LEWISTOWN - The summer months are the perfect time to be outdoors and have a picnic with your family. Whether you're having a picnic in the park, at the beach or in your own backyard, keeping food safe and sanitary is the first step to a perfect picnic.
Food can spoil quickly on hot days. Keep food in the cooler until you're ready to eat, and put food back in the cooler as soon as possible when finished. Practice proper food safety techniques to prevent the growth of foodborne bacteria. Do not keep sandwiches, protein foods, dairy foods or mayonnaise-based salads at room temperature or outside in the heat for extended periods of time. These foods are more susceptible to bacterial growth. This will help prevent illness caused by improper storage of foods.
With so many fruits and vegetables in season, summer picnics are the perfect time to take advantage of nature's bounty. A healthy lunch should include protein as well as lots of vegetables and fruits.
Sandwiches are easy picnic choices. If you pack sandwiches, getting whole grain goodness is easy with whole wheat rolls or multigrain bread. Also, salads are good options, incorporating lots of vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, carrots, peppers and protein such as beans, diced ham or turkey, eggs and cheese.
Try a simple cold grain salad made with brown rice, couscous, pasta or quinoa with chopped vegetables and olive oil. Nuts and seeds are also a good source of protein and can be eaten alone or put into the salad. Try almonds, walnuts and pine nuts or pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds to add flavor and crunch to your salad. You could also offer raw vegetables with a dip or salad dressing as a finger-food option for kids.
Remember that nature's candy is fruit. Pack fruit whole if you can, so you have less to clean up later, or slice it up and put it in plastic containers that you can serve from later. Watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon are popular picnic choices. Apples, peaches, pears, plums and nectarines are easy to pack and are good nutritional sources for everyone to enjoy.
If you and your family can't bear not having an actual dessert, try angel food cake with fresh berries and whipped cream for a low-calorie indulgence.
Finally, don't forget the beverages. Pack water. Do not waste your money on soft drinks or non-nutritive beverages. Use juice boxes as an occasional treat for kids, but even the most healthful juices contribute excess calories. Teach kids to drink water now and they will do this forever. Freeze water bottles and place them in your cooler or bag to help keep foods chilled.
Organize everything you'll need for the day - snack, food, beverages, cutlery and plates - and enjoy the great outdoors.