Memorial Day kicks off the summer holiday season. As you gear up to celebrate the extended Memorial weekend, consider some of these tips when preparing your picnic food for friends and family to make it a healthy and happy holiday.
Pack Plenty of Liquids
Memorial weekend typically falls on some of the hottest days of May, so it is essential to pack lots of drinks for your picnic. On an average day with little physical activity, a daily water intake should be around 2,500 milliliters (10-12 cups). With more outdoor activity, your water intake should also increase to keep you hydrated.
Water replenishes the fluids lost through sweating, which can lead to dehydration. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already feeling the effects of dehydration. Be proactive with water consumption and drink plenty of liquids BEFORE you feel thirsty.
Though water should always be the beverage of choice to stay properly hydrated, natural and low-sugar fruit juices can be healthy alternatives for your picnic meals. You can easily prepare fresh fruit drinks made with local produce and sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey and stevia to control the amount of sugar you and your guests consume. For baked desserts, consider using homemade applesauce as an alternative sweetener and a low glycemic option.
Opt to Grill Out
Rather than cooking fried foods ahead of time, grilling meats and vegetables for your picnic can be a great way to prepare healthier foods. Grilling your meals
- Preserves more essential vitamins in the food;
- Reduces your caloric intake because there’s no need for cooking oils or butter; and
- Alleviates the consumption of excess fats from meats.
Vegetables such as zucchini, squash, asparagus and onions roast well on both charcoal and gas grills. Lean beef and ground turkey make great burgers, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and trout also taste great from the grill. Be sure to monitor appropriate temperatures to ensure your picnic food is safe to eat.
Fiber- rich vegetables and fruits will keep you satisfied and are a natural low-calorie option.
They create a more festive presentation, and a selection of multicolored produce also provides a variety of key nutrients essential for a healthy diet. Make sure that half your plate is full of veggies and consider filling up on those first.
|Fruit/Vegetable Color||Essential Nutrients||Picnic Suggestions|
|Orange/Yellow||Beta carotene, potassium, calcium||cantaloupe, bananas, carrots, bell peppers, butternut squash, pineapple, mangoes, papaya, corn|
|Red/Blue/Purple||Folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, potassium, antioxidants||Cherries, watermelon, cranberries, strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, kidney beans, beets, grapefruit|
|White||Vitamin C, riboflavin, fiber||Potatoes, parsnips, mushrooms, fennel, cauliflower, coconut|
|Green||Calcium, vitamin A||Spinach, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, kiwi, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini|
Choose healthier dishes such as raw vegetable platters, fresh fruit mixes or fresh salads for your Memorial Day recipes. Top your salads with a variety of nuts to add more vitamin-loaded options for your guests.
Kids Just Want to Have Fun!
Planning a Memorial Day for kids can be a perfect opportunity to not only indulge in all the recreational activity, but also introduce their taste buds to new and nutritious foods. Allow kids to have hands-on fun by selecting easy-to-make recipes that incorporate leaner proteins and varied selections from each of the food groups.
Recipes like Tasty Fish and Veggie Packets are as simple as having kids choose proteins they prefer, and baking any veggies in foil in an oven or on the grill. These travel well and can be customized to each child in the family. Simple no-cook desserts are a surefire way to avoid interrupting fun while dodging hazards of conventional appliances.
Prepare Outside the Box
Again, parents often forget that presentation is everything. Making foods look more fun entices kids to try items they might usually snub! Think outside the box with picnic food prep:
- Pack salads in cute Mason jars decorated by the kids
- Use cookie cutters to make animal shapes out of sandwiches
- Disguise casseroles as muffins or cupcakes (this one has the advantage of being easy to hold for kiddie hands!)
- Think lettuce wraps instead of breads to lessen calorie intake
- Pack ice cream waffle cones as great yogurt and berry parfait carriers.
Proper Storage and Packing
Whatever Memorial Day recipes you choose, take the necessary precautions to pack, transport and store your food safely.
Clean fruits and vegetables with vinegar, tap water or produce rinses. Take extra care to sort meats and vegetables separately to avoid the risk of cross-contamination. Keep all refrigerated foods stored properly in an iced cooler to ensure they never rise above FDA-recommended temperatures (40 degrees) where bacteria can develop and grow.
Finally, be mindful of how long foods sit openly at your picnic. Both hot and cold dishes enter the danger zone if out longer than two hours, and even after one if the weather reaches 90 degrees or above.
For more tips on healthy meal planning this holiday, call LifeStyle Medical Centers. Our registered dietitians can offer additional guidance on how to choose the best dishes for your Memorial weekend.