It’s summer: Keep foodstuffs safe!

Don’t let high temperatures ruin your long-awaited summer outing

By Deb Dittner

summer picnicWell, it’s that time of year when the days are getting longer, and the sun is higher in the sky and feels so deliciously warm on your face. Hooray vitamin D!

So get out and clean up the garden, take extra-long walks with your fur baby, and shed some layers.

This is also the time of year when you will bring the grill out and picnic on the beach, on a mountaintop, or in your own back yard.

With picnicking comes food safety that you need to be aware of. So pack up the picnic basket with these tips in mind:

— Before heading out the door, freeze numerous containers of water.

These act as ice packs to keep cold foods cold and can be used as cool tasting water to maintain hydration. It’s important to keep fluids on board during the dog days of summer that feature intense heat and humidity.

— Pack plenty of portable foods that do not need refrigeration. If you will be out picnicking for hours on end, you want to plan ahead and pack foods that are safe to consume at room temperature.

Some examples are whole grain crackers with nut butter, dairy-free grain-based salads, hardy fruit salad, and carrots, celery, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, and broccoli with hummus.

— Freeze fruit such as grapes and berries ahead of time. These sweet delicacies are even sweeter when frozen. Consider them as dessert instead of more sugary cookies or brownies that can sit heavy in your stomach. Frozen fruit will also help you to stay cool.

— Avoid packing foods that could pose an issue such as raw meats, deli meats, soft cheeses, melon, salads with a mayonnaise base and onions, and hot foods. These can be more prone to bacterial growth in summertime heat.

— If you question the safety of a food, throw it out! Food poisoning is the last thing you want to experience at any time whether you’re picnicking in your back yard or away from home. Spoilage can occur quickly, especially when sitting out under the sun for long periods of time.

— As the outside temperature rises, it becomes more important to not leave food to sit out for more than one to two hours at a time.

If you have brought cold food, keep it cold at a suggested 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Raw foods such as poultry and meat should be separated from produce and cooked foods so as to prevent any cross-contamination.

— Bring extra utensils for cooking and serving. Never use the same utensils for raw meat, seafood or chicken as you would use for preparing produce or ready-to-eat foods. Also, wash utensils thoroughly in warm, soapy water after each use.

— Always wash your hands before, during and after preparing food so as not to contaminate. If there are no water sources nearby, be sure to pack hand sanitizer.

— To avoid overheating of food and family, find a site in the shade. Picnicking under the shade of a large tree will help in the prevention of heat exhaustion and sunburn. Once out of direct sunlight, your food, skin and health will be safer.

— Speaking of sunburn, let’s look at sunscreens.

Check out www.ewg.org for the app Healthy Living powered by Skin Deep and Food Scores for the most up-to-date information on sunscreens, cosmetics and food.

So let’s get outside and enjoy nature and all it has to offer. Your health requires it!

• Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes. For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.

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