My Food Fix: Picnic Tips & Super Salads

July is National Picnic Month!

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The fun part of Picnic Month? Dining al fresco, enjoying a meal with family and friends, less clean up(!). The not-so-fun part of Picnic Month? Increased risk of foodborne illness, which is usually caused by improper handling of food.

As I shared on Fox8 WGHP this week, there are four simple steps which can help ensure that your picnic and BBQ is remembered for the tasty food and good conversation, not because everyone got sick.

Four tips to help keep your picnic and BBQ safe:

  1. Toss the (dish) towel. Yes, dishtowels are an eco-friendly alternative to paper towels, but using the same towel while handling raw meat and then during (or after) cooking is ripe for cross-contamination. Use paper towels while handling meat and save the dishtowel for drying clean dishes.
  2. Washing rules. We KNOW to wash our hands before, during and after handling food, but sometimes we just forget (or get lazy). Seriously, folks, hand-washing could help prevent nearly half of all foodborne illnesses. If you don’t have running water, reach for the sanitizer. It works as a back-up.
  3. Keep your cool. Every time we open a cooler to grab a drink, the temperature in the cooler rises. Pack drinks and other frequently accessed food items with ice packs in a separate cooler from meats, chicken, fish, salads and other perishable foods. And, keep coolers out of direct sunlight, if possible.
  4. Forget the 2-hour rule. Kudos to you if you use the 2-hour rule–toss items that have been sitting out more than 2 hours. However, on hot days (days close to and above 90-degrees), stick to the 1-hour rule. Set your phone timer or alarm to alert you when food’s been out for an hour and then pack it up.


Now, for the fun part of picnics and BBQ… the FOOD!

Pack some fresh fruit, a salad or two (see my salad recipes below!), a protein-rich dish (fish kebabs, chicken breasts, BBQ tofu steaks, veggie or lean beef burgers) and some fruit-flavored water or unsweetened tea for a simple and portable meal. Here are two salads that take less than 20 minutes to make and pack a big nutrient punch!

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Quinoa & Avocado Salad
1.5 cups quinoa, uncooked
3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup balsamic or red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen corn, thawes
1 carton chopped tomatoes, drained
½ cucumber, chopped
2 avocadoes, cubed
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook quinoa according to instructions (using broth instead of water). While quinoa is cooking, mix cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and lime juice. Mix black beans, corn, tomatoes and cucumber. Cool quinoa and add to veggie mixture. Top with oil-vinegar dressing. Top with avocado. Makes 4 servings.

Broccoli-Raisin Coleslaw
Bag of broccoli slaw
½ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup golden raisins
Light Goddess or Poppyseed dressing, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Mix slaw, carrots and raisins. Add dressing, as desired. Toss well, and add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 6 servings.

PLEASE SHARE: What are some of your favorite picnic dishes? I’d love to hear from you!

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