Thursday, June 16, 2011

Healthier Picnics this Summer!

It’s summer season alright so let the BBQs and picnics begin! Now even though these sure are fun times; it is important, however, to keep your food safe at all times! Many people have a notion on how to keep foods safe, especially those that can be easily spoiled, yet they may still be making small mistakes and thus increasing their chances of food poisoning!
Food Safety 
  • When you are packing food at home, pack foods in the same container you are going to use rather than separately. For example, mix all the prepared (chopped) ingredients of your tabboule/salad altogether in a container and the dressing in another container. If the salad contains meats, then these would be in a separate container as well. This way you can mix and eat the fastest – and least food hazardous- possible.
  • When handling food, make sure to wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap – before, during and after handling foods. Make sure to take enough water gallons with you, soap, wet wipes and disposable paper towel, not a dish towel because we all know this will end up wet and dirty and spreading germs from hands, towels and dishes. You can also get a bottle of sanitizer, but keep in mind that it does not replace washing with soap, it’s used afterward. 
  • Make sure to separate raw meats and ready to eat foods (those that will be eaten as prepared without the extra step of cooking) when packing them at home, when placing them in your car trunk and when preparing the picnic foods on site. This way you will avoid dripping from one container to another, minimize cross contamination and any chance of hazardous food poisoning. 
  • Make sure you cook your food to the right internal temperatures using a food thermometer. Now I know that few people use food thermometers for picnics in Lebanon, but it sure is a smart investment to cook meats to the right temperature that kills any lurking bacteria!
Internal temperature (degrees Celsius)
Beef – fish
Ground beef
Poultry – stuffed meats – left overs
Cooked vegetables – gravies
  • Make sure that your coolers are packed with ice, ice packs or icy water bottles enough to keep your cooler's temperature below 4 degrees Celsius while you are driving to your picnic location and going back home as well. 
  • Now I know that picnics take all days and are quite enjoyable, so people tend to forget foods out in hot weather for too long, which increases bacteria multiplication, leading to food poisoning. This is why it is important to promptly place foods in your coolers after 2 hours or discard them if they have been out for 4 hours. Make sure your cooler is still below 4 degrees Celsius. Don’t re-pack everything hoping you’ll be fine eating spoiled food: when in doubt, throw it out! 
  • Know what not to take to your picnic! If you are not taking coolers with you, meats are out of the question! So asses your picnic location as well as the tools you have in order to know what to avoid taking with you.

These tips will sure give your picnic a healthier and safer make over and don’t forget to hydrate yourself well all day: lay low on fizzy carbonated beverages and replace them with fresh fruit drinks and water and get yourself some physical activity in the afternoon!

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