by Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
September is National Food Safety month. But more exciting, it’s football season! I was born and raised in Georgia, which means football is second nature to me. And my blood runs red and black (die-hard University of Georgia fan for those unfamiliar with the lingo). But football season also means two things to me: cooler temperatures are right around the corner and tailgating.
You haven’t lived until you’ve been to a tailgate, particularly a tailgate for one of the SEC teams. Forgive me if I’m regionally biased, but I’ve been around other conferences and no one tailgates quite like the big schools of the SEC. Successful tailgating requires two key ingredients: good meal planning and proper food safety. But even if you aren’t a football fan or don’t have many opportunities for tailgating, the same principles apply for any outdoor food gathering.
Having a plan in place is essential for any food gathering. And just because we are talking football doesn’t mean that food can’t be tasty and healthy at the same time. Whether you want to be creative and think totally outside the box or just add healthy items to a traditional menu, don’t forget your fruits and veggies. Fruits and vegetables complement tailgating food in any number of ways. Fresh fruit can be a great appetizer, side dish or dessert. Hummus is yummy for dipping veggies (carrots, celery, sweet bell pepper strips) or crackers/chips. Firing up the grill for game day? Make some veggie kabobs with mushrooms, bell pepper, tomatoes, yellow squash, and zucchini. Instead of potato salad or coleslaw, why not try making a quinoa salad?
- Keep cold foods cold (below 40 degrees F) in a cooler with plenty of ice and/or ice packs. Put an appliance thermometer in you cooler to monitor the temperature.
- Separate items in coolers so that raw foods cannot contaminate any other ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook foods to the proper temperature (don’t forget your food thermometer at home!):
- All poultry: 165 degrees F
- Ground beef, veal and lamb: 160 degrees F
- Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops: 145 degrees F
- Leftovers, reheat to 165 degrees F
- Do not reuse the same containers or platters for cooked poultry/meat that previously held raw poultry/meat.
- To avoid foodborne illness, limit the amount of time food is kept in the temperature danger zone (40 degrees-140 degrees):
- Serve hot food as soon as possible if temperature cannot be maintained at 140 degrees or greater
- Throw out any food that has been sitting out more than two hours (if temperature outside is over 90 degrees then throw out food after 1 hour).
- Have plenty of wipes, napkins and paper towels available for wiping surfaces and to clean hands before, during and after food preparation and before and after eating.
Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD is a dietitian from Atlanta, GA. As a mom, athlete, foodie and nutritionist, Ann enjoys working with individuals, families and food industry professionals helping them “eat to nourish, energize and flourish!”(TM). Find out more about Ann and read her blog at Dunaway Dietetics. You can also follow Ann on Twitter and Facebook.