Tips for a Safe, Healthy Thanksgiving Meal

If you've decided to have turkey as the main entrée for your Thanksgiving feast, how do you safely defrost and prep the bird before you pop it in your oven? Ryerson University professors Marilyn Lee, School of Occupational and Public Health, and Yvonne Yuan, School of Nutrition, offer tips on how to safely roast that perfect turkey and have a delicious healthy dinner that's easy on the waistline.

Turkey prepping 101:

  1. First, thaw the turkey in your fridge. If it's a big bird, it will take a few days so plan to buy the bird at least a week in advance of your holiday meal. After the turkey is defrosted, make sure that all the juices are wiped up, the paper towels thrown out, and the surfaces or utensils that the meat juices touched are washed in hot, sudsy water, rinsed, and disinfected. Always wash and disinfect your cutting boards and utensils when alternating between cutting up raw and cooked ingredients. A good disinfecting solution can be made from half a teaspoon of household bleach added to a cup of water. Don't forget to wash your hands!
  2. A turkey should reach an internal temperature of 180 degrees F to ensure that salmonella bacteria are destroyed. You shouldn't wiggle the leg or judge by how it looks to determine if the turkey is done. Purchase a thermometer that has a probe long enough to reach the middle of the bird/stuffing, and can be left in while the turkey cooks.
  3. Stuffing for the turkey is best prepared on the stovetop. If you decide to stuff the bird, it will take longer to reach 180 degrees F. Make sure the probe thermometer goes all the way to the middle of the stuffing.
  4. After enjoying that tasty bird with your relatives and friends, don't leave it out at room temperature and then make turkey sandwiches for supper (or a midnight snack). Instead, after enjoying your meal, take the meat off the carcass (you can have some big chunks), put it in a container no more than 2 inches deep, cover, and refrigerate.
  5. The healthy Thanksgiving meal:

    1. Roast turkey without the skin is a good source of protein. There's about one ounce of protein per serving. White breast meat also has about half the fat of dark meat.
    2. Be sure to enjoy a variety of colorful vegetables with your turkey. Traditional Thanksgiving favorites such as baked/roasted or candied sweet potatoes and yams are good sources of fiber and vitamin A. Butternut and acorn squash, beets, brussel sprouts, or bok choy are delicious as side dishes--they not only addcolor, but also vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to your Thanksgiving dinner.
    3. To round out your plate, include a variety of whole grains such as brown rice. You can also be a little adventurous by trying quinoa or bulgur wheat for a different texture and nutty flavor to complement your meal. Beans and lentils will provide protein as well as fiber to your meal.
    4. To help you estimate serving sizes, here are some good rules to follow:
      • lean meats: one serving is about the size of a deck of playing cards;
      • vegetables: a serving is half a cup or one cup for leafy raw vegetables or salad;
      • grains: a serving is half a cup of cooked rice or pasta;
      • breads: a serving equals one slice of bread, half a pita, or tortilla.

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