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Powerful Choices Podcast: Healthy, Sun-Smart Summer Picnics

June 2010

Colleen: Hello and welcome to the American Cancer Society’s Powerful Choices Podcast series, where you'll get the information you need to make everyday choices that can help you be healthy and stay well. I’m Colleen Doyle, the American Cancer Society’s director of nutrition and physical activity. Thanks so much for joining us.

With the summer season officially underway, you probably already have plans for some fun in the sun with friends and family. Summer is my favorite time to get a bunch of people together for a picnic or cookout. However, many picnic basket and cookout favorites -- processed or red meats, salty chips, cookies, and soft drinks – aren’t exactly healthy. I’m here to give you some tips to make your picnic or cookout as healthy as it is fun.

For starters, whether you’re packing sandwiches or firing up the grill, make fruits and veggies the stars of the show. For example, instead of burgers and dogs, try vegetable kabobs – red, yellow, and green peppers, yellow squash, mushrooms, red onions, and pineapple all grill well and make healthy additions to your plate. Make several salads to serve on the side. Some of my favorites include black bean and corn salad, a fruit salad with berries and melon, and pasta salad teeming with veggies.

If you do decide to cook meat, opt for leaner cuts. Look for the words "loin" or "round" in the name. Trim meat of all visible fat before cooking. Cook poultry with the skin on to keep it moist, but remove skin before eating to reduce the fat.

Instead of chips and dips, offer sliced veggies such as carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and broccoli along with a low-fat ranch dip. For dessert, skip cookies and cupcakes in favor of sliced watermelon or pineapple.

Slide: Tips for a Healthy Picnic:

  • Focus on fruits and vegetables
  • Cook with leaner meats
  • Avoid salty snacks and desserts high in sugar
  • Store foods at proper temperatures

Colleen: No matter what you serve, safeguard the health of your friends and family by keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Serving foods at their proper temperature prevents bacteria from growing and causing food-borne illness.

Another way you can keep yourself healthy and stay well when you’re enjoying the outdoors with friends and family is to protect yourself from the sun. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, most of which comes from the sun. If you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time out in the sun, remember to slip, slop, slap, and wrap: Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.


  • SLIP on a shirt
  • SLOP on sunscreen
  • SLAP on a hat
  • WRAP on sunglasses

Colleen: For these and other tips on how to stay safe and healthy in the summer sun, and also to find more information on other things you can do to stay well and reduce your cancer risk, go to cancer.org or call us any time at 1-800-227-2345. From all of us here at the American Cancer Society, thanks for watching.