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
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.
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.
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.
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.