As Memorial Day signals the beginning of summer, Labor Day announces the season’s end. Fall is around the corner, but there will still be time to enjoy good weather, food and friends. So how do you make sure you have a healthy Labor Day?

Make the most of the summer’s last three-day celebration by choosing healthy recipes and things to do with friends and family.

Plan Ahead and Think Safety First

A healthy Labor Day celebration starts with proper planning, especially in packing your supplies and picnic food:

  • Make sure there is an ample water supply. On average, Labor Day temperatures in the Triangle hover around 82 degrees, so it is important to stay hydrated while enjoying outdoor activities. Coolers of bottled water or refillable sports bottles will be key for balanced hydration.
  • Eat well, and eat often. Eating every three hours or so will curb hunger and alleviate moments of low blood sugar. Pack low-calorie snacks for cravings between meals and after activities.
  • Be allergy-conscious. As you plan your Labor Day menu, consider foods that may trigger the allergies of people in your group.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Utensils and containers used for raw meats should never come in contact with other foods. Pack raw meats separately from fruits and vegetables.
  • Monitor food exposure. Foods that are perishable, such as pasta salads and dairy items, should not be left out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outside temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
  • Be mindful of serving temperature regulations. Thermometers should be used to ensure that foods are cooked to proper temperatures (145-160 degrees Fahrenheit).

Increase Hydration with Fruits and Vegetables

Incorporating more fruit and vegetable dishes into your picnic menu  increases consumption of necessary vitamins and minerals, but choosing produce  that contains a high water content may have added benefits, including keeping you hydrated. This will also allow the body to better regulate its temperature, manage cardiovascular activity and discard toxins.

Raw fruit and vegetable trays are a great way to cut the sodium intake from salty chips and dips, which typically only make people thirsty. The following fruits and vegetables, along with many others, will help decrease the chances of dehydration and cut caloric intake at the same time.

Consider these easy, healthy recipes for your picnic:

  • Cucumber Boats: Peel and slice a cucumber lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Mix together some feta cheese, diced tomatoes, a pinch of salt and pepper, and dill, and fill the cucumber hull with the mixture.
  • Ants on a Log: Cut the ends off of several celery stalks. Wash and dry. Fill the celery hull with peanut butter, and place raisins on top. This is a great snack for kids.
  • Caprese Salad: Slice fresh tomatoes and place in between low-fat mozzarella slices and fresh basil. Drizzle lightly with balsamic vinegar.
  • Fresh Fruit Salad: Mix ⅓ cup lime juice, one tablespoon of honey and ¾ teaspoon of ground ginger together. Pour over a mixture of watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries and mangoes, and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Offer Alternatives to Sugary Drinks

Though sweet tea reigns supreme in North Carolina, excessive sugar can counterbalance healthy efforts of Labor Day picnics and meals. Water should always be the beverage of choice, but for a little flavor, consider making iced green tea as an alternative. Fruit juice spritzers also have less sugar and provide more nutrients than sodas.

Avoid Excess Fats

Burgers, hot dogs and steaks are common meat-based protein choices for outdoor grilling, but there are leaner options that have less saturated fat. These proteins are lean alternatives and are just as flavorful cooked on the grill:

  • Bison burgers
  • Tuna
  • Chicken breasts
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Ground turkey breasts

Get Active, Indoors or Outdoors

Once you get your fill of lean burgers and veggies, plan some things to do after meals to keep your energy up. Basketball, flag football and Frisbee tossing are fun ways to burn calories with friends. You may also consider swimming a few laps before the pools close for the season. Tips for a healthy Labor Day include securing an area with available shade, or packing a canopy tent to get relief from the sun. Apply a sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF or higher every two hours to avoid sunburns.

In case of inclement weather, local museums can provide walking activities that are also educational and entertaining. Or add a dance routine to your favorite karaoke act to get some extra cardio on a rainy day. If you still want to get those swimming laps in, find a facility with an indoor pool.

If you would like to know more about healthy eating options, call us today to make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians. We will be happy to help you create nutritious and delicious meal plans for your optimal health and wellness goals.

A registered dietitian can help you with understanding food cravings before they derail your efforts.