Food Safety Practices and Tips for Your Summer Outings

By Jan Skaar, RD, CSP, CNSC, CLE, clinical dietitian at CHOC Children’s

Are you planning your next weekend getaway or summer vacation and thinking about enjoying the outdoors? Food always tastes better outside, especially after a fun activity! With a little extra effort, you can make safe and mouth-watering meals that will add to the memories you make with your friends and families.

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  1. Make a plan. Depending on the activity, determine how many meals and how much drinking water will be needed. Food and water needs will be higher in warmer weather and with increased activity. If you will not have access to running water, make sure you include water needs for cooking in addition to drinking. If hiking is on your agenda, make sure you plan for 2 cups of water or sports drink per person per hour. Use disposable wipes or towelettes for personal hygiene and hand washing. If you are preparing meals for camping, make a list of all the ingredients and tools needed. Decide what you will pack ahead of time and what you will buy fresh near your campsite. Don’t forget to include pre-measured packets of seasonings and spices for your recipes. Cooking outside does not mean you have to skimp on flavor!
  2. Pack ready to eat or non-perishable foods. There are plenty of healthy foods for meals and snacking that do not require refrigeration. Leave the chips and soda at home. Dried fruits, dried or freeze-dried vegetables or veggie chips are great meal additions and snacks for trekking. Trail mix, granola or energy bars work great for throwing in your day pack. Individual kits of tuna or chicken salad can be mixed up easily and eaten with whole wheat crackers or tortillas. Whole grain pasta, rice mix, pancake mix and oatmeal are quick options that only require water for mixing or cooking. Don’t forget your favorite tea, coffee or cocoa for sipping around the campfire!
  3. Bring appropriate food servings, storage and disposal items. Whether you decide to “go green” or use disposable plates and serving ware, decide which will work best for your trip. If you will have access to running water, reusable dishes and cooking equipment can be washed with biodegradable soap. You may want to consider disposable items if access to water is limited. Bring plenty of large zip lock bags and compostable trash bags. Remember, when you and your family are enjoying the natural environment, “pack it in and pack it out” to leave no trace.
  4. Make sure to follow food safety practices. Plan appropriately for food safety depending on the weather, environment and the length of time you stay. Non-perishables cannot be kept out in hot weather (over 90F) for more than one hour, no more than two hours in cooler temperatures. Food temperature danger zones are between 40 and 140F. Cold foods that need refrigeration should be transported and kept in a well-insulated cooler with plenty of ice. An ice block combined with bagged ice will be longer lasting. Keep the cooler in a shaded location. Cook and grill meats to proper internal temperatures; be safe and use a thermometer. Wash hands or use moist towelettes frequently before and after eating or preparing foods. Keep raw meats and ready to eat foods separate.

Now that you’re dreaming about your next picnic or campsite in the mountains, make your own plans for an outdoor adventure! Healthy, safe and delicious foods will add to your enjoyment.

For more health and safety tips for your family, please visit

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