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Holiday Tips, Advice From U of G Faculty, Staff

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December 9, 2005

Source: University of Guelph:

Holiday Tips, Advice From U of G Faculty, Staff

With the holiday season upon us, University of Guelph faculty and staff have some tips and advice on giving pets as gifts, food safety and wine selection, and seasonal sensitivities.

Pets Don’t Make Good Gifts, Says Dean of OVC

Avoid giving your child a pet as a holiday gift unless you’re willing to assume responsibility for the pet yourself, advises Elizabeth Stone, dean of the Ontario Veterinary College.

"If someone wants to give a child a pet, it’s better to give a stuffed animal and then talk with the child about getting a pet and what it means," says Stone, adding that many parents believe having a pet teaches a child to be responsible. "I tell parents not to get a pet unless they fully accept that they may have to do the majority of the care and training or work with the child to make sure it gets done."

Stone says giving a pet to a friend or family member, even with the best of intentions, should be done only with their permission. "It’s very important that the person receiving the pet knows about it and really wants to take on the additional work a pet will bring. The person also needs to be in a financial position where he or she can pay for food and medical care."

She adds that because the holidays are often a stressful period, people may not have the time and patience to train a puppy or kitten. Cold and blustery weather can make going outside several times a day to housebreak a puppy an unpleasant experience.

People should also consider the following points. A house can be filled with a variety of things over the holidays that can be dangerous to pets. Ingesting tinsel and other small decorations can result in intestinal obstruction. Poinsettias are poisonous when eaten, and chocolate is known to be toxic to dogs. Chewing on an electrical cord can burn a pet’s mouth and may cause electrocution.

Celebrate Diversity This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time of dinner parties, gift-giving and faith-filled celebration. Although this has traditionally been the season of "Christmas," there’s a growing diversity of faith expressions within our communities, says
James Vanderberg, a Christian Reformed campus minister and member of U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team.

During this season, people celebrate Luut’aa, Masá’il, Sharaf, Christmas, Maunajiyaras, Hanukkah, Tohji-taisai, Yule, the death of Zarathustra and Kwanzaa.

Some consider it unnecessarily politically correct to use the greeting "Happy Holidays," but seasonal sensitivity is a matter of respect, says Vanderberg. "It’s important to recognize the faith-filled celebrations of other communities and grow in our understanding."

Here are a few ways to be both inviting and sensitive, says Vanderberg.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask, "What are you celebrating this time of the year?" For those celebrating religious holidays, an opportunity is given to express their faith-filled joy. For many others, it’s an open door to share the happiness they find in their work, with their families or in any other aspect of life. It’s a question that will probably bring a smile to someone’s face.

2. Don’t be afraid to invite others over for dinner or to a specifically religious celebration. If a friend invites over to celebrate the first day of Hanukkah, for example, consider it an expression of the person’s seasonal joy and love for you, not necessarily an attempt to convert you.

3. Recognize that Christmas is a celebration unique to a specific faith community. Not everyone is celebrating Christmas, and those who are may not want it tied to the marketing strategies of North American toy companies.

Food Safety Tips From the Pros

During the holidays, food safety questions may arise. The Food Safety Network (FSN) is a one-stop resource that answers questions and offers advice. "If you’re not sure if something is safe to eat or serve, we’re here to help," says Sarah Wilson, manager of the FSN information centre. Consumers with food safety questions can call toll-free 1-866-503-7638 or send e-mail .

A little holiday Q and A from the FSN.

Question: Is it safe to use raw eggs to make eggnog?
To make eggnog, use a recipe where the eggs and milk are cooked; bring the egg/milk mixture to 72-75 C (pasteurization temperature). Drink hot or chill immediately. Even if fresh eggs are used, there’s a possibility they might be contaminated by pathogens.

Question: I cooked my turkey so that the inner thigh meat temperature read 180 F, but the meat was still pink. Is this safe to eat?

Red or pink coloration is caused by the age and sex of the bird, dietary components, processing techniques or the ventilation system of the oven used for cooking. Red or pink colouring does not affect the taste or safety of the product as long as the meat has been cooked to the proper temperature. We recommend cooking the turkey to 77 C (170 F) as measured by inserting a meat thermometer into the breast or the deepest part of the inner thigh without touching the bone. If the turkey is stuffed, make sure the centre of the stuffing reaches an internal temperature of 74 C (165 F).

No Need to Throw Away Your Holiday Tree, Says Horticulturalist

The display of a tree indoors during the holiday season can be traced back to several different religious rituals, says Arboretum horticulturist Sean Fox, but a new trend is emerging.

"Something that’s been gaining popularity over the past several years is the use of living Christmas trees as opposed to pre-cut ones," says Fox. "This usually involves purchasing a tree that has been balled and burlapped or grown in a pot." Once the holidays are over, the tree can easily be replanted on your property, rather than thrown away, he says.

Concolor fir, Serbian spruce and Swiss stone pine, white pine, white spruce, balsam fir and hemlock are good choices for living Christmas trees, says Fox. "For something with a different texture, you could even try eastern red cedar, which is more durable then the others while indoors and very tough in its permanent home outdoors."

Fox will lead an indoor/outdoor workshop on conifers Jan. 17 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participants will learn about the evolution, identification, characteristics and uses of conifers from both Ontario and around the world and tour two collections of conifers. The fee for the workshop is $50. Registration and payment are required by Jan. 3. There is a maximum of 16 participants. To register, call 519-824-4120 ext. 52358.

With What Wine Should You Dine? Advice from an Expert

Many people struggle with selecting the proper wine to serve at their holiday meal, but when in doubt, sparkling wines and champagne are a safe bet with just about anything, says wine expert Prof. Robert Harrington of the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

"In reality, there are very few wine choices that will ruin a meal, but good choices can raise the level of gastronomic satisfaction from enjoyable to memorable."

Harrington says the idea is to create a relationship where the wine and food are equal partners in the match. Foods that are high in saltiness, bitterness, sourness and sweetness limit the possibilities when matching wines with these foods. Traditional holiday foods like turkey, ham and all the trimmings create issues in this regard.

Turkey itself can be paired with a number of wines, but things become complicated with the addition of sauce because it is sweet, sour and bitter all at once. Turkey with cranberry sauce will overpower many white wines and amplify the astringent character of tannic reds. Some wines will amplify the bitter character of the cranberry sauce.

Harrington says the effects can be minimized by simply reducing the amount of cranberry sauce eaten with the turkey or by drinking champagne or sparkling wine to equalize the flavours. "The bubbles and acidity in sparklers have a cleansing effect on the palate to prepare you for another bite whether you’re eating salty, bitter, spicy or sour food," he says.

In terms of white wine selection, he advises you to choose one with an adequate amount of acidity and fruitiness to match your entree. In the case of turkey and cranberry sauce, he suggests pairing with Riesling or Gewürztraminer. If you’re selecting a red, choose wine styles that have a sense of fruitiness and are relatively low in tannin like Beaujolais, Dolcetto and Pinot Noir.

Harrington is currently writing a book on wine and food pairing strategies that is scheduled for release in February 2007.

Forget Resolutions, Think Goals, U of G Staff Say

Resolved to get into shape this year? Forget resolutions and think goals, say Cyndy McLean, director of the University of Guelph’s Health and Performance Centre, and Heidi Smith, the centre's dietitian and sports nutritionist.

"The whole idea of resolutions sets people up for failure," says McLean. "They're not specific enough, and typically they tend to be short-term. We endorse a more long-term approach to health."

Here are their 10 steps toward a fitness and nutrition program:

1. Change resolutions into goals. Instead of saying: "I'm going to get fit," say: "I will begin a walking program."

2. Set specific and measurable goals: "I am going to walk three times a week for 20 minutes."

3. Be optimistic and realistic: "I will lose 10 per cent of my initial body weight in one year, not 15 pounds in one month."

4. Set both long- and short-term goals: "I am going to begin by walking once a week for 10 minutes and add one minute per session for the first month. Within three months, I will reach my goal of three sessions per week."

5. Identify obstacles and solutions. If your obstacle is lack of time, you might, for example, prepare meals in advance.

6. Develop an action plan, including the specific steps you must take to reach your goal.

7. Seek guidance. Think about meeting with a dietitian and fitness professional.

8. Seek support. Why not exercise with a buddy?

9. Identify indicators of success, such as completing 80 per cent of your scheduled workouts.

10. Re-evaluate and update goals.

Chocolate IS Good for You...In Moderation, Dietitian Says

Chocolates lovers take note: your favourite treat may have positive health benefits, too. Recent research has revealed that the cocoa bean has some powerful antioxidant abilities.

What does it mean? Small amounts of chocolate can help prevent damage to cells in the body. But the key word is "small," says Heidi Smith, the sports nutritionist at the University of Guelph’s Health and Performance Centre.

Smith says people should remember that chocolate is healthy in the context of a balanced diet. It’s still very high in calories, sugar and saturated fat. "If you start consuming large quantities on a daily basis, you run the risk of weight gain and increased cholesterol," she says.

Smith, a registered dietitian, has other tips for avoiding weight gain during the holiday season, including controlling portion size and snacking carefully. She will present a nutrition seminar on "Portions for Weight Loss" Jan. 19 at the Health and Performance Centre. It will provide answers to common nutrition questions and give participants a new perspective on portions. The seminar runs from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $10, and registration is required. Online registration is available. For information, call (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53460.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.



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