5 tips for a safe and successful Thanksgiving

- Thanksgiving is a fun time for many as friends and families gather together. But it can also be very stressful and there are a lot of things to keep track of.

There are many safety tips that bear repeating to make sure this is a safe holiday too.

There are often a lot of cooks in the kitchen during this holiday and a lot of dishes in the oven. Unfortunately, that is a recipe that can send a kitchen up in smoke.

“Cooking is the number one cause of fire year round in the U.S. on Thanksgiving Day,” said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. “It's the busiest day for cooking fires.”

Here are our five Thanksgiving survival tips to keep your family and friends safe and happy during your holiday get-together:

1. Don't leave food cooking unattended

“The number one cause of fires is unattended cooking,” said Piringer. “If you leave, turn the oven off or have a reminder to come back and keep checking it.”

He also reminds everyone not to forget to turn pot handles around to the back of the stove so they don't accidentally get knocked over. And make sure paper products are not left close to the stove.

“Electric stove and cardboard boxes -- not only are they on top of the burners, but paper products that are close by could easily catch on fire," Piringer said.

Don't store paper products on top of your microwave or near the toaster either since they heat up quickly. Don't forget to make sure all those carving knives are put away as well.

“You want to create a safety zone -- kid-free, pet-free zone,” said Piringer.

Also, take a minute before you start cooking to make sure your oven is clean.

2. Put away those lit candles

You also need to think about fire safety once your meal is made and when you sit down with friends and family. Event planners say consider opting for some modern inventions when you set your table.

“A lot of people used to use real candles back in the day,” said Aisha Malik Rodriguez of Capital Party Rentals. “With a lot of kids and tables being bumped, usually for buffets, we decided to use LED candles. There are so many different kinds that they offer now. They have actually created them now that they have a dripping candle effect.”

Another benefit of LED candles is that they can stay on all night and you can even put them on the kids’ table.

3. Be careful how long you leave food out

Often times, many people will have their food left on the table. In between watching football and participating in other activities, many will come back to the table and get a little bit more to munch on.

Experts say you shouldn't do that.

Leftovers should be stored within two hours of cooking. Perishable dishes like potato salad, deviled eggs, salad, turkey and ham should probably go back in the refridgerator even quicker than that.

If you are not sure about how to prepare or serve a specific dish, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Food Safety Hotline that will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day so you can ask questions.

Last November, they received more than 3,000 calls -- almost all those about Thanksgiving dinner.

You can call the hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or go to FoodSafety.gov.

4. Combating calories

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and trimmings is about 3,000 calories and most eat an extra 1,500 calories snacking before and after the meal.

The American Heart Association says if you want to reduce that, watch what you eat in the days before and after your feast. You can also use lower fat ingredients in some dishes.

We asked FOX 5 viewers on Twitter: As you bake your Thanksgiving meal, what kind of dishes will you prepare? Healthy food or will you butter it up?

It wasn’t even a contest as more than 200 people responded and almost 90 percent said that this is one meal they want to butter up.

Experts say you would have to run stairs for 2.5 hours or hike for seven hours to work all of these calories off. But an after-dinner walk will certainly help.

5. Look for ways to express family gratitude

Turkey on the Table is a new favorite ‪family‬ ‎tradition‬ for FOX 5’s Laura Evans. Her family has been writing down what they are thankful for on feathers over the past couple weeks.

The feathers are dressed a decorative turkey and it becomes their centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day.

It reinforces the importance of gratitude -- a good lesson for kids to help focus on all of the good things in their lives. And this Turkey on the Table turns thankfulness into an activity for the kids so they focus on the things they have and not on the things they don't have.

What is also cool about it is when you buy one of these, the company donates a meal to a family in need.

The creators of Turkey on the Table remind us not only is gratitude a learned behavior, research shows that it is linked to happiness. They say a thankful heart is a happy heart.

You can find these at turkeyonthetable.com.

They are just newly restocked and will begin shipping Monday so you can get one for Christmas or next Thanksgiving.

And when was the last time your teens sat down with their grandparents and really talked to them? Do they know their stories? What it was like for them to go to school? What have they done in their life they are most proud of?

StoryCorps was created as a global platform for listening, connecting and sharing stories of the human experience. They have developed an app with a project called the Great Thanksgiving Listen, which invites any child to record an interview with a grandparent or another elder using their free app.

With permission from the participants, each of these interviews will be uploaded to the StoryCorps archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The founder of the project said they hope to foster connections among generations and they are encouraging people to start this weekend as families come together.

Find out more at storycorps.me.

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