By Sue Rose
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t is that time of year when families start thinking about the Easter ritual of dying Easter Eggs. It is a fun tradition, and the eggs can easily be eaten as a snack, breakfast, or added to salad if handled properly pre and post coloring.
A hard-boiled egg has only but 80 calories, but is rich in many nutrients, including protein, phytochemicals, many B-complex vitamins, and vitamins A, D, and E. If eggs are from chickens fed an omega-3 rich feed, the hatched eggs will also contain omega-3 fatty acids which we need more of in the American diet. Another nutritional perk of eggs hatched in 2012, is they are much lower in cholesterol. Today’s eggs have an average of only 180 mg. of cholesterol, down from about 220 mg. cholesterol in years past!
Here are ten tips to keep those eggs safe to eat after Easter:
1. When purchasing your eggs, make sure there are no broken or dirty eggs. The shell keeps the inside of the eggs free of bacteria and a broken shell can allow for bacterial contamination.
2. Be sure to check the date stamped on the carton. Avoid purchasing eggs stamped with a “sell by” date close to the purchase date.
3. After purchase, eggs should be refrigerated immediately at 40° or less. Avoid placing eggs in the refrigerator door, as temperatures will be inconsistent and may not meet temperature guidelines.
4. For eggs already in your refrigerator, you may safely use them for both coloring and eating even if the sell-by date has already passed. In fact, they can be safely eaten 2-4 weeks past that stamped “sell by” date. If your eggs are typically stored in another container in the refrigerator, and you have no idea how long they have been there, it is best to pitch them and start with fresh eggs for coloring if you plan on eating them.
5. Consumers should not wash egg shells prior to hard boiling. When the chicken lays an egg, it has a protective film coating to protect the inside of the egg. Washing the shell can actually remove that protective film, and hasten the likelihood of bacteria moving into the egg.
6. Cook the eggs thoroughly. For directions on how to cook a hard-boiled egg, visit:http://www.incredibleegg.org/recipes-and-more/cooking-school/hard-boil-eggs
7. Hard boiled eggs are perishable, and need to be refrigerated immediately. If they stay at room temperature for more than two hours, they may cause food poisoning.
8. Be sure to use a food safe dye if you plan on eating your Easter eggs.
9. Do not plan on eating Easter eggs which have been placed on the ground. This becomes a perfect recipe for making you ill as the bacteria from the ground can enter the cooked egg. Stick with the plastic version for egg hunting in the yard.
10. If you are hiding real Easter eggs, pick clean areas to hide them inside your home. Eggs can only safely be left unrefrigerated for 2 hours, so keep your egg hunt to no more than 2 hours. Leftover Easter eggs may be eaten within 7 days as long as they have been properly handled and refrigerated.
Taking these food safety precautions will allow you to have enjoy the fun of coloring eggs along with the benefit of an easy snack or meal after the Easter holiday has passed!
Sue Rose is an IL licensed dietitian/nutritionist providing counseling to both corporations and individuals. She invites you to visit her weekly blog for intelligent and relevant diet and lifestyle strategies to enhance your life and well-being: http://www.mydietmatters.com.