June signifies the end of spring and the beginning of summer. It is a time to enjoy the warmth of the sun and head outdoors for some fun. One way I like to enjoy the summer sun is to go on a picnic. Here are a few tips to help make your next family picnic fun and healthy.

  • Is it the journey or the destination? For your next picnic, take some time with your kids to plan the menu. My kids love taking part in planning meals and helping in the kitchen. We each choose a favorite recipe for part of the meal and then put it all together to create the menu. Try one of Chef Wayne’s favorite picnic foods, the basil 5-bean salad. Sometimes, we even take a trip to a local famer’s market. June in Wisconsin can bring tasty salads, sandwiches or quiche that are prepared using seasonal asparagus, potatoes, peas, broccoli, corn or carrots. Also in season are strawberries and raspberries. These berries are great when eaten alone, used in fresh drinks or added to desserts.
  • Take time to smell the roses. I still remember helping my grandmother in the kitchen and spending hours with her and my mom talking and laughing. Time spent in the kitchen preparing meals with kids makes for great memories. Young kids can help by adding premeasured ingredients into bowl, stirring cookie batter or frosting cupcakes. Older kids can shop, read recipes or assemble sandwiches. When kids help in the planning and preparation of meals, it can lead to improved trial and acceptability of new foods.
  • Temperatures really do matter. Perishable foods, such as raw or cooked meats and poultry, have the potential to cause food-borne illnesses if not handled or stored properly. Bacteria will grow rapidly between 40°F and 140°F. Store hot foods in insulated containers. Cold foods should be stored using ice, cold packs or even frozen juice boxes. Perishable food should not be left out for more than 2 hours. Lastly, pack only what you think you will eat and leave the leftovers home in the refrigerator.
  • Special touches show you care. To add color, bring an empty mason or jelly jar to add flowers that were cut from your yard. Or, try rolling utensils in napkins that are tied together with a fun fact or joke for your kids to read while eating. Pack fun games to play with your child such as a flying disc or ball and glove.

~ Beth Polzin, MBA, RD, CD, is a clinical dietitian specialist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Wayne Roe is the executive chef and manager of Nutrition Services at Children’s Hospital.

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