Lean Protein Spotlight: Turkey

The other day, I roasted a 15-pound turkey, but I was only serving two people. What was I thinking?

Actually it’s a simple answer.

Before Thanksgiving last year, our grocery store offered whole turkeys at $0.37 per pound if you bought $35 worth of groceries. I had to take them up on that deal, which meant that I had two turkeys in the freezer. Recently, I decided to cook one of them for guests, but they cancelled. Since I already had the turkey thawing in the fridge, I cooked it anyway. That’s the easy part: no dressing, no basting, cook until the thickest parts reach 165 degrees F. Results: a lot of food for two people.

Frozen turkeys will keep for a long time if held below zero degrees. They’re usually packed in air- and water-resistant plastic wraps that help prevent loss of quality during freezer storage. The general recommendation for freezer storage is one year, if the food has been frozen that whole time. This is a quality recommendation and not a food safety deadline.

According to the National Turkey Federation, removed bones typically reduce the weight of the turkey by 25% and my turkey was fairly true to that estimate. I weighed the bones after I cooked them down for soup and picked the meat off, and I had 3.3 pounds of “waste” (there was additional fat and moisture I couldn’t weigh) from my 15-pound turkey. We ended up with about 10 pounds of meat at around $0.50 a pound. What a deal!

The usual recommendation is to purchase one pound of turkey (on the bone) for each person served. This is geared for holiday meals with all the trimmings and to save leftovers too. With my February turkey, we had a few meals of roast turkey and then two big pots of soup. We also had lots of leftovers for sandwiches at a much better price, taste, and quality than that expensive processed turkey meat in the deli. Plus, I froze a few packages of cooked turkey for quick meals later. The recommendation for frozen cooked turkey is to eat it within three months.

The US Dietary Guidelines suggest choosing lean or low-fat meat and poultry as your protein source. Turkey is lower in fat and calories than many other foods in the protein group and can be a good choice. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, 3 ounces of whole turkey (meat only) contains 135 calories, 24 grams of protein, and only 3.26 grams of fat.

Even if you can’t get as good a price as I did, roasting your own turkey or turkey parts any time of the year can be an easy job with lots of nutritional benefits.  Why wait until Thanksgiving?

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Keep Your Family Healthy in the New Year

Everywhere you look this time of year, someone is suggesting a resolution (or two or three) that you should keep. I’m going to chime in on this, too, with four really simple things that you can do to help keep your family healthy.

  1. Invest in a good tip-sensitive digital-read food thermometer and use it! Cooking food to the recommended minimum internal temperature is the only sure way to destroy bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli.
  2. Buy a couple of refrigerator and freezer thermometers and put them to use. Monitor these temperatures frequently. Your refrigerator should be below 40 degrees F and the freezer should be close to zero degrees F. These are also great tools to have in place when determining the safety of foods after a power outage. Proper refrigerator and freezer temps can extend the time food can be kept. Recommended leftover storage is 4 days at 40 degrees or below.
  3. Get yourself several dishwasher-safe plastic cutting boards. Designating specific colors for different foods (such as yellow for raw chicken and green for fresh veggies) can help prevent cross-contamination. Change mats frequently during food prep and wash them thoroughly in the dishwasher.
  4. Wash your hands frequently and encourage your family to do it, too! You probably don’t need to be reminded to wash after using the restroom, but also think about washing before cooking, before eating (even in a restaurant), after blowing your nose or sneezing and especially after changing diapers. Be extra diligent with handwashing when you are living with someone who is ill or in a confined area with a large group of people, such as a cruise ship or college dorm. Handwashing is the best way to prevent the transfer of norovirus.


Best wishes for a happy and food safe new year!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a free printable handout that features these resolutions. How will you use your copy?


And here are some other useful tools from the Nutrition Education Store!

Food Safety and the Slow Cooker

RIMG6853 RIMG6873The food safety nerd in me just had another (as my husband would say) “food safety fit”.

This was the result of a post on Facebook, shared by a friend who thought it looked like a good idea: 31 slow cooker freezer meals.

Actually I like the idea. The post looked promising — planning meals ahead of time (wow, that’s a concept), buying all the ingredients for 31 meals at one time, doing all the chopping and prep work at one time and then freezing what was left. This isn’t really a new theory, but what makes this specific post or collection of recipes unique is that it the food is eventually cooked in the slow cooker.

What gave me the fit was the thought of the frozen food going directly into a slow cooker on low. The recipe author says that she looked up the food safety procedures and does not recommend putting frozen food directly into the slow cooker. Most of the recipes say to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before putting them in to cook.

There were lots of comments from folks who were either for or against this process.

Several mentioned that the USDA does not recommend the direct-from-freezer-to-slow-cooker process. Yeah!

Several others commented that they’ve been putting frozen meat in the slow cooker for years… and they’re still alive. (You know how I feel about that one).

The reality is that putting frozen food in a slow cooker provides an excellent opportunity for bacteria to grow as the food and the slow cooker make their way slowly through the temperature danger zone (TDZ) to a safe minimum internal temperature.

One reader commented that she took the bag of frozen food out of the freezer and threw it in the sink while getting dressed in the morning, then just put the frozen food in the slow cooker. Thawing at room temperature and then putting on low temperature to cook is just asking for trouble with bacteria growth.

Other comments revealed more unique ideas on this topic. One suggested leaving the food in the zip-top freezer bag and popping it directly into the slow cooker, like a slow cooker liner. That’s another recipe for trouble. Remember: while freezer-quality bags are great for freezing, they are not designed to for long-term heating.

Another person suggested freezing directly in the slow cooker liner bags. Again, these liners were not designed for this purpose and using them this way may result in loss of quality.

I really do love the idea of planning ahead and doing some “mass preparation” to save time and have food ready to go when needed. So, what would make these recipes a little more appealing and safer?

Check out the recipes you’d really like and start with only a few meals. Make sure your family likes the outcomes and that many slow cooked meals before you get a freezer full. This will also eliminate the possibility of overloading the freezer.

Then, freeze the vegetable/seasonings and meat in separate bags. This would allow you to brown the meat before putting it in the slow cooker in the morning. Taking the time to do this can provide better color and flavor to the final product and also it helps speed the meat through the temperature danger zone.

Most of the recipes say to take the bag from the freezer the night before and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator.  While thawing in the refrigerator is the best method, one overnight may not be enough, so you may need to plan ahead a little more.

Use the appropriate packaging materials and then use them for their intended purpose.  There’s no reason that you can’t use slow cooker liners for easy clean-up, they just aren’t intended for freezer storage.

As you’re getting ready in the morning, start the food off on high and then turn it to low before you leave the house. This helps jump start the temperature in the slow cooker and rushes the food through the TDZ.

And above all, don’t listen to “know it alls” “old wives tales” and “we’ve always done it this way” that you’ll find in the comment sections on Facebook. Check out the evidence and researched-based references on food safety.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a handout with the highlights of slow cooker food safety!

Slow Cooker Safety

Check out these additional kitchen safety resources…

Finding Success on the Path to Wellness

Have I mentioned that I just updated all of our comprehensive wellness programs?

Because I have, and I’m really proud of what my team and I have created. The latest updates include information from the 2015-2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, along with a streamlined presentation platform and general improvements that will make these resources more fun for your audience.

So to celebrate that excitement, I’m sharing some slides from one of the most popular programs, The 12 Lessons of Wellness. Today’s preview comes from the show Getting Started, and the slides I’ve chosen offer advice for staying motivated and sidestepping pitfalls on the path to good health.

Let’s take a closer look!


As you embark on any path to wellness, you’ll eventually encounter a few stumbling blocks. That’s totally normal! If you plan ahead, it will be easier to overcome those obstacles and continue on your road to success.

Make sure to have a plan B for when the going gets a bit tougher. Fill your freezer with healthy meals. Prep healthy snacks and store them in the fridge or pantry. Keep some in the car in case an on-the-go craving strikes. Speaking of putting things in the car, toss a few exercise clothes in the trunk so that you’re always prepared for a workout. This will help you avoid skipping workouts because you didn’t plan ahead, and it will also ensure that you are prepared if an unexpected exercise opportunity pops up.

Remember that reaching and maintain a healthy weight is your lifetime plan. When you feel discouraged, focus on your successes and review your reasons for wanting to lose weight in the first place.


Now let’s delve into some detail. How can you stay motivated during special occasions?

One tip is to eat before the party so that you aren’t starving when you face down a festive and lavish spread. While you’re there, focus on the conversation. If you do want to indulge a bit, keep things small, exercise the next day, and eat lighter for the rest of the day or the day after.

At these parties, you may encounter a weight loss saboteur or two. Avoid people who don’t support your efforts and instead find people who share your goals. Who knows? This may be a great opportunity to get a workout buddy!


Let’s move on to another challenge. What happens when you hit a period of slow/no progress?

To start, have patience with yourself. Some days are easier than others. Revisit your goals and make sure that they’re realistic. You can always talk with your dietitian or doctor about your frustration too — they’ll have lots of great ideas for you.

RewardWhen it comes to keeping your motivation through health and fitness challenges, sometimes a reward is just the boost you need. Establish what your reward will be ahead of time, and remember, the reward shouldn’t be food!

It’s often helpful to set up rewards for milestones, not just the final goal. Plan a few rewards that you can earn along your path to fitness and weight loss — don’t just save one big reward for the end!

The show goes on in much more detail, but that’s where I’d like to stop the sample for today.

If you like what you see, consider exploring the 12 Lessons of Wellness and Weight Loss program. It’s one of the most comprehensive and effective programs for employee weight loss that my team and I have created, and it has been hugely popular.

And, as a special bonus, here are the free printable PDFs of the slides we previewed today!

Getting Started Sample Slides

And here are some of the top-selling weight loss resources from the Nutrition Education Store!

7 Simple Ways to Save Calories

Reward Chart Handout

Feel Full with Fewer Calories PowerPoint and Handout Set

All Over But The Leftovers

Thanksgiving TurkeysThanksgiving is tomorrow! Are you ready for it? Here’s a fun post from Cheryle Jones Syracuse that will remind your clients about food safety for leftovers, helping them keep their holiday celebrations safe and festive. Don’t miss the free quiz handout!

It takes hours — days if you count the shopping, planning, and chopping — to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. Then it usually takes less than one hour for the bountiful holiday meal to be eaten.

So, what’s left to do? The guests are watching football and it’s time to clean up (already?). This isn’t the time to forget about food safety. While overindulging can cause an upset stomach, so can eating food that was improperly handled or stored. Don’t get careless with those leftovers!

Here’s a quick quiz to use with your students or clients that can help reinforce some basic Thanksgiving (and year round) leftover practices.

Answer TRUE or FALSE to the following questions…

  1. TRUE or FALSE. Since it cooked for a long time, and you checked the temperature when it was done, and the refrigerator is so full, it’s okay to leave the turkey (and all the other goodies) to sit out for hours after the meal so that people can pick at it and make sandwiches.
  2. TRUE or FALSE. Food should be allowed to cool before you put it in the refrigerator.
  3. TRUE or FALSE. Leftover packs for guests should be refrigerated as soon as possible.
  4. TRUE or FALSE. Leftovers will keep for a week after Thanksgiving.
  5. TRUE or FALSE. A quick “zap” in the microwave is good enough to warm up your leftovers.


  1. FALSE. Just because it’s a holiday and your refrigerator is full does not mean that the “two-hour rule” isn’t in effect. Food should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Two hours is enough time for bacteria to multiply to the quantity that could cause foodborne illnesses. This is cumulative too. If you leave the leftovers on the dining room table for one hour, then later leave them out on the counter for 30 minutes to make sandwiches, you will only have a half-hour window left.
  2. FALSE. See above for the “two hour rule.” If you have a large amount of hot food, then it’s best to divide it into smaller portions and put them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Or, better yet, cool the food by putting it in an ice bath or cold water bath before putting it into the refrigerator. On the same note, don’t store the stuffing inside the turkey.
  3. TRUE. It’s wonderful that you’re sharing the leftovers with your guests, but make sure that this food is safe too. Think about the two-hour rule. If they won’t be leaving for several hours, make sure this food is refrigerated. If they’re traveling for more than two hours, make sure that they have a cooler or way to keep the food cold for the trip.
  4. FALSE Leftovers should be eaten within 3 to 4 days. Keep them in the coldest part of your refrigerator (not the garage or the back porch). If you have more leftovers than can be eaten within the recommended leftover time (Monday), then you can freeze them. Frozen turkey, plain, will keep for 4 months at 0 degrees F or below. Turkey covered with broth or gravy will keep for 6 months at the same temperature. Stuffing and gravy will only be good for about a month. These foods will be safe for a longer time, but may become dry, lose flavor, or drop in quality. This goes for that turkey carcass too! If you don’t have time to make soup out of it right away, wrap it carefully and freeze it. Then it will be there to make soup when you have more time.
  5. FALSE Reheat leftovers thoroughly. Merely warming leftover gravy, sauces, and soups will not get them hot enough to kill bacteria. These foods should be simmered or boiled until they’re steamy hot throughout. If you’re using a microwave, cover your food while cooking and then allow standing time for a few minutes so that the temperatures inside can even out. Leftovers should reach at least 165 degrees F.

And there you have it! A quick quiz to help your clients celebrate Thanksgiving safely and happily, leftovers and all.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State Univeristy

Here’s an easy-to-print PDF copy of the quiz! Enjoy!

Leftovers Quiz

There are tons of holiday resources in the Nutrition Education Store — which will you try first?

Holiday Secrets Cookbook

Holiday Survival: Keep Off the Pounds PowerPoint and Handout Set

Holiday Poster Set

Eggplant Cooking Tips

Eggplant!I recently got the best gift from a friend — 4 small eggplants from her garden. This is the same friend who brought me several pomegranates a couple years ago. I feel so lucky that I have friends that bring me wonderful fruits and vegetables — what great gifts!

Anyway, back to the eggplant.

I don’t usually buy eggplant, largely because I really don’t know what to do with it. My husband likes eggplant Parmesan, but he usually orders it in restaurants. I’d heard so many rumors and old wives’ tales about how to cook eggplant, and found myself baffled by all the conflicting information. For example, do I need to salt the eggplant? I remember my husband’s aunt always salting her eggplants and then weighing them down with books. On the other hand, according to an archived article from Food and Health Communications, you don’t have to bother with this if the eggplants are very fresh.

So how should I treat my eggplants?

Since salting can help remove the bitterness from an eggplant, I decided to salt mine. If you’d like to salt your eggplants before you cook them, first you need to slice or dice the eggplant into the shape you want to use. Sprinkle everything with about half a teaspoon of salt (not the half cup my husband’s aunt used to use) and then let everything sit in a colander for 30-60 minutes while the eggplant drains. Once that time is up, press out any excess liquid and dry the eggplant with a clean towel. You can also rinse the eggplant to remove extra salt before drying it.

So, there I was with salted eggplant. How did I want to cook it?

Grilled EggplantI dug further into the Food and Health Communications recipe archive and found a few articles about eggplant, along with several healthful recipes. Here are some of my favorites…

With time running short, I decided that I wanted to preserve my eggplants to cook later.

According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, eggplant can be frozen. As far as I could tell, there is not a research-tested recipe for safely canning eggplant.

So, freezing it was!

To freeze eggplant, fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and half a cup of lemon juice (the lemon will keep the eggplant from darkening). Bring the mixture to a boil. While you’re waiting for the water to heat up, wash, peel, and slice the eggplant into discs that are half an inch thick. Since eggplant does discolor quickly, prepare only what you you can blanch at one time. When you’re ready, place the eggplant slices in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Pluck the slices out of the water with a slotted spoon and drop into an ice bath for another 4 minutes. Then drain and pack up your eggplant. If you want to fry the slices or layer them into eggplant Parmesan or vegetable lasagna, consider placing freezer wrap between the slices before freezing.


That’s basically what I did, with one little twist. I put the well-drained eggplant slices on a tray and froze them individually. Then I transferred everything to a freezer bag. Hooray! Now I have two quart bags full of sliced eggplant for later this year!

My research also led me to discover a bunch of great eggplant cooking tips. If you ever find yourself with a spare eggplant or two, consider the following…

  • To avoid browning, wait to cut into the eggplant until you absolutely have to — don’t prep that part a few hours in advance!
  • Leave the skin on! This will help color, shape retention, and optimal nutrition. You can find anthocyanins in the purple skin of an eggplant, and since anthocyanins have a positive impact on blood lipids, it would really be a shame to remove the skin.
  • Eggplants do have a tendency to soak up oil during cooking. To keep your dish light and healthful, sauté eggplant in a small amount of very hot oil in a nonstick pan.
  • Want a quick eggplant side? Spray slices with olive oil cooking spray and roast, grill, or broil them.

Anyway, that’s a brief recap of my eggplant adventures. I hope you liked it!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here’s a handout that features the most helpful points from today’s post. Get your copy today!

Eggplant Handout

And for more fun with eggplant, drop by the Nutrition Education Store!

Fruit and Vegetable Activity Set for Kids

I Heart Fruit and Veggies Bookmark

Vegetable Chopping Guide Poster


Carrots!What should I do with 10 pounds of carrots?

Actually, the first question should be “Why do I have so many carrots?”

The short answer is because I’m frugal. Carrots were on my grocery list; I use carrots frequently and consider them a vegetable staple.  I can’t bear to spend $1 to $1.50 for a pound of carrots at the grocery store when I can get 10 pounds at our big box store for about $6. That’s just $.60 cents a pound — half the price, but a whole lot of carrots.

This large amount of carrots does cause a bit of a problem. Can I use them up while they’re still fresh?

Yes, I admit that there is a certain level of convenience in the bagged, ready-to-eat carrots. It’s no surprise that baby carrots are among the most popular items in the produce aisle, accounting for over 80% of all retail carrot sales.

RIMG4206One pound of carrots equals 3 to 3½ cups of peeled and sliced, chopped, or grated raw carrots. In case you’re counting, one 7-inch-long carrot has only 30 calories. A single cup of grated carrots has 45 calories. And boy, there are lots of nutrients packed into those calories! Few other vegetables or fruits contain as much carotene as carrots, which the body converts to vitamin A. Carrots are also a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.

But now, back to my 10 pounds of carrots.

Storage of this many carrots can pose a conundrum. It’s best to store carrots in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncut, until you’re ready to use them. Most references say that carrots will keep for at least two weeks this way. However, I think we’re more inclined to eat our vegetables if they’re ready to use — that’s why baby carrots and pre-cut carrots are so popular (and $2 a pound!). So I left some carrots uncut and sliced some others for easy snacking on the go.

Carrot HummusTo use up my bounty, I turned to the Food and Health Communications recipe files. If you’re ever in the same boat as me, may I recommend the following recipes? They’re great for carrots!

Anyway, I’ve done this before, and after a while my husband finally said, enough is enough, he can’t eat any more carrots. Which is fine, but what do I do with the few that are lingering in the crisper drawer?

Carrots for the FreezerThe answer: I chop or grate them and throw them in the freezer in 1 cup portions. The National Center for Home Food Preservation says that carrots should be blanched before freezing for the best quality and texture. Since I plan to use the frozen carrots in cooked foods, I don’t worry too much about this, but I do try to use them up sooner rather than later. I actually like to have this extra stash in the freezer, ready to go for soups and casseroles when I don’t have fresh carrots available.

I’ve said this many times, a bargain isn’t a bargain if some of it goes to waste. But, in this case, I keep trying to convince myself that even losing a few last carrots would be cheaper than buying fewer at the $1.50 per pound price.  I think I’m still ahead financially, but I admit, I had to work at it!

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS, Professor Emeritus at The Ohio State University

Here are a few more cooking and shopping resources from the Nutrition Education Store. We’re here to help you look your very best, right now.

Lighten Up Your Shopping Cart Poster

The Cooking Demo Book

Shop Smart for Diabetes PowerPoint

And here’s a handout that offers a great introduction to carrots, including their nutrient profile, how to cook with them, and how to store them. Enjoy!


Sharol Cripe, RDN, LDN, has also sent in a fantastic carrot resource. Visit the Englewood Farmers’ Market homepage to see recipes for roasted carrots and carrots with a Moroccan twist!