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No leftovers left behind: Your guide to healthy holiday eating

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

ANN ARBOR – It’s easy to imagine the plethora of wonderful-smelling, beautifully crafted dishes that your family takes pride in bringing to the big feast on Christmas and other holiday parties.

From the cranberry sauce to the infamous pumpkin pie, your family has got it covered! It’s a time for all of us to come together and celebrate, and food is always part of the bargain. Hey, it keeps me coming back!
In this blog, I want to share some really important things to remember as the holidays are coming up, with family members crowding around food, proper prep and storage, and some awesome hidden recipes that you can create from your leftovers! Prepare to get your mind blown!

Are you hosting Christmas this year? How many hands do you have to help?

The cold winter months are always known for the sniffles, sneezes, coughs, and much more. If you have any kiddos who are battling a cold, keep them far, far away from that kitchen where all of the food will be prepared, or that cold will be spread like the plague!

Food is as much a part of holiday gatherings as football, candles and carols. This holiday season, keep food safety in mind every step of the way, including proper planning, safe shopping, working in the kitchen and wrapping up leftovers.

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind when food prep is happening in your home:

Proper Planning
Make sure your kitchen is equipped with what you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for storage, paper towels and soap. Store foods in the refrigerator at 40°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe Shopping
It’s important to keep food safety in mind as you shop. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t purchase bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Buy cold foods that last and bring foods directly home from the grocery store. Remember to always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours.

Working in the Kitchen
In a holiday kitchen filled with family and friends, all hands may be on deck, but are those hands clean? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap.

Wrapping Up Leftovers
As you eat and visit with family and friends, keep in mind how long the food on the buffet table has been sitting out unrefrigerated. Remember that you can’t tell if a food is unsafe by taste, smell or appearance alone. Best practice, that also helps me portion myself on the big day, is filling my containers before going up for seconds. It saves the food and helps me hold back on round two.

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with an expiration date. If you hosted the holiday festivities, plan ahead and have resealable plastic bags and food storage containers handy to send guests home with goodies. Or do what my family does, and bring your own as a guest to the party to eliminate the confusion of whose stuffing is whose!

Instead of tossing those holiday leftovers to avoid more over-indulging, use them to your advantage. Here are some practical tips and recipes to help you reduce food waste and space out the calories.
Mix It Up. Toss leftover veggies and seafood with small portions of pasta or brown rice.

Chicken asparagus and wild mushroom stir fry (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)
Chicken asparagus and wild mushroom stir fry (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)

Veg Out. Reduce portions of high calorie favorites by adding fresh or frozen vegetables to creamy soups or leftover mashed potatoes.

Lemony chicken and orzo soup (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)
Lemony chicken and orzo soup (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)

Go Nuts. Add remaining nuts and dried fruit to a simple and light spinach salad.

Safety First. Most foods will stay fresh for up to seven days, but if it looks or smells even a little funky, throw it out!

Share the Love. Do you have too much food you don’t even know what to do with it? Consider giving to a local food bank, another family in need, or your next door neighbor who just arrived home from a long traveling day and has nothing prepared.

Turkey tostada (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)
Turkey tostada (Courtesy: Applied Fitness Solutions)

Wait, there's more! Check out full recipes here.

Jen Fuller is the General Manager of Applied Fitness Solutions in Ann Arbor.

This story is sponsored by Applied Fitness Solutions. AFS provides group fitness classes and personal wellness coaching at their three area locations: Ann Arbor, Rochester Hills, and Plymouth. Learn more about AFS.

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