Healthy Eating and Food Safety

If eating healthier is one of your new year’s priorities, keep in mind that proper nutrition is not the same thing as having safe food. To ensure your healthy food is safe, always follow proper food safety principles and procedures to also prevent foodborne illness.

Healthy food safety
Image Source: Shutterstock

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.  But, raw fruit and vegetables may contain harmful germs, such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria, which can make you and your family sick with food poisoning. In the U.S., nearly half of foodborne illnesses are caused by germs on contaminated fresh produce.

Image Source: Shutterstock

It is important to learn how to handle and prepare them safely in order to reduce the risks of foodborne illness. There are steps that can help keep you healthy – and your fruits and vegetables safer to eat – from the store to your table.

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Food Safety Steps: Clean – Separate – Cook – Chill

Food poisoning peaks in the summer months when warmer temperatures cause foodborne germs to flourish. Follow these steps to be food safe:

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  • Wash your hands before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash or scrub all fruits and vegetables under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.
  • Wash cutting boards, countertops, and utensils with hot, soapy water before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
Food Safety - Washing Hands
Credit: Twitter - FDA Food


  • Shopping
    When shopping, pick up meat, poultry, and seafood last, right before checkout. Separate them from other food in your shopping cart and grocery bags. To guard against cross-contamination, put packages of raw meat and poultry into individual plastic bags.
  • Store fruits and vegetables away from, and not next to or below, raw meat, poultry, or seafood. These items can drip juices that may have germs.
  • Use a separate cutting board for fruits and vegetables that is never used for cutting or preparing raw meats, poultry, or seafood.
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Use a food thermometer to ensure meat is cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.

Chicken temperature
Image Credit: USDA

Refer to the Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures chart below for the proper cooking temperatures and “rest time” of meats.

CategoryFoodMin. Temp (°F) Rest Time
Ground Meat & Meat MixturesBeef, Pork, Veal, Lamb160None
Turkey, Chicken165None
Fresh Beef, Veal, LambSteaks, roasts, chops1453 minutes
PoultryChicken & Turkey, whole165None
Poultry breasts, roasts165None
Poultry thighs, legs, wings165None
Duck & Goose165None
Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)165None
Pork and HamFresh pork1453 minutes
Fresh ham (raw)1453 minutes
Precooked ham (to reheat)140None
Eggs & Egg DishesEggsCook until yolks and
white are firm
Egg dishes160None
Leftovers & CasserolesLeftovers165None
SeafoodFin Fish145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.None
Shrimp, lobster, and crabsCook until flesh is pearly and opaque.None
Clams, oysters, and musselsCook until shells open during cooking.None
ScallopsCook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.None

Temperature and Time

Bacteria grows rapidly between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F. After food is safely cooked, hot food must be kept hot at 140°F or warmer to prevent bacterial growth.

  • Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within 2 hours. Refrigerate within 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90°F.
  • Use a refrigerator thermometer to make sure the temperature stays at 40°F or below.
  • Keep meat, poultry, and seafood refrigerated until ready to grill.
  • Afterwards, divide leftovers into small portions and place in covered, shallow containers. Put in freezer or fridge within two hours of cooking (one hour if above 90°F outside).


Groups More Vulnerable to Food Illness

Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but people in certain groups are more likely to get sick and to have a more serious illness. These groups of people are:

  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • People with weakened immune systems


Practice good nutrition by eating a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and vegetables – but always use proper food safety techniques to ensure your healthy food is safe.