Simple steps to avoid a holiday meal becoming a health care disaster

TAVARES – It’s that timeless holiday tradition: the enormous meal cooked for the entire family, for relatives you haven’t seen all years, for whoever they bring along, old and new faces alike. When it comes to a family gathering for the holidays, the festively decorated dinner table awaits everyone.

Good news for the family. Good news for the ones who love to cook.

Not so good news — sometimes, anyway — for area hospitals, which can get awfully busy … assuming the chefs in the family don’t take some simple precautions before they start the meal.

Preparing a meal can be fun and creative. But it can also be risky if people don’t take steps to ensure their food is safely stored before they begin their cooking.  With that in mind, the Lake County Health Department is issuing some helpful advice to county residents about the importance of safe food preparation and storage, and how it can prevent the possibility of foodborne illnesses ruining that otherwise cheerful family meal.

Cooking is fun -- but are you making sure your kitchen stays clean while you're preparing food?

Some of their advice sounds so simple it almost doesn’t seem necessary to point out. Just the same, the Lake County Health Department’s environmental health director, Paul Butler, said it all begins with that sage advice from your mother: clean those hands.

 “Lake County residents should wash their hands and counter tops thoroughly before and after preparing foods to help eliminate bacteria,” Butler said.  “Foods should be cooked at the appropriate temperature and leftovers should be stored properly.”

So what needs to be done to keep that generous meal from ruining the entire day for your guests, not to mention their appetites and otherwise good health? The agency’s recommendations for those preparing the meal in the kitchen include:

  • Properly washing your hands — and don’t forget those fingernails — before and after handling any food.
  • Storing food properly, with adequate refrigeration temperatures or hot holding temperatures.  A safe refrigeration temperature is less than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, while a safe hot holding temperature is greater than 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
  •  Never letting hot or cold foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours.
  •  Ensuring you’ve taken steps to have a safe cooling of foods, by getting meals to less than 41 degrees Fahrenheit within a four-hour time period.
  •  Avoiding cross contamination — that includes from uncooked meat or salad ingredients, for example.
  •  Proper cleaning and sanitizing of eating and cooking utensils, including work areas in the kitchen and any equipment used to prepare the foods.
  •  Making sure your food or equipment isn’t someplace where flies, roaches and other insects can get to it first, before your guests.
  •  Serving food on clean plates, which means not letting juices from raw meat, poultry and seafood come in contact with cooked food.
  •  Replacing serving plates often, and trying to avoid putting fresh food on serving plates that have been sitting out at room temperature for a while.
  •  Storing foods in shallow containers to refrigerate or freeze them.

  Taking these simple steps, the Lake County DOH says, means you’re not likely to be driving a relative to the emergency room an hour after the meal is over.

For more information about food safety, visit www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/community/food/.

To report a food or waterborne illness complaint, visit www.lakechd.com and click on the Foodborne Illness Complaint Form.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

Radiation in-flight? Is this another reason to hate flying?

COCOA BEACH — For those of you nervous or apprehensive about the radiation coming from full body scanners at the airport, new studies give you a different worry: in-flight radiation!

This has been a well known phenomenon for years, but only within scientific circles. This may change soon, however, due to a prediction of an increasing number of solar storms over the next five years.

According to officials at NASA, the amount of additional radiation during storms can be profound.

A jet leaves a message in the sky during the Cocoa Beach Air Show on Halloween weekend. But could it be risky for the pilot and crew to be flying that high above the Earth's protective layer for solar radiation?

The Earth’s atmosphere protects the planet’s ground level from the majority of solar radiation, but in the air, jets ride above the protective layer, and this is especially so on polar routes — routes between the United States and Europe or Asia, for example.

Flying one or two times a year is no real cause for alarm, but business flying is different. On a single flight from Chicago to Bejing, crew and passengers are exposed to about 12 percent of the annual radiation limit, according to a study by NASA scientists.  The greatest risk lies with a fetus, prompting the Association of Flight Attendants to warn their employees to request reassignment to a ground job while they’re pregnant or trying to conceive.

Pregnant women are flying through solar storms at the time without full knowledge of this, possibly putting themselves at risk.

Ask your airline what options you have — or try flying a different route.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.

Is there such a thing as an unhealthy workout? One Healthy Champ says yes.

ORLANDO – For a lot of folks these days, it’s a devoted daily ritual: heading to the gym to spend hours building up a sweat and burning off calories. There’s even a term for them: gym rats, or people who spent much of their leisure time working out in a gymnasium or health spa, devoting their energies to muscle building, strength training, cardiovascular exercising and aerobic activities.

But if it sounds like the ultimate in healthy living, there are skeptics like Luis Rodriguez Jr. who cautions that, as with most things in life, too much of any good thing can potentially backfire on you.

“You can work out too much,” Rodriguez cautions.

Rodriguez, a physical fitness coach and trainer, isn’t skeptical about physical fitness or a healthy workout at the gym. His Web site, www.HealthyChamps.com, promotes exercise and nutrition and helps people find ways to become healthier, stronger and in the best shape they’ve ever been.

Still, Rodriguez has spent enough time training people – including so-called gym rats – to know that their energy level or degree of enthusiasm doesn’t always amount to an effective workout. All too often, Rodriguez said, he’s seen examples of people who think a good workout begins and ends with the amount of time they spend on a treadmill or execise bike, or maybe lifting weights, and don’t think about their body’s critical nutritional needs.

“Your level of activity and level of nutrition need to be matched up,” he said. Not everyone does that.

As Rodriguez noted, lengthy workouts mean people are burning off calories, allright – “between 800 and 2,000 calories if you’re talking about a three hour workout,” he said. “The average person already burns 1,200 calories as they’re sleeping, at a minimum.”

That may sound great to anyone who counts the calories on their food boxes, but what they often forget, Rodriguez noted, is that their body actually needs a certain amount of calories and fat to stay healthy and fit. That means giving your body all the nutritional needs it requires to keep up with the active pace of a gym rat workout schedule.

Otherwise, “Your body is not getting the calories it needs,” he said. “Eighty percent of fat loss and muscle building is nutrition. Nutrition is more important for exercise for fat burning goals and muscle building. If you’re not engaging in frequent meal eating and getting carbohydrates, fat or protein, you’re going to kill your metabolism.”

That’s true even for those who switch to a vegeterian diet in the hope of becoming healthier, Rodriguez said, adding that the body still needs some fat to keep working properly.

“If they do go vegan or switch over to becoming a vegetarian, they’re missing out on some of the amino acids their body needs to build tissue,” he said. “My body needs 2,800 to 3,000 calories a day. You can’t get that amount from vetegables alone. I could only get it from beans and soy, but what was happening was my metabolism was slowing down.” That makes it harder for the body to burn off fat.

Surprisingly, a lack of nutrition can also leave a gym rat feeling sick – the very opposite of what they probably expect a vigorous daily workout to produce.

“If you’re not getting enough nutrition, it could lead to dehydration, and leave you low in vitamins and minerals in your body,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of illnesses can come from a lack of vitamins and antioxydents in the body.”

At the same time, gym rats often assume that if they spend hours in their favorite gymnasium, they’re giving their body exactly what it needs, regardless of what they eat. But Rodriguez cautioned that “The duration is not as important as the intensity.”

There are three levels of intensity that people can engage in during their workout: high, moderate or low. More often than not, Rodriguez said, gym rats go for moderate intensity so they can stretch their workouts over several hours and not burn out too quickly.

“Some people go in and do moderate intensity all the time,” he said. “What they really want to do is a combination of high, moderate and low intensity during the week. Just doing moderate intensity doesn’t push you forward. Low and moderate intensity with good nutrition will get you good health goals, but they will not build the muscle tissue you need.

“Let’s say we start the week and we’re working your biceps, and we do a very heavy routine,” he said. “By Wednesday, maybe you want to do something with a medicine ball, that’s keeping your heart rate up. The next day, you do low intensity – yoga or any type of core exercises. Each muscle group needs to be treated by itself.”

Rodriguez said before gym rats get their membership and start scheduling themselves for two hours or more a day, they should sit down with a professional trainer to figure out what type of exercise routine works best for their body – and what kind of nutritional plan their system requires.

“Each person’s body is a little different,” he said. “The first thing you need to do is talk to one of the trainers at your gym, to design a specific program for you.”

To learn more, call 407-271-1119 or log on to HealthyChamps.com.

Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.

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