It’s a Beauty, but is it Safe?

According to the CDC, handling poultry (chicken and turkey) incorrectly and undercooking it are the most common problems that lead to foodborne disease outbreaks linked to poultry. These outbreaks increase every November and December due to improper food handling at holiday parties and dinners.

Follow these five tips to safely prepare your next holiday turkey meal:

  • Thaw your turkey safely.
    • In the refrigerator in a container, or
    • In a leak-proof plastic bag in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or
    • In the microwave, following manufacturer’s instructions

NEVER thaw your turkey by leaving it out on the counter. Bacteria can grow quickly if left out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. The danger zone for bacteria to grow is between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

  • Clean all surfaces that the turkey comes into contact with – including your hands! Raw poultry can contaminate anything it comes into contact with and the germs that cause food poisoning are stealthy — they can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
  • Separate raw poultry from ready-to-eat foods by using different cutting boards, utensils and plates while preparing the meal, and by separating raw poultry from other foods in the refrigerator.
  • Cook poultry to the right internal temperature. Place the turkey in a roasting pan that is at least 2″ to 2.5″ inches deep and set oven temperature to at least 325 degrees F. Cooking times will vary according to the weight of the turkey and whether it contains any stuffing. Use a food thermometer to be sure that the internal temperature of the turkey AND the stuffing is at least 165 degrees F. You cannot determine if a turkey is safely cooked by checking its color and texture. Check by inserting the food thermometer into the center of the stuffing and the thickest portions of the breast, thigh, wing joint. Even if your turkey has a pop-up thermometer, still use a meat thermometer to be absolutely certain that your turkey is safely cooked. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing or carving the turkey so that it can finish cooking.
  • Chill to the right temperature. Refrigerate leftovers as soon as possible and within 2 hours of preparation (within 1 hour of preparation if outside temperature is greater than 90 degrees) in order to prevent food poisoning. Slice or divide big cuts of meat into smaller quantities for refrigeration so they cool quickly. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165 degrees F.

Eat WELL!

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

School Lunch Ideas

RVNAhealth wellness and healthy eating

The Question:

Help! I need creative lunch ideas for back to school. What do you recommend for a healthy school lunch? 

Meg’s Response:

Packing lunch for your child — every single day — can be a challenge. And a chore! You want to provide nutritious food to fuel your child’s brain, but at the same time, you want your child to actually eat what you pack, right?

Here are my tips for healthy school lunches:

  • Get your child involved: Make a back-to-school trip to the grocery store to pick out a few healthy school lunch items. Have your child pick one or two items from each section of the grocery store that he or she would enjoy in school lunch. If you leave the store with 2 fruits, 2 veggies, 2 meat/bean foods, 2 dairy foods and 2 grain foods that your child enjoys, that will help to ensure that your child will enjoy what you pack.
  • Have fun: Use cookie cutters to cut foods into fun and appealing shapes. Not a creative type? Find fun, reusable lunch containers in bright colors that will make lunch seem more…. ENTERTAINING!
  • Go for the nibble tray: Instead of packing a sandwich, pack a nibble tray! Find a reusable container with lots of small compartments, and fill each compartment with something different. Kids love variety! Include cream cheese, hummus, SunButter, bean dip, salsa, guacamole and other fun dips and spreads along with fruits and veggies to dip. Add a baggie of whole wheat crackers or a slice of multigrain bread on the side for some healthy whole grains.
  • Don’t feel guilty about combining healthy convenient foods with foods that you prepare from home. What do I mean when I say that? It is ok to purchase items like individual portion hummus cups, guacamole, and bean dips and pair those with baby carrots, grapes, sliced cheese, sliced cucumber circles and some whole-grain crackers for a “snacky” lunch. These “short cuts” can help to provide a healthy – and quick to assemble – lunch. What other healthy, but convenient foods can you think of to add to school snacks and lunches?
  • Keep portion size in mind. Often times parents think their children aren’t eating enough fruits and veggies. Did you know that the portion size of fruits and veggies for preschoolers and elementary-aged children is 1 tablespoon per year of age? That’s right, so a 5-year old would only need about 4 whole strawberries for a serving a fruit and 10 carrot coins for a serving of veggies.
  • Try School Lunch: If there is a meal offered in the cafeteria that your child enjoys, let them buy lunch. It teaches your child how to navigate a public food setting, getting them ready for middle school, high school and college. It also gives your child practice communicating needs and preferences. While school lunches historically have had a reputation of being less than perfect, things have changed. Stop by the school cafeteria and check it out for yourself. And hey – it gives you a break from packing! Can’t beat that.
  • Great Nut-Free Options: Food allergies and intolerances are an additional consideration to be made for many families packing school snacks and lunches. Depending on the school’s policy, you may or may not be able to include peanuts and tree nuts. Here is a list of nut-free protein-rich foods that can be packed as a part of a healthy school lunch
    Hard-boiled egg
    Hummus and other bean dips
    Low Fat Greek Yogurt
    Edamame
    Low Sodium Deli Meat and Cheese roll-ups
    Sunbutter (sunflower seed) and Wowbutter (soy nut butter)
    Cubed grilled chicken
    Beans (chickpeas, black beans, pinto beans, pink beans, white beans)
    Cottage Cheese

Ava Safir, JD, MS, RDN Joins RVNAhealth Nutrition Team

Ava Safir

RVNAhealth is pleased to announce that Ava Safir, JD, MS, RDN, has joined our team as a Registered Dietitian. In this role, Ava will join RVNAhealth’s registered dietitian and nutrition educator, Meg Whitbeck, MS, RDN to provide nutrition services to RVNAhealth in-home and outpatient clients. Whitbeck joined RVNAhealth in 2016, introducing nutrition services and education as part of RVNAhealth’s well-rounded approach to care and wellness.

Safir holds a Master of Science degree in Nutrition Education from Columbia University, Teachers College and a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) license. Formerly a lawyer, life guided Ava toward nutrition after working through her own personal health issues, as well as those of a close family member. “I gained a strong appreciation for the role of nutrition in achieving good health.” Prior to joining RVNAhealth, Ava worked as a dietitian for Stamford Hospital. She also continues to work per diem at the Center for Discovery, in one of their residential eating disorder facilities.

As a Registered Dietitian at RVNAhealth, Safir will work to provide nutrition analysis, counseling, and recommendations for chronic health conditions and for specific medical or personal needs. “In a short time,” says Whitbeck, “Ava has already enhanced the quality of nutrition services provided.”

“I genuinely enjoy learning about each client’s medical needs and personal goals, and then working together with each client to develop a plan to meet those needs and goals. I bring a passion for nutrition, an analytical perspective, and a non-judgmental, collaborative, and supportive approach to achieving the best client outcomes.”

Safir currently resides in Ridgefield with her husband, two children, and a golden doodle. In her spare time, she enjoys weight training, hiking, cooking, traveling, watching movies with family, and all things related to the beach!

“I am excited to be working at RVNAhealth because the staff is dedicated to providing high quality care to all of its clients in a supportive and collaborative environment,” says Safir.

Safir joined RVNAhealth in May 2019.

Arthritis and the Anti-Inflammatory Diet

RVNAhealth Arthritis in Hands, elder care programs

I know nutrition can help with conditions like heart disease and diabetes, but what about arthritis. Will changing my diet help my condition?

I’m sorry to hear about your arthritis but am happy to report that there are definitely things you can do nutritionally to protect against the development of the condition or lessen the severity of symptoms. Simply put, arthritis is inflammation in the joints that worsens over time. Several types of arthritis together affect millions of Americans and limit their daily activities. So, what’s the nutritional approach to help with the inflammation of arthritis? An anti-inflammatory diet. Here are key elements to keep in mind.

Out with the Bad — Foods that Promote Inflammation
Higher intake of meat and alcohol contributes to increased inflammation in the body. Lower consumption of vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, whether in combination with high meat and alcohol intake or not, also contributes.

In with the Good – Foods that Help
Evidence suggests that increasing consumption of vitamin C, vitamin D found in fatty fish, omega 3s found in ground flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, and nutraceuticals such as glucosamine and chondroitin may help with arthritic symptoms. Phytochemicals found in a wide variety of foods such as fennel, garlic, basil, rosemary, pomegranate, turmeric, red pepper, cloves, anise, and ginger can also fight inflammation.

Lighten Up
For osteoarthritis in particular, weight loss is effective because excess weight strains the joints. As little as a 5% reduction in weight from a sensible diet— in an overweight person — can bring an 18% gain in overall functioning. While it’s not recommended that people at a healthy weight attempt to lose weight, everyone benefits from vitamins A, C, D, E and omega-3s.

Translating it to the Kitchen Table
The anti-inflammatory diet isn’t new. In essence, it’s similar to the Mediterranean diet, which has myriad health benefits beyond reduction of inflammation. The recommendations from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics include:

  • Fish: 3-4 oz. fatty fish (cold water fish like salmon, tuna, scallops, sardines, herring) twice a week. If you’re not a fish fan, try taking 600-1,000 mg of fish oil daily. Omega-3s found in these foods and supplements can help with pain, swelling, stiffness, and tenderness.
  • Nuts: 1 ounce per day to provides benefit from vitamins B6 and Omega-3s. Choose walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or pine nuts.
  • Fruits and vegetables: Nine or more 1-cup servings per day helps due to the antioxidants and phytochemicals they offer. Quick tip — the brighter the color, the higher the antioxidants, so choose broccoli, spinach, kale, blueberries, cherries.
  • Beans: 1 cup at least twice per week. Beans contain fiber and phytonutrients that can help lower a key marker of inflammation in the blood, and are filled with protein which helps with muscle health. Best choices include red kidney beans, pinto beans, and small red beans.
  • Whole grains: 6 oz. of grains per day (at LEAST 3 oz. should be whole grains). A serving boils down to a cup of cooked brown rice or one slice whole grain bread. Much like beans, the fiber here is key.
  • A word about night shade vegetables: Some people report more pain when consuming tomatoes, eggplants, potatoes, and red bell peppers, sometimes referred to as nightshade vegetables. If they cause discomfort for you, avoid them. Otherwise, feel free to eat them as they contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals!

By following an anti-inflammatory diet, you can keep inflammation and arthritic symptoms at bay. As always, it’s important to talk to your doctor or healthcare team about supplementation and what’s the best fit for you.

Meg Whitbeck, MS, RD, counsels patients in disease management through nutrition. For more information or to schedule a private consultation, contact RVNA at 203-438-5555

Introducing Meg Whitbeck, MS RDN

Meg Whitbeck

Meg Whitbeck with the men in her life: (l to r) her husband Drew and sons Luke and Parker

One of the great things about Meg Whitbeck, MS RDN, is that even though she’s a registered dietitian and nutrition educator — and an excellent one at that — she doesn’t make you feel bad if she catches you eating a piece of decadent cheese. Or a malted milk ball.  If she catches you doing a juice-only fast, however, Meg may look at you askance.

Meg knows that good nutrition is a critical component to feeling your best, and that means eating a breadth of the right things for you, not depriving yourself altogether.

Another great thing about Meg is that she is deeply and genuinely kind, and one of the more comedic people in the world.  Which makes it pretty spectacular that she’s right here at RVNAhealth.

Meet Meg Whitbeck …

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
I grew up in Brewster, NY and now live in Ridgefield, CT.

How long have you been at RVNAhealth?
I began working here in January 2016.

What brought you to RVNAhealth?
The opportunity to be a part of RVNAhealth’s center for excellence and to spearhead our nutrition program.

Describe your role at RVNAhealth.
I am the Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Educator. I support our clinical staff by offering outpatient nutrition counseling and education. In addition, I hold classes and seminars throughout the year and offer community-based nutrition events.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Definitely spending time with my patients and improving the quality of their lives.

Did you ever consider becoming a nurse?
Mmmmm. No.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a dietitian?
At age 23, when I was diagnosed with celiac disease and met my dietitian  — this amazing woman who helped me to eat again.  I realized that — behold! — I could merge science, healthcare, and people. I never looked back.  At the time, I was a molecular genetics technician, so my career changed dramatically.  I still have a soft spot for genetics, though!

What do you love to do when you’re not working?
Run, bake, dance, volunteer!

What is your hidden talent?
I sing and play the piano.

What would you do if you won the lottery?
I have nine siblings and would pay off all of their mortgages. In addition, I would buy a big house in Ridgefield and host many wonderful parties! I would definitely keep working because I LOVE my job!

Do you have a favorite RVNAhealth moment or story?
There have been so many! Lately, I have been inspired by my colleagues who work so tirelessly to provide exceptional care. I am in awe of the skill sets and expertise that I am surrounded by here at RVNAhealth. From marketing to development, nursing to occupational therapy, rehab to hospice – we have the best of the best here.

What are you doing for Thanksgiving*?
I am helping with a new effort in town: The Ridgefield Community Thanksgiving Dinner for local people looking for a nice meal to share. I will be overseeing food handling and food prep as part of a collaboration between a collection of local organizations, including St. Mary’s Parish, Meals on Wheels, Jesse Lee, Dimitri’s Diner, Melillo Farms, Bernard’s, Adam Broderick, Caraluzzi’s, Genoa Deli, JK’s Original Texas Hot Weiners, and RVNAhealth, of course! Plus, some lovely anonymous supporters.

I will be there with my husband and sons and we are going to have a ball!
*This post was prepared in November 2018.

What is your favorite book? Movie?
My favorite book is The Count of Monte Cristo and my favorite movie is The Princess Bride.

If you had a racehorse, what would you name it?
Slow Poke

If you could eat one food for a year, what would it be?
Soup!