family barbecue

Tips for healthy food choices at picnics and barbeques

 “We are more inclined to eat lighter meals when the weather is warmer,” said Jasmin James, DO, Catholic Health Primary Care Physician. “That means healthier choices like salads, fruits and plant-based foods when planning for or attending picnics and barbecues.”
Use these tips to make healthy and safe choices:
  • Choose foods that do not melt, wilt or spoil quickly. Fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains are ideal al fresco dining choices.
  • Choose plant-based foods, lean-fat meats or fatty fish. Try plant-based options, like a veggie burger. Or, opt for a turkey, chicken or salmon burger.
  • Use tofu, tempeh, seeds, nuts or beans to create salads and entrées for a hot weather protein boost that does not require refrigeration.
  • Choose desserts with no added sugar. Summer is the perfect time to add more fruit to your meals, like seasonal blueberries, cherries, strawberries and watermelon. You can even make your own ice cream using only bananas.
“You can enjoy summer staples like hamburgers, hot dogs and ice cream in moderation,” said Dr. James. “But these are not healthy foods, so be mindful not to overindulge when at a picnic or barbeque, especially if you have diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity or other health concerns.”
She noted you can talk to your primary care physician (PCP), who can recommend a dietitian to help you plan ahead and enjoy summer festivities.

Tips to prevent foodborne illnesses 

“Food poisoning and food-related illnesses can easily happen when temperatures are high and food is outside, “said Dr. James. “A few precautions, however, can keep you and others from getting sick.”
Use these tips to prevent foodborne illnesses:
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before cooking or eating. If you are eating outdoors without water access, use hand sanitizers, disposable towelettes, or a water jug and soap.
  • Do not cross-contaminate your meal. Keep cooked and raw foods away from each other with separate utensils, cutting boards, plates and serving dishes.
  • Use a thermometer to ensure that meat is cooked thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria. Hamburgers should reach 160°F, and chicken should reach at least 165°F.
  • Deal with leftovers quickly. Do not let anything containing meat or dairy products stay unrefrigerated for longer than one hour if the temperature is higher than 90°. If you think you may have leftovers, be prepared with containers, ice and enough cooler space to get your extra food home safely.

Tips to avoid sunburns and heat illnesses

Always use sunscreen
“You should wear sunscreen daily, but applying a liberal coat of protection is essential whenever you are outdoors,” said Dr. James.
Use these tips when applying sunscreen:
  • Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects you from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher for maximum protection.
  • Use water-resistant sunscreen to remain protected when sweating or swimming. Reapply at least every two hours for high levels of protection throughout the day.
Stay cool
High temperatures and humidity can increase your chance of heat-related illness if your body temperature hits unhealthy levels. When you are having fun outside in the summer, it can be easy to stay outside longer and become overexposed to the heat and sun.
Use these tips when outdoors:

Tips to avoid ticks and insect bites

Ticks and insects can ruin an otherwise perfect picnic or barbeque. Use these tips to prepare and stay safe:
  • Avoid planning a picnic or barbeque in a densely wooded area that ticks favor.
  • Pack insect repellent, bug bite sticks, bandages and antibiotic ointment. If you have a known allergy, make sure also to pack your EpiPen. 
  • Cover your food and keep portable fans nearby to keep away ants, mosquitoes and other flying insects.
  • Call your primary care physician (PCP) if you show signs of an infection after a tick or bug bite, like fever, redness or swelling.
“Summer should be a fun time, so knowing how to keep yourself healthy and safe can make it even more enjoyable,” said Dr. James.

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