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Prairie Fare: Take Steps to Avoid Getting Sick During Cold and Flu Season

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Chicken, vegetables, lentils and broth are a comforting blend of ingredients. They also are healthful food choices. (NDSU photo) Chicken, vegetables, lentils and broth are a comforting blend of ingredients. They also are healthful food choices. (NDSU photo)
Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo) Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist (NDSU photo)
Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is one of the most important ways to help prevent colds and the flu.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension

“I’m kind of a germophobe,” the woman said. “Do you want a sanitizing wipe?”

We were passengers on a plane settling into our spots. I was in the middle seat and she was in the window seat.

I never had wiped down my entire passenger area. However, I followed her lead and wiped the tray, seat back and armrests. I think she wiped the window, too.

I was happy to get the sanitizing wipe. I had just passed a woman vomiting into the wastebasket by the boarding area of the plane.

I buckled my seat belt to settle in place. Then I noticed someone walking toward me who looked kind of familiar. She sat down next to me. She was the woman I had seen vomiting.

The flight attendant handed her a half-dozen “barf bags.”

“I hope you feel better,” she said.

Another attendant came by with another fistful of bags.

This can’t be happening, I thought to myself.

My germophobic neighbor looked over at our seat companion. I think she was glad I was her human buffer.

I had a 3 1/2-hour flight ahead of me. I plugged in my earbuds and turned the video screen speaker fairly high. I was wishing I had a curtain to pull between us.

As I watched the safety video, I wondered if they could go ahead and drop the oxygen mask on me without a flight emergency. I didn’t want to breathe recycled air.

My ill neighbor said, between bags, “I bet I’m the nastiest thing you have ever sat next to on a plane.”

How do you respond to that?

I wanted a parachute.

She used all the bags during the flight. I escaped getting sick, but I felt kind of ill leaving the plane.

We are in the midst of the flu season, and I had gotten a flu shot a few weeks prior to the airplane trip. Getting vaccinated to help prevent flu is important for all of us, regardless of age.

I also had taken another step due to the courtesy of my healthy seatmate on the plane: I had disinfected common surfaces. Surprisingly, viruses can survive on surfaces for three days.

My ill neighbor had handed me a cup of water from the flight attendant. I thought about that the entire trip and avoided touching my face, eyes and mouth.

Staying well-hydrated also is a key to helping prevent the flu.

As soon as I left the plane, I made a beeline to the bathroom to wash my hands. I washed my hands three times. Washing our hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water is one of the most important ways to help prevent colds and the flu.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, antibacterial soaps are part of the category known as “antiseptic wash products.” They are used with water and washed off after use. “Rubs” are leave-on products (also known as “hand sanitizers”). The “rub” category also includes antiseptic wipes.

In a pinch, such as when you are in the middle seat in a plane, a hand sanitizer can be used. Be sure the sanitizer is at least 60% ethanol alcohol. Use the amount recommended on the label, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub your hands until the sanitizer is dry.

However, proper handwashing is considered the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. According to a study conducted in Japan, hand sanitizers would have to be in contact with viruses on hands for four minutes to kill the germs.

By the way, when you are purchasing soap, remember that antibacterial soap is not more effective than regular soap. As a budget bonus, regular soap often is less expensive than antibacterial soap. Regular soap also does not kill healthy bacteria on the surface of skin.

Stay well with healthful food choices, too. Chicken, vegetables, lentils and broth are a comforting blend of ingredients. This recipe is inspired by Indian cuisine and can be made ahead of time as a freezer meal for heat-and-eat meals.

See https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food/recipes and check out the variety of soup recipes to enjoy this winter.

Lentil Chicken Curry

1 pound chicken, cubed

4 c. vegetables, chopped or diced (for example, leek, carrot, celery, bell pepper, zucchini)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 c. red lentils, dry (cooked according to package directions)

2 Tbsp. red curry paste

1 c. coconut milk

Salt and pepper (optional)

Note: Red curry paste is available in the ethnic foods section in many grocery stores.

Cook the chicken, vegetables and garlic until cooked through. Cook lentils according to package directions. Add the lentils, curry paste and coconut milk. Stir to combine; season to taste. Let cool completely in shallow pans in the refrigerator. Place in a labeled freezer bag, flatten and freeze, or divide into single-serving freezer containers if desired and freeze. Thaw in a refrigerator and heat. Or from frozen, remove from bag and microwave for four to 4 1/2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over rice or with naan (flat bread).

Makes five (1-cup) servings. Each serving has 270 calories, 12 grams (g) fat, 25 g protein, 17 g carbohydrate and 270 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson)


NDSU Agriculture Communication - Nov. 21, 2019

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, 701-231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, 701-231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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