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Ask a Dietitian: Reheating Leftovers

Q: My husband and I have differing opinions about reheating leftovers for our family. I say that we should only reheat the foods one time and discard whatever we do not finish. My husband prefers to put the food back into the refrigerator that we no not finish and use it again for another meal. What is the safe approach for reheating our meals?

Answer from Cheryl Weddle, MS, RD/LD: It would seem that you are on the right track. Food safety protocols recommend that you reheat and eat foods once and discard any leftover. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, passing food through the “temperature danger zone” (41 degrees F. to 135 degrees F.) more than once carries a greater potential for the growth of harmful bacteria. It also increases the potential of contaminating the food with Listeria monocytoges, a bacteria that can grow on some foods during cold storage.

Some helpful recommendations are to split your leftovers into smaller portions for storage and reheating. Also make sure that you reheat your leftovers to 165 degrees F. for 15 seconds to kill any bacteria that might be present.

Have thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer so that you can check the accuracy of the temperature. Keep your refrigerator set at or below 40 degrees F. and your freezer set at or below 0 degrees F.

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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Contact Kelly Wells
Norman Regional Health System

Office (405) 307.2143
Fax (405) 307.2144