<!–[CDATA[Summer often means enjoying outdoor picnics filled with tasty foods and beverages. It’s a great way to celebrate warm weather with family and friends at a local park or public garden.
If you are the caregiver for an older loved one on a restricted diet, creating menus that help them stick to their diet is important. As is taking the necessary steps to keep picnic foods safe on hot, humid summer days when it can quickly spoil.
In honor of National Picnic Month, we’ve pulled together a few ideas that can help you host a safe and healthy summer picnic.
Planning a Safe and Healthy Summer Picnic
Pay special attention to the foods you serve. You’ll want to make sure adults who are diabetic or on a restricted salt diet have healthy options that taste great too. Some ideas to help you with menu planning are:
- Make veggie dip healthier: Many summer picnics include trays of fresh vegetable to snack on. Often times those veggies are served with tasty but fat-laden dips. You can make dip healthier by substituting full fat sour cream and mayonnaise with low-fat versions or with plain yogurt. Or you can skip the veggie dip completely and serve hummus on your vegetable tray instead. Hummus is made with high fiber chick peas that are linked to lower cholesterol.
- Skip fried foods: Instead of serving fried chicken bought from a grocery store or local fast food restaurant, create your own healthier crispy, baked chicken. Roll chicken in yogurt, sprinkle it with lemon, and bake it instead. By opting for baked chicken instead of fried, you cut the fat per serving from an average of 20 grams to just 7 or 8.
- Substitutions in family favorites: If there are a few unhealthy foods your family insists be part of your summer picnics, create healthier versions of them to serve instead. If you are careful, your family might not even notice. Substitute almond milk in dishes and desserts that require heavy cream. Skip the salt and use fresh herbs instead. Use unsweetened applesauce or mashed bananas in place of shortening. This Healthy Substitutions Food Chart can help you swap out unhealthy ingredients without sacrificing taste.
- Serve plenty of water: Make sure to serve plenty of bottled water or pitchers of water at your picnic. It’s an important step in preventing dehydration. Also provide lemons, berries, limes, and cucumber to add to water to enhance the flavor.
- Fresh fruit salad: Fruits such as berries, melon, apples, and grapes are packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants. They can satisfy the sweet tooth for people on restricted diets. An added bonus is that they have a high water content that helps increase hydration.
Keeping Picnic Foods Safe
FoodSafety.gov shares these steps to help you keep summer picnic foods safe:
- Don’t partially cook meat before you leave for a picnic away from home. It can increase the risk for foodborne illnesses. Instead, cook it completely before you leave home or once you arrive at your picnic destination.
- Keep your cooler in the shade and check the ice in it frequently to ensure food is kept cold.
- Serve foods cooked on the grill on a clean platter, and not on one that was used for raw meat.
- Never leave food out in the heat for more than an hour. Leftover foods that contain mayonnaise, eggs, or other ingredients that can quickly spoil should be placed back in the cooler immediately after serving.
- Pack handi-wipes to use while cooking and serving if you won’t have access to running water during your picnic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has helpful resources on additional steps you can take to avoid food poisoning and other foodborne illnesses.
Food safety is something our dining services team members take very seriously. Our Signature Dining program is known for menus that are safe, nutritious, and delicious. Call the Five Star community nearest you to set up a time to join us for lunch or dinner at your convenience!