From the Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day weekend, sometimes it is all one big food fest, isn’t it? There are picnics and barbeques and family get-togethers galore. Most of these events involve potluck meals, with everyone toting along a different dish. Of course you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so you have to try everyone’s special dish, and before long, you feel overstuffed and want to undo your clothes.
Unfortunately, some fattening picnic fare, like creamy potato or macaroni salads, not only pack on the pounds, but can be detrimental to your health, should they sit out in warm weather for too long, because then you could risk getting food poisoning. So, to avoid getting contaminated by food spoilage in cold salads containing mayonnaise, thwart those problems and be kind to your waistline by substituting salads like three-bean, baked beans or coleslaw with a vinaigrette dressing instead.
If you are planning a day at the beach, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and follow the suggestions below on the best way to transport and keep your food at the recommended chilled temperature, plus safeguard against food poisoning once the food has been cooked and served.
The big chill
If you plan on an outdoor barbecue away from home follow these simple tips:
Keep the food cold, especially if you’re packing raw meat, by investing in a few medium-size coolers. Then segregate the coolers (one for raw meats and the other for the remaining foods like cold salads or drinks). Don’t forget to pack two sets of plates and utensils (for raw and cooked foods), and bring hand sanitizer and soap (if you’re near running water).
Firing up the grill
Leave extra raw meat and poultry in the cooler until you’re ready to grill it. Cook your food in small batches, and use a meat thermometer to determine when it is done.
Cleaning up the leftovers
Even after the food is cooked, don’t leave the food in the heat or out of the cooler for more than an hour.
Crunchy fruits and veggies
Fruits are extra flavorful and inexpensive during the Summer months, plus there is a much greater variety at the grocery store at your favorite produce counter. Wash, bag and chill grapes or cherries for quick finger food treats. Veggies are no slouch either – cherry tomatoes can be washed up and popped into a Ziploc bag for a quick and refreshing treat. Celery sticks slathered with peanut butter have crunch appeal. Don’t serve dip with your chips or creamy desserts.
On the BBQ
You hear the radio and TV commercials touting “pork, the other white meat” and there’s always the old standby, chicken or turkey, so be sure to add these alternatives to the standard beef hamburger – they taste good and are better for you. And, if you have the ultimate craving for BBQ, you could always make the pulled pork at home and heat it up and slap it on a bun.
But, if you really want to tame those calories and fat grams that are so bad for you, and not have to worry about food poisoning, why not try throwing some veggies on the grill?
Ants spoil the picnic
It’s not hard to eat healthy, or at least healthier. Before you say “but I love hot dogs and burgers on the grill”, yes – you can still enjoy a cookout without all that fattening fare. For example, there is a great selection of turkey wieners at your local grocery store, and, if you really love a big burger hot off the grill, try buying ground turkey instead of ground beef. A 4-ounce extra lean turkey burger has about 150 calories and 20 grams of fat less than traditional ground beef. Finally, be sure to plop that wiener or burger patty onto a bun made with whole grains with fiber, not white flour.
Your best daily health tip is water. While drinking a lot of water helps to keep you healthy year round, by aiding in digestion and keeping skin soft and vibrant, good hydration is especially important while you are outdoors, especially in the hot sun. Carry a water bottle with you and keep swigging it to keep cool and properly hydrated, especially when you’re active or exercising. It’s really good to have a few extra bottles packed in a cooler, especially when an impromptu volleyball game crops up or going for a long run along the beach. Water will keep you healthy, hydrated, cool, and keeps “things” moving when you’re focused on a healthy, high-fiber diet.