Meal Makeovers and Food Safety for the Holidays

Robin B. Landry, Area Nutrition Agent, with the Assumption Parish LSU AgCenter / Special to The Chief, Weekly Citizen

Meal makeovers are not as hard as they may seem; it is all in the planning and preparation. As in every meal, make sure to include foods from all of the food groups: fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy and grains and limit sugars, saturated fat, and sodium that you add to those foods.

Next, consider what you will be cooking and how substitutions can help make your meal healthier and just as tasty. Brighten your meal by preparing fruits and vegetables making sure to serve your plate half full of fruits and vegetables. When baking, consider choosing whole wheat flour instead of white flour. By swapping the grains, you will provide more fiber. Prepare meats and other proteins by baking, broiling, or roasting and going easy on gravies. For desserts, consider using spices and reduced fat or fat free dairy products. In baking, you can also use pureed fruits instead of butter or oil. For a list of substitutions and their equivalents, visit the Alabama Cooperative Extension’s website at You can also consider tweaking your desserts and serve fruit instead of a high calorie sweet. To adapt recipes to decrease the amount of fat, calories, sugar and salt and make them healthier for your family visit

As with all food preparation, practice proper food safety techniques: clean, separate, cook, and chill. Clean hands, surfaces, utensils, and dishes properly and as often as needed. Wash hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash fruits and vegetables even if they are to be peeled. Separate foods when shopping. Keep raw meats, seafood and eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in your refrigerator. Remember not to rinse meat or poultry as this can spread germs. Remember to use separate cutting boards for foods to as not to cross-contaminate. Use proper thawing methods for meats. Cook foods using proper methods and temperatures. Read and follow instructions for cooking foods and use a food thermometer so that foods reach a safe internal temperature to kill bacteria that can cause illness. Visit to learn more about safe cooking guidelines.

After the meal is over, foods need proper handling as well. Remember that leftovers need to be chilled or refrigerated within two hours after the meal. Leave leftovers in the refrigerator no longer than 3-4 days. If the foods will not be eaten or used within that time, freeze them for a future meal. Meal leftovers can be used in different ways; be creative in what you use them for and prevent food waste.

For more information on this and other nutrition related questions contact Robin B. Landry, Area Nutrition Agent, at the Assumption Parish LSU AgCenter by calling 985-369- 6386 or email at