With the launch of a season of eating, drinking, getting together with friends and family, and celebrating, it may be worth a moment to ponder how to keep those you care most about as healthy and safe as possible, but with a good dollop of fun too. Herewith some suggestions:
When it comes to the centerpiece of Thanksgiving — the festive eating — hygiene and moderation matter. Nothing would ruin the holiday more than to sicken the guests, right? So, cooks and their helpers should take special care to keep their hands washed, the tools and prep areas sanitary, and to ensure that the food gets handled correctly, especially in thawing and thoroughly cooking the turkey and stuffing. It may seem counter intuitive, but experts warn against rinsing the turkey or any other fowl that might be store-bought and served. That’s because the birds get cleaned as part of the processing and rinsing with warm water may only spread microbial contaminants all around the kitchen. The key to kill off harmful bugs, by the way, rests in cooking foodstuffs for long enough and at high enough temperatures to ensure they’re safe to eat. Consult those published recipes carefully. Cooks need to plan well, so they get various menu items in and out of the stove and oven, so hungry diners get their fill at the appointed time.
By the way, it may be worth keeping up with a new health warning about tainted lettuce and skip salads (like the caesar) that require romaine, notably if it was grown in Salinas, Calif.
For the feast itself, moderation matters. For many of us, the eating will go on for a spell, not just at one sit-down. That could support strategic eating — taking smaller portions, sampling different holiday favorites a little at a time, and not stuffing one’s self all at once, or repeatedly during the holiday. As Consumer Reports found: “Americans take in 3,000 to 4,500 calories at their Thanksgiving celebrations, according to estimates by the Calorie Control Council.” That’s far above the recommended levels for men or women. By the way, the experts don’t recommend “saving up” for the big meal by skipping breakfast or lunch. That move may only lead to your eating more at dinner.
Get up and move
It may be a bit of a guilt trip, but, if it helps control the eating, think about how much exercise might be required to work off the components of that Thanksgiving meal. Maybe the group that you get together with — co-workers, friends, or family — might make part of the day’s ritual a little exercise, whether it’s just a walk around the block, or maybe a little pickup basketball or touch football? Don’t overdo it, don’t let it get crazy competitive. But adding activity almost always is a good idea, experts say, noting that keeping moving is a big way for all of us to improve our health.
It’s a day for thanks, not arguing
When the crowd gathers, by the way, it may be a good idea for the hosts or the most respected folks to be found to declare that, on a day of giving thanks, a moratorium also will be declared on disputatious discussions, especially on the topics or politics, money, race, religion — or whatever the temper-raising topics might be in a given group. While unhappy holidays, maybe, can produce the droll satire of a guy like David Sedaris, politics and current affairs are making too many Americans anxious already. Most moms, dads, uncles, aunts, and grandparents would be grateful for one day of domestic calm, sans individual drama, and a collective effort for a bit of harmony might be nice.
Go easy on the intoxicants
This also might be more achievable, if, especially for the holidays, revelers eased up on the intoxicants, especially as so many travelers are vulnerable and out on the roads. Drinking or getting stoned and driving is unacceptable and deadly, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises, adding this message for the holiday:
“Excessive drinking [and] intoxication is prevalent over Thanksgiving due in part to cultural phenomena like ‘Blackout Wednesday’ that highlight and even encourage the heavy consumption of alcohol throughout this holiday weekend. Drunk-driving-related crashes spike during the Thanksgiving holiday season. According to NHTSA, from 2013 to 2017, more than 800 people died in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes during the Thanksgiving holiday period, making it one of the deadliest holidays on our roadways.”
With so much going on and excitement about getting away from work and to see family and friends, it is too easy for drivers and passengers to engage in the practices that get them hurt and killed: Distraction. Intoxication. Drowsiness. Turn down the radio and turn off the electronic devices (Don’t text and drive!), for everyone’s sake.
In my practice, I see the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services and the real benefits that they can experience by staying healthy and out of the health care system. It is rife with risks with medical error, hospital infections and preventable deaths, and misdiagnoses.
That said, we should say a prayer and give thanks to the doctors, nurses, and the folks who will staff hospitals and care for the sick and injured through this and many other holidays. We also owe great thanks to first responders and U.S. service personnel – and our dedicated Foreign Service officers across the globe — for their hard work and sacrifice.
Here’s hoping that you and yours have safe, healthy, and wonderful times with friends and loved ones.