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Around The Home: Keep it tasty and healthy this holiday season
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We’re getting into the time of year when sweets — candy, cakes, cookies and pies — are very plentiful and often within close reach.

Remember, you don’t have to give up the sweets in order to enjoy fruit and veggies.

Diets high in fruits and veggies can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure, reports The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program.

There are tasteful ways to upgrade a meal’s nutritional value. Simple and delicious recipes can make the transition to healthier eating more enjoyable.

In our free Food Talk program, participants receive ideas and tips on how to increase their fruit and vegetable intake.

Plus, recipe demos give them a chance to try dishes such as "Texas Taco Salad." It includes corn, pinto beans, lettuce and other items.

And tomato, black-eyed peas and green bell pepper are among the ingredients offering wonderful flavors in our "Southern Salsa."

Need ideas for family gatherings? Jazz up your menu with lots of colorful options by adding two or three salads.

Also, provide fresh veggies and fruit for snacks. Sliced strawberries or apples taste great with a plain or vanilla yogurt.

Busy schedules can mean limited time to take care of household tasks.

So conduct a kitchen cleanup in advance of the hectic food preparation and again after the days of cooking during the holiday season have ended.

Here are more tips from UGA Cooperative Extension:

Cleaning involves soap and water, removes visible dirt, and removes most of the germs. Sanitizers provide extra safety because they contain stronger solutions that destroy more disease-causing bacteria.

Paper towels are ideal to use for cleaning because they’re used once and discarded. This prevents bacteria from multiplying and spreading.

Dishcloths should be changed and laundered often. Sponges aren’t recommended because they have lots of nooks and crannies where germs can hide and be spread from one surface to another.

To prevent chemical contamination of your foods, never reuse cleaning product containers and keep chemicals away from foods.

Clean appliances depending on how often they’re used. Large appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and ovens should be cleaned at least once a month since they’re used often and spills occur more frequently.

Use soap and water to wash the refrigerator. Don’t use abrasive cleanser or scouring pads because they can damage the surface. Greasy buildup may require the use of a heavy-duty cleaner or grease cutter, and a soft cleaning pad.

Dishwashers are self-cleaning, but check to see if large particles of food are lodged in the strainer.

Ovens are often self-cleaning and are helpful in making spills easier to clean. After the oven has cooled from the cleaning process, simply wipe away the ash residue that is left. Be sure to ventilate the kitchen in case the oven gives off fumes or smoke.

Unplug small appliances before cleaning and never immerse in water unless directions say it’s permissible.

For more information, visit www.fightbac.org and www.choosemyplate.gov.

Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact: 770-535-8290. Her column appears biweekly on Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.

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