There is no greater time in the year than the festivities to mark the Christmas and usher in the New Year. We are all taken in by the mundane preparations, as to what to eat, what to wear , and what type of gifts to give to our loved ones and most importantly, the less privileged amongst us. This time of the year is so important, that I thought it would be good to give you tips on eating and staying healthy and safe this season. Top on the list is food, food, food. In our Nigerian environment, we tend to eat a lot of meat, comprising turkey, goat, fish, and chicken. Irrespective of what you decided to eat, there are few basic health tips. I would focus on turkey, the main traditional roast.
• Safety tips for cooking your turkey : From defrosting turkey to using leftovers, these food safety tips will help stop your turkey from knocking the stuffing out of you this Christmas.
• Avoid cross-contamination
Keep all raw food, whether it’s turkey or vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that are spread very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.
Wash your hands
Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially when handling and preparing raw meat and poultry. You also need to remember to wash and dry your hands after going to the toilet, touching the bin or touching any pets. Bugs are spread between food, surfaces and utensils most effectively on wet or damp hands.
Defrost turkey safely.
Defrost the turkey on a large dish and cover, preferably in the fridge. A turkey is fully defrosted when there are no ice crystals inside the cavity and the meat is soft when you insert a fork or skewer. Once thawed, store it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. If this isn’t possible, you should cook it immediately.
Don’t wash the bird.
Many people say they wash their turkeys before cooking them, but this significantly increases the risk of food poisoning by splashing germs around the kitchen. Don’t wash your bird, because it will only spread germs. Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria that might be present.
Cook turkey properly.
Seventeen per cent of people aren’t sure how to tell when their turkey is cooked. Make sure your turkey is steaming hot all the way through before serving. When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you press the thigh, they should be clear. If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.
Preparing a buffet.
Cold items for a buffet should remain covered and in the fridge until the last minute. Don’t keep them out for more than four hours. Food kept out for longer could be open to harmful bacteria if left to get warm at room temperature. Foods which are cooked and intended to be served cold should be cooled as quickly as possible, ideally within one to two hours. You can cool food down faster by separating it into small batches, placing it in a container and placing the container in a shallow dish of cold water.
• Avoiding Food Poisoning:
If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ll know how unpleasant it can be, even for a fit and healthy person. Food poisoning can sometimes cause serious illness and even death.
Most people assume that food poisoning comes from restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets, you’re just as likely to get ill from food prepared at home.
Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, and dry them before handling food, after handling raw foods – including meat, fish, eggs and vegetables – and after touching the bin, going to the toilet, blowing your nose, or touching animals, including pets.
Wash worktops before and after preparing food, particularly after they’ve been touched by raw meat, including poultry, raw eggs, fish and vegetables. You don’t need to use antibacterial sprays: hot, soapy water is fine.
Wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for germs to breed.
Use separate chopping boards
Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that spreads very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.
Keep raw meat separate
It’s especially important to keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods, such as salad, fruit and bread. This is because these foods won’t be cooked before you eat them, so any bacteria that gets on to the foods won’t be killed.
Store raw meat on the bottom shelf
Always cover raw meat and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it can’t touch other foods or drip onto them.
Cook food thoroughly
Cook food thoroughly and check that it’s steaming hot all the way through. Make sure poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. Don’t wash raw meat including chicken and turkey before cooking, as this risks spreading bacteria around your kitchen.
Freezing raw chicken reduces levels of Campylobacter but does not eliminate it completely. The safest way to kill all traces of Campylobacter is by cooking chicken thoroughly.
Keep your fridge below 5C
Keep your fridge temperature below 5C. By keeping food cold, you stop food poisoning bugs growing.
Cool leftovers quickly
If you have cooked food that you’re not going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store it in the fridge or freezer. Use any leftovers from the fridge within two days.
A cocktail of excitement, stress, tiredness and alcohol can create unexpected hazards in the home at Christmas.
• Preventing Injuries
Many people a year need hospital treatment for injuries such as falls, cuts and burns during the festive period. During Christmas, your home is likely to be full of people and, in the excitement, accidents can easily happen. The home should be as safe as necessary, rather than as safe as possible. With a little more care and forward planning, most accidents could be avoided.
Hot fat, boiling water and sharp knives make the kitchen one of the most dangerous places during the holiday. Try to keep other people (especially children) out of the kitchen. Avoid alcohol until you’ve finished cooking, and wipe up spills as soon as they happen, so that people don’t slip.
Clutter, alcohol and tiredness make the stairs an accident hotspot during Christmas.. It’s common to fall down steps or stairs after drinking. Keep the stairs well lit and free from obstacles, especially if you have guests who could be going up to the bathroom during the night.
Typical Christmas Day accidents include parents accidentally stabbing themselves with scissors, which they’ve used to assemble toys, instead of using a screwdriver. People often cut themselves with knives when they’re opening presents too quickly. People also trip over toys and electric cables while rushing to try their new computers and other appliances.
People are hurt by Christmas tree lights. Injuries include people falling while they’re putting them up, children swallowing the bulbs, and people getting electric shocks and burns from faulty lights.
Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year. The combination of drink, relatives, lack of sleep and the stress of Christmas shopping can be too much for some people. Try to find some time alone, even if it’s only to have a relaxing bath. Learn to say no to the demands of relatives. It’s important not to suppress your emotions. Try to talk to someone you trust or a third party.
Apart from the risks to your own health, alcohol can be the chief mischief maker when it comes to accidents. It reduces your risk awareness. Alcohol can make people relax so much that they don’t think about everyday risks. Get tips on cutting down. After a party, empty any alcohol out of glasses. Children are likely to drink the remains if they get up early to play with their toys. Never drink and drive.