 40 F, and your the freezer is at or below 0 F.
  • Defrost food carefully in the refrigerator or microwave, or under cold running water. Do not defrost on the counter at room temperature.
  • Food look or smell questionable? Throw it out.
  • DO rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water. DO NOT do the same for raw meat and poultry to prevent the spread of bacteria to nearby foods and surfaces.
  • Keep countertops, cutting boards, and refrigerator door handles clean.
  • Designate one cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and fish, and another for fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid the temptation to sample that uncooked cookie dough. Cookie dough and other foods with raw eggs may contain harmful bacteria, which can lead to food poisoning.
  • Use a food thermometer to ensure that meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to the proper internal temperature.
  • Do not place cooked/ready-to-eat foods on unwashed plates that previously held raw meat, poultry, seafood, and/or eggs.
  • Leaving food out too long is one of the biggest food-safety problems. Refrigerate leftovers and any other food that should be refrigerated within two hours.
  • Freeze leftovers, or eat them within three to five days.

“Food bacteria don’t take holidays,” Ms. Alvarez says, “so be mindful of food safety to make sure that your holidays will be healthy and happy.”

 

The health-care experts at Christian Health Care Center can share their expertise through our virtual Speakers Bureau. In addition to nutrition know-how, other popular topics include exercise, retirement-living options, caregiving, and tips for coping with COVID-19. Contact Karen Hockstein at (201) 848-4463 or khockstein@chccnj.org if your community group, school, church, or company is interested in an engaging, enlightening, and educational virtual presentation.