Guest post by Laurie Jabalie
Cookouts and picnics are a great way to get out of the house and enjoy the beautiful weather. Not to mention, it’s the best time of the year for grilling and cookouts. But this can be a bit tricky when you’re pregnant. During pregnancy, food borne illnesses are a huge risk to moms and babies, because during this time mothers are more susceptible to the bacteria that cause them. This simple guide will help keep you and your baby safe whether you’re packing a picnic or cooking in the kitchen!
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When it comes to food safety there are 4 basic guidelines every mom-to-be should follow!
Keeping clean in the kitchen is the first line of defense to preventing food borne illnesses.
- Make hand washing a habit. While this step seems simple it can be the most important …and the most overlooked. Always wash your hands after touching foreign objects, like pets, diapers, or even after blowing your nose, and before handling food.
- Make sure you’re really cleaning! Rewash sponges and dish rags frequently and sanitize cutting boards, utensils, the sink, refrigerator, and counter tops often.
- Properly prep your produce; Make sure to always wash all fresh produce for at least 30 seconds.
From store to table it’s best to always keep meats and poultry separated from all other produce and ready-to-eat items.
- At the store: make sure to put all raw meats in different bags when packaging them. If you use reusable bags wash them between uses to ensure that bacteria isn’t being spread to other food.
- At home: make sure that raw meat (and any of its juices) never comes into contact with other foods in the fridge. And try to designate a specific cutting board for meat and another for produce so that they don’t come into contact during food preparation.
How can you tell when it’s done? Using a thermometer is the best way to ensure that food is cooked thoroughly and all bacteria has been killed.
The USDA recommends that these foods be cooked to the following temperatures to ensure food safety:
- 145 °F – Beef, Pork, Veal, Ham, Lamb, Fish, and Shellfish
- 160 °F – Ground meats and Eggs
- 165 °F – All Poultry, Leftovers, and Casseroles
But thermometers aren’t always easy to use on some foods. Use these tips to make sure your food is safe.
- Cook eggs until yolk and white are firm to the touch.
- Flesh of shrimp, lobsters, scallops, and crab meat should be pearly and opaque.
- Deli meat should be heated until steaming and never served cold, while you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
- Clams, oysters, and mussels should cook until shells open – any that do not open should be thrown away.
*Cookware tip: Avoid cooking in plastic because plastic and other chemicals can migrate into food during cooking.
Some bacteria can grow even after food has been cooked. For this reason it’s important to store food properly.
- Your refrigerator should be kept at 40 °F or lower and freezer at 0 °F or lower.
- Store uncooked meat in the coldest part of the fridge and make sure blood does not drip onto other foods.
- Frozen foods should be thawed in a microwave or fridge – never on the counter.
- Food should not be kept at room temperature for longer than 2 hours, or under 1 hour if it’s hot.
- If you’re storing large quantities of hot food, divide it into smaller portions so that it cools more quickly.
Food Safety for Eating Out
Sometimes eating out is unavoidable, especially if you just don’t have the energy, time, or motivation to prepare a whole meal. The best part of eating out is that you aren’t in charge of preparing your food, but during pregnancy this is one of the biggest risks. Handing over this responsibility isn’t always a bad thing. Here are some quick tips on how to stay safe when eating out.
- Evaluate your environment. Check to see that the restaurant is clean and employees are following proper food handling protocol. Also check that the restaurant out how a restaurant has done on it’s annual inspection by the health department. In some cities, the grade is posted in the window.
- Ask that all your food be cooked thoroughly and avoid medium rare or rare meats and any raw foods like sushi.
- If dining at a buffet make sure all sneeze guards are up and cover the food. If the food seems cold when it’s supposed to be hot, or as if it’s been sitting at room temperature too long, choose a different item.
- Don’t be afraid to send food back if it seems unsafe or undercooked!
Packing a Safe Picnic:
When packing a picnic just remember the 4 rules for safe food.
Start by making sure all food is clean and handled properly while you’re making it. Prepare with plenty of time so that you’re not rushing; taking short cuts could lead to cross contamination. Pack only the amount of food that will actually be eaten, because by the time you get home you’re food most likely won’t be safe anymore.
Bacteria can grow rapidly in what is known as the “Danger Zone” which are the temperatures between 40°F -140°F. So, foods that are perishable and packed without ice (like bagged lunches) won’t be safe for long. Make sure you keep your cold foods cold and your hot foods hot by packing with ice packs (or frozen water bottles) or insulating with thermoses or other insulated containers.
Hey Y’all! I’m Laurie Jabalie and I’m currently doing my dietetic internship through Iowa State University with a concentration in Technology in Health Promotion. I recently graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics from The University of Texas at Austin. I’m passionate about childhood nutrition and have worked educating kids on the importance of healthy eating for the past 2 years.