Have a Happy and Healthy Picnic

Picnics and barbecues go hand-in-hand with the onset of warmer days.  Dining in the great outdoors can prove to be a wonderful experience, whether it’s in your own backyard or at a local park.  A time for fun, relaxation, and bonding between friends and/or family members, picnics and barbecues have an important role in a healthy lifestyle, especially if they also involve some form of physical activity (e.g., game of frisbee, walk along the beach, etc.,).  To make sure you have a happy and healthy one, there are some points that you should consider when planning your outdoor meal.  These include:

Serve Healthy Food:

  • Avoid marinades and sauces for meats, poultry and/or fish that have a high content of sugar, salt, and/or fat.  Use a no-salt dry rub instead.
  • Use a fat-free vinaigrette as the base for a coleslaw dish or to dress salads (rather than a high fat cream-based dressing). Or, make your own nonfat or low-fat “creamy” dressing by substituting nonfat or low-fat yogurt, sour cream and/or mayonnaise for the higher fat counterpart.
  • Add fresh herbs for flavor without the extra fat, sugar, and salt.
  • Make portion control easier by serving grilled kabobs with bite-sized pieces of vegetable, fruit, tofu, and/or lean meat or poultry.
  • Serve ice-cold water instead of sugar-laden beverages.  Add a slice of citrus fruit, such as lemon, for a touch of flavor.

Food Safety*

  • Keep cold food cold:  The temperature in the cooler used for transporting and storing the cold food until served should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.  To keep the food cold while it is being served, fill a large, deep container with ice and place serving dishes directly on the ice.
  • Keep hot food hot (at or above 140 degrees Fahrenheit).  Keep in an insulated container until served.  If possible, place serving dishes on a warming tray when ready to eat.
  • Discard food (both cold and hot) if it has been sitting out for longer than 2 hours (after 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit).
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping dishes and utensils used to prepare raw meat, poultry, and fish separate from those used for cooked foods (or wash them in between uses).
  • Use separate coolers for beverages and cold perishables.  This way, the temperature of  your perishables won’t be at risk for falling into the “danger zone” as picnickers open and reopen the cooler lid to get their drinks.

Include Physical Activity: Picnics and barbecues provide a great opportunity for fun exercise.  Play a pick-up game of softball or just go for a walk in the woods with family.  The possibilities to burn a few extra calories are endless.

Picnic and barbecue celebrations are a great way to boost overall well-being.  They can lift your mood, foster social ties, offer a venue for healthy eating, and provide opportunities for physical activity.  Proper planning prior to your picnic or barbecue celebration will increase your chances of a happy and healthy one.

Do you have a favorite picnic or barbecue tradition?  What about a favorite picnic spot?  Share with us, we want to know!

*Information obtained from the Fight Bac! website.



1 Comment

Filed under barbecue, food contamination, food safety, health, healthy food, healthy picnic ideas, low-fat, Memorial Day, picnic

One response to “Have a Happy and Healthy Picnic

  1. caroleesperry

    That’s a good idea keeping beverages and cold perishables in separate coolers.

    I’ll have to remember that for my sons graduation party in July!

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