By Katie Mulligan
Summer is here and it’s time to get outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Soak up some vitamin D, shed a few winter pounds, and let these long summer days do their trick! Summer is a great time to bring the whole family out for a picnic, and there are so many wonderful places to spread your blanket all over Rhode Island–you could picnic every day of the summer and never eat at the same place twice. From a family nutrition standpoint, picnics are wonderful and, when done safely, can be a family tradition worth preserving. One of things I love about picnics is that kids enjoy getting involved with planning which tasty and nutritious dishes to pack. Resist tossing Twizzlers and chips in the picnic basket and calling it a day. Make it a special event by soliciting help from young family members by asking, “What kind of salad should we bring today — tropical fruit or cauliflower? Do you want cold homemade pizza or fresh sandwiches? Should we stop and pick up some strawberries on our way?” Since a picnic breaks the usual routine and replaces it with a relaxed atmosphere and beautiful scenery, kids might be inspired to try dishes they haven’t sampled before.
Picnics usually take place in open areas like the beach or a park, or maybe even the woods. Open spaces have lots of room to run around, providing physical activity for your little ones. Picnics are a great way to get the kids outdoors, moving and playing, and it’s a great way for parents to get a little exercise too — why not get your morning jog in during a game of tag?
There is one caveat to picnicking, and that concerns food safety issues. By taking just a few simple steps, you can ensure a safe picnic for all. Make sure you have plenty of ice packs and a cooler that will keep perishable foods at or below 40Â° Fahrenheit, and do not let perishable foods sit above 40Â° for more than two hours. Limit how often the cooler gets opened to keep the temperature inside as cold as possible. Wash all fruits and vegetables before leaving the house, and bring antibacterial wipes to wash hands before preparing foods and eating. When grilling, just like at home, keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate and use different plates and utensils for raw meats and cooked meats. Remember that young children, older adults, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk of contracting a food-borne illness — so take extra precautions to protect them and the rest of your fellow picnickers.
Here is a great summer picnic recipe that’s healthy and delicious! Cauliflower has special compounds that may help prevent cancer, and one cup has almost 100% of your vitamin C for the day, 15% of folate needs, and 15% of dietary fiber requirements.
Cauliflower Salad: 1 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
Â½ cup green olives with pimentos, chopped
Directions: Combine all ingredients and pour desired amount of dressing on top. Toss to coat. Chill for 20 minutes. Serve.
Katie Mulligan is a registered dietitian specializing in pediatrics. Through her practice, Nurturing Nutrition, Katie provides individualized nutrition counseling to children (ages birth to 18) and their families.
Photo Credit: www.kharberphoto.com