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April 21

Backyard Dining Tips from Linda Johnson, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at LCH

LCH Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Linda Johnson walks us through everything we need to know to have a fun, healthy backyard picnic.

Eating at home has been a necessity so far this Spring but don’t let it keep you from eating out…in your backyard that is!

Make the mealtime special. Pack up a basket with a tablecloth, napkins, utensils and other needed serving dishes. You can use paper products or go fancy and use your dinnerware. Include in your basket hats, sunscreen and hand wipes. Have a cooler with ice or ice blocks available to hold your cold foods at safe temperatures while you are outside, 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below as per Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you are grilling be sure to keep your raw meat chilled separately from the rest of the items, you are transporting out back. And if it is a sunny evening find a shaded spot if possible, to set up your outdoor dining space along with your coolers of food. Per CDC recommendations be sure to refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours and if outdoor temperatures are over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, refrigerate within 1 hour.

Be adventurous with your meal planning. Children love fun activities around eating and this might just be the occasion when they are willing to try new foods together. Be sure to start with a healthy beverage. Water is a perfect picnic beverage for hydration without unneeded sugar from soda or sports drinks. Add a splash of fresh lemon juice to give it a little flavor if you prefer. Be a role model for your children and teach them to enjoy water for thirst by seeing you do the same.

Photo of LCH RD Linda playing with her dog outsideWhat’s on the menu? Start with an old stand by like grilled chicken and potatoes, or be creative with a new recipe, such as Curried Chicken Salad w/ Apples and Raisins or Chicken Cutlets with Strawberry Avocado Salsa. (Recipe links can be found at the end of the article). Make ahead of time and keep cold in your cooler until ready to serve. Or if you want the night off from cooking, support a local business and find some curbside take out to bring to your backyard.  If you order takeout, you can keep it healthy by what foods you select and how they are prepared. Try to avoid terms such as crispy and crunchy as this indicates they may have been cooked in added fat. Ask for sauces and salad dressing on the side to avoid excessive calories from fat. Watch serving sizes and portion foods onto your plate rather than eating the entire portion out of the container.  And as always be sure to wash your hands frequently during meal preparation and serving.

Does having fun and keeping it healthy mean no dessert tonight? Healthy meal planning includes a balance of nutritious and tasty foods. Include some fresh fruits washed and cut into safe serving sizes and shapes for young children. Strawberries become plentiful in June and you can enjoy their sweet flavor plain or utilize some tips for a healthier version of strawberry shortcake at the link below from Spend some time together in the kitchen and bake some homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  Including servings of fruits and vegetables frequently is the daily goal but enjoying an occasional homemade chocolate chip cookie as a treat during your evening out in the backyard is ok too. Then….

Instead of settling inside watching TV or screen time on your phone, stay outside and get up and move together. There are plenty of outdoor games to play with and without necessary equipment. Get out a ball and have a family game of kickball. If you have yard games set them up for some badminton or ladder ball to name a few. If games and sports are not your first activity choice, then perhaps a backyard dance party is what you and your family can enjoy together.  The idea is to be creative, eat healthy, stay active and have fun together.

With a little planning and creativity family mealtime can be a reservation in your own backyard. Take advantage of the warming temperatures of Spring and put a date on your calendar to make plans with your family for a mealtime adventure in the outdoors.

Published by VISTA Today on April 21, 2020.

Recipe links from