Healthy Holiday Tips

LAST UPDATED: October 29, 2021
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​Staying Healthy over the Holidays

Traditional Thanksgiving and holiday feasts with family and friends may require some modifications to keep everyone safe this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommendations for hosting and attending gatherings in order to help the spread of COVID-19 including: getting vaccinated if your're eligible, encouraging social distancing, wearing face coverings, washing hands often, limiting people handling food, limiting contact with commonly touched and shared surfaces, and reminding people to stay home if they're sick.1  

If your family is separated this year, set up a virtual call with your family and prepare the meal together. You can learn to cook grandma's favorite recipe with everyone else at the same time.  It could be an on-line cooking class with your family.

Or, host a virtual call for the holiday meal with your family and friends.  It can be the same family traditions with conversations and eating – just in different locations. It is important to keep cherished traditions and try some new traditions with a healthy twist. The CDC offers other ideas for safe holiday celebrations.2

Maintain Optimal Health and Wellbeing this Holiday Season

Other health-related tips for the holiday season include: keeping healthy with sleep optimization, physical activity and healthy nutrition strategies. The magic happens with synergy of the Performance Triad during this busy season.  Here are some creative ideas to help!

Sleep. Keep your normal bedtime to ensure 7-8 hours of sleep to be energized for the rest of the weekend.

Activity. Start your Thanksgiving with physical activity.  Is there a virtual turkey trot or a jingle bell jog you can participate with your family? Or, go outside and play outside games before the big meal.  After dinner get your immediate family to go on a walk around the neighborhood. Try to maintain your activity regimen during the holidays.

Nutrition.

  • Order your groceries on-line with pick-up and delivery service.
  • Eat breakfast so you are not starving before the big meal.
  • Remember to hydrate and drink water or a calorie free beverage throughout the day. 
  • Add a new healthy, creative recipe to the menu along with the traditional favorites.
  • Build a healthy plate for the holiday meal with half of the plate with vegetables.
  • Try winter fruits and vegetables in new recipes.  Try incorporating winter squash, sweet potatoes, beets, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, and cauliflower into different dishes.
  • Winter fruits in season are grapefruit, kiwifruit, kumquats, mandarin oranges, oranges, persimmons and pomelos. Try a mixed fruit salad.
  • Select plain vegetables instead of casserole-type dishes.
  • Don't add extra butter or gravy.
  • Go easy on the alcohol.
  • Choose small portions, savor every bite and try to eat slowly.
  • You don't have to clean your plate!

Don't Forget about Food Safety Before, During, and After the Holiday Meal

Food safety is an important part of healthy nutrition, so here are some food safety tips for holiday turkey and leftovers.3

1. Thaw Your Turkey Safely. Ideally thaw in the refrigerator in a container over a few days.  Thawing under refrigeration will take at least 3-5 days.  Other options could be in a in a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water.  Keep the turkey in its original, unopened packaging and change the water every 30 minutes.  A maximum (cumulative) thawing time should not exceed 2 hours if using the sink method.  Never thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter.

2. Handle Your Turkey the Right Way. Follow the four steps to food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food, family, and friends.  Do not "wash" your turkey prior to preparation.  Rinsing the bird does not remove any bacteria and the splashing water may result in contamination of the sink and adjacent counters.

3. Cook Stuffing Thoroughly. Cooking stuffing separately from the turkey in a casserole dish makes it easy to be sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you cook stuffing in the turkey, make sure the stuffing's center reaches 165°F. If you cook stuffing in the turkey, wait 20 minutes after taking the bird out of the oven before removing the stuffing; this allows it to cook a little more. Bacteria can survive in stuffing that has not reached 165°F and may then cause food poisoning.

4. Cook Your Turkey Thoroughly. Set the oven temperature to at least 325°F. Place the completely thawed turkey in a roasting pan that is 2 to 2-1/2 inches deep. Use a food thermometer to make sure the turkey has reached a safe internal temperature of 165°F.  Spot check the temperature in the meaty portion of the turkey thigh without touching the bone; the breast area will reach temperature long before the thigh area. Let the turkey stand 20 minutes before removing all stuffing from the cavity and carving the meat.

5. Take Care of Leftovers. Refrigerate leftovers at 41°F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation to prevent food poisoning. Slice or divide big cuts of meat, such as a roast turkey, into small quantities for refrigeration so they will cool quickly.

Remember to Give Thanks to All of Your Military Members and Family Members that Support Them! 

References

  1. Safer Was to Celebrate. External Link (2021) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from 
  2. Food Safety Tips for Your Holiday Turkey. External Link (2021​) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 
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