Keep Your Holidays Food Safe

Sometimes I wonder what happens to common sense during the holidays.

I know things get hectic, but many people seem to “throw caution to the wind” when it comes to food safety.  Over the next few weeks, you’ll have many opportunities to enjoy food, so please keep food safety in mind.

This should be especially true when entertaining. Some of your guests may have special needs. Remember that the young, the elderly, pregnant, and immune-suppressed may be more susceptible to getting foodborne illness. Don’t take risks with their health by serving potentially dangerous foods such as raw eggs, raw fish, undercooked poultry, or rare ground beef. Think about alternative foods or recipes that may be safer.

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.

On New Year’s Eve, many parties start in the early evening and don’t end until well after the New Year. That could be four or five hours and way past the safe time for leaving that food set out at room temperature.  If you can’t keep cold foods below 41 degree F or hot foods above 135 degrees F, plan to replace them with fresh at least every two hours.

Here are a few other basic things to keep in mind:

  • Wash your hands frequently when preparing and serving food.
  • Get food into the refrigerator as soon as possible after a meal. Don’t leave it out for guests coming later or to make sandwiches.
  • Don’t put potentially-hazardous food in the garage, porch or sunroom.  While these areas may feel cool, they may not keep food below 41 degrees F. Some cut fruits and vegetables (including sliced tomatoes, leafy greens and melons) fall into this category, too.
  • Use small serving dishes on buffet lines. When that dish is empty, then replace it with another small dish of the same food instead of setting out the entire bowl or mixing “fresh” food in with the “old.”
  • Take care with desserts that contain potentially hazardous foods such as whipped cream, custards, creamy cheeses, and eggs. Keep these foods in the refrigerator below 41 degrees.

A little care and planning ahead can make this a food-safe holiday season.  You want the memories to be of happy times and not of a foodborne illness or trip to the emergency room.

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

Sneak Peek from the Member Library

Have you heard about the Food and Health Membership program? It’s chock-full of fantastic resources for educators, including…

  • Access to all materials with a comprehensive, searchable database that is loaded with nutrition articles, chef-tested recipes, and engaging handouts.
  • White-label newsletters that you can use to create your own content.
  • Memorable handouts. Access all of these handouts in a library that is categorized for easy use.
  • Presentation and interactive project ideas for wellness fairs, classes, lunch-and-learn sessions, cooking demonstrations, and health fairs.
  • Chef-developed and exhaustively-tested recipes for meals that are both delicious and healthful.
  • The latest food news and scientific research. (Since we don’t accept outside funding or sponsorship of any kind, we can bring you the latest news, free of bias).
  • A translation tool that helps you translate all your articles for non-English-speaking clients. You can copy and paste to create handouts in all languages!
  • A food and health celebrations calendar that features monthly themes, food- and health-related holidays, seasonal produce, relevant clip art, handouts, and more.
  • Satisfaction, guaranteed!

holiday

Today I want to share one of those popular articles with you. Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD has put together a great guide for throwing and attending healthful holiday parties this year. Here’s what she has to say…

The holidays come upon us fast, and so can holiday weight gain… if you’re not careful. Below are some simple swaps to prevent “a little round belly that shakes when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly.”

1. Serve veggies and dip for appetizers. Pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and cucumbers look beautiful when arranged around a bowl of hummus or dip.

2. Swap plain Greek yogurt for sour cream in your favorite dips. Your guests likely won’t notice the change and they’ll get a nice dose of protein and calcium.

3. Sauté onions and garlic for stuffing in non-stick spray or low sodium broth in place of oil, butter, or margarine.

4. Try mashed sweet potatoes with orange juice, ginger, and cinnamon in place of marshmallows, brown sugar, and butter.

5. Use 1% or 2% milk in mashed potatoes in place of whole milk or heavy cream. This cuts calories and fat from the dish.

6. Keep selzter water on hand for “mocktails”. Pour over ice and add a twist of lime. Voila! No hangover.

7. Use whipped butter or light margarine in place of stick butter. This reduces fat and calories.

8. Use reduced-fat mayonnaise in place of full-fat mayonnaise in dips and dressings. Olive oil varieties provide heart-healthy monounsaturated fat.
9. Try a salad dressing spritzer in place of bottled dressings. Blend olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dijon mustard together for your own dressing.

10. Substitute jarred baby prunes, mashed bananas, applesauce, or plain yogurt for the fat in baked goods (such as quick breads).

11. Split desserts with your spouse, a friend, or other party guests. You may not be hungry for a full piece of pie, anyway.

12. Chop vegetables and add them to soups, stews, salads, and casseroles. This boosts the fiber and nutrient content, and also adds color to your dish.

13. Add seasonal fruit such as apples, pears, or pomegranates to salads in place of dried fruit. This adds texture and taste to your salad while reducing added sugar.

By Lisa C. Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Remember, this article (and thousands of others) was only available to members until I decided to preview it today. If you liked what you saw, check out what a membership entails or just sign up today!

Oh, and here’s a printable version of the handout Lisa wrote…

trim

And here are some other holiday resources…

 

Three Turkey Tips

turkey

DON’T WASH IT!  If you’re thinking that rinsing or washing the turkey will remove any potential bacteria —don’t bother — it won’t work. According to the folks at the USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline, the process of washing or rinsing a turkey will not remove any bacteria that may be on it and it won’t make it safer. It’s virtually impossible to wash bacteria off the bird.

The concern with washing poultry (not just a big turkey, but all poultry) is splashing bacteria and cross contamination.

The water used to rinse the turkey adds to the amount of liquid that could be contaminated with bacteria. It can splash around the sink, countertop, onto other dishes, faucets or you, the cook. The chances are high that some of the foods in the “splash zone” won’t be cooked. This could make you or your holiday guests very sick and all of this arises from doing something that you thought was a good thing.

What you really need to do is wash your hands before and after handling your turkey and its packaging. This can go a long way towards avoiding spreading harmful bacteria. If your raw turkey or its juices come in contact with kitchen surfaces, wash the countertops and sinks with hot, soapy water. If you want to make sure everything is bacteria free, you can sanitize the area by using a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Be sure to let those areas dry thoroughly.

WHAT ABOUT PINK TURKEY MEAT?  You can’t use color as a guide to determine whether your turkey is cooked or not.

Turkey meat can remain pink even when it is at the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Note that smoked turkey meat is always pink. The difference in colors between the “white meat,” “dark meat,” and even “pink meat” is due to the amount of oxygen-storing myoglobin in the meat muscle. Muscles that are used more — like the leg muscles — need more oxygen and can store more, so they have more myoglobin and thus darker meat.

DON’T GUESS. CHECK THE TEMP! The only way that you can be absolutely sure the turkey is completely cooked is to use a thermometer. The minimum temperature a turkey should be cooked is 165 degrees F. Check the internal temperature at several locations, including the thigh and the thickest part of the breast.

Pop-up timers may pop too early because of fat pooling at the tip; always use another thermometer to double check.

While 165 degrees F is the minimum safe temperature for destroying bacteria, the National Turkey Federation recommends cooking turkey to a higher temperature. They say that people will like the quality more and the turkey itself will be easier to carve and slice if it’s cooked to a higher temperature. They frequently suggest 180 degrees.

Anyway, I hope these tips help make your Thanksgiving celebration even greater!

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

Here’s a handout with these tips! It’s perfect for a display, presentation, or email blast!

3turkeytips

And here are some other great holiday 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!

FaceChallenges

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.

SpecialOccasions

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!

SlowProgress

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.

Answers:

  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

You Want to do What with that Turkey?

Happy Thanksgiving!Nutrition, food safety, and cooking educators are always singing the same song before Thanksgiving. We talk about how to keep that large bird safe, standing on our soap boxes with research-based information about how people can get a foodborne illness from some common practices. But does anyone listen?

Common responses include “this is how I’ve always done it” and “no one’s died, yet.” Facing that kind of attitude, it’s hard to encourage change.

So, I’ve decided to turn the tables. Here’s a fun quiz that addresses some of the common mistakes people make when cooking a large meal at home. Perhaps if you make people laugh at their mistakes, then give them some practical answers about why they should respect food safety rules, they might change their attitude and practices.

Believe it or not, these are questions and responses from real people that I’ve heard over the many years I’ve been teaching food safety. I couldn’t make this stuff up!

Pick the best answer to each question.

1. The turkey in your freezer has been there since last Thanksgiving. What should you do with it?

a. Throw it out!
b. Feed it to your in-laws.
c. Go ahead and use it on Thanksgiving.
d. Leave it in there and buy another one for Thanksgiving.

2. Your turkey is frozen solid. How do you thaw it?

a. Put it in the dryer with lots of towels.
b. Run it through a cycle in the dishwasher.
c. Put in a cooler in the garage.
d. Find a spot in the refrigerator.

3. It’s the day before Thanksgiving and your turkey is still frozen. What can you do?

a. Cancel the holiday dinner.
b. Let the turkey sit in the laundry tub overnight.
c. Cook the frozen turkey.
d. Put the turkey under running water for 10 hours.

4. Your family loves stuffing/dressing that’s baked inside the turkey. You know that isn’t recommended, but you’re going to do it anyway. What’s the best way to proceed?

a. Mix and prepare the stuffing just before you put into the turkey. Stuff it lightly just before it goes into the oven and use a thermometer to make sure it reaches 165 degrees before serving.
b. Since they like it so much, put as much stuffing into the turkey as you can fit, just before you put it in the oven. You might need to lace it closed with twine to hold all that stuffing inside.
c. Stuff the turkey the night before and have it ready to go into the oven in the morning.
d. Get the stuffing ready to go the day before and stuff the turkey in the morning, this will help you get it in the oven quickly.

5. The turkey’s been in the oven for several hours. How do you know if it’s done?

a. The pop-up thermometer has popped. It’s done.
b. A thermometer reads at least 165 degrees F in several spots on the bird.
c. You calculated the time vs. pounds on the instructions, that time has come and gone and it’s brown all over. It’s done.
d. The juices are running clear and the drumstick wiggles.

ANSWERS:

  1. C. A turkey that has been kept solidly frozen for an entire year will be safe to eat. The quality may be lower than a turkey kept in the freezer for a shorter time. One suggestion is to prepare it for a family meal before Thanksgiving. This will give you a recent turkey-cooking experience, so cooking on the big day won’t be so intimidating. Actually, answers B and D could also be correct, since there would be no reason not to invite your in-laws to your practice dinner or the holiday. You really could save the older turkey for after the holiday, but the longer it sits in the freezer, the lower the quality will be.
  2. D. Thawing the turkey in the refrigerator is the safest method. It takes one day for each four to five pounds of turkey to thaw. The other answers don’t keep the outside of the bird cold enough while the inside is still frozen. Also, it’s really best to use home appliances for their originally-designated purposes. Some of those ideas are just yucky!
  3. C. Turkeys can be cooked directly from the freezer; the cooking time may be as much as 50% more than a thawed turkey. There also won’t be an opportunity to stuff it. Instead, you could bake your stuffing in a casserole dish. Now what about those giblets in the bag? Check the turkey throughout the cooking process, and when it has defrosted enough, you can carefully remove the giblet bags with tongs. You could also thaw a turkey by submerging it in cold tap water. The water should be changed every 30 minutes, and this method will take 10-12 hours for a 20-pound turkey. It also requites lots of water. The turkey should be cooked immediately after thawing. Oh, and if you purchased a pre-stuffed turkey, then it should always be cooked directly from its frozen state.
  4. A. The ingredients can be prepared the day before, but keep the wet and dry ingredients separate. Make sure that the wet ingredients (chopped vegetables, broth, and cooked meats) are safely stored in the refrigerator. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together just before filling the turkey cavity, and even then, only fill it loosely. Cook the turkey immediately after stuffing it. Use a food thermometer to make sure the center of the stuffing reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F.
  5. B. The only way that you can be absolutely sure that the turkey is done is to use a thermometer. The minimum temperature to which a turkey should be cooked is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the internal temperature at several locations, including the thigh and the thickest part of the breast. Pop-up timers may pop too early because of fat pooling at the tip, so always use another thermometer to double check. The National Turkey Federation recommends cooking turkey to a higher temperature than the minimum. While 165 degrees F is the minimum safe temperature, they say that people like the quality more (and it will be easier to carve and slice) if it’s cooked to a higher temperature. They frequently suggest 180 degrees F instead.

I hope you and your clients have as much fun with this quiz as I had writing it. Have a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving!

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

Here’s a free PDF handout of the quiz, just for you!

Thanksgiving Quiz

There are lots of other holiday resources in the Nutrition Education Store! Which ones will make your life easier?

Holiday Health Challenge Toolkit

Holiday MyPlate Poster

Holiday Train Game

Goals for 2015

New Year’s Eve is only 2 weeks away! Are your clients ready to jump-start their health goals?

ResolutionsTo help your clients set achievable goals that they are excited to pursue, consider this advice, excerpted from the Communicating Food for Health member newsletter

What kind of goals are you setting?

Unrealistic Goals:

Don’t jump the gun and ask too much of yourself. If you do this, you’ll be starting down an unsustainable and unhealthful path. Make sure the unsustainable goals below aren’t on YOUR list…

  • Exercising every day.
  • Never go out to eat.
  • No snacking or desserts.
  • A strict diet that eliminates macronutrients or whole food groups.
  • Skipping breakfast or lunch daily.

Choose realistic goals instead! Here are some examples…

Realistic Goals:

Realistic goals can be challenging, but should be achievable. Look for ways to improve your lifestyle, diet, and activities. Not all at once, mind you. Start slowly and keep steady. How? Try one of these…

  • Losing 1-2 pounds per month.
  • Exercising for 5-6 days per week.
  • Try new-to-you healthful foods.
  • Find satisfying, low-calorie snacks.
  • Follow MyPlate’s advice and enjoy your food, but eat less of it.

Need a reminder? Here is the 2015 Goal Guide — free! Distribute it however you see fit.

2015 Goal Guide

 

There are more motivation and goal resources in the Nutrition Education Store. Make sure you’re ready for 2015!

Online Wellness and Weight Management Program

Ways to Lose Weight Poster

Healthful Lifestyle: How to Get Started PowerPoint

Fruit and Vegetable Montage Print

Be the One

I’m sure you’ve noticed that healthful options are rather limited at most pot luck meals. These events tend to bring out the fat, sugar, sodium, and calorie-laden foods from everyone’s recipe boxes.

Shared Meal My husband and I were recently invited to such a party and he asked “will there be anything there I can eat?” (If you’ve been following my posts, then you know that my husband had a heart attack a year ago and is trying very hard to maintain a heart-healthy diet and lose some weight).

I was glad he asked. It shows that he’s thinking ahead.

Planning is always one of the suggestions offered to folks who are trying to maintain a special diet at social events. When in doubt, take something that you know you can eat.

With this thought in mind — and the holiday party season approaching quickly — I asked the participants in my heart-healthy cooking class what they would take to a pot luck party. Here are their ideas…

  • Chocolate angel food cake (no egg yolk and no frosting)
  • Apple squares (made with fresh apples, using apple sauce to replace any fat)
  • Quinoa salad with fresh spinach and a lemon dressing
  • Fresh greens tossed with strawberries, almonds, and homemade vinaigrette
  • Baked spinach balls
  • Baked tortilla chips with homemade salsa
  • Low-salt potato chips*
  • Swedish meatballs made with ground chicken and low-sodium gravy
  • Slices of Honeycrisp apples

I added a few suggestions of my own as well:

  • Veggie sticks and hummus
  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Fresh fruit with a yogurt dip

I think my class members get it. They understand the need to be the ones to bring the healthful stuff. However, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have reservations and concerns. I heard comments like  “we’ve done this before and no one ate the healthy foods,” “no one else will eat it,” and “I’ll end up taking it home.”

That’s okay. In fact, it may actually be a bonus. Take it home and you’ll have something for tomorrow. At least you were the one that took something healthful. Yes, I know it’s hard to eat apple slices when there’s a gooey dessert available. But eating a few apple slices means that you’ll be more full and have less room when you slice yourself a bit of that gooey dessert.

Start a trend. Be the one.

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

Want to encourage your clients to be the one? Here are 10 great (and free!) recipes for healthful pot luck options…

And, as always, there’s more right here in the Nutrition Education Store. Here are some great holiday survival materials…

Holiday Secrets: Healthy Holiday Recipes

Holiday Challenge: Strategies to Help People Stay on Track During the Holidays

Poster: Holiday Survival Tips

*I have a little problem with this response, since there is still a lot of fat in this product. At least she was thinking about the sodium!

Sweet Potato Quiz

They’re orange and you eat them with lots of marshmallows at Thanksgiving.

What else do you know about one of the worlds most nutritious vegetables? Take this sweet potato quiz to find out.

Sweet Potato DishTrue or False?

  1. A sweet potato can be eaten raw.
  2. A sweet potato and a yam are the same thing.
  3. Sweet potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.
  4. Sweet potatoes are more nutritious than white potatoes.
  5. Sweet potatoes have four times the recommended daily intake for beta-carotene.
  6. Sweet potatoes have more vitamin C than an orange.
  7. Sweet potatoes are high in calories.
  8. Sweet potatoes are just a different kind of white potato.
  9. Sweet potato flesh is always yellow or orange.
  10. Sweet potatoes can only be eaten for dinner.

Answers and Fun Facts:

1. TRUE. While it is a non-traditional way to eat this vegetable, sweet potatoes can be eaten raw. Cut them into strips and eat them like carrot sticks or grate a sweet potato into slaws or salads. To avoid browning, rinse the cut sweet potatoes in cold water before serving.

2. FALSE. If you are being botanically correct, the sweet, moist, orange-colored vegetable that is often thought of as a yam is the United States is actually a sweet potato. A true yam is a starchy edible tuber that is imported from Africa and the Caribbean. It is completely different in taste and texture from a sweet potato. Did you know that the USDA requires that those orange-colored sweet potatoes (that most folks think are yams) be labeled sweet potatoes?

3. TRUE. Avoid storing sweet potatoes in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures will produce a hard center and a bitter unpleasant taste. The best storage for sweet potatoes is in a cool, dry, well-ventilated container. No, a plastic bag is not a good storage option. For long-term storage, keep sweet potatoes at 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. If a sweet potato is kept at above 60 degrees, then it will begin to shrink and sprout. Once you’ve cut or cooked your sweet potatoes, then they should be refrigerated.

4. TRUE. While sweet potatoes and white potatoes are similar in terms of carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are higher in fiber and vitamin A than regular potatoes are. Sweet potatoes also beat the white potato in vitamin C and potassium levels. Overall sweet potatoes are the nutritional winner.

5. TRUE. Sweet potatoes are a great source of beta carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A. Sweet potatoes have more beta-carotene than carrots! If you eat your sweet potato with just a little fat, like a bit of butter, then you will maximize your body’s absorption of this fat-soluble vitamin.

6. FALSE. While a medium sweet potato is a good source of vitamin C (with 30% of the recommended daily value), one orange doubles that with 80% of your daily value of vitamin C. If you want to go over the top with vitamin C, then whirl cooked mashed sweet potato, orange juice, vanilla yogurt, and a little vanilla extract in the blender for a sweet potato smoothie.

7. FALSE. A medium sweet potato (2 inches by 5 inches) contains only about 100 calories. It’s frequently the brown sugar and marshmallows added to sweet potatoes that bring that calorie count up. Looking for lower calorie flavors that go well with sweet potatoes? Try orange, pineapple, apple, cinnamon, and nutmeg. There are some great recipe ideas over in the Food and Health recipe archives.

8. FALSE. Sweet potatoes are edible roots and white potatoes are tubers. Sweet potatoes are a member of the morning glory family and their flowers look very similar. Sweet potatoes are native to the United States.

9. FALSE. Depending upon the variety, sweet potatoes can be orange, yellow, red, white, or even purple.

10. FALSE. Why get stuck in a sweet potato rut? Use cooked mashed sweet potatoes in pancakes or in place of mashed pumpkin in muffins, pies, or breads.

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

Here’s a PDF of the sweet potato quiz, with all that great information in one free handout! Get your copy today!

Sweet Potato Quiz

Looking for more ways to make nutrition education fun? Try these resources!

12 Lessons Wellness Weight Loss

12 Lessons Wellness Weight Loss

Fruit and Vegetable Poster Set

MyPlate Bingo Game

Fruit and Vegetable Wellness Challenge Kit