Happy National Nutrition Month®! The third week focuses on learning skills to create tasty meals. Tips to remember include practicing proper food safety, trying new foods, flavors and cooking methods, and sharing meals together as a family when possible.
We should always practice proper food safety. The first step is to clean. Clean your hands, wash your produce, clean your surfaces and utensils. Remember to wash your hand with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. We need to wash our hands before we cook, eat, touch our face, pet the dog, handle uncooked eggs, etc. You should never wash your produce using detergent or soap, just use water to rinse off any dirt.
Separate is the next step. Remember to avoid cross contamination by separating raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs from other fresh foods. These foods should never come in contact and you should always use different cutting boards, utensils, pans, etc. Remember to check your cutting boards for any grooves. If you find any, it is time to purchase a new cutting board.
The following step is cook. Remember to cook your foods to the correct temperatures. The danger zone is the temperature range of 40 degrees to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The danger zone is when bacteria multiplies the fastest. You should always use a food thermometer when checking your foods to ensure that they are properly cooked. Even leftovers need to be properly reheated. You can purchase a food thermometer from a grocery store or dollar store.
Our last step is chill. Foods must be put in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking or of purchasing to avoid bacteria growth. Consider taking a cooler with you to the store, especially if it will take you longer than 30 minutes to return home. Remember cold foods should be kept cold and hot foods hot. Frozen foods should never be thawed on the counter. To ensure food safety, thaw foods in the refrigerator. Do not forget that leftovers need to be reheated to a proper temperature.
One way to encourage family meals is to allow the whole family to contribute to the grocery list. Encourage your children to pick the vegetable for your meals and have them assist you in the kitchen. Try using herbs and cooking new recipes. One of my family favorite’s is baked chicken with rosemary and sliced lemons. Try to “unplug” from your electronics and enjoy a family meal together whenever possible.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture