Worry-free Holiday Food Prep

The holidays are fun and joyous occasions when family and friends get together for parties and food galore! The last thing you want to invite to your party is food ‐ borne illness. Use the following tips to keep your family and friends from becoming sick. Don’t let bacteria (germs) crash your holiday parties.

Preparing Food for Your Party
• Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling food.
• Keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean.
• Always serve food on clean plates ‐‐ never use plates used for holding raw meat and poultry for cooked food.

To prevent problems with bacteria growing in your food:
• Keep cooked foods hot (140 F or higher).
• Use chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays to keep foods hot on your buffet table.
• Keep cold foods at 40F or colder.
• Keep foods cold by nesting dishes in bowls of ice OR use small serving trays and replace them often.
• Cool foods quickly in your refrigerator.
• Divide large portions of cooked foods into smaller portions to cool quickly in your refrigerator. Bacteria can also multiply quickly in moist desserts that contain dairy products. Keep eggnog, cheesecakes, cream pies and cakes with whipped ‐ cream or cream ‐ cheese frostings refrigerated until serving time.

Helpful Hint ‐
Prepare extra serving platters and dishes ahead of time; store them in the refrigerator or keep them hot in the oven (set at approximately 200 to 250 F)
before serving. Then REPLACE empty platters rather than adding fresh food to a dish that already had food in it.

Learn more by visiting: Helpful Holiday Links


Once I finished high school, I was always on the heavy side when it comes to my weight. About three years ago I walked up a long flight of stairs and found myself completely out of breath. That was when I knew I had to make a change.
The first thing I told myself was that “you did not end up like this overnight and you cannot reverse it overnight.” I established very realistic goals for myself to keep things in a healthy perspective. For example, it seems that everyone focuses on losing weight when they realize they need to make a change around being healthy. I had been there and done that numerous times and it was always a short-lived experience. I began by focusing on what it means for me to become healthy as a person, what a healthy ‘me’ looks like. Did this include weight loss? Yes, but it has never been my primary motivation or focus. This also woke me up to the fact that part of the legacy that I was leaving my family, especially my kids, was not what I really wanted it to be. I did not have a healthy image of myself and it showed. Knowing I have chosen to make this change still motivates me every day.
My goal is really simple and it applies to more than just my physical health: Be a Healthy Person. To do this takes more than just focusing on one aspect of my physical health. For me, I not only had to learn how to make healthy choices for my physical health (specifically around how food and what I ate), but I also needed to make changes in areas that affected my mental and spiritual health as well. The good news about this approach is that when you do one healthy thing, it helps you do the next healthy thing. If I make a good decision around food choices, I tend to make good choices around my activity levels, etc.
I use a “FitBit” that I won through the Healthy Saint Paul program and use it to track my activity, what I eat and how I sleep. I love it! You need to find the tools that help you stay focused and on track and for me, this device works great. I also have involved my family to help keep me focused on what my goals are. It’s an amazing feeling when you see the good choices reflected in the choices your kids make. I have learned to celebrate my successes, but NOT with food! I have donated the clothes that no longer fit-I tell myself “you are NOT going back, this is a one-way street!” This helps me to keep my focus moving forward. I also have what I would consider some very audacious things I want to do. These are long term goals that I believe will contribute to me being a healthy person for the rest of my life.
I love to cook and I love to eat, I still do! Because of this, I have learned how to cook different things and found there are a lot of foods that I did not know I liked which are much better for me than what I used to eat all the time. I also share meals with my wife when we go out rather than having each of us order our own. For me it was not just the type of foods I was eating, but the amount as well. I have learned through this process that I really don’t need as much food as what I thought I did. Even though I try to focus on being a healthy person, it’s hard at times not to just focus on just losing weight. You might say WOW if I told you that I have lost 49 pounds, it is a great accomplishment. But it has taken me the better part of 3 years to do it and what makes me say WOW is that I have kept it off.
My advice for someone who wants to make a change is simple: Do it! You are worth it! You have the ability to change whatever is necessary for you to be the healthy person you want to be. Use the tools available to you, like the healthy Saint Paul program. I did not start my journey to be healthy because of it, but I am thankful that good tools are available for me to use. Find what keeps you motivated-if it helps, take a piece of paper and make a list of names of every person you know. Start with those who mean the most to you and list all the reasons you make a difference in their life. When you struggle and you will, take the list out and read it, you will find it to be great encouragement. For those who mean the most to me, I want to be here for a very long time and being a healthy person enables me to do just that!

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

52% of participants in Healthy Saint Paul in 2013 have been diagnosed or are at high-risk for diabetes and heart disease.

Today, more than 25 million Americans are living with diabetes and 79 million more are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. People who are overweight, over 45 years old, or who have high blood pressure are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that you can take steps to lower your chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about preventing this disease by: clicking here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) was founded in 1985. The aim of the NBCAM has always been to promote early detection and to provide information and support for breast cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones.

Did you know that
• 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime
• Most women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history
• Physical activity can reduce the risk for breast cancer

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While most people are aware of breast cancer, many forget to take the steps to detect the disease in its early stages. Visit the link below to set up an early detection plan and find out more about reducing your or a loved one’s risk for this disease.

To learn more visit: nationalbreastcancer.org.


In 2011 and 2012, I struggled with low back pain and weight gain. I visited with chiropractors, physical therapists and eventually Physicians Neck and Back Clinic (PNBC). PNBC helped me alleviate the pain as I strengthened my core muscles over a 13-week program. I committed to PNBC and to myself to maintain my core strength. After PNBC, I needed to continue with my conditioning and I didn’t trust myself with home workouts, so I worked with a trainer at Fitness 19. After 6 months there, I felt I needed something more so I joined The Body Project.
I committed to doing The Body Project boot camp (interval training) three times per week at a set time. The workouts were tough but gave me increased energy. I liked the way I was feeling and actually looked forward to working out. I prioritized my workouts and scheduled them in my calendar to ensure I left work on time. After two months, I did not lose any weight but I supposedly gained muscle.
In January 2013, I participated in and won The Body Project’s 21-day weight loss challenge. I followed the whole food/organic/lean meat diet fairly closely for 21 days then transitioned to eating healthy. I believe in eating healthy 80-90% of the time and “cheating” the rest of the time. I still eat ice cream, chocolate and chips – but only in moderation. I eat very few breads and processed foods and do not drink pop. Taking bread out of my diet was difficult initially and now makes me a bit ill if I eat too much. I soon found a good replacement for bread with veggies like sweet potatoes and almonds because they give me a full feeling like I had with bread. Since January, I have lost over 40 pounds and I feel great. Plus, my overall cholesterol has been reduced by 30. I am proud of my accomplishment and want to continue on this path.

National Cholesterol Education Month

High blood cholesterol affects over 65 million Americans. It is a serious condition that increases your risk for heart disease. The higher your cholesterol level, the greater the risk. You can have high cholesterol and not know it. Lowering cholesterol levels that are too high lessens your risk for developing heart disease and reduces the chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.

Want more helpful tips on how to lower your cholesterol? Click here.

Our healthy recipe of the month too: Chicken Picadillo – a zesty one-pot meal that is easy to throw together on a busy weeknight.

Chicken Picadillo

PREP: 15 minutes
COOK: 25 minutes
6 servings – Chicken and vegetables

2 tsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, rinsed and finely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, rinsed and finely chopped
1½ Tbsp garlic, mashed (about 3 cloves)
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
⅓ C no-salt-added tomato sauce
⅓ C low-sodium chicken broth
⅓ C lemon juice
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 bay leaves
⅓ C water
¼ C golden seedless raisins

For garnish:
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, rinsed, dried, and chopped (or substitute 1 tsp dried coriander)
1 Tbsp capers, drained
2 Tbsp green olives, chopped

1 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic, and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
2 Add the chicken, and stir fry for another 5–10 minutes until chicken is no longer pink inside.
3 Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, lemon juice, cumin, bay leaves, water, and raisins to the vegetables and chicken.
4 Cover the pan, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes.
5 Remove the bay leaves, and garnish with fresh cilantro, capers, and green olives, and serve.

Tip: Serve with brown rice and black beans.

Calories 162
Total fat 5 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Cholesterol 46 mg
Sodium 133 mg
Total fiber 2 g
Protein 18 g
Carbohydrates 13 g
Potassium 380 mg