Whole-wheat lends nutrition to holidays

Jamie VanGeest

With turkey, stuffing and pie tempting palates, healthy eating during the holiday season can be the last thing on students’ minds.

Two University faculty members offered easy ways to eat food full of whole-wheat and free of bacteria.

Len Marquart, an assistant professor in the department of food science and nutrition, said it’s easy to incorporate whole-wheat into common holiday foods.

Whole-wheat is a better option than white bread because it contains more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, he said.

Eating whole-wheat foods can also prevent heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes, Marquart said.

Although whole-wheat doesn’t prevent weight gain, it can decrease your body weight, he said.

One easy way to substitute whole-wheat in holiday foods is by eating partially whole-wheat stuffing.

“One option is having half white and half whole-wheat; that way, you can keep everybody happy,” Marquart said.

Wild rice, which is high in whole-grain, can be added to stuffing to make it healthier.

When making pies, Marquart suggested using half refined flour and half wheat flour in the crust. Another healthy dessert option is making apple cobbler, since it uses oatmeal, which is whole-grain.

For people who aren’t fans of the taste of whole-wheat, a partial whole-grain bun, which tends to be lighter in color, offers the healthy benefits of whole-wheat without the taste.

Stephanie Heim, a food science major and president of the Student Organization of Nutrition and Dietetics, agreed that incorporating whole grains into holiday foods is important.

“Nine out of 10 people don’t have enough whole grains in their diet,” Heim said.

Another issue to consider when making holiday meals is avoiding bacteria.

Francisco Diez, an associate professor in the department of food science and nutrition, said that although people are at risk of getting sick due to bacteria in food, it’s easy to have bacteria-free holiday meals.

Because of incorrect food preparation or not taking the right precautions, people are at risk for different bacterial infections, he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella is a bacterium found in the intestines of animals. People are exposed to this type of bacteria through infected meats, eggs and contaminated vegetables.

One million people each year are infected with campylobacteriosis, a bacterium associated with handling or eating raw or undercooked poultry. The symptoms included diathermia, nausea and vomiting, according to the CDC.

Diez said easy steps can be taken during the three phases of food preparation to prevent infection.

During the preparation stage, meat and poultry needs to be stored in the refrigerator until they are to be cooked, he said.

One common way bacteria are spread is through cross- contamination on a cutting board from meat to vegetable, Diez said.

This contamination can be prevented by using separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables, washing the cutting board between uses or cutting the vegetables first and the meats last on the same cutting board, he said.

While cooking meat, the most important thing is to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. A person needs to be certain the internal temperature of the meat is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, Diez said.

A person needs to be especially careful with stuffed turkeys, because bacteria can be found in the stuffing and the meat, he said.

At 165 degrees, all of the harmful bacteria are killed. The best way to check this is through a meat thermometer, Diez said.

The final stage is the leftover stage, he said. Bacteria grow at room temperature, so food should go into the refrigerator no longer than four hours after it’s served.

Food should be stored in small amounts. Food is no longer safe after being in the fridge for two to three days. If it will not be eaten right away, it should be put into the freezer, he said.

“It can stay good in the freezer forever, but it won’t necessarily be as good,” Diez said.