Picnic and cookout season is here! When it comes to healthy outdoor meals, how you prepare and store your foods is just as important as what you serve. These tips will help you host an outdoor gathering that will keep everyone healthy and happy.
Give your guests options.
Help guests stick to their eating plans by providing a variety of options. Large leaves of romaine lettuce can be used to make wraps for those who want to enjoy their burgers without a bun. Marinate vegetable kabobs or mushrooms to grill for guests who don’t want meat. Vegetable sticks with a bean dip are a good option for those who want to avoid munching on potato chips.
Keep track of the time.
Foods can spoil quickly in summer temperatures, so keep track of how long they have been sitting on the serving table. Don’t keep them out of refrigeration for longer than 2 hours. If the temperature outside is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then this time limit drops to 1 hour. Don’t allow the temperature of foods to fall in the danger zone between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria can grow rapidly in this temperature range. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold by using warming trays, slow cookers, ice packs and coolers.
Make food swaps.
Mayonnaise and cream don’t hold up well in warm temperatures. By swapping them out for other ingredients, you can also make your favorite picnic foods healthier. Choose oil and vinegar based dressings for potato salads. Get creative with fresh salads and skip cream-based baked casseroles. If you can’t do without with your favorite dishes, try recipes that reduce the amount of mayonnaise used like this Pasta Salad with Grapes and Pecans.
Take advantage of the season.
There is no better time of year for fresh foods than picnic season. Leave the cookies and cakes for the holidays, and make fruit your dessert. Grill fruits for a special treat. You can also turn fresh fruit purees into frozen yogurt or popsicles.
Recommended water intake for healthy adults is 8 to 12 cups per day (64 to 96 ounces). Make sure you drink enough water by finding a way to track your intake that works for you.
Tracking with MyFoodDiary
If you are logging your foods with MyFoodDiary, you can add a water tracker to the dashboard. Once you’ve logged into your account, simply click the gear icon in the top right, select “settings,” and then choose “goals.” Once you’ve set a water consumption goal, you will see a progress bar on the dashboard page.
Use a designated water bottle
Designate a water bottle to use everyday, and know how many ounces it holds. For example, you can keep a 32-ounce bottle with you to sip from all day, keeping in mind you will need to drink two bottles to reach 64 ounces. To make sure you get the water you need, set goals for the ounces you will drink by certain times. For example, drink 12 ounces by lunch or a full bottle before your evening workout.
If keeping track of every ounce you drink is challenging, align your intake with specific times of the day. First, select an 8-ounce glass that you will use for your water. If you drink one glass at the top of every hour of an 8-hour work day, you will consume 64 ounces. You can also plan your water consumption with your meals and snacks. Drink two glasses at breakfast, lunch and dinner. To reach 64 ounces, add a glass mid-morning and one in the afternoon. A reminder alarm on your phone may be helpful.
A more creative way to track water intake can be fun for the whole family. First, select 8 to 12 dried beans from the pantry, depending on how many glasses of water you need each day. Keep two small bowls on the countertop or on your desk where you will see them. Each morning, place all of your beans in one bowl. Every time you drink a cup (8 ounces) of water, take a bean out of the first bowl and place it into the second bowl. By the end of the day, you’ll know you have reached your goal if you have transferred all of your beans to the second bowl.
Spices are the key to reducing salt. Adding a mix of spices to beans, sautéed vegetables, soups and stews gives them more flavor so that you can reduce added salt and still be satisfied. Experiment with new spices and keep your pantry stocked with cumin, coriander, curry powder, ground mustard, nutmeg, smoked paprika, chili powders and turmeric.
Stop adding sugar.
Sugar is hidden in more foods than you may realize. Condiments like ketchup, barbecue sauce, relishes, chutneys, marinara sauce, and pickles can be loaded with sugar. When you top healthy foods with sugar-laden toppings, you are adding calories with few nutrients. Read labels closely, and choose condiments that are low in sugar.
Eat sandwiches open-faced.
You don’t have to eliminate bread and buns to eat healthy, but eating sandwiches open-faced is a good way to cut calories and reduce sodium without feeling deprived. Egg sandwiches, lunch meat sandwiches and burgers can all be served open-faced for a healthier meal.
Change how you prepare salads.
Loading dressing onto a salad is an easy way to increase fat and calories. When pouring the dressing over your salad, it fails to coat the lettuce well and encourages you to add more. Try pouring your dressing into a large bowl and whisk for about 30 seconds. Next, add your greens and toss them in the dressing until they are coated. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and enjoy. It’s a simple change in preparation that cuts calories without sacrificing flavor.
Eat raw and cooked vegetables.
Eat your vegetables in a variety of ways to improve nutrient absorption. Both raw and cooked foods have nutritional benefits. While some nutrients are higher in fresh foods (vitamin C), others become more available to the body when a food is cooked (carotenoids in carrots and lycopene in tomatoes).
When fruit is heated on the grill, the natural sugars caramelize for a satisfying summer dessert. Slices of fruit can be placed directly on a clean grate, or make kabobs by sliding chunks of fruit onto a skewer. Grill the fruit between 375 and 425 degrees Fahrenheit for about 5 minutes or until softened. Try adding these fruits to the grill during your next cookout for a sweet treat without added sugar.
Large, firm pitted cherries are the best for grilling. Slide cherries on a metal or soaked wooden skewer. Flip the skewer once while cooking. Slide the cherries off of the skewer and mix into a fruit salad or serve with vanilla yogurt.
Cut firm peaches in half and remove the pit. Place the peaches cut-side down on the grill. Sliced grilled peaches make a delicious dessert, but they can also be added to summer salads for a savory side dish.
Peel and core the pineapple. Lay it on its side and cut into 1 inch thick slices. Flip the pieces one time while grilling. Once cooked, slice into smaller bites for serving. Warm grilled pineapple is especially good sprinkled with cinnamon.
Cut watermelon into 2 inch thick slices and then cut each slice into quarters to create easy-to-hold wedges. Flip the watermelon wedges once during cooking. Eat the warm wedges alone or dice and mix with feta cheese and chopped fresh mint for a sweet and salty dessert or side dish.
Meal delivery services that bring recipes and ingredients to your door are a growing trend for those who want to cook more. If your goal is weight loss, your priorities may be different than the average consumer. Below are a few things to investigate as you choose a meal delivery service that is right for you.
Are there options that meet your weight loss needs?
Many of these services provide healthier options, but that doesn’t always mean they will fit your calorie and nutrient needs for weight loss. Some recipes can look deceivingly healthy, only to have upwards of 900 calories and over 1,000 milligrams of sodium in a serving. It’s important that the nutrition information for the recipes be available to you before you make the commitment to sign up for the service.
Do the meals contain enough vegetables?
The goal of these services is to make cooking easier, which means many recipes turn to simple ingredients like pasta and rice. Others may contain only a piece of fish and a starch like mashed potatoes. Be sure the recipes offered use plenty of vegetables for balanced nutrition. If you find yourself constantly adding your own salad to every meal, the delivery service may not be a good investment.
Does the amount of prep fit your needs?
New recipes can help prevent boredom and help you discover new foods you enjoy. It’s important to be realistic about how adventurous you want to be in the the kitchen. If the recipes you order are filled with unfamiliar ingredients and require more skill than you expect, at the end of the week you might find your shipment still sitting in the refrigerator with other untouched ingredients. If you are new to cooking, choose a service that provides simple, healthy foods and plenty of instruction to keep you from feeling overwhelmed.
Is there a local service available?
Many delivery services operate nationally and regionally, but more and more local services are popping up in larger cities. While either can be a good option, local services are worth exploring. Recipe kits shipped from far away may contain ingredients that have wilted or spoiled during transit. If a local company is sourcing from farms and stores nearby, your ingredients may be fresher than what national companies can provide.