Entertaining guests this winter can be a great way to beat the winter blues. As the holidays bring family and friends together we tend to share some of our favorite dishes. Be sure to keep your food safe this holiday season with the following tips_

1. Hand-washing & food-washing. a. Wash food and everything that comes in contact with food. This includes countertops, cutting boards, utensils, and most importantly YOUR HANDS. b. Food safety starts with clean hands. Use an antibacterial soap and thoroughly wash for 20 seconds before and after you handle food. Always be mindful of what you touch while cooking- hair, face, faucets, phones, etc. can introduce bacteria into our food. c. Wash fruits and vegetables using cold running water and a produce brush. Produce sprays are not necessary, but are not harmful if you prefer to use them.

2. Prevent cross-contaminationa. The FDA defines cross-contamination as "the spread of bacteria from foods, hands, utensils, or food preparation surfaces to another food." b. It's a good idea to have different cutting boards for different types of foods- for example one for meat, poultry, and fish, and another for produce. c. Handwashing should also happen between contact with different food groups to prevent cross contamination. d. Only place food on clean plates. e. Marinate only in the refrigerator as opposed to room temperature and never reuse marinade.

3. Be mindful of temperatures.a. For cooking anything from chicken breast to casseroles, use this minimum cooking temperatures chart from foodsafety.gov. b. When preparing to put leftovers away, cooling is very important. Get everything into the refrigerator or freezer within two hours to avoid the Temperature Danger Zone (41-140 degrees Fahrenheit). Use multiple smaller, shallower storage containers to allow food to cool quickly and evenly. Larger containers run the risk of the middle cooling well after two hours have passed.

4. Defrosting- 3 ways only!a. Under cold running water b. In the microwave c. In the refrigerator (takes the longest)

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

Subscribe to Tanya’s FREE Weekly Newsletter and follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. To learn more about Tanya’s private nutrition counseling services visit www.ffactor.com.