Happy Thanksgiving!

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WebMD, November 26, 2009  —  The biggest event of Thanksgiving is preparing the turkey, though competing with watching parades and football games on TV all day, is the preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. Thanksgiving Day is a time-honored American tradition, a time for family gatherings and a holiday meal that encourages over-the-top decadence, according to WebMD.com. And for many (some 97% of us), the thought of a Thanksgiving without turkey is heresy. Americans gobble up roughly 45 million turkeys to celebrate the annual holiday.

Do you know that the average Thanksgiving dinner has over 2000 calories? It can be a real challenge if you are watching your waistline, according to HealthCastle.com. The following are some eating tips so that you can still look good and be healthy after the Thanksgiving dinner without having to deprive yourself. Here are some healthy tips for the day. If you are a guest of a Thanksgiving dinner:
1.) Don’t go to the Thanksgiving dinner hungry: we often eat faster and more when we are hungry – therefore eat a wholesome breakfast and lunch on the day to avoid overeating at dinner time.
2.) Thanksgiving dinner is not an all-you-can-eat buffet: Fill your plate half with vegetables, one quarter with a lean meat and the rest with a starch of your choice. Eat slowly and stop when you are full.
3.) Turkey – go skinless: choose your 4-oz turkey portion skinless to slash away some fat and cholesterol. Save your appetite for the side dishes and desserts.
4.) Side Dishes – watch your portion size: go for smaller portions. This way you can sample all the different foods. Moderation is always the key.
5.) Make a conscious choice to limit high fat items: high fat food items can be found in fried and creamy dishes as well as cheese-filled casseroles in a traditional Thanksgiving meal . For instance, mashed potatoes are usually made with butter and milk; green bean casseroles are often prepared with cream of mushroom soup, cheese and milk and topped with fried onions; candied yams are loaded with cream, sugar and marshmallows. If you cannot control the ingredients that go in to a dish, simply limit yourself to a smaller helping size. Again moderation is the key.
6.) Drink plenty of water: alcohol and coffee can dehydrate your body. Drink calorie-free water to help fill up your stomach and keep you hydrated.

If you are the honorable chef of a Thanksgiving dinner:
1.) Substitute high fat ingredients with lower-fat or fat-free ingredients.
2.) Leftover Turkey? Instead of turkey sandwiches, use the leftover turkey to make a pot of soup with fresh chunky vegetables.
3.) Experiment with new recipes: Do a search on Google for numerous delicious yet healthy low-fat contemporary Thanksgiving recipes. Experiment!

According to WebMD.com, it’s always important to follow safe food handling practices to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. This year, consumers may also be worried about the potential for bird flu in their turkeys. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service reassures us that bird flu (avian influenza) is not transmissible by eating poultry. The real concern, as always, is viruses and bacterial contamination. The Mississippi Department of Health (MDH) encourages all holiday cooks to add food safety to their list of necessary kitchen ingredients. In the home or in a restaurant, preparing food involves both health and safety, so please observe the following advice:
1.  Remember to cook turkey to the proper internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). –Cook roast, pork, and fish to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef to at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit. Sauces, soups and gravy must come to a boil when reheating.
2.  Do not cross-contaminate, and be sure to cool foods properly. Never place cooked food on a plate which previously held raw meat, poultry or seafood.
3.  Always cook dressing separately from the turkey. Place the dressing in the turkey after both are cooked.
4.  Always wash your hands before and after handling food. Wash your hands with hot soapy water after using the bathroom, changing diapers and handling pets.
5.  Wash surfaces often. Those preparing the meal should wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item.
6.  Refrigerate or freeze prepared food and leftovers within two hours.
7.  Do not overload your refrigerator: space items loosely so that cool air can circulate.
8.  Divide large amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for quick cooling.
9.  Thaw food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave – never defrost food at room temperature.

The National Turkey Federation and USDA suggest following these guidelines — along with using a meat thermometer — when roasting an unstuffed bird:
8-12 pounds: 2 3/4 to 3 hours
12-14 pounds: 3 to 3 3/4 hours
14-18 pounds: 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
18-20 pounds: 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
20-24 pounds: 4 1/2 to 5 hours
As you prepare for your upcoming celebration, keep these safety and preparation tips in mind to make sure you enjoy a happy and healthy holiday.

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