Healthy pointers for the holidays

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URBANA—How much turkey do you need to feed your Thanksgiving guests, and does the sex of the bird make any difference? These are some of the questions you can find answers to on three University of Illinois Extension holiday-related sites.

“Buy about one pound per person, or a pound and a half per person if you have hearty eaters or want plenty for leftovers,” said Druscilla Banks, U of I Extension food and nutrition educator. “If you are serving more than one type of meat, you should probably buy the lesser amount.

“For large gatherings where there will be a combination of adults and children, figure one pound per person to allow for the large and smaller appetites. If the turkey is pre-stuffed, allow 1-1/2 pounds per person. Buy 1/2 pound per person for bone-in turkey breast.”

And, yes, sex can make a difference.

“Most experts agree that a hen turkey is a better buy than a tom,” she noted. “Hens generally weigh less than 16 pounds, and a tom turkey is usually over 16 pounds. Toms are larger with larger bones and less edible portions. However, age, not gender, is the determining factor where tenderness is concerned.”

These are just some of the facts available at U of Extension’s Web site “Turkey for the Holidays ( part of the Urban Extension Program Resources site.

In addition to helpful information for use in selecting a holiday turkey, the site includes tips on cooking techniques, carving, side dishes to serve with the turkey, safe keeping of leftovers, nutrition facts, and links to turkey and Thanksgiving-related sites.

For many families, a Christmas tree is a central part of the holidays. Whether you pick out a tree from a neighborhood lot or travel to a tree farm to select and cut your own, U of I Extension’s “Christmas Trees & More” Web site ( is a must first-stop.

The site includes information on the location of tree farms, the selection and care of trees, and Christmas tree legends and lore.

“It has information about and pictures of the major Christmas tree types sold in the United States,” said Jane Scherer, U of I Extension urban programs specialist. “You can go to the Web site, see what kind of tree type you prefer, and then ask for it at the lot or tree farm.

“The site also includes questions to ask at tree lots to ensure you have the freshest tree possible.”

Next to the Christmas tree, the most familiar holiday season plant is the poinsettia, and U of I Extension has a Web site for it as well. “The Poinsettia Pages” ( includes hints for caring for the plants and extending their life beyond the holidays.

“Poinsettias represent over 85 percent of the potted plant sales during the holiday season,” said Scherer, “and the plant itself is a native of Mexico. They were introduced in the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett, a diplomat and traveler.”

Contrary to myth, she adds, poinsettias are not poisonous. And the plant can be found with red or white blooms.

From the Nov. 22-28, 2006, issue

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