Eating Disorders 101

Food and Health Communications aims to educate, empower, and inspire health practitioners around the globe to help their clients make the best food choices for optimal health. Through the use of blog posts, fact sheets, posters and other educational materials, we hope we’re helping your clients and not being harmful in any way.

We recently encountered a disturbing use of one of our calorie-counting posters. Like many of our other products, we aim to educate and not shame our clients about their food choices. Similar to nutrition information being posted in fast food restaurants, the poster was created to bring awareness to the amount of exercise needed to use up calories consumed from various foods. Unfortunately, the posters were “stolen” at one facility by clients trying to further limit their calorie intake, who may have been suffering from eating disorders.

With over 70% of the US population being overweight or obese, our goal is to help reduce and manage chronic health conditions, several of which are weight-related. We recognize that eating disorders are also chronic health conditions that need to be addressed. These conditions are serious and can be life-threatening. Below are ways to spot them and refer clients to resources for more help.

Anorexia Nervosa:

The literal meaning of anorexia is “loss of appetite.” The term is frequently used in hospitals or nursing home settings to describe a person’s lack of appetite and could be related to depression, pain, nausea, or other conditions.

Anorexia nervosa (AN) is a completely different animal.

AN is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Volume 4 (DSM-IV) as a psychological condition characterized by a “refusal to maintain a bodyweight at or above a minimally normal weight for age and height, weight loss that leads to a weight below 85% of ideal and failure to gain expected weight during a period of growth leading to a weight below 8%% of expected weight.”

In addition, AN can affect someone who is fearful of gaining weight or becoming fat, despite being too thin. Body dysmorphia is also common in AN cases. Body dysmorphia happens when a person sees themselves as heavy when they’re actually underweight.

There are two sub-types of AN:

  1. Restricting type
  2. Binge-eating/purging type

A restricting person with anorexia will skip meals or eat very minimal amounts of food while a binge-eating/purging individual may binge/overeat then engage in purging behaviors such as vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise. 1

In addition to being malnourished, individuals with AN are at risk for bone loss, fractures, cardiac arrhythmias, amenorrhea and infertility. Individuals with purging behavior may develop esophageal and gastric damage, electrolyte abnormalities, dehydration, and damage to their colon if laxatives are abused.

Bulimia Nervosa:

Bulimia nervosa (BN) is also a mental and physical disease and is listed in both the DSM IV and V. Similar to anorexia, there is a binge-purge component where a person may overeat (binge) then compensate for the calories consumed through the use of vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or excessive exercise.

In individuals with BN, these behaviors are observed: “repeated occurrence of binge eating which include both “eating within any 2-hour period, an amount of food that is definitively larger than what most individuals would eat in a similar time period under similar circumstances that includes a feeling that one cannot stop eating or control what or how much they are eating”.

In people with BN, this type of behavior can occur about twice a week for three months or even more frequently. Self-evaluation is critical and impacted by body shape and weight. The behavior can exist on its own and does not need to be coupled with anorexia nervosa.

A non-purging type of BN occurs when the person restricts food intake or fasts, but does not use self-induce vomiting or other purging behavior. Individuals with BN are at risk for the same physical damage that those with binge-purge anorexia may experience.

Binge Eating Disorder:

Binge-eating disorder is also considered an eating disorder, but it’s less physically damaging than AN or BN. Those with binge eating disorder tend to eat, in a discrete period of time (i.e.., within any 2-hour period), an amount of food that is much larger than most people would eat in a similar time frame under similar circumstances. They also feel a lack of control over eating (e.g., a feeling that they can’t stop eating or control what or how much they eat). 3

Binge eating occurrences have at least three of the following characteristics:

  1. Eating much more rapidly than normal
  2. Eating until feeling uncomfortably full
  3. Eating large amounts of food when not feeling physically hungry
  4. Eating alone because of feeling embarrassed by how much one is eating
  5. Feeling disgusted with oneself, depressed, or very guilty after overeating

The disordered eating happens at least 2 days of the week for 6 months and isn’t associated with purging behavior as mentioned above. Severity of the condition is dependent on the frequency of binge eating occurrences. Mild cases occur with 1 to 3 episodes weekly, while severe cases can include go up to 14 or more episodes in a week.

Individuals suffering from BN or binge-eating disorder may be normal weight, overweight, or obese. Risk for obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes are more common in binge eating disorder.  Depression, anxiety, risk for suicide, and/or substance abuse may accompany any or all eating disorders. 4

OSFED

Other Specified Feeding/Eating Disorders (OSFED) are atypical and may include people who are overweight and not diagnosed. This website, sent by a reader, has more information.

How to Help Your Clients:

If your clients are suffering from any type of eating disorder, they need help from a team of professionals, including a medical doctor, psychologist or psychiatrist, and a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians can specialize in eating disorders and may carry the credential CDES (certified disordered eating specialist).5

To find an RDN who specializes in eating disorders, use this link: https://www.eatright.org/find-a-nutrition-expert-details

Eating disorders may be treated with medication, individual counseling, and/or group therapy. Family or other social support is critical in recovery.

When to refer clients for more help:

  • Intentional weight loss with weight being under 85% of ideal or BMI of under 18.5.
  • Persistent anxiety or depression surrounding eating
  • Body dysmorphic syndrome
  • Preoccupation with weight
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Binge-purge behavior or self-induced vomiting
  • Refusal to eat
  • Fasting or overly restricting food intake as a means of weight control
  • Overtly thin appearance
  • Excessive exercise
  • Abuse of laxatives
  • Extreme distress about binge eating
  • Lack of control over eating behavior

By Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD

Free Handout: Eating Disorder Handout

 

References:

  1. What is the DSM IV Diagnostic Criteria for Anorexia Nervosa – Eating Disorders
  2. O’Brien KM, Whelan DR, Sandler DP, Hall JE, Weinberg CR. Predictors and long-term health outcomes of eating disorders. PLoS One. 2017 Jul 10;12(7):e0181104.
  3. Table 21, DSM-IV to DSM-5 Binge Eating Disorder Comparison – DSM-5 Changes – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
  4. Claudat K, Brown TA, Anderson L, Bongiorno G, Berner LA, Reilly E, Luo T, Orloff N, Kaye WH. Correlates of co-occurring eating disorders and substance use disorders: a case for dialectical behavior therapy. Eat Disord. 2020 Mar-Apr;28(2):142-156.
  5. Klein DA, Sylvester JE, Schvey NA. Eating Disorders in Primary Care: Diagnosis and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2021 Jan 1;103(1):22-32. Erratum in: Am Fam Physician. 2021 Mar 1;103(5):263.

Strategies for Better Sleep

Who doesn’t want to get a better night’s sleep? Between screen time, busy days, crazy schedules, nightly worries, and unhealthful eating, getting a good night’s sleep can be tougher than we think!

But help is on the way!

Here’s a new tool to help your clients get more high-quality sleep: the Diet and Sleep Poster!

This poster comes at sleep from a bunch of different angles, so you’re sure to find a way that will appeal to your audience. Take a look and see for yourself!

This poster covers:

  • The myriad of health benefits of sleep
  • Ways to improve the quality of nightly sleep
  • Strategies to prioritize enough sleep
  • Sneaky things that undermine efforts to get better sleep

You can save 15% off of this poster or any other item in the Nutrition Education Store with the code FALLSAVE15, but hurry! This offer won’t last long!

It’s Time to Change It Up!

We’re constantly bombarded with images of fast food, junk food, and processed food. Marketers know what they’re doing by getting these pictures into our subconscious minds. Well, let’s fight back! It’s time to Change It Up!

Our Change It Up theme features a gorgeous butterfly made up of real photos of fruit. Now, this is an image we want in our clients’ minds! The message is simple but impactful – transform your life with healthy food and regular physical activity. Go from a fast-food caterpillar to a healthy butterfly.

Our poster and banners come with the free Change It Up printable handout. One side provides general tips on changing up your diet (MyPlate, portion sizes, and fruits and vegetables) and every day activity. The other side offers more detailed suggestions for transforming your meals, snacks, and exercise routine.

How can you use the Change It Up materials in different settings? Glad you asked!

  • Display the banner or poster in the cafeteria, a hallway, or waiting room. (We also have a salad bar sign!) When people see the beautiful, colorful, fruit-filled butterfly every day, they’re bound to think more about healthy food.
  • Give out the stickers and bookmarks so people can take the picture and the message with them.
  • Set up a Change It Up table in the cafeteria or at a health fair. Engage visitors with questions: Are you more like the butterfly or the caterpillar? What changes can you make to transform yourself into the butterfly? Give away the Change It Up handout, stickers, and bookmarks.
  • Teach a Change It Up class. Depending on your audience, here are two lessons:
    • Focus on how small shifts in eating and activity will make everyone feel transformed.
    • Go with the caterpillar to butterfly theme. How does the image of the butterfly make you feel? How about the caterpillar? When you eat healthy food and are active, which one do you feel like? How can a healthy diet and regular exercise make you feel transformed?

Here is a handout called, 9 ways to make easy and healthy switches for a better diet and exercise plan: 9 Easy Healthy Switches Handout

Health Fair Planning Guide

Health Fair Planning Guide – Health Fair Activities – Health Fair Banner

Freebie Alert! This post is packed with free health fair activity ideas, free health fair handouts, and free health fair planning resources. Use it to make your next health fair or wellness fair a success.

Cheryl Bachinski, a school nurse, is planning a health fair and she needs a banner to help people who are constrained by time and money to make better choices for their families who are struggling with their weight. She says they drink too many sweetened sodas, eat too many cupcakes and chips, along with other packaged snacks, and they never exercise. Wait until you see the new banner we created for her. Check it out and you can buy it on sale or use the display idea for your own.

How will you stand out from the crowd at the next health or wellness fair?

Ready for the answer?

It’s all about the booth.

Yes, there are totally committees, special presentations, and deals with vendors, but in our experience, a successful day at a health fair comes down to your booth.

So, that’s what we’re going to address — tips and tricks for putting together the best nutrition education wellness fair booth around.

Objectives:

Wellness and Health Fair Kit

Let’s begin by setting up some objectives for your day at the health fair. Which of the following is an objective you’d like to address? Does the health fair have a preexisting theme?

  • Health awareness
  • Health screenings
  • Immunizations
  • Marketing
  • Community event

If more than one objective applies to you, great! However, if all of them apply to you, you may want to narrow your focus to just 1 or 2 primary objectives that you can use your booth to address.

Resources:

When it comes to big events that require committees and multiple vendors, there are lots of resources to make life easier. Look through the following guides if you’re putting together your own large health fair or wellness event…

Now, back to the booths.

Use our new handy theme-picker to choose the theme that is right for you or read below for more ideas.

Theme Ideas for Children:

Wellness and Health Fair Kit for Kids

If your health fair booth is geared towards children, you will have the best results with simple, colorful, and engaging content. Coming up with those materials and then coordinating them will get a lot easier if you select a single theme for your booth. Some of the most popular themes that we’ve used or observed (and can therefore recommend to you) include…

Theme Ideas for Adults and Older Kids:

Salsa Wellness Fair Kit

Most wellness fairs appear to be geared towards adults these days, so if that’s what you’re working with, consider any of the following tried-and-true themes…

Theme Ideas for Families:

There are many ways that families can team up to improve their health together, but most people suffer from a crisis of imagination and can’t think of a way to implement a healthful habit as a family. Inspire them with these wonderful family-friendly health and nutrition themes.

Building a Great Booth and Activity Center:

So, once you have an overarching objective identified and a theme established, it’s time to get down to business.

Your booth.

Make Your Salad a Rainbow Banner

How can you make it engaging, with activities that draw and hold participants?

Establishing a theme was a great start. So was finding an objective. Use these to guide the nitty-gritty of your booth.

Based on the wellness fair we have participated in, observed, and/or discussed, the most successful booths have balanced a combination of the following…

  • Engaging banner
  • Interactive component
  • Giveaway
  • Resources for more information

If you don’t have space or resources for all four, pick as many as are reasonable and build your balance from there.

So, first up, the banner. There’s a comprehensive post about wellness fair displays, and it has everything you need to know about banners. Of course, you can also save yourself the headache (and multiple trips to the store for supplies) by buying a crowd-tested, scientifically-accurate, and utterly up-to-date banner that matches your vision for the booth.

Next we’re going to tackle the interactive component. Just kidding. We’re going to go really in-depth with that one, so it gets its own section further down. Stay tuned!

Real Food Grows Bookmark

The third element of an engaging wellness fair booth is a giveaway. You can either set up a raffle for a large prize or offer a selection of smaller prizes. Great prize ideas include…

  • Cookbooks
  • Bookmarks
  • App download codes
  • Recipe cards
  • Cooking utensils
  • Exercise equipment (like jump ropes, hula hoops, etc)

You know your audience. What resonates the most with them?

So. Why a giveaway? A giveaway will draw people to your booth, especially if you offer unique prizes and get the word out about your raffle or treat. Once people are at your booth, you can convey the messages that you want to communicate. It’s hard to get the word out if no one comes to your booth!

The final element of a successful wellness fair booth and/or activity center is a way to offer your audience more information. Often people would like to learn more about a topic at their leisure, rather than while standing in the middle of a busy nutrition fair. Handouts, lists of helpful websites, reference materials, or recipe cards are all great resources to have at your booth. That way, people can revisit the keys of your message, making it more likely to stick in their minds.

Great Wellness Fair Activity Ideas:

Prevent the Flu Poster

The interactive component for a wellness fair can be adjusted to fit your space, resources, and audience. Consider…

  • Having passers-by participate in an activity or game (examples below)
  • Setting out food samples. Especially if you’re putting together a healthful cooking or balanced lifestyle booth, little samples of healthful foods to sample (with recipes to match) can be a big hit at wellness fairs. You can also include a survey or do a taste test to have people evaluate different healthful foods.
  • Giving cooking demonstrations.
  • Surveying your audience about their health, habits, goals, etc.
  • Taking health readings. Offer the resources for participants to measure their BMI, waist circumference, blood pressure, etc. Follow-up materials here are a must.

So, want to do an activity? Here are some examples of our favorite health and wellness fair games…

Activity #1: MyPlate Trivia

Divide participants into balanced teams and bring on the trivia. The first team to answer each question correctly will earn a point, and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Question #1: How much of your plate should be filled with fruits and vegetables at each meal?
Answer: Half

Question #2: What should you drink instead of sugary drinks?
Answer: Water or skim milk

Question #3: What are the five main MyPlate food groups?
Answer: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Protein, and Dairy

This activity idea offers the perfect way to merge the activity and giveaway elements of your booth. Offer prizes to all participants, or just to the winning team (if you want to incentivize engagement). In lieu of smaller prizes, you can also give away raffle tickets for one of your larger items.

Activity #2: Heart Health Taste Tests

About Your Blood Pressure Poster

Eating well for your heart doesn’t mean giving up all of your favorite foods to go on a taste-free diet, but some clients and patients don’t really understand that point. Bring the lesson home by having a taste test session right at your booth with some of your favorite heart-healthy products or recipes.

Consider a trans-fat-free margarine tasting, for example. Just bring in margarines that contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat and 0 grams of trans fat per serving. Have people who wander by your booth try these items, preferably spread on a bit of whole wheat bread or on a whole grain cracker.

You can also do taste tests with salads that feature veggies that are especially high in fiber, or with various types of quick-cooking oatmeal for a heart-healthy breakfast. You can tailor your tastings to fit the budget and equipment that you have.

Activity #3: What’s the Link?

This activity can be adapted to any theme you’d like. We’re going to outline it with an example — in this case, high-fiber foods.

Display beans, oatmeal, apples, brown rice, canned peas, shredded wheat and whole grain bread (and other high-fiber foods). The question for the display should be, “What do these foods have in common?” The answer of course, is “fiber”! Anyone who guesses correctly can receive a raffle ticket that is good towards a free prize — or a first look at the smaller prizes laid out on the table.

MyPlate Poster

Amazing Handouts for Wellness Fairs:

No wellness or health fair booth would be complete without a handout or five. These can be woven into your display or photocopied and laid out in stacks for people to take home. Today, because it’s Nutrition Month, and because we love you, here are links to 5 amazing and totally free handouts that you can use at your booth.

Want a hand getting started? Download this free health fair planning checklist today! This organizational checklist will help you efficient and make the best health fair.

And the best part?

It’s totally free!

Health Fair Planning Checklist

 

Good luck with your health and wellness fair!

New Year Resource Rundown

Lots of people choose the new year as a time to start fresh. Here are some great links to help you offer your clients everything they need to make 2015 the best year yet!

New Year’s Resolutions:

General Health:

Exercise:

Weight Management:

Resources for You:

And, of course, there’s more in the store!

Holiday Health Challenge Preview

Have you had a moment to check out the Holiday Wellness Challenge?

The Holiday Wellness Challenge offers a fun way keep your clients on track during the holiday season. After all, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans gain an average of .4 to 1.8 pounds each year during the holidays. With a little know-how and some fun strategies, this weight gain can be avoided.

To get the details about the Holiday Wellness Challenge, check out the post Holiday Wellness Challenge over in the Food and Health blog.

And for an even closer look, I want to offer a preview of one of the chapters today!

Here’s the first handout from Chapter Five: Jump Start Your Breakfast. Feel free to download it and distribute as you see fit!

Jump Start Breakfast

Why Care About Breakfast?

Life is busy, and busy often ups its game during the holidays. Between parties, family projects, decorations, and shopping, something has to give. Breakfast should not be it.

Why? Here are some top reasons to care about breakfast…

  • Breakfast offers key nutrients that will give you energy. Plus, with the right foods, you won’t get hungry on your way to holiday activities and errands.
  • Furthermore, when you make healthful choices at breakfast, you start the day on the right foot. It’s easier to stick to good habits that way.

Breakfast Facts:

Having breakfast every morning kick-starts your metabolism.

Studies indicate that people who eat breakfast in the morning are less likely to get diabetes.

78% of the people in the National Weight Control Registry make a healthful breakfast part of their daily routine.

Breakfast is associated with a lower BMI, fewer calories consumed during the day, and a better diet.

Breakfast is a great opportunity to increase your consumption of fiber, whole grains, fruit, and low-fat dairy.

A healthful breakfast not only gives you energy, but also increases cognitive function.

Are Your Holidays Healthful? A Quiz

Do you keep your holiday celebrations good for your health? Find out with this brand-new quiz!

Questions:

Dancing at a Party1. What is the most featured item in the display of foods at your holiday party?

a) Cookies
b) Meats
c) Fruits and vegetables
d) Cheeses

2. True or false? I make sure to get at least some physical activity during most days of the week.

3. Some smart ways to control portion size at meals include…

a) Making a healthy plate.
b) Sharing a meal
c) Being aware of the calorie content of the foods you purchase.
d) All of the above

4. True or false? I make sure to eat a healthful high-fiber breakfast every morning.

Answers:

Holiday Platter1. c) Fruits and vegetables
For the most healthful holiday celebration, make fruits and vegetables the start of any buffet you set up. You can keep things simple with crudités and some yogurt-based dips, or you can get fancy and roast up your favorite vegetables and serve them on a platter, drizzled with a little bit of sauce and garnished with parsley. Add bowls of berries and sliced fruit too!

2. True
To stay healthy during the holidays, it’s wise to sneak in a little physical activity whenever you can, even though things are busy. According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, “Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health.”

Check the Label3. d) All of the above
If you’re having a holiday gathering at a restaurant or coffee shop, check out any nutrition information that’s available online. Make sure that the portion size of what you want to order is reasonable. If it’s not, look for alternatives. Then, if you want to get or make something that only comes in a large portion, share it with a friend or family member. Finally, if you’re picking up a treat for a holiday gathering, check the labels! Use the Nutrition Facts to calculate serving size, nutrient content, and much more! Making a healthy plate will help you put your foods in the right proportions, too.

4. True
Starting your day off with a balanced and high-fiber breakfast is a smart way to stay healthy this holiday season. After all, breakfast is associated with a lower BMI, fewer calories consumed during the day, and a better diet. Plus, a healthful breakfast not only gives you energy, but also increases cognitive function. Some ideas include high-fiber cereal with nonfat milk, and fruit, or lowfat yogurt and fruit, or egg whites and fruit. A smoothie made with fruit and skim milk is also a great start.

How did you do? Do you know the nuts and bolts of staying healthy during the holidays?

Research Update: Legumes and Diabetes

A recent study published in Clinical Nutrition looked at data from the PREDIMED study, which featured over 3,000 subjects with elevated risk for heart disease, but without type 2 diabetes. The study found that after 4 years, participants with the highest intake of legumes had a 35% reduction in risk for diabetes. The study was led by Jordi Salas-Salvadó from Rovira i Virgili University, University Hospital of Sant Joan de Reus, and Institute of Health Carlos III in Spain. Salas-Salvadó explained that substituting legumes, especially lentils, for other high-carbohydrate or high-fiber foods was linked with this reduction, though more research is needed to solidify the results.

In this prospective study, Salas-Salvadó and his team reviewed diet histories of diabetes-free subjects, both at the outset of the study and then annually for four years. Using regression models to estimate hazard ratios and confidence intervals, incidence of type 2 diabetes in the subjects was measured based on dietary intake. Compared to lowest intake of legumes (approximately 1 ½ servings per week), participants with the highest consumption (approximately 3 1/3 servings), had a 35% lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

The researchers compared types of legumes consumed and found that lentils in particular were linked with a 33% reduction in diabetes risk. This was observed with just one serving of lentils per week versus less than ½ serving. Chickpea consumption showed a smaller impact on lowering the risk of diabetes, while other dried beans and peas showed no significant link.

The authors suggest that substituting half a serving of legumes daily in place of a half serving of grains or high-protein foods (such as eggs or meat) may aid in reducing the risk for diabetes.

So, here are some simple ways to add more legumes to your eating pattern…

  • Make lentil soup or chili
  • Add cooked lentils to casseroles or salad
  • Add chickpeas to soup or salad
  • Make your own hummus from chickpeas or lentils
  • Serve lentils as a side dish in place of rice or potatoes

By Lisa Andrews, MED, RD, LD

Reference:

Nerea Becerra-Tomás, Andrés Díaz-López, Núria Rosique-Esteban, Emilio Ros, Pilar Buil-Cosiales, Dolores Corella, Ramon Estruch, Montserrat Fitó, Lluís Serra-Majem, Fernando Arós, Rosa Maria Lamuela-Raventós, Miquel Fiol, José Manuel Santos-Lozano, Javier Diez-Espino, Olga Portoles, Jordi Salas-Salvadó Correspondence information about the author Jordi Salas-Salvadó Email the author Jordi Salas-Salvadó. “Legume consumption is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes incidence in adults: a prospective assessment from the PREDIMED study”. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2017. 03.015

Study Link: http://www.clinicalnutritionjournal.com/article/S0261-5614(17)30106-1/abstract

Nutrition Month at the Worksite: Activity, Display, and Presentation Ideas

Want to celebrate Nutrition Month at your worksite? Check out these inspirational ideas, and let us know your plans by tweeting us @foodandhealth or writing on our Facebook wall

  • Create a Nutrition Education Display board and display it in the lobby. It’s a great resource for employees and community members who are seeking services.
  • Make Nutrition Education bulletin boards available for all clinic sites to display.
  • Set up a 5 for 5 Challenge. This challenge will encourage employees to eat at least 5 servings of fruits or vegetables every day. It can also include an exercise component, calling for everyone to exercise for at least 30 minutes on each of the 5 workdays during the week. Employees will have a tracking form to keep up with their progress towards the challenge. If they complete the form, then that person’s name will be entered into a drawing at the end of the month’s activities. Feel free to offer prizes that you think would work best for your site.
  • Have a smoothie and healthful snack taste testing week. Make healthful snacks and smoothies will available for a one hour period at your workplace. Offer recipes and supporting materials to anyone who stops by to taste test the treats. Employees that participate could also enter their names into the drawings to be held at the end of the month’s activities.
  • Hold a healthful cooking demonstration. We had success with a 1-hour nutrition education session, which included the preparation of multiple recipes to encourage healthful eating and vegetable consumption. RSVPs were be requested for the session. Employees that participated could also be entered into the drawings to be held at the end of the month’s activities.
  • At the end of the month, drawings will be held for the people that participated in at least one of the month’s activities. Drawing prizes could include the following… MyPlate magnetsa professional apronMyPlate wristbands, assorted kitchen tools, or even a cookbook. You could also work with the HR department to give work-related prizes like an extra vacation day.

By Kelly Whipker, RD, LDN

The Nutrition Education Store has everything you need for fantastic worksite wellness programs or fun Nutrition Month activities…

 

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