What’s The One Thing You Would Change About Christmas?

Christmas and mental health
Christmas and mental health

Three quarters of Brits are stressed about Christmas; ‘Unrealistic expectations’ and the resulting stress tops the list putting our health at risk

Natural stresses are always in the mix on family reunions around Christmas time but with the added pressure that we put on ourselves in trying to deliver everything to perfection, we can end up feeling worn out before the big day even arrives.

According to recent research by Bupa UK, surveying 2042 Brits, three-quarters of the nation finds Christmas stressful and a fifth wish they could better deal with the ‘unrealistic expectations’ they put on themselves with a quarter of women (24%) feeling the strain.

The culprit rests within us as the findings reveal that twice as many people say it is the pressure they put on themselves (20%) rather than the expectations from family and friends (9%), which they find to be the driving factor of their stresses on the big day.

Almost a third (29%) of the population are failing to address the issue as they do not consider their own wellbeing a priority during the festive period

A quarter of the nation (26%) loses the battle and admits feeling tired and worn out during the lead up to the big day.

So what are the stresses that we choose to carry at a time when we are meant to be jolly:

  • 37% worry about the financial stress of buying presents
  • 32% worry about buying the wrong presents
  • 19% feel stressed about juggling commitments and pressured situations with their family
  • 15% of people are worried about weight gain over Christmas

Joining us to chat more about the risks associated with letting our health drop to the bottom of our priority list is Bupa’s Clinical Director for Mental Health, Pablo Vandenabeele.

10 ways to prevent food poisoning this Christmas

How to avoid food poisoning this Holiday Season
How to avoid food poisoning this Holiday Season

10 ways to prevent food poisoning

The UK has more than 500,000 reported cases of people experiencing food poisoning a year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

If you’ve ever had food poisoning, you’ll know how unpleasant it can be, even for a fit and healthy person. Food poisoning can sometimes cause serious illness and even death.

Most people assume that food poisoning comes from restaurants, cafes and fast food outlets, but according to the FSA, you’re just as likely to get ill from food prepared at home.

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of food poisoning at home.

Wash your hands

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and hot water, and dry them before handling food, after handling raw foods – including meat, fish, eggs and vegetables – and after touching the bin, going to the toilet, blowing your nose, or touching animals, including pets.

Wash worktops

Wash worktops before and after preparing food, particularly after they’ve been touched by raw meat, including poultry, raw eggs, fish and vegetables. You don’t need to use antibacterial sprays: hot, soapy water is fine.

Wash dishcloths

Wash dishcloths and tea towels regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for germs to breed.

Use separate chopping boards

Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that spreads very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.

Keep raw meat separate

It’s especially important to keep raw meat away from ready-to-eat foods, such as salad, fruit and bread. This is because these foods won’t be cooked before you eat them, so any bacteria that gets on to the foods won’t be killed.

Store raw meat on the bottom shelf

Always cover raw meat and store it on the bottom shelf of the fridge, where it can’t touch other foods or drip onto them.

Cook food thoroughly

Cook food thoroughly and check that it’s steaming hot all the way through. Make sure poultry, pork, burgers, sausages and kebabs are cooked until steaming hot, with no pink meat inside. Don’t wash raw meat including chicken and turkey before cooking, as this risks spreading bacteria around your kitchen.

Freezing raw chicken reduces levels of Campylobacter but does not eliminate it completely. The safest way to kill all traces of Campylobacter is by cooking chicken thoroughly.

Keep your fridge below 5C

Keep your fridge temperature below 5C. By keeping food cold, you stop food poisoning bugs growing.

Cool leftovers quickly

If you have cooked food that you’re not going to eat straight away, cool it as quickly as possible (within 90 minutes) and store it in the fridge or freezer. Use any leftovers from the fridge within two days.

Respect ‘use by’ dates

Don’t eat food that’s past its ‘use by’ date even if it looks and smells okay. ‘Use by’ dates are based on scientific tests that show how quickly harmful bugs can develop in the packaged food.

Read more about food poisoning in Health A-Z.

Cooking turkey – some tips to avoid food poisoning this Christmas

Cooking Turkey Safely
Cooking Turkey Safely

Cook the perfect turkey with our tips on defrosting and cooking poultry safely, and how to store leftovers.

Defrosting your turkey

Preparing the turkey

Cooking the turkey

Storing leftovers

Defrosting your turkey

If you buy a frozen turkey, make sure that the turkey is properly defrosted before cooking it. If it’s still partially frozen, it may not cook evenly, which means that harmful bacteria could survive the cooking process.

Defrosting should be done in the fridge if possible (or somewhere cool) and separated from touching other foods, with a container large enough to catch the defrosted juices. This is important to stop cross-contamination.

Defrosting checklist

Work out defrosting time in advance, so you know how much time to allow – it can take at least a couple of days for a large turkey to thaw.

When you start defrosting, take the turkey out of its packaging, put it on a large dish and cover. The dish will hold the liquid that comes out of the thawing turkey.

Remove the giblets and the neck as soon as possible to speed up the thawing process. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw turkey, giblets or any other raw meat.

Before cooking, make sure there aren’t any ice crystals in the cavity. Test the thicker parts of the turkey with a fork to tell whether the meat feels frozen.

Turkey (and any other poultry) is best defrosted in a covered dish at the bottom of the fridge so that it can’t drip onto other foods.

Pour away the liquid that comes out of the defrosting turkey regularly to stop it overflowing and spreading bacteria. Be careful not to splash the liquid onto worktops, dishes, cloths or other food.

Bear in mind what else is you have stored in the fridge. Cooked meats need to be covered and stored higher up.

If the bird is too big for the fridge, put it somewhere out of reach from animals and children where it won’t touch other foods. A cool room, shed or garage are all good places.

If you’re not using the fridge, watch out for sudden changes in room temperature, as they could prevent the turkey from thawing evenly.

Defrosting times

To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging for any guidance first. If there aren’t any defrosting instructions, use the following times to work out roughly how long it will take to thaw your turkey.

in a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg, but remember that not all fridges will be this temperature

in a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg, or longer if the room is particularly cold

at room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF) allow approximately two hours per kg

When your turkey is fully defrosted, put it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it. If this isn’t possible, make sure you cook it immediately.

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Preparing the turkey

Keep the uncooked turkey away from food that’s ready to eat. If raw poultry, or other raw meat, touches or drips onto these foods, bacteria will spread and may cause food poisoning.

Bacteria can spread from raw meat and poultry to worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils. To keep your Christmas food safe, remember the following things:

After touching raw poultry or other raw meat, always wash your hands with warm water and soap, and dry them thoroughly.

There’s no need to wash your turkey before your cook it. If you do, bacteria from raw poultry can splash onto worktops, dishes and other foods. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria.

Always clean worktops, chopping boards, dishes and utensils thoroughly after they have touched raw poultry or meat.

Never use the same chopping board for raw poultry or meat and ready-to-eat food without washing it thoroughly in warm soapy water first. If possible, use a separate chopping board just for raw meat and poultry.

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Cooking your tukey

Plan your cooking time in advance to make sure you get the bird in the oven early enough to cook it thoroughly. A large turkey can take several hours to cook properly. Eating undercooked turkey (or other poultry) could cause food poisoning.

Three ways you can tell a turkey is cooked:

the meat should be steaming hot all the way through

none of the meat should be pink when you cut into the thickest part of the bird

the juices should run clear when you pierce the turkey or press the thigh

If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.

Turkey cooking times

The cooking times below are based on an unstuffed bird. It’s better to cook your stuffing in a separate roasting tin, rather than inside the bird, so that it will cook more easily and the cooking guidelines will be more accurate.

If you cook your bird with the stuffing inside, you need to allow extra time for the stuffing and for the fact that it cooks more slowly.

Some ovens, such as fan-assisted ovens, might cook the bird more quickly – check the guidance on the packaging and the manufacturer’s handbook for your oven if you can.

As a general guide, in an oven preheated to 180ºC (350ºF, Gas Mark 4):

allow 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes for a turkey under 4.5kg

allow 40 minutes per kg for a turkey that’s between 4.5kg and 6.5kg

allow 35 minutes per kg for a turkey of more than 6.5kg

Cover your turkey with foil during cooking and uncover for the last 30 minutes to brown the skin. To stop the meat drying out, baste it every hour during cooking.

Cooking times for other birds

Other birds, such as goose and duck, need different cooking times and temperatures. The oven should always be hotter for duck and goose in order to melt the fat under the skin.

goose should be cooked in a preheated oven at 200ºC/425ºF/gas mark 7 for 35 minutes per kg

duck should be cooked in a preheated oven for 45 minutes per kg at 200ºC/400ºF/gas mark 6

chicken should be cooked in a preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4 for 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes

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Storing leftovers

Keep cooked meat and poultry in the fridge. If they are left out at room temperature, bacteria that causes food poisoning can grow and multiply.

After you’ve feasted on the turkey, cool any leftovers as quickly as possible (within one or two hours), cover them and put them in the fridge. Ideally, try to use up leftovers within 48 hours.

When you’re serving cold turkey, take out only as much as you’re going to use and put the rest back in the fridge. Don’t leave a plate of turkey or cold meats out all day, for example, on a buffet.bacteria

 

If you’re reheating leftover turkey or other food, always make sure it’s steaming hot all the way through before you eat it. Don’t reheat more than once. Ideally, use leftovers within 48 hours.

Find out more on storing food safely in our food hygiene section.

Autism – What tips do you have for supporting autistic children through the holiday season?

Autism and the holiday season
Autism and the holiday season

What tips do you have for supporting autistic children through the holiday season?

Which was the question we asked our Twitter followers and Facebook followers last week.  I have to confess an ulterior motive.  Out ten year old (who is on the autism spectrum) is not great at Christmas so any advice is rather handy.

Diet is important with autism so Janet’s advice above was very useful.  Has anyone else tried Stevia?  What do you think? 

Concern

Torrie told us “My brother tends to go backward as holidays mess with his routine, we allow for the extra stress on him (eg. Dont make a fuss over bed wetting and allow for his change of mood) Understanding that for the majority of the year he is up dressed in his uniform, same shirt, shorts, shoes, socks, same breakfast time and choices then out on the bus, being home all day is a challenge for him. We just be as supportive as we can and try to give him something. To do each day. Also having food available at the time as school breaks can help him be more relaxed too. :”  Indeed quite a few of our readers felt that Christmas and the holiday season threw up quite few problems!

Peace and Quiet

Yes pretty obvious but many of us (that means me) forget these basic rules when the sherry is cracked open!

On Twitter we were told!

 

While on Facebook Susanna suggested “Allow them quiet time to themselves. Give them time to open gifts. Or allow them to open some gifts ahead of time. Encourage them to participate with family, but don’t force it.” Tracy went further “Just be respectful of their space and have a quiet space for them away from everything if need. And beaware of their body language.” The body language is something to look out and it is a great point!

“Make everything as quiet as possible IDC I am not putting up my tree its been a rough year, and if you have to no matter what anyone says have your family visit you don’t go out of your way for anyone if you know its gonna be hard on your child period feelings may be hurt #sorrynotsorry”. So do think of sensory issues.

Use social stories to help prepare!

If you have not done so before do have a look at Trisha Katkin’s ideas for writing social stories. You can check out her ideas and suggestions here!

But preparation is mentioned by Richard “As someone with Autism, I like to maintain a routine as much as possible, my mom tells my other relatives to limit their interactions with me, esp. talking to me, wishing me Happy Holidays, sending cards, etc., and I also dislike Christmas music, so I listen to some of my favorite songs on YouTube when I have the time.)”

Autism Awareness Christmas Tree Decoration
Autism Awareness Christmas Tree Decoration
Of course other people take a different view have a different perspective. “My boy is very adaptable, so what I will write might not be good for everyone. That said, a place to go that is quiet helps a lot. He likes water, so I fill up a sink halfway and put some sensory fidgets in it so he can de-escalate that way. Heck, I like it too. Another thing is letting him sit near the tree and let others know that he will approach them if he wants to talk. Headphones aren’t used often but are available. Our lives has been chaotic and unfortunately he has had to adjust. So schedules aren’t always an option. Luckily he gets it. If need be, we take a quick walk, or if he absolutely cannot take another gathering, we stay home and watch movies.” according to Ruth.

Indeed going with the flow was a theme from a couple of our readers.  Kirstin said “My aspie goes with the flow because we’ve never let her get stuck in routines. The real world can’t always have routines so it’s best to throw a speedup in the path now and then. She goes with us to all family gatherings and other holiday stuff.” And “I have never planned my Christmas around my autistic son. We just go with the flow. He never eats with us anyway so the dinner is no problem as we make him his own foods. We do always make sure he comes out to be social and talk to everyone. My son has come such a long way because we go with the flow and push him out of his comfort zone. He is an amazing kid, and handles all events and transitions well now. I don’t treat my son like he is autistic and I have very high expectations for him.” came over from Karyn.

No worries and do a  bit less

Interesting some of our readers felt the holiday season is no biggie (as Buffy) would say! Ruth suggested “We no longer feel the need to do everything. We keep the same routines as much as possible and only do a few extra things at my granddaughter’s pace. This means less decorations around the house, less visiting, less holiday activities, but more immediate family time and truthfully a more enjoyable and less stressful holiday season for all of us.”

Sensory overload

David told us “Whatever sensory overload they struggle with exposure of it should be limited. In this season where all our senses get greatly bombarded the harder the one to deal with should be what you focus on limiting”

“This year I’m gradually decorating the house for Christmas as my son has found it all a bit too much in previous years. Sensory calming lighting too I’ve found also helps my son feel calm xxxx and try not for it to be all too much having a quiet room also helps with my son x” said Estelle.

Tradition

Finally Nicky gave us these wise words “Don’t force a tradition that makes them uncomfortable for the sake of your own nostalgia”.

Over to you

We hope you find these tips of use this holiday season.

Do you have any you would like to share with others.  If so please add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Many thanks in advance

 

12 tips for a healthy Christmas and Thanksgiving

Tips for a safe Christmas and Thanksgiving
Tips for a safe Christmas and Thanksgiving

From defrosting turkey to using leftovers, these food safety tips will help stop your turkey from knocking the stuffing out of you this Christmas. (and Thanksgiving)

Avoid cross-contamination

Keep all raw food, whether it’s turkey or vegetables, separate from ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination. Use separate chopping boards for raw food and ready-to-eat food. Raw foods can contain harmful bacteria that are spread very easily to anything they touch, including other foods, worktops, chopping boards and knives.

Set the fridge to 5°C

Store food that needs to be chilled in the fridge until you need it. Make sure the fridge temperature is below 5°C. Don’t pack food too tightly, as the cold air needs to circulate to cool food down. If you’re storing food such as fresh vegetables outside in a garage or shed, keep them in a sealed container.

Wash your hands

Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before and after handling food, especially when handling and preparing raw meat and poultry. You also need to remember to wash and dry your hands after going to the toilet, touching the bin or touching any pets. Bugs are spread between food, surfaces and utensils most effectively on wet or damp hands.

Defrost turkey safely

Defrost the turkey on a large dish and cover, preferably in the fridge. Remove the giblets and the neck to speed up thawing. Alternatively, defrost the turkey in a cool, clean place where the temperature is fairly constant. Keep in mind that the temperature of where the turkey is kept will affect thawing times.

Turkey defrosting times

It can take up to 48 hours for a large turkey to thaw. To work out the defrosting time for your turkey, check the packaging. If there aren’t any defrosting instructions, use the following times as a guide:

in a fridge at 4ºC (39ºF), allow about 10 to 12 hours per kg

in a cool room (below 17.5ºC, 64ºF), allow approximately three to four hours per kg

at room temperature (about 20ºC, 68ºF), allow approximately two hours per kg

A turkey is fully defrosted when there are no ice crystals inside the cavity and the meat is soft when you insert a fork or skewer. Once thawed, store it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. If this isn’t possible, you should cook it immediately.

Don’t wash the bird

Eighty per cent of people say they wash their turkeys before cooking them, but this significantly increases the risk of food poisoning by splashing germs around the kitchen. Don’t wash your bird, because it will only spread germs. Thorough cooking will kill any bacteria that might be present.

Cook turkey properly

Seventeen per cent of people aren’t sure how to tell when their turkey is cooked. Make sure your turkey is steaming hot all the way through before serving. When you cut into the thickest part of the turkey, none of the meat should be pink. If juices flow out when you pierce the turkey or when you press the thigh, they should be clear. If you’re using a temperature probe or food thermometer, ensure that the thickest part of the bird (between the breast and the thigh) reaches at least 70°C for two minutes.

Find out more about turkey cooking times.

Goose and other birds

Other birds, such as goose and duck, have different cooking times and temperatures. The oven should always be hotter for duck and goose in order to melt the fat under the skin.

goose should be cooked in a preheated oven at 200ºC/425ºF/Gas Mark 7 for 35 minutes per kg

duck should be cooked in a preheated oven for 45 minutes per kg at 200ºC/400ºF/Gas Mark 6

chicken should be cooked in a preheated oven at 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4 for 45 minutes per kg plus 20 minutes

Wash your veg

Most of the bacteria on vegetables will be in the soil attached to the produce. Washing to remove any soil is therefore particularly important. When you wash vegetables, don’t just hold them under the running tap. Rub them under water, for example in a bowl of fresh water. Start with the least soiled items first and give each of them a final rinse. Washing loose produce is particularly important, as it tends to have more soil attached to it than pre-packaged fruit and vegetables.

Know your dates

Sniffing food is not a reliable way of telling whether food is still safe to eat. Some harmful bacteria don’t always change the way foods smell, taste or look. Food with a “use-by” date goes off quite quickly and it can be dangerous to eat after this date. Food with a “best before” date is longer-lasting. It may not be at its best quality after this date but should be safe to eat. Eggs can be eaten a day or two after their best before date, as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake.

Preparing a buffet

Cold items for a buffet should remain covered and in the fridge until the last minute. Don’t keep them out for more than four hours. Food kept out for longer could be open to harmful bacteria if left to get warm at room temperature. Foods which are cooked and intended to be served cold should be cooled as quickly as possible, ideally within one to two hours. You can cool food down faster by separating it into small batches, placing it in a container and placing the container in a shallow dish of cold water.

Cool leftovers

Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within 90 minutes, then cover and refrigerate. Splitting food into smaller portions can help cooling. Use leftovers within two days and reheat until they are steaming hot all the way through. Don’t reheat leftovers more than once. If you want to keep leftovers longer than two days, you can freeze them instead. Cool leftovers as described above before putting them in the freezer. Once defrosted, don’t refreeze the leftovers unless you cook them again first.