6 Food Safety Tips for Your Summer Picnic

Sunrise Senior Living  |  July 27, 2018
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July is National Picnic Month! While most families don’t need an excuse to host a picnic on a sunny summer day, you do need to be aware of a few potential safety issues.

If your picnic will include an older loved one who is on a restricted diet, planning a menu that includes heart-smart choices is important. Another picnic safety concern is preventing food poisoning. On hot summer days, foods can spoil quickly if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Here are six tips for hosting a safe and healthy summer picnic:

  1. Lighten up the salads: Potato salad, pasta salad, and other mayonnaise-based salads are staples for many family picnics. But they can be laden with calories and unhealthy fats. This summer, skip the mayo. Switch to salads made with mustard or olive oil instead. You can also replace mayonnaise with low-fat plain yogurt.
  2. Foods that hydrate: In addition to providing cold water for picnic guests, make sure your menu includes foods that hydrate, too. Melons, cucumber, tomatoes, leafy greens, grapes, and berries all have high water content. They are also good additions to a healthy summer picnic because they can curb the appetite for less-healthy sweet treats.
  3. Cut the salt and sugar: Limit the number of sugary and salty foods that you serve. They are typically higher in calories and sodium. Consuming salty foods on hot days can also further increase the risk for dehydration. Instead of sodas, chips, and baked goods, opt for humus and fresh vegetables, a fruit bowl, and a grilled vegetable platter.
  4. Baked, not fried: Instead of picking up a bucket of fried chicken at a local fast-food restaurant, bake your own healthier version at home. Greek yogurt, panko breadcrumbs, and a spritz of olive oil can be a tasty way to skip the heavy and unhealthy breading found on fried chicken.
  5. Store at the right temperature: Food can spoil quickly when kept outdoors on a hot day. The Consumer Safety Organization reminds picnickers to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to prevent food poisoning. Hot foods need to be maintained at 140 degrees or more, and cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or lower. Foods that contain mayonnaise or meat products are of special concern. Bacteria can accumulate in as little as one hour outdoors. Keep cold foods on ice and use inexpensive chaffing dishes with gel cans to keep hot foods hot.
  6. Stay on guard for bugs: Mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs can be more than just a nuisance at summer picnics. Some bugs are linked to illnesses like Lyme disease, West Nile virus, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Provide picnic guests with a strong bug spray and encourage them to protect themselves.

If you are looking for a few new recipes for a summer picnic or party, we encourage you to download the cookbook, “Favorite Recipes Shared with Love.” Each recipe comes from a Sunrise resident or community chef!