Memorial Day is upon us and with it the beginning of a summer full of delicious outdoor eating. Whether you plan to picnic or fix dinner on the grill, it’s wise to keep in mind a few health and safety tips. Britney Merchant, MA, RD, Clinical Dietitian/Diabetes Educator at Indiana University Health Diabetes Center offers her ideal Memorial Day menu, along with tips to keep any summer gathering healthy and fun:
Britney’s Ideal Memorial Day Menu
- Fruit flavored water (soak fruit in water for healthy, delicious flavored water)
- Light alcoholic beverages made with recommended portions from above and low in calories. Recommended alcoholic beverage serving size is 1 serving or 1.5oz liquor, 12oz beer, or 5oz wine for women and 2 servings for men.
- Watermelon/cantaloupe balls
- Variety of cheese slices with whole grain crackers
- Lots of fruits and vegetables available for snacking--the more color the better
- Turkey burgers or lean red meat (90/10 or 93/7) with avocado sauce (Avocado + skinny cow cheese) & light whole grain bun
- Grilled salmon or other fish
- Whole grain pasta salad made with diced veggies, whole grain pasta, & vinegar/oil/garlic based dressing
- Quinoa with diced bell peppers
- Mixed dark green leafy salad
- Grilled veggie kabobs (squash, tomato, potato, onion, bell peppers)
- Fruit Kabobs (Strawberries, Blueberries, Pineapple)
- Fruit Pizza (use light sugar cookie base made with Splenda® topped with light cream cheese sauce and blueberries/raspberries or strawberries to make a flag for memorial day)
- Chocolate, chocolate chip muffins made with devil’s food cake mix + 1 can pumpkin & bake as directed on the box
Beyond food choices, safe handling of food is necessary to ensure everyone has a good time and avoids injury or sickness. The USDA offers a fact sheet that includes helpful tips on food preparation, handling and cooking, such as:
- Get Grill Ready: Always clean the grill before & after each use, as well as when you use if for the first time this season. You can do this by turning the grill temperature up, leaving the lid down allowing the grill to get up to around 500˚F to burn off any food residues. Then scrub with wire brush. Also, most gas grills have a grease trap on the back side to clean. It can also be helpful to make sure the propane tank and gas line has no leaks. Of course, make sure the grill is not next to the house or any other flammable items.
- Careful Food Handling: Wash hands before and after preparing foods. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold to avoid bacterial growth and food related illness. Ideal temps = less than 40˚F and more than 140˚F. Do not place cooked food on plates that were used to prepare/carry raw meats and marinate meat in fridge, NOT at room temperature.
Grilling Basics: Avoid charring of foods, which releases carcinogens. Cook at a lower temperature for longer time, rather than turning the heat up high. Make sure the grill is clean prior to use. Use a thermometer to be sure your food has reached optimal temperature internally. Safe minimum internal temps
- Poultry 165˚F
- Ground meats 160˚F
- Beef, pork, lamb, & veal 145˚F
- Safe Eating Habits: Perishable foods (dairy, meat/poultry/fish, dressings, etc) should never sit out longer than 2 hours, and when the outdoor temperature is more than 90˚F, no longer than 1 hour. Keep dishes covered to avoid contact with insects (flies, ants, etc).