PHILADELPHIA - For many, the holiday season comes with family, friends and lots of food. As part of the Healthy for Life 20 by 20 initiative, to improve the health of Americans, Aramark and the American Heart Association tapped into their experts to assemble a list of healthy tips and tricks to help navigate the holiday season, without sacrificing the flavor or fun of celebrating.
Aramark, the largest food service provider in the United States and one of the largest employers of registered dietitians in the world, and the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, have teamed up to empower and inspire individuals and families to make better food choices every day, including the holiday season.
Whether it's cooking for a crowd or making smart kitchen swaps, Aramark and the American Heart Association will help you put together a winning holiday game plan.
COOKING FOR A CROWD
Aramark chefs serve two billion meals a year, so they're used to cooking for a crowd every day of the week. Whether for a cocktail party, weekend brunch or holiday dinner, these easy tips will make cooking for a crowd a lot less daunting.
- Ask around. Before you get too far with your planning, note anyone who has a food preference, allergy, intolerance or any other dietary needs or restrictions. While some guests may follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, plenty of people are thinking more plant-forward in general. Come up with a mix of meat, poultry, seafood and plant-forward offerings so every guest has a selection of dishes to enjoy. It's a good idea to have at least one meatless main dish for guests who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
- Plan ahead. Think about what you can take care of in the days leading up to your event. Shopping is a no-brainer. Review all your recipes and check your pantry to compile one master shopping list before you even set foot in the grocery store. Buying in-season produce will help you save money, as will buying in bulk, which large parties often require anyway. Once home, take stock of your cookware and serving dishes, laying them out with sticky notes so you know which food will go in which dish.
- Welcome helping hands (big and small). If someone offers to help in the kitchen or contribute something, take that person up on it! Even kids can get in on the game: Let them toss a salad, set the table or handle washing the pots and pans. It's one less thing for you to do as the host and one more way to inspire their love of healthy home cooking.
SMART KITCHEN SWAPS
There are plenty of healthy baking swaps to lighten up your favorite holiday treats.
- One cup of unsweetened applesauce can be swapped out for one cup of sugar.
- One cup of mashed bananas can be used to replace one cup of melted butter or oil.
- Greek yogurt can be used to swap out for different ingredients such as sour cream, butter, oil and heavy cream, but the ratios can vary.
- Instead of a fruit pie, try making a fruit crisp for the holidays; it has fewer calories.
- Try replacing cream in recipes with regular or low-fat milk.
- Use herbs and spices, like rosemary and cloves, to flavor dishes, instead of salt or butter.
EAT WELL, BE WELL TIPS
You can eat well and be well this holiday season with these tasty treats, party tricks and simple strategies from the experts at the American Heart Association.
- Include lots of seasonal, colorful fruits and vegetables. Do you decorate for the holidays with a lot of color? Treat your plate the same way. Fruits and vegetables will add flavor, color and nutrients to holiday favorites. And they help you feel fuller longer so you can avoid the temptation to overeat.
- Navigate holiday parties like a boss. From the obligatory workplace parties to family get-togethers, your calendar may be bursting with opportunities to eat and drink outside of your regular routine. Make a plan that will help you resist plowing through the buffet table, like having a healthy snack beforehand.
- Sprinkle in opportunities to be active. Keep the inevitable indulgences in check by staying active. Enjoy some winter sports, for a change of pace, or schedule in a quick walk or workout before you head to the next party. Remember, every little bit helps you get closer to the recommended amount of physical activity.
HOLIDAY HEALTH AND SAFETY
These tips from Aramark's safety experts will keep safety top of mind when preparing a holiday feast.
- Wash your hands. Hands must be washed after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing and handling raw foods and garbage. Always wash your hands before starting to prepare food and in between tasks. Handwashing is critical to preparing safe food.
- Thaw frozen food properly. It is recommended that a refrigerator is used to thaw frozen food, so plan ahead. For every 5 pounds of large frozen food, allow 24 hours of refrigerator thawing time. Place the food in a tray or container deep enough to collect any draining fluids to prevent contamination of other foods in the refrigerator.
- Use proper cooking temperatures. Cook raw meat products to the minimum internal temperatures as stated on the product packaging. Insert a thermometer (digital is preferred) at several spots including the thickest part of the meat. Achieving the proper internal minimum cooking temperature is critical to preparing safe food.
- Store and reheat leftovers safely. Leftovers must be cooled to below 70 F within 2 hours and then to 41 F or below within 4 hours. Large items should be broken down into smaller items by either physically breaking items apart or placing the item in multiple small shallow containers. Keep refrigerated leftovers for 3 days from initial cooking or freeze for longer storage, and reheat leftover food once to 165 F for 15 seconds.
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