Packing the Perfect Picnic

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    by Jennifer Struble

    Summer time is the perfect time for a picnic with friends and family to enjoy each other’s company while sharing a meal together. A picnic outdoors is a great chance to slow down, relax and connect with each other.

    Key to packing a perfect picnic is planning ahead. Consider the location of your picnic and who will be attending. Make sure to have freezer packs to keep your food cold and at a safe temperature until you are ready to eat.  Save time by making extra servings from meals the day before to use for your picnic. Left over fish, poultry, or meat makes a great sandwich filling. Keep the sandwiches interesting by choosing whole grain breads, buns, bagels, pitas or tortillas and add a variety of fillings. Fill your sandwich with cucumber, lettuce, tomato, sprouts or roasted red peppers for extra color and nutrition.

    Pack fresh fruit, cut up vegetables and fruit, nuts, cheese sticks and whole grain muffins to compliment the main course of your picnic. Hummus or guacamole with whole grain pita wedges make a nice side dish as well. Adding variety can ensure that everyone at the picnic will have foods they enjoy. Limit foods such as candy, pop, fruit drinks and chips. They are higher in fat, sugar and salt and are not part of Canada’s Food Guide.

    Involve your kids in the planning and packing the picnic. Children who are involved in planning the picnic will be more likely to enjoy new foods and eat well. Include foods that your family likes to eat along with new foods.

    Use an insulated container for hot or cold foods. To keep hot foods hot, pour hot water in the insulated container for a few minutes to heat. Empty the water and fill with very hot food and close tightly. For cold foods such as drinks, yogurt, cheese, salads or sandwiches, chill the insulated container with cold water or keep in the fridge overnight with the lid off. Empty the container and add cold food and close tightly. Frozen containers of milk or water help chill sandwiches and will thaw in time to drink at lunch. A freezer pack can also keep items cold in the picnic basket or cooler. A full cooler will stay cold longer than one that is partially filled.

    It is important to wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after touching food, after using the bathroom, changing diapers or touching pets. If there are no places with warm running water make sure to pack hand sanitizer.

    Planning a perfect picnic will ensure everyone has a safe and healthy experience.

    For more information visit:

    See www.healthyeatingstartshere.ca for additional tips, information, meal ideas and inspiring recipes to help you make healthy eating choices.

    Jennifer Struble is a Registered Dietitian with Alberta Health Services, Nutrition Services. She can be reached by e-mail, [email protected]

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