Memorial Day promises to be the big kick-off for the summer picnic and barbecue season.
No matter where you celebrate, remember to keep safety and healthy eating in mind. As the temperatures increase this summer, remember to stay hydrated. When you are outside and moving around, your body loses water through sweating which can lead to dehydration.
By the time you feel thirsty, your body is already feeling the effects of dehydration. Keep plenty of water available for quick hydration. Try adding oranges, lemons, limes, berries or cucumbers to the water for a different flavor.
One of the highlights for this weekend is cooking out on the grill. Instead of the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs, why not try grilling chicken or fish for a healthier choice? Meat and vegetable kabobs are also a fun addition.
Grilling is a healthy method of cooking because it preserves nutrients in the food and is low in fat. Besides meats, grill vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, onions and corn on the cob. Don’t forget to pack the food thermometer to assure your food is cooked to safe temperatures (steaks: 145 degrees, hamburgers 160 degrees and chicken 165degrees Fahrenheit).
If grilling is not in your holiday plans, try healthy sandwiches made with tortilla wraps or whole grain rolls filled with lean turkey, chicken or roast beef and veggies. Pack colorful mixed green salads in individual mason jars. The salad dressing can be added at the bottom of the jar or packed separately to add just before eating.
Instead of potato salad, try making a pasta salad with whole grain pasta and barley, chopped vegetables and tossed with a light vinaigrette dressing.
Healthy finger foods are great for munching between meals. Serve fresh veggies, low-fat pita chips and pretzels with dips like hummus, guacamole, salsa or plain Greek yogurt mixed with herbs.
Make a fruit kebob station with pineapple chunks, grapes, melons, blueberries and kebob sticks for guests to make their own. Another easy snack to make and take is your own version of Chex mix. Start with two or three dry cereals like wheat Chex, multi-grain Cheerios and rice Chex.
Add some goldfish crackers, a handful of candy-coated chocolate like M&Ms, raisins and peanuts. Mix together and store in a large plastic container. Serve in small paper cups or individual bowls. You can customize this mix to suit your family’s taste preferences.
Here’s a few safety tips to keep everyone healthy.
Don’t forget the sunscreen and use it regularly, especially if you are in the water. Keep tables, hands and utensils clean. Pack soap, paper towels, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer.
Put coolers in the air-conditioned back seat of the car instead of the trunk and place in a shady spot at the park. Cover with a blanket to keep it cool.
Put perishable food away within one to two hours after serving the meal. If you forget, throw the perishable food out after two hours to prevent food-borne illnesses. Use separate plates for raw and cooked foods when grilling to prevent cross-contamination.
Enjoy a healthy holiday weekend!
Lisa McCoy is a family and consumer-sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.