Prepare Food for Health and Safety
Healthy eating also involves preparing food to preserve nutrients and prevent disease and paying attention to food production issues.
When preparing food, aim to preserve the nutrient value of the food, as well as control the fat and caloric content. Here are a few tips:
- Healthy cooking methods include steaming, broiling, grilling and roasting. Frying requires adding fat to achieve the desired results and deep-fried foods add considerable fat to the American diet.
- Don't add extra salt. Use a variety of herbs and spices for additional flavor rather than relying on salt.
- Cook foods in as little water and for as short a period of time as possible to preserve all water soluble vitamins (Bs and C). As we eat more and more processed foods, we eat less of the phytochemicals and nutrients our bodies need.
Safe Food Preparation
Foodborne illnesses don't just come from restaurants. In fact, they usually come from bad home food preparation, serving, and storage. Follow the guidelines below to keep your food as safe as possible:
- Wash hands and surfaces often using hot, soapy water. Wash your hands before and after you handle food or utensils, especially raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating with a mild dish soap.
- Separate raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs away from other foods to prevent cross-contamination.
- Cook foods to a safe temperature using a food thermometer. Uncooked or undercooked animal products can be unsafe.
- Keep hot foods hot (above140 degrees) and cold foods cold (below 40 degrees) to prevent bacteria growth. Refrigerate foods within two hours of purchase or preparation (one hour if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees).
- When in doubt, throw it out. If you are not sure that food has been prepared, served, or stored properly, throw it out. If food has been left out for more than two hours, throw it out. Eat cooked leftovers within four days.
Note that those at high-risk for foodborne illness should follow additional guidelines. This includes:
- Pregnant women
- Young children
- Older adults
- People with weakened immune systems or certain chronic conditions
Know How Your Foods Were Produced
Food production is another important component of nutrition and health. This is a complex issue with lots of factors, some of which you cannot control. For example, food grown in healthy soil will supply necessary trace minerals to the food, but when soils are pressured for production, essential trace minerals can be lost.
However you can make some choices:
- You can choose to buy organic foods for all or some of your diet.
- You can choose to buy meat from producers who don't use antibiotics.
- You can choose to reduce your intake of fish high in mercury. The EPA recommends: eating up to 12 ounces of fish that are lower in mercury weekly, including shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish and avoiding shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish.