Healthier Summer Cookout

This weekend is Memorial Day and that means the official kick off to summer is here! That means lots of time outside, cooking out, playing in the pool and enjoying a bonfire in the evening. I love summer time and there is so many fun activities to do. I wish that I was a teacher and able to take off for the summer, but sadly that is not the case so instead I cram all the summer time activities into the weeknights and weekends.

I was on WTHR-13 this past week talking about healthier cook outs and some tips to help make sure you have a safe and healthy cook out/picnic this weekend and then throughout the summer. I thought it would be great to share some of these tips and recommendation with you all.


Creating a Safe and Healthy Cook Out

  1. Drink Wisely - During the summer, we enjoy nice cold beverages. It is important to be aware of what is in your favorite cool drink. If you drink alcohol there are calories in that beer (154 calories/can) or wine (125 calories/5oz) and if you prefer a mixed, sugary drink there are quite a few calories hidden in there as well (455 calories/8oz for a margarita). Work to minimize the number of calories you are getting from your drinks. Make sure that you are getting enough water. Your body is made up of 60% of water and staying hydrated during the summer time is extremely important. Carry a water bottle with you or have a container of water with you at your desk throughout the day.

  2. Pick Fresh Foods - The summer time is when most fruits/vegetables are in season. That means that you can purchase fresh produce at a much cheaper price compared with in the winter time. Stock up on these nutritiously dense fruits and vegetables throughout the summer. These produce items are also low in calories and high in vitamins/minerals which helps keep your body functioning well. You can get these fresh items from your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market. You can even grow them in your backyard. That is a great way to incorporate exercise, saving money and learning where your food comes from! Plus, grilling fruits and vegetables is a fun way to enjoy more of these items at your next cookout.

  3. Check Temperatures - Make sure that you have a thermometer for checking your meat that you are grilling. Under cooking meat and then keeping it in the temperature danger zone is one of the easiest ways to create a great environment for food borne illnesses. The temperature danger zone is between 40-140 degrees F. This is the ideal zone for bacteria to grow and multiple. That is why it is important to get your chicken up to 165 degrees F, ground beef up to 160 degrees F and pork up to 145 degrees F. After grilling meat, make sure that it is eaten quickly or only stays at room temperature for 2 hours. If you know you are going to be out at a campsite or a park, bring a cooler with ice to help cool food down and keep it cold (<40 degrees F) to prevent bacteria growth. Keep cold items out for 2 hours and or only 1 hour if it is >90 degrees F outside. Keeping food safe will help to make your cookout more enjoy and prevent anyone from getting sick.

  4. Enjoy Snack Foods in Moderation - It is easy to fill your plate with those delicious snack foods that we bring to cookouts – the chips, dip, cookies and mayo heavy side salads. These can be great traditional cook out foods, but just make sure that you are enjoying them in moderation, keeping them at safe temperatures and then fill up on plenty nutritious fruits and vegetables. We also tend to enjoy grilling processed meats at cookouts (hot dogs, brats or even frozen hamburgers). These can contain lots of added salt and preservatives. If you are trying to follow a heart healthy diet, make sure that you are aware of what is in these food items and limit your consumption of them. Pick 1 hot dog instead of two and then a small handful of chips and choose seconds of the fruits/vegetables.

Hopefully you all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend and enjoy the extra time with family and friends. If you are in Indianapolis and going to the race, have fun and hopefully it isn’t too wet for everyone.


Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

All of us, enjoy all the food that is associated with the Holiday Season - everything from the cookies to the turkey. It is so much fun to gather with family and friends, celebrate another year and eat delicious food. For all of the time that goes into making a gorgeous holiday spread, you want to make sure that your meal or appetizers do not end up making your loved ones sick. That is why food safety is so important, especially this time of year. There are some great handouts and information available from the CDC and FDA. Food borne illnesses are a serious issue in the United States causing ~76 million people to become sick each year. The most common food borne diseases associated with meat, poultry and fish are Salmonella, Campylobacter and E coli. Pregnant women, older adults, infants, young children and those with a weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections. 

4 Steps to Food Safety

  1. Clean - Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching or preparing any food. This is the best way to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. This also applies to all your kitchen equipment and utensils - clean them with warm water and soap, especially in between working with meat and produce.
  2. Separate - Keep your meat and produce items separate. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and then use a different one for fresh produce. This helps to prevent cross-contamination. Remember to keep the juices of these fresh meat items away from any already prepared foods as well. 
  3. Cook - When you are cooking your meat and poultry items make sure that you are getting the internal temperature of those food items to a safe level. This will ensure that all the microorganisms are killed. Use your food thermometer and make sure that you insert the thermometer correctly into the food item. The AND has a great page on how to properly calibrate your thermometer and use it correctly! 
    • Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to 165F 
    • Beef, veal, lamb roasts to 145F 
    • Fully cooked ham to 140F 
    • Fresh ham, pork and egg dishes to 160F 
    • All leftovers should be cooked to 165F 
  4. Chill - Once your meal is over, getting your food put away and properly cooled is important. Your refrigerator should be kept at 40F or below to prevent bacteria growth. Any type of egg dish always needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Get your leftovers in the frig within 2 hours of them being out on the table and never defrost your food at room temperature.