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(HealthDay News) — The slow cooker is a convenient way to whip up a healthy dinner for your family.

But food safety rules still apply, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises. Here are the group’s suggestions:

  • Thoroughly clean the slow cooker, work area and your hands before preparing food. Keep all perishables in the refrigerator until right before it is time to add them.
  • Prepare meat and vegetables separately, refrigerating them in separate containers.
  • Defrost meat — always in the refrigerator — before putting it in the slow cooker.
  • Cook foods all day on the “low” setting, or for the first hour on “high,” then dropping to “low.” Use a food thermometer to make sure it’s cooked thoroughly.
  • The cooker should be no more than 1/2 to 2/3 full. Cut up large chunks of meat to help ensure a better fit and more thorough cooking.
  • Do not remove the lid while cooking. And when it’s time to store leftovers, use shallow containers and refrigerate within two hours of cooking.

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