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Giving Thanks and Staying Healthy

Turkey

Thanksgiving is around the corner and you can almost smell the pumpkin pie cooking already. It’s that time of year when people come together for a festive meal, relax around the fireplace, and then wait out in the cold to beat the Black Friday rush. In the midst of the holiday bustle, it can be easy to forget about health and wellness. The Tufts Public Health & Professional Degree Programs’ have put together a list of recommendations for staying healthy over Thanksgiving.

Avoid Food-borne Illness:
Eating undercooked meat can lead to a plethora of health problems, ranging from an upset stomach to severe salmonella poisoning. Turkey meat is safe to eat when the internal temperature is at least 165° F. Although the turkey’s appearance can be an indicator of how well it’s cooking, it is impossible to gauge whether or not a turkey is safe to eat just by looking at it. Make sure to use a food thermometer (inserted into the innermost part of the thigh and wing and thickest part of the breast) to ensure that you and your guests are eating a fully cooked turkey. If the turkey is stuffed, be sure to take the stuffing’s temperature as well. (Remember: depending on the size and type of turkey, cooking time can range from 1.5 hours to over 5 hours. Check the cooking time in advance so that you do not feel rushed and tempted to eat turkey that is not quite cooked yet!)

Prevent Stress
The holiday season may be fun but it also comes with a lot of stress, which can take a significant toll on mental health. A little extra stress around Thanksgiving might be inevitable, but you can take steps to make sure that your mental health remains intact. If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, don’t be afraid to delegate tasks! If you are trying to cook the meal, set up your home, and entertain guests, your stress level can rise quickly. Asking for help does not make you a bad host. Your guests will most likely be more than happy to help.

Protect Yourself from Burns
While many burns are small and can heal by themselves, others can pose a serious health risk. Hot cooking oil can cause permanent skin damage and can cause deep burns that are prone to infection. Fire can cause serious burns, and can also lead to respiratory problems and emotional distress. Unfortunately, burns and fire are common at Thanksgiving. Turkey fryers often splash oil that is 350°F on to bare skin. Home cooking fires are at their peak on Thanksgiving, as kitchens are chaotic and the cooks are busy and distracted. The good news is that these hazards are easily avoidable. If you love your fried turkey, you don’t have to give it up completely. The National Fire Protection Association recommends using alternative outdoor cooking appliances that do not use oil but still yield the same delicious results. You can also decrease your risk of kitchen fires by making sure that someone is monitoring the food at all times and has plenty of help on hand to minimize distractions.

Be Careful of Excess Alcohol Consumption
Like many other holidays, Thanksgiving dinners can involve higher amounts of alcohol than usual. However, most Thanksgiving-time drinking actually occurs the night before. In fact, Thanksgiving eve has been deemed by same as “Black-out Wednesday,” and is said to beat out New Years’ Eve, Independence Day, and St. Patrick’s Day in terms of alcohol consumption. Perhaps it is because most people have Thanksgiving off from work, or because family and friends who have not seen each other all year and catch up over bottles of wine or shots from the bar. As always, you can decrease your risk of alcohol poisoning by avoiding binge drinking or by staying sober and being the designated driver. It is also crucial to be careful on the roads. You may have the sense to not drink and drive, but remember that others may not be so wise.

Break Your Diet
Well, this may not be the healthiest of public health advice. But as long as you add some fruits and veggies to your dinner plate, and you resist the temptation to chow down on leftovers all weekend, then give yourself one night of indulgence. Who knows? You may be more motivated to start your diet the next day.

Have a safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving!

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