Dealing with the food, human sides of the holiday season

Article by Terri Ward, FoodWIse Educator, Kenosha/Racine Counties
Originally published in the Kenosha News.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

I’m not sure if I find more pleasure cooking, teaching my kiddos to cook, serving and eating all of the wonderful comfort foods my family has enjoyed over the years, or celebrating the people I love by sharing time with them.

Whatever the recipe, I am truly thankful.

We also have our fair share of what seems to be never-ending changes that can bring stress. I’ve learned to become more realistic to maintain sanity. I’ve learned to ask myself if I have the resources (social, financial, emotional, technological, etc.) to handle a situation.

If not, I’ve learned, I’m better off letting it go.

So there’s the food part and the human part. While we prepare for this season, I’ll attempt to ease your holiday preparations by extending food safety guidelines to self-care. If you laugh a little at the stretch, well, that’s a bonus, kinda like two kinds of pie.


For your food prep: Clean hands, utensils and surfaces before, during and after prepping to limit the spread of potential food-borne pathogens and the growth of bacteria. To save time and elbow grease in the long run, clean surfaces right away.

For you: Spend a little time checking in on and cleaning out your expectations before the holidays this year. We often have implicit pictures, or maps, in mind (ideals, expectations, scripts, etc.) that don’t work well for us. Stop and consider what’s important to you; is it that everything appears picture perfect (if so, then to whom)? Those might need a once-over.


For your food prep: Separate raw and cooked foods by using separate cutting boards, utensils and serving platters or sanitizing surfaces in between use.

For you: Separate the things you can do given the time and resources available and the things you will have to ask for help with or let go. Under extra stress this season? Create space for self-care instead of trying to make things picture-perfect (to anyone, yourself included).


For your food prep: The internal temperature of a turkey should be 165 degrees in the thickest parts of the breast and thigh. Plan to cook and hold all dishes at the appropriate temperatures to keep food safe.

For you: Know your internal “temperature,” your threshold for stress. The holidays require a lot of planning and a higher level of demand than usual. When you’re done, you’re done. If you know that point ahead of time, you’ll be more prepared to enjoy the day. We’re not perfect. Come on back down to earth and eat some mashed potatoes. Yes, with gravy.


For your food prep: Be sure to refrigerate leftovers right away. High protein foods such as meats, poultry, beans, eggs and dairy are particularly susceptible to bacteria growth between the temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees.

For you: Chill! Remember to take time to play, rest and rejuvenate. Delegate, otherwise known as “teach the gift of giving to others,” or let it go.