Following Healthy Eating Guidelines and improving your diet is all very well, but what if the food itself is causing you a problem? Eating healthy food will boost your immune system, and give more energy and vitality - but only if the food itself is wholesome. There are many food borne bacteria and diseases which can cause food poisoning or worse which are a real threat to our health and wellbeing. As we move into the summer months we have to be even more careful as we tend to eat in a more relaxed environment and food preparation is handled differently. There are a number of basic precautions you can take to prevent any problems. Most safety tips when handling, preparing, and storing food are just common sense, but it is surprising how quickly that can fly out of the window when the sun comes out.
Food temperatures, both when cooking and storing, are most important. It is sensible to use a thermometer in order to make sure that you meat is reaching a high enough temperature inside. Some meats, such as beef, can be served rare with no problems, but pork and chicken must be thoroughly cooked through - especially if you are barbecuing. This will ensure that any bacteria will be safely destroyed. In the case of burgers and other loaf meats that have been ground or minced and formed into patties, they must be cooked right through.
When your food has been cooked, you should continue to watch the temperatures at which you store it. The common sense rule is hot means hot, and cold means cold! Cold foods should be stored at less than 40F and hot food should be maintained at a temperature of no less than 140 F for safety and good health. When cooling food for refrigeration make sure you cover it well and put it in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Adequate care also needs to be taken when thawing food from the freezer, whether you have just brought it home from the supermarket or taken it out of your own freezer. Place the food in a bowl or dish that will hold any water that comes out of the food to prevent contamination and thaw it slowly in the fridge rather than at room temperature. If you use your microwave to defrost food, make sure it is thoroughly defrosted before you start to cook or eat it.
Cross contamination is probably the single biggest problem in food preparation. Bacteria can easily cross from one food item to another in any number of ways. One of the biggest culprits is the chopping board, cooked and raw foods should never be cut on the same board and you should keep meat, fish, dairy and vegetables separate. I use different colored boards - all of which can go in the dishwasher. Always use clean dishes and containers for different foods and make sure they are properly washed - not just swished under a tap. Make sure you use different utensils for each type of food - knives are the worst culprits. If you use a knife to cut raw chicken and then use it again on cooked food the bacteria from the raw chicken will almost certainly transfer to the cooked food which then has the potential to make you very ill. Always clear as you go in the kitchen, keeping your work area clean, wiped and dry. The most important food safety guideline is to wash your hands regularly in hot soapy water. Putting them briefly under a running tap does not count! Each time you touch any raw foods, you should make sure that no bacteria remains on your hands.
These simple precautions will ensure that you and your family enjoy your healthy food and stay healthy after you have eaten it. Healthy Eating Guidelines will serve you well in terms of your diet and common sense will make sure you get the most benefit from the delicious foods that you prepare.
Annie Horthorne grew up in the catering business and has always been an enthusiastic and highly regarded cook. She has a special interest in healthy eating and how to make it tasty and fun. Annie's delicious healthy eating recipes can be found on her site about Healthy Eating Guidelines.
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