When you prepare your own meals with fresh ingredients, you're on your way to meaningful weight loss—so make sure you practice "safe food handling"
KNOW THE 4 RULES OF SAFE FOOD PREPARATION
You may have begun eating more fresh foods since you started this program. In this library article we’ll talk about how to handle and store the foods you eat to optimize your safety.
KEEP IT CLEAN
First, always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. You should wash your hands before and after you handle food. If you handle raw meat, seafood, or poultry wash your hands again before you touch other foods.
Anything that touches food should be clean. Dishes, cutting boards, and utensils should be washed in hot, soapy water. Keep your countertops clean as well. Wash them with hot, soapy water before and after you make food. Dishcloths and kitchen towels should be washed and dried often. Use the hot water cycle in the washing machine. Kitchen sponges can be cleaned in the microwave. Two minutes will kill most bacteria. The sponge should be wet before you put it in the microwave.
Fresh fruits and vegetables should be rinsed under running water. Do this even for those that have rinds you will not eat, like melons. Use a scrub brush or rub with your hands as you rinse. Foods marked “washed” or “ready to eat” usually do not need rinsing.
Raw meat, seafood, and poultry should be kept away from other foods. If you cut raw meat, poultry, or seafood, make sure it has its own cutting board. Do not cut bread or vegetables on a cutting board that has been used for meat, poultry, or seafood, unless the board has been carefully washed.
When you shop, keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate from other foods in your cart. All foods should be kept separate from cleaners and other chemicals. Meat, poultry, and seafood should be stored separately in containers or on plates. This keeps the juices from dripping onto other foods. If food that will not be cooked touches raw meat, poultry, or seafood, it should be thrown away.
KEEP IT COOL
Another key way that can help keep your food safe is to store it at the right temperature. Your refrigerator should always keep the foods inside at or below 40°F. The bacteria that cause illness grow faster at warm temperatures. Keeping your refrigerator at 40°F or lower helps keep you safe.
Here are a few more tips for keeping food at a safe temperature:
- Leftovers and perishables should be refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours. Food that has sat out longer should be thrown away
- Food should never be defrosted on the counter. If you have time, thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator. If you’re in a hurry, you can thaw food in cold water. Or you can defrost it in the microwave if you plan to eat it right away
- Split leftovers into smaller packages. This helps them cool down more quickly. If you freeze them, it also lets you just defrost what you need. This can be good for portion control as well!
- Don’t buy meat or pre-cut vegetables if they are not kept cool at the store
- Don’t overfill the refrigerator. Cold air needs to be able to get around. If the refrigerator is too full, some places might not be as cold
KEEP IT FRESH
When you buy fruits and vegetables, check to make sure they are not bruised or damaged. If you buy packaged fruits or vegetables, such as fruit salad, make sure they are kept refrigerated at the store.
Know when to throw food away. Leftovers should be thrown away or frozen within 3 to 4 days. Raw foods are more variable.
- Poultry or ground meat should be frozen or discarded within 1 to 2 days
- Red meats last 3 to 5 days, as do deli meats and salads
For a more complete list, visit FoodSafety.gov.
COOK IT THROUGH
When you cook, make sure your food is cooked all the way through. You can use a food thermometer. The thermometer should be placed in the thickest part of the food. It should not touch bone, fat, or gristle.
- Steaks, roasts, pork and fish should be heated to 145°F
- Egg dishes and ground beef should be heated to 160°F
- Poultry should be cooked to 165°F
- Leftovers and casseroles should also be cooked to 165°F
If you reheat soup or sauces, bring them to a boil. When you cook in the microwave, be sure to rotate the dish and stir the food. This helps get rid of cold spots where bacteria can thrive.