Holiday Potluck Food Safety Tips

My office is having a holiday potluck next week – do you have any tips to make sure I don’t do anything that will make my co-workers sick from eating my food?

Office holiday potlucks can be great fun as long as proper food safety guidelines are followed.

It’s the holiday season and in offices across the country, coworkers are gathering together to celebrate. With that in mind, it’s a good thing that you want to take extra precautions to make sure that your world-famous seven-layer guacamole and cheese dip that you bring in to share with your office mates won’t send them home sick.

The best way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to adhere to good food safety guidelines. In fact, it’s a good idea to adhere to good food safety guidelines anytime you prepare food – whether it’s a small dish just for yourself or a meal you prepare to share with others.

First things first – always wash your hands before, during and after food preparation. That may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget to do this simple act when preparing food. According to a study sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the American Cleaning Institute, only 77 percent of people say they wash their hands before handling food.

It’s also important that you don’t make food to share if you or someone in your home is sick, advises the Ohio Department of Health. Doing so could result in you unintentionally sharing those cold germs with others.

Other tips for the holiday potluck from the Ohio Department of Health and others include:

  • When deciding what to bring, consider foods that don’t require temperature control such as baked goods or pre-packaged snacks.
  • Make foods that are easy to serve with utensils to limit the need for hands to come in direct contact with the prepared food.
  • If you make a dish that is prepared off-site, make sure that you transport the food in a covered container to prevent contamination.
  • Cold foods should be kept in a cooler with ice or gel packs to keep the foods cold during transportation.
  • If you are bringing hot foods, make sure you use an insulated container to keep the foods hot during transportation.
  • Use a slow cooker, chafing dishes or other types of warmers to keep hot foods above 140 degrees throughout the potluck.
  • Perishable foods — especially meat, poultry, seafood and eggs — should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours to help ensure that the food doesn’t enter the “danger zone” — between 40 and 140 degrees, where bacteria multiply rapidly.

Also, before the potluck starts, remember to let everyone know if there are there any potential allergens used in the preparation of the food, including nuts, soy, milk, eggs, wheat and fish or shellfish. And remember to throw out any foods that have been sitting out without temperature control for more than two hours.

Bon appetite!

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Kate Shumaker, an Ohio State University Extension Educator and registered dietitian.

You’re Likely Not Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies

I want to eat healthier, but I’m not sure what that really means in terms of fruit and vegetable intake. I usually eat at least an apple, banana or some carrots every day at lunch. Am I eating enough fruits and vegetables?  

Adults should eat 1.5 to two cups of fruit per day and two to three cups of vegetables per day, according to the latest recommendations from the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

While it’s wonderful that you are eating some fruit and vegetables every day, the amount that you are eating isn’t enough for you to meet the recommended daily amount of produce.

Adults should eat 1.5 to two cups of fruit per day and two to three cups of vegetables per day, according to the latest recommendations from the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. That should include a variety of vegetables from all of the subgroups, such as starchy, dark greens, red and orange, beans and peas, as well as whole fruits.

However, you aren’t the only one who isn’t eating the daily recommended amount of produce. Just 12.2 percent of American adults are eating enough fruit and only 9.3 percent are eating the recommended amount of vegetables, according to a newly released report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that on average, Americans adults are eating fruit only once per day and vegetables 1.7 times a day. The study surveyed adults nationwide and included a look nationally at what participants eat as well as information on how much produce people eat on a state-by-state basis.

In Ohio, for example, only 10.6 percent of adults are eating the recommended daily amount of fruits, while only 6.9 percent are eating the recommended daily amount of veggies.

This is significant because eating more fruits and vegetables are recommended to help reduce your risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity, the CDC says.

Women, on average are doing better. The studies found that nationally, more women, 10.9 percent, eat the recommended amount of vegetables. Women also topped men in eating more fruit. Among women surveyed, 15.1 percent ate the recommended amount of fruit.

So how can you incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet?

As mentioned in a previous Chow Line column, a good way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to get creative in how you prepare them. Some of the tips mentioned in the column from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include the following:

  • Use vegetables like broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini as pizza toppings.
  • Make a breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
  • Make a veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
  • Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, and onions.
  • Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, apples or mandarin oranges.
  • Keep cut vegetables handy for midafternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Include red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.

Even if you simply just add an additional handful of grapes or blueberries to your breakfast, some lettuce and sliced tomatoes to your sandwich at lunch, and some roasted sweet potatoes as a delicious side dish to your dinner tonight, you will be doing your body some good.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, OSU Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences educator for Ohio State University Extension.