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Together, Safely: Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Together, Safely: Tips for a Healthy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time for family, and friends, and remember the reasons we are grateful.

This time of year can also be stressful as you juggle family dynamics and numerous to-dos in a short amount of time. Here are some tips and reminders about COVID-19, food preparation, and fire safety to help you navigate a healthy Thanksgiving.

Healthy Holidays

With Thanksgiving get-togethers less than a week away, the CDC has recommended steps we can take to enjoy safer celebrations. Because many generations tend to gather to celebrate holidays, the best way to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible.

Here is a partial list of the CDC’s suggestions for staying healthy this Thanksgiving:

  • Protect those not yet eligible for vaccination such as young children by getting yourself and other eligible people around them vaccinated.
  • Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth if you are in public indoor settings and not fully vaccinated.
  • Even those who are fully vaccinated should wear a mask in public indoor settings in communities with substantial to high transmission.
  • Outdoors is safer than indoors.
  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.
  • If you are sick or have symptoms, don’t host or attend a gathering.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had close contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • Plan ahead if you are traveling on public transportation; masking is required, so pack a mask—or two. Visit the CDC’s Travel Information site for more helpful facts.

Food Preparation

It’s also important to remember these important tips from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) while preparing your Thanksgiving turkey.

  • Don’t wash that turkey. USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying, or grilling) meat and poultry at the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present.
  • Defrost your turkey safely. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave's owner's manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if the turkey did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.
  • Use a meat thermometer. The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry, or seafood) is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be checked in the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing, and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of these places.
  • Don't store food outside, even if it's cold. The best way to keep that extra Thanksgiving food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) is in a cooler with ice.
  • Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if you know you won't use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. For the best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After that, the leftovers will still be safe but can dry out or lose flavor.

Fire Safety

Keeping fire safety top of mind during this time is important, especially when there’s a lot of activity and people in your home.

Check out these fire safety tips from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stovetop so you can keep an eye on the food.
  • Stay at home when cooking your turkey, and check on it frequently.
  • Keep children away from the stove. The stove will be hot and kids should stay three three3 feet away.
  • Make sure kids stay away from hot food and liquids. The steam or splash from vegetables, gravy, or coffee could cause serious burns.
  • Keep knives out of the reach of children.
  • Be sure cords from an electric knife, coffee maker, plate warmer or mixer are not dangling off the counter within easy reach of a child.
  • Keep matches and utility lighters out of the reach of children — up high in a locked cabinet.
  • Never leave children alone in a room with a lit candle.
  • Keep the floor clear so you don’t trip over kids, toys, purses, or bags.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms are working. Test them by pushing the test button.


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