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Diet and Nutrition

Picnic Tidbits

With summer approaching soon, you will probably be packing the picnic basket and heading out to a park, beach, or friend’s backyard. Picnics are a summer tradition that can be fun for the entire family…that is, unless an uninvited guest such as salmonella or shigella spoils your picnic! Here are some tips for a healthy and safe picnic.

The first step is to plan a healthy menu. Pack a variety of nutritious appetizers and snacks such as vegetables with low-fat salad dressing, fresh fruit kabobs, baked chips and salsa, or hummus and whole wheat pita bread. Include easy-to-pack, low-fat deli sandwiches or grilled entrees such as chicken breasts or portabella mushrooms. Roasted vegetables and tossed salad are healthy side dishes. Finish the meal with a simple dessert such as watermelon, angel food cake, or oatmeal cookies.

Always remember these food safety rules when packing and preparing picnic foods.

1. KEEP IT CLEAN! Wash your hands before and after handling food for about 20 seconds (which is equal to singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice). Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Also, use disposable plates and utensils to decrease the chances of contaminating food with harmful bacteria and viruses.

2. KEEP IT COLD! Don't let the summer heat spoil your picnic. The longer food is at warm temperatures, the more likely bacteria will grow and cause food-borne illness.

3. COOK IT COMPLETELY! Whether cooking indoors or grilling outside, meat and poultry should be cooked thoroughly to ensure that harmful bacteria are destroyed. Grill raw poultry until the juices run clear and there is no pink close to the bone. Hamburgers should not be pink in the center. Hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees and chicken to 170 degrees (using a meat thermometer to check temperatures).

Practice these safety tips and enjoy your summer picnics!

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Last Reviewed: May 31, 2006

Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD Bonnie J Brehm, PhD, RD
Professor of Nursing
College of Nursing
University of Cincinnati