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Planning your Thanksgiving Feast!

There are many things to think about when planning your Thanksgiving meal: finding healthy recipes, food safety, dealing with picky eaters, portion control, and what to do with all those leftovers! Fortunately, this article will help you create a healthy, balanced, and safe Thanksgiving meal the whole family will enjoy!

First let’s talk about FOOD SAFETY. Before we start planning, preparing, and serving, let’s review a few of the main food safety guidelines.
  • Always wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Don’t cross-contaminate. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other food. After cutting raw meats, wash cutting board, utensils and countertops with hot, soapy water.
  • There are only 3 safe ways to thaw meat: refrigerate for slow safe thawing, cold water submersion and defrost in the microwave.
    • Make sure your turkey has plenty of time to safely thaw in the refrigerator before the big meal! According to the USDA, you should allow 24 hours for every 4-5 pounds. So if your turkey weighs 12 pounds, it should chill in the refrigerator for 72 hours.
  • Always check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. For safety and quality, allow meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming.
    • Cook all raw beef, pork, lamb, and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F.
    • Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160°F.
    • Cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165°F.
  • Hot food should be held at 140°F or warmer.
  • Cold food should be held at 40°F or colder.
  • When serving food at a buffet, keep food hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers, and warming trays. Keep food cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice or use small serving trays and replace them often.
  • Discard any food left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
  • Place food into shallow containers and immediately put in the refrigerator or freezer for rapid cooling.
  • Use cooked leftovers within 4 days and reheat all leftovers to 165°F.
Now let’s plan the THANKSGIVING MENU. Try these recipes for traditional flavors and healthy ingredients that will leave you feeling satisfied but not “stuffed”!
You have planned the perfect feast, but you have some PICKY EATERS in your family. Here are some tips for appeasing picky eaters. 
  • Choose at least one food you know your child will like. Whether Thanksgiving will be served at your house or if you will be going to someone else’s home to celebrate, make sure to offer or bring at least one food that you know your child will like. This way, your child is guaranteed to eat something during the meal.
  • Engage your child in meal planning. You can tell your child about any foods you are definitely planning to include (i.e., turkey as a protein and stuffing as a grain), but ask if he or she has ideas for the other food groups. For example, “What kind of vegetable do you think we should include? How about a fruit?”
  • Engage your child in meal prep. Ask your toddler to help clean the vegetables, your school-aged child to help mash the potatoes, or your teenager to boil the cranberries. When kids help cook food, they often sample what they are preparing, and are more likely to eat their masterpieces later.
  • Use food bridges. Once a food is accepted, find similarly colored, flavored, or textured “food bridges” to expand the variety of foods your child will eat. For example, if your child likes pumpkin pie, try including mashed sweet potatoes on his or her Thanksgiving plate.
  • Make it look, smell and taste delicious. Many times kids think that they won’t like a food before they actually try it. Do this by adding fragrant ingredients such a nutmeg and cinnamon to cooked apples—for example—or preparing a veggie tray with the vegetables arranged in the shape of a turkey.
  • Keep the mealtime relaxing and enjoyable. Focus on enjoying your time together celebrating this day of gratitude. Know you have prepared a balanced meal and taken many efforts to engage your children in the process—increasing the chances of there being at least one food they will like. You have done your job. Try not to worry if and what your child is eating.
Time to Eat! PORTION CONTROL during the holidays has less to do with limiting yourself to a certain amount but rather listening to our bodies’ fullness signals. Our bodies often tell us when to stop we just don’t listen! 
  • Don’t go to the table starving. This means don’t skip meals. Skipping meals seems like a nice way to reduce the amount of calories you consume but is likely to make you eat more food faster when you finally do eat.
  • Give yourself permission to eat the foods you like. It is perfectly healthy to come to the table hungry and eat until you are full—“until you are full” being the operative phrase. Eating until we are full does not mean eating until we are sick.
  • Eat slowly and savor your food. Don’t be too quick to scarf down your food; learn to savor every bite.
  • Stop when you are full, not past-full. Pay close attention to how you feel while eating. Choose to slow down and stop eating when you feel you are getting full. This may even mean waiting a few minutes to see how you feel before finishing your plate or getting second helpings.
What do we do with all these LEFTOVERS? Thanksgiving leftovers can be more than cold turkey sandwiches and warmed up casserole dishes. Check out these recipes with different flavors to keep your taste buds guessing.

Sources: USDA Food Safety and Inspection ServicesAmerican Academy of Pediatrics