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In a couple of weeks, my family and I will be sitting down to feast on sweets, side dishes, and TURKEY! To ensure everyone stays healthy and happy, I am going to debunk some turkey myths.

Myth #1 – You must rinse your turkey before cooking. According to the USDA, don’t wash the bird! Rinsing off the turkey increases the risk of cross-contamination. As water splashes, bacteria can be spread to your sink, countertops, and to already prepared foods. The exception to this rule is brine. If you are brining your turkey and need to rinse it, please make sure to remove all food items from the surrounding area before starting. After rinsing, be sure to wash the countertops and sink with hot soapy water and wash your hands for 20 seconds. To be extra careful, you can sanitize your surfaces with 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. It’s important to allow the surface to air dry completely before moving on to your next task.

Myth #2 – Those plastic pop-up thermometers are 100% accurate. Consumer Reports found that not all the 21 pop-up thermometers they tested in whole turkeys and turkey breast were accurate. Food experts at USDA recommend using a food thermometer instead. Make sure your food thermometer registers 165 ºF or higher in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. You can be assured that the turkey is ready and safe to eat.

Myth #3 – Always choose white over dark meet because it is healthier. Turkey is a great source of protein. It has a low glycemic index, which means it won’t cause your blood sugar levels to spike and it helps increase levels of “good” HDL cholesterol in your body. There are some nutritional differences, white meat (breast and wings) has fewer calories and fat than dark meat (legs and thighs) per serving, while dark meat has higher levels of zinc and iron. Depending on your current health, if you are cutting back on fat and calories, then white meat might be the better option. Otherwise, choose whatever type you like and enjoy!

Myth #4 – Turkey makes people sleepy. Turkey meat contains a lot of an amino acid called L-tryptophan. The brain changes L-tryptophan into serotonin, which helps calm us down and helps us sleep. However, scientists at Johns Hopkins think it isn’t just what we eat that makes us so sleepy on Thanksgiving (after all my turkey sandwich any other time of the year has no impact), it is the quantity. Consuming a large meal increases blood flow to our stomach and decreases blood flow to our brain. The increased intake of carbohydrates (which may impact our glycemic index), alcohol consumption, and the hustle and bustle of the day can lead to a desperate need for a nap. To decrease your fatigue you might choose to eat smaller portions/meals, decrease the intake of carbohydrates, limit alcohol consumption, and delegate holiday preparations as you are able.

Turkey time can be a happy and healthy time if you debunk these myths. If you are looking for tips on ways to cook a turkey and a guide on how to roast a turkey (frozen or fresh), the USDA has several resources available for free.

For more information about food safety (in English and Spanish), call: USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline, 1-888-MPHotline – (1-888-674-6854), E-mail: mphotline@usda.gov

Happy turkey day!

Written by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Ph.D., Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Darke County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Perry County

Photo by DONALD COOK from FreeImages

Sources:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (N.D.). Does Eating Turkey Make Me Sleepy? Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Does-Eating-Turkey-Make-Me-Sleepy

Mayo Clinic. (2020, August 25). Nutrition and healthy eating. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/glycemic-index-diet/art-20048478

Rehman, A. (2021, July 6). What Is Tryptophan? Sleep Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/nutrition/what-is-tryptophan

Umansky, D. (2016, November 22). Holiday Turkey: Should You Rely on a Meat Thermometer or a Pop-Up Timer? Consumer Reports. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/meat-thermometers/meat-thermometer-or-pop-up-timer-for-turkey/

University of Illinois Extension. (N.D.). Turkey for the Holidays – Nutrition. Retrieved from https://web.extension.illinois.edu/turkey/nutrition.cfm

University of Illinois Extension. (N.D.). Turkey for the Holidays – Using a Thermometer. Retrieved from https://web.extension.illinois.edu/turkey/thermometer.cfm

USDA. (2017, February 17). How to Cook a Thanksgiving Turkey. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/11/22/how-cook-thanksgiving-turkey

USDA. (2015, September 28). Let’s Talk Turkey—A Consumer Guide to Safely Roasting a Turkey. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/lets-talk-turkey-roasting

USDA. (2021, August 3). Tips and Resources for a Bacteria-Free Thanksgiving. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/11/22/tips-and-resources-bacteria-free-thanksgiving

USDA. (2017, February 21). To Wash or Not to Wash… Your Turkey? Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/11/21/wash-or-not-wash-your-turkey

USDA. (2019, October 22). Turkey Basics: Safe Cooking. Retrieved from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/poultry/turkey-basics-safe-cooking

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (N.D.). Cholesterol Levels: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/cholesterollevelswhatyouneedtoknow.html

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With the holiday season almost here, discussions are being held to determine the best practice to celebrate without putting ourselves in the path of the coronavirus.  Older adults need to be exceptionally careful, especially those with high blood pressure, heart, lung, kidney or liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.  These Seniors face a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19.

In-Person or Virtual?

Holidays are a time for families and friends to come together and celebrate the season.  It is understandable that many still want to get together and celebrate the season.  Your decision on whether to stay at home or get together face to face needs to be based on your own health, risk factors and how your community (or the area you plan to visit) is faring.  Before you make your plans, check local transmission rates.  According to researchers at John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, there should be a two-week decrease in COVID-19 cases and a low overall rate (less than 10 per 100,000 people over 14 days).  

If you are in an area with high levels of COVID-19, it is wise to stay home even if you are otherwise in good health and have no preexisting conditions according to practitioners at the Cleveland Clinic.

Virtual Holiday

Should you choose to celebrate this holiday separately from your family and friends, make it memorable.

  • Connect via a digital platform, such as Zoom.  This allows you to do everything from sitting at your Thanksgiving dinner table, watching grandkids open presents or singing favorite songs on a computer.
  • Overhaul your traditions.  Mix up a favorite holiday recipe and send out to everyone! 
  • Create new virtual traditions.  Host a game night on an app called Pogo.  Or watch your favorite holiday movie simultaneously via an app called Netflix Party.
  • Schedule several virtual tours for the holidays. The Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art offer many options.

Face to Face Celebrations

In person celebrations are not perfectly safe.  However, a few steps can reduce risks significantly.

  • Wear a mask.  Social distance and wash your hands frequently.
  • Stay as local as possible.  Stay within a 2-hour drive from home.  This minimizes the need to stop along the way.
  • Plan for small and short.  The fewer people you are with, the lower the overall risk.  Keep indoor get-togethers under 10 people and limit to 1 hour. 
  • Bring your own.  Ideally, everyone should have their own food and utensils.  Takeout is an option.  Ask for food to be packed in separate containers for each person.
  • Try staggered eating times, so people from the same household can eat together at the same table.  Consider eating with spaced-out seating.
  • Limit alcohol.   The more people drink,  it is challenging to stay masked and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Skip the singalongs.  When people sing, small aerosol particles are released into the air and may propel the virus into your 6-foot safety zone.
  • Wash your own dishes to limit cross-contamination
  • Paper plates are safer to use than regular dishes
  • Wipe and sanitize common areas
  • Do not use serving utensils or pass dishes

Remember to pass on the hugs and keep everyone safe.   Be Well this holiday season.

Written by Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County  lobb.3@osu.edu

References:

Centers of Disease Control:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html

Illinois  Department of Health:

https://www.dph.illinois.gov/covid19/community-guidance/holiday-season-safety-tips

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Holiday meals are a wonderful way to re-connect with family and friends. We tend to spend more money and time preparing special holiday foods. USDA offers some tips on preparing a healthy, low-cost holiday meal:

Plan ahead. Deciding early on your menu can save both time and money. You can look for sales and coupons to help lower food costs. Check your cupboards and use what you have along with items you need to purchase. For more help in planning your meal, check out USDA’s Countdown to Thanksgiving.

Use canned and frozen produce. Because these foods can be stored longer, you can purchase them when they are on sale.

thanksgiving.jpgConsider frozen meat. Meat tends to be the most expensive part of the meal. In general, frozen meats tend to cost less. Make sure you have space in your freezer to store and your refrigerator later for thawing before cooking and also for storing leftovers.

Have a potluck. Invite family members to bring a dish with them. You can coordinate these dishes with your menu so there is a nice variety. This can save you both time and money.

Healthy and homemade. While store-bought dishes or desserts can save you time, they can be expensive. Making them yourself can help save money and you can adjust the amount of salt, sugar and fat as your prepare the food.

Try a new recipe. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service offers a variety of healthy, low-cost recipes. You can also read more on the MyPlate Holiday Makeover.

Use your leftovers. You want to make sure all leftovers are stored safely so they can become part of a tasty dish. Freeze what you cannot use within 7 days.

Our Live Healthy Live Well team wishes you and yours a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Sources:

Rowe, A. (2013). Stretching a Holiday Food Budget during the Busy Holiday Season. United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2013/12/3/stretching-holiday-food-budget-during-busy-holiday-season

Countdown to the Thanksgiving Holiday. (2013) United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety Inspection Service. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/seasonal-food-safety/countdown-to-the-thanksgiving-holiday/CT_Index

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by:  Tammy Jones, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pike County.

 

 

 

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thanksgivingThanksgiving is almost here! It’s a holiday for enjoying family, friends and lots of delicious food. Be sure to share good food safety practices to keep your Thanksgiving dinner safe. Here are some simple tips to keep this holiday meal safe.

Safe Thawing
• Wash your hands with soap and water before handling the turkey or any food.
• Thaw the turkey in the refrigerator at 40 degrees F or below. Allow approximately 24 hours per 4-5 pounds of turkey. A very large bird may take up to 5 or 6 days to thaw.
• If you forgot to thaw the turkey, submerge the turkey in pan of cold water, enough to cover the turkey. Change the water every 30 minutes. Allow 30 minutes thawing
time for every pound.

Safe Preparation
• Wash hands with soap and water.
• Make sure food prep areas and surfaces, utensils and plates are clean.
• Use separate cutting boards for meats and fruits/vegetables.
• Avoid putting cooked food on cutting boards that have touched raw meat.
• Avoid wiping your hands that have touched raw food with dish towels.
• Keep raw food away from vegetables and side dishes that will not be cooked.
• Stuffing the turkey is not recommended. Bake the stuffing separate.
• Never bake the turkey below 325 degrees in the oven.
• Use a food thermometer. The pop-up timer is not a reliable method to determine if the turkey is cooked to the minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees.
• Let the turkey set 20 minutes before carving to allow the juices to set.
• Stuffing should also reach a minimum temperature of 165 degrees.

Serving Food Safely
• Keep hot foods hot and colds food cold.
• Keep the pumpkin pie and any cold desserts in the refrigerator.
• Use clean serving spoons for each dish.
• Wash hands with soap and water before handling food or eating.
• Carve the turkey with a clean carving knife and fork.

Storing Leftovers
• Store leftover food within two hours after serving, including pumpkin pie.
• Use several shallow containers to store leftovers.
• Store in the refrigerator if eating within 3 days.
• Keep in the freezer for longer storage. Label and date.
• Reheat all leftovers to 165 degrees F. Gravy should be brought to a rolling boil.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Resources: fsis.usda.gov/Fact_Sheets/Poultry_Preparation
www2c.cdc.gov/podcasts/player.asp2f=10269
Author: Beth Stefura, M Ed, RD, LD, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu.
Reviewer: Lisa Barlage, MS, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

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