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Tips for making food healthy, safe this holiday weekend

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Cookouts and picnics are part of many Memorial Day celebrations and according to Marita Radloff, Health and Wellness Center registered dietitian and nutritionist, favorite dishes can be made healthier by tweaking the ingredients list.

"Make pasta salad using whole-wheat pasta for extra fiber, vitamins and minerals," she said. "If you don't like the taste of whole-wheat pasta, try brown rice pasta or quinoa pasta. Both have very similar flavor profiles to white pasta and aren't as chewy as whole-wheat pasta. Add extra veggies to your pasta salad to increase vegetable intake."

Radloff says also try the following:
*Make potato salad using half mayo and half Greek yogurt for rich flavor and fewer calories.
  
*Try vinegar based German potato salad for another healthy option. *Instead of fries, try grilled potatoes. Boil sliced potatoes in salted water for 10 minutes, then throw on the grill for 5 minutes. Top with fresh herbs, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 
 
If you can't pass up the burgers, Radloff says try this:
*Load burger with veggies, like tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and onions and pass on the bun.

*Instead of condiments with added sugar and salt, try a fresh tasting pesto marinade on chicken or shrimp.

*For a quick and easy dessert, throw pineapples, peaches, nectarines or plums on the grill for three to four minutes and top with a mixture of honey, lime and cinnamon for a delectable and healthy treat. 

No matter how healthy your options are, it's important to keep food at the appropriate temperature to avoid foodborne illness, Radloff said. "

Bacteria grow faster in warm temperatures, so take extra care to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home," she said. "Some people are at a higher risk for food poisoning even when only small amounts of bacteria are present, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems."

Radloff said using a food thermometer is important to avoid the food danger zone- where bacteria grow most rapidly.

Bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes in temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F*Load burger with veggies, like tomatoes, lettuce, avocado and onions and pass on the bun.

*Instead of condiments with added sugar and salt, try a fresh tasting pesto marinade on chicken or shrimp.

*For a quick and easy dessert, throw pineapples, peaches, nectarines or plums on the grill for three to four minutes and top with a mixture of honey, lime and cinnamon for a delectable and healthy treat.

No matter how healthy your options are, it's important to keep food at the appropriate temperature to avoid foodborne illness, Radloff said.

"Bacteria grow faster in warm temperatures, so take extra care to prevent food poisoning when preparing meals away from home," she said. "Some people are at a higher risk for food poisoning even when only small amounts of bacteria are present, such as pregnant women, young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems."

Radloff said using a food thermometer is important to avoid the food danger zone- where bacteria grow most rapidly.

Bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes in temperatures between 40 °F and 140 °F.
 
The right temperature is key:
*Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood; deli and luncheon meats or sandwiches, salads, fruit and vegetables, and perishable dairy products cold for safety.

*If not serving hot food right away, it's important to keep it at 140 °F or above. One of the most common causes of foodborne illness is improper cooling of cooked foods because bacteria can be introduced to food even after it is safely cooked.

*Put leftovers in a shallow container and refrigerate at 40°F or below within two hours.

*Reheat foods to an internal temperature of 165°F or until hot and steaming.

Stop bacteria growth and prevent food poisoning by using an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs when traveling, Radloff said. Frozen food can double as a cold source also.

Storage matters:
*A full cooler maintains cold temperatures longer than a partially filled one.

*Keep coolers out of direct sunlight; place under a picnic table or beneath a tree in the shade.

*Avoid repeatedly opening cooler to keep food out of the danger zone.

*Use separate cutting boards, tongs and utensils for raw meat and other items, like vegetables or breads. 

*Perishable food shouldn't sit out for more than two hours, and in temperatures above 90° F, food should never sit out for more than one hour.