Summer’s here, so dust off the picnic basket! But before hitting the beach or your favorite park, here are tips from Sherri Flynt, registered/licensed dietitian, Florida Hospital Center for Nutritional Excellence, for packing a healthier picnic basket and ensuring that the only “bugs” joining you are ants.
- Tap into summer’s bounty. Take plenty of chopped veggies as a crunchy alternative to chips. Try broccoli slaw, tossed with a low-fat poppy seed dressing, instead of traditional slaw. Pack berries, watermelon slices and frozen grapes for a tasty treat on a hot day.
- Salad alternatives. Rethink mayonnaise-based salads. They’re higher in fat and calories and loved by foodborne illness-causing bacteria. Oil and vinegar dressings (less oil, more vinegar) not only cut back on fat, but the acid keeps food safer. Try out this light and refreshing English cucumber salad.
- Healthier indulgences for your sweet tooth. If fresh fruit doesn’t satisfy your picnic sweet tooth, bring bite-sized desserts. Angel food cake topped with fresh berries and a bit of light whipped cream, keep it on ice, is also a healthier option.
- Grill safely. Grilling is a picnic favorite. And grilling healthfully is important. To minimize the production of compounds that pose a cancer risk, marinate before grilling using thyme, sage, garlic, or rosemary. Because heat and fat are the real culprits, trim all visible fat, flip your meat, poultry, or fish often, and grill at a lower temperature (below 325º F). But don’t undercook. And, be sure to wash your hands! Handling raw meat is a sure fire way to spread bacteria to other foods you may touch.
- Keep all food safe. According to the Food and Drug Administration, summer months see an increase in foodborne illnesses. To keep those “bugs” from joining your picnic, keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Cold foods should be kept in a cooler and on ice throughout the picnic. Hot foods (like chicken or hot dogs) should be covered in foil to retain the heat. And don’t let any food sit out for very long.
- Stay well hydrated. While enjoying the outdoors, it’s easy to get dehydrated, especially children as they don’t want to stop their fun to grab a drink. Have plenty of cool water on hand and encourage everyone to drink liberally.
Also, have a plan for being active. Whether it’s canoeing, playing a game of Frisbee football, or kicking a soccer ball, picnics are a great time for families to move together.