It’s almost time to kick off your shoes, fire up the grill, and lounge by the pool with family and friends. But before celebrating our nation’s freedom with some free time off from work, make sure you’re well prepared. Green grilling, safe food handling, and tips for avoiding waterborne germs will ensure your holiday goes off without a hitch.
# 1. Grill Green
Hamburgers aren’t the only things coming from your charcoal grill. Environmental pollutants from burning charcoal, plus the environmental cost of creating it in the first place, make that method the least green grilling option, so go with a natural gas (the ecofriendliest choice) or an electric grill, if you can. If you can’t give up charcoal, look for a natural brand of coals not soaked in petroleum, and light up with a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid. Also, consider the ecofootprint of what you’re grilling. Our resident Nickel Pincher suggests you try grilling seafood or pizza.
# 2. Grill Safely
A few mosquito bites may be unavoidable for your July 4th party guests, but with some forethought they won’t leave with food poisoning. Prepare your food safely by using clean utensils and minding cross-contamination (don’t let cooked and raw food touch or share a plate or platter). Make sure you have a cooler, some ice, and a food thermometer so you can monitor and regulate food temperatures. Keep cold food at 40°F or colder. Check that ground beef and pork are cooked to 160° F; steaks, roasts, and fish should be cooked to 145°F. Double-check with guests about food allergies to prevent any emergencies.
#3. Protect Your Skin
There may be no preventing an overzealous griller from singeing the hot dogs, but make sure that’s the only thing that gets burned this weekend. Be mindful of your time in the sun; most unprotected exposure comes when you’re not thinking about it, like while driving to the store or standing in line for ice cream. Even if cold or cloudy weather finds its way to your gathering, be wary of lingering UVA rays, which have been linked to melanoma. For tips and a test of your sunscreen smarts, try a Prevention.com quiz.
# 4. Serve Something New
Wow your guests before the big light show in the sky. The Rodale Recipe Finder has tons of options for shaking up your holiday spread. Search by category or keyword to single out recipes that will use that bag of frozen corn you’ve been trying to get rid of. Check out what’s new—like our Plum-Blueberry Cobbler—or search among the highest-rated, such as the Marinated Pork Chops with Rosemary. You’ll find tasty treats for every course.
# 5. Beat the Heat
If your area’s experiencing a heat wave, keep cool by planning your activities for early or late in the day to avoid direct overhead sunlight. Dress appropriately in light, breathable layers to shade yourself from the sun and allow sweat to evaporate off skin. Stay hydrated by regularly drinking water (keep a half-full bottle in the freezer, and top it off with water before you head out the door), and hopping in a pool or misting your skin with a squirt bottle. Wear a hat to shade your head and face. If you develop a headache or become dizzy or weak, stop what you’re doing and head for some shade.
# 6. Prep a First-aid Kit
Whether you’re on the road or hanging around the house, make sure you have a well-stocked first-aid kit with in reach. The contents should include bandages, aspirin, a cold compress, vinyl gloves, tweezers, and other necessities. Make sure your cellphone is charged and ready, in case you need to call 911 or summon other help. To pack a first-aid kit that will keep you ready for anything, check out Prevention’s first-aid guide.
# 7: Stay Clear of Waterborne Germs.
If your gang is headed to the waterfront this weekend, pack your water smarts with your flippers. Research the destination beforehand to find out how carefully the water quality is monitored. Shower before and after you use a public pool or swim at the beach to clear your skin of harmful germs. Pack plenty of clean drinking water, and alert family and friends to keep their mouths shut while swimming.