Tips for keeping your cookouts and picnics safe

Grilling season is officially here. But as the weather heats up, so does the risk of foodborne illness. Casey Bjoralt, a dietitian at Sanford Medical Center Fargo, explains how to stay safe and healthy during your backyard barbecues and picnics in the park.

Cooking meat

Any meats should be kept in a cooler with ice for no longer than three to four hours before being cooked. Coolers that are more full tend to stay cold longer than ones that are partially filled, so be sure to continue refilling with ice.

While preparing food, use separate cutting boards, knives and plates for raw and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.

When grilling, it’s important to make sure all meats are cooked thoroughly. Use a thermometer to check that all meats are cooked to a safe temperature:

  • Beef or pork: 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Ground meats: 160 degrees
  • Poultry: 165 degrees

Serving food

Be sure to use new, clean plates and utensils when serving cooked food or handling ready-to-eat foods such as fruits and vegetables. Never reuse items that touched raw meat.

Other perishable foods such as salads, pastas, deli meat and dairy should be kept cool until served and shouldn’t sit out for more than two hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, do not keep food out for longer than one hour. Throw away all unrefrigerated food that exceeds this time limit.

Keeping it cool

When using coolers, keep them out of direct sunlight and try to limit the number of times you’re opening them. On hot days, beverage coolers are more likely to be opened more often and exposed to warmer temperatures frequently. Using separate coolers for food and drinks can help maintain a lower cooler temperature and also reduce the risk of foodborne illness from raw foods that leak.

Store leftovers in a sealed container and keep in a cooler. As long as they are properly refrigerated, leftovers can be reused for up to three days.

Healthy ideas

Hydration and healthy eating are two more things to keep in mind on hot summer days. Drink lots of water and try to avoid caffeine or sugary drinks. Sparkling waters are a great alternative, still giving flavor but without the caffeine or sugars in pop.

When it comes to menu planning, keep everything in balance and moderation and watch portion sizes. Mix in fruits and vegetables as sides instead of chips, or buy whole grain buns for complex carbohydrates and fiber.

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Fargo, Health Information, Healthy Living, Nutrition