Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
For Immediate Release:
November 23, 2010
Thanksgiving: Feast on These Smart Tips
Spice up your meal with healthy sides; practice safe food handling
LOS ANGELES - This Thanksgiving, add fresh flavor and avoid foodborne
illness with these healthy and easy tips from the Department of Public
"Everyone has a favorite Thanksgiving casserole or side dish, but why
not introduce a few new, fresh dishes this year? Add salads and other
dishes that feature fresh fruits and vegetables and inspire your loved
ones and guests in making healthier choices," said Jonathan E.
Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer.
"Enjoy sensible portions, pile on fresh veggies, and share good
health around the table this Thanksgiving."
For ideas on easy to prepare, ethnically-inspired recipes that add a
twist to this year's holiday meal, go to
download ¡Es Fácil! Libro de Recetas (It's Easy! Recipe Book), a
low-fat cookbook written in English and Spanish from Project LEAN
(Leaders Encouraging Activity and Nutrition), an outreach by the Public
Health Nutrition Program. These recipes were created and tested in the
family kitchens of community members from Highland Park.
"Thanksgiving is traditionally opening day for a season of
overeating. It can instead be a day of enjoying family and friends and
reflecting on what you are grateful for. It's also a chance to create a
healthy eating pattern for all of the holiday temptations ahead," said
Jean Tremaine, MA, MPH, Director of Public Health's Nutrition Program.
"Instead of piling a bit of everything on your plate, have a
reasonable portion of your favorite once-a-year specialties and leave
some of the other dishes. Focus on quality rather than quantity and set
the tone for eating well throughout the holiday season. You'll be really
pleased with the difference in how you feel and your overall health this
Food Handling Tips
Each year Public Health investigates cases of food borne illness during
the holidays that are the result of undercooked food and poor food
handling practices. Typical symptoms of food borne illness (sometimes
known as food poisoning) include stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea,
all of which can start hours or days after consuming contaminated food
or drink. For healthy people, most symptoms usually go away after a few
hours or days without treatment. But food borne illness can be severe
and even life-threatening in older adults, infants and young children,
pregnant women, and those with conditions that weaken their immune
systems, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer drug therapy.
Raw turkey, chicken, or meats can contain Campylobacter, Salmonella or
E.coli bacteria that cause diarrhea and other problems. These bacteria
can multiply rapidly when poultry is taken out of refrigeration and
before it is thoroughly cooked. Freezing does not kill these bacteria,
but they are destroyed when food is cooked to the proper temperature.
To thaw a turkey (by refrigerator, cold water or microwave):
● Place frozen turkey in original wrapper in the refrigerator (40° F
or below). Allow approximately 24 hours per 5 pounds of turkey. After
thawing, keep turkey refrigerated for only 1-2 days before cooking.
● A turkey that has been thawed in the refrigerator can be re-frozen.
It is not recommended to refreeze a turkey that has been thawed using
● Place securely wrapped turkey in cold water and change the water
every 30 minutes. Allow about 30 minutes defrosting time per pound of
turkey. Cook immediately after thawing.
● Check to see if the turkey is not too large and fits comfortably in
the microwave. Check manufacturer's instructions for the size of
turkey that will fit in your microwave oven, the minutes per pound, and
the power level to use for thawing. Cook immediately after thawing.
To cook a turkey:
● When roasting a whole turkey, use a food thermometer to make sure
it cooks to 165° F or higher. Insert the thermometer in the thickest
part of the thigh, but not against the bone.
● For safety and uniform doneness, cook stuffing separately in a
● For pre-cooked turkey dinners, eat within 2 hours or refrigerate
components separately, then reheat to a temperature of at least 165° F.
When purchasing a fresh turkey, plan to cook it within 1-2 days after
purchase. Do not buy fresh pre-stuffed turkeys. If not handled properly,
any harmful bacteria that may be in the stuffing can multiply very
quickly. Frozen pre- stuffed turkeys are safe because they have been
processed under controlled conditions. Do not thaw frozen pre- stuffed
turkeys. Cook from the frozen state by following package directions.
Other food handling tips include:
● Wash fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating or
cutting into them.
● Separate raw meats and poultry from other foods such as fruits and
vegetables. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards,
knives, and platters for these foods.
● Wash cutting boards, utensils, and platters after preparing each
food item and before going on to the next item.
● Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when re-heating.
● Keep hot foods hot. Use chafing dishes or pans with Sternos or
other heating devices, or keep foods in the oven at a temperature to
ensure they remain at 135° F or above.
● Keep cold foods cold. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Throw
out foods that should have been kept cold, but have been left out for
more than two hours.
● "Taste testing" food or drinks to see if they have spoiled is
Raw or lightly cooked egg or egg products, used in foods such as salad
dressings, cookie or cake batter, sauces such as hollandaise sauce, and
beverages such as eggnog, can cause food borne illnesses. Avoid eating
uncooked items containing raw or lightly cooked egg or egg products.
Substitute pasteurized eggs when cooking these foods.
For more information on safe cooking, visit the USDA website at:
http://www.usda.gov/ or call their toll-free Meat and Poultry Hotline
at 1-888-674-6854. For the Hearing Impaired: 1-800-256-7072 (TTY). You
may speak with a food safety specialist, in English or Spanish, from
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern time during the week year round. An
extensive menu of recorded food safety messages may be heard 24 hours a
If you get a food borne illness, seek medical attention. Please contact
the LA County Department of Public Health at 1-888-397-3993 to report
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and
improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles
County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and
services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control,
and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000
employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more
about Public Health and the work we do, please visit
http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at
http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter:
# # #