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The great outdoors

Posted by Be Well

With the sun in the sky and long summer evenings on the way, it's the perfect opportunity to enjoy some time outside.

Barbecues, picnics and outdoor games are a great way to make the most of the sunshine

Summer activities like barbecues, picnics and outdoor games are a great way to get family and friends together, while making the most of the sunshine. As we all know, it's usually best to take advantage of good weather when we get it, as you never know when it'll be back!

So, whether it's in your own back garden or somewhere further away, why not get out and about for some fun in the sun? Read on for our tips on safe and healthy outdoor pastimes.

Barbecue basics

It's often the first thing to come out of the garage once the weather warms up, and a good barbecue is always popular choice for a sunny day.

Portable and disposable barbecues also mean you don't have to stay at home, so try making a day of it in a park or on the beach. Just make sure that wherever you set up is a permitted barbecue area, and that you're a safe distance from trees or bushes that could catch fire.

As for the food, it can be hard to tell when it's properly cooked on a barbecue, and every year many people get food poisoning as a result.

The key to barbecuing food safely is in the temperature of the coals. Light the barbecue well in advance and wait until the coals are glowing red with a powdery surface. Putting food on to cook before the flames have died down simply burns the surface and doesn't cook the inside.

If you're barbecuing meat such as poultry, sausages or burgers, check that the juices run clear before you serve it.

There should be no pink or red meat left insid e, unless you're cooking meat that can be eaten rare (still red in the middle), such as steak. Make sure your steaks have been sealed during the cooking process by cutting into them and checking that the outside has changed color.

When barbecuing meat, check that the juices run clear

If you have lots of people to cook for, try cooking meat in the oven before finishing it off on the barbecue. Any frozen meat must be fully defrosted before you cook it, and check that everything's piping hot and cooked through before you serve it.

Always keep raw and cooked foods separate and use different plates and utensils for each. Salads, cheeses, dips and other perishable food can be kept in the fridge or a cool box until you need them.

Finally, if you're lucky enough to have any leftovers, let it cool down before refrigerating it and use it within a couple of days . When reheating food, check it's piping hot in the middle and don't reheat it more than once.

Don't keep any leftovers for more than two days, except cooked rice, which must be eaten within one day.

Perfect picnics

Picnics are a great way of getting out and seeing the countryside, and they can be just as good in your own garden. A big cool box is ideal for transporting plenty of fresh fruit and salad, so a picnic can be a healthy option too.

Before you set off, wash and cut up any fruit, salad and vegetables. It's much easier than waiting until you're out, and means that you won't have to wait to dig in!

Plastic cutlery and utensils are also handy, they're much lighter and disposable ones can save on the washing up.

Pack your food into your cool box with ice packs on top, as this will keep anything raw at a tasty and hygienic temperature.

Foods like lettuce and pasta salads, cold lean meats, sandwiches with whole wheat bread and seasonal fruit salad are all good choices. Leave perishable food such as cheese and meat in the box until the last minute.

Insects and birds can be just as interested in your picnic as you are, so keep food covered as much as possible. You could try keeping bugs away with citronella candles, but take care as they can be a fire risk.

If you can't find a bin to dispose of your garbage, take it home with you, and take care to leave your picnic area exactly as you found it.

Sun safety

Spending time outside in the sun is great, but don't let sunburn ruin it for you.

It's possible to burn even when it's cloudy, so apply sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 before going out, and reapply regularly during the day.

The most effective lotions block both UVA and UVB rays.

You can burn even when the sky is cloudy, so apply sunscreen before going out

Babies under 12 months should be kept in the shade and covered up with a high factor sun lotion or sun block. Encourage young children to play in the shade, and make sure they wear sunhats and a high SPF lotion.

The sun is strongest between 11am and 3pm, so try to avoid it during this time.

Garden games

As well as eating al fresco, summer is the perfect time to get active with some outdoor games.

We all know that exercise is good for us, and we should be getting 30 minutes of moderate activity every day. Try getting the whole family involved in a game or two and they won't even realize they're exercising!

If you have enough people, teams games like rounders, football and cricket will get everyone moving. Simply throwing a ball or a frisbee can also work up a sweat.

Alternatively, if you fancy something a little less energetic, boules can be a fun form of gentle exercise. Anyone can play, and you'll be surprised how fast the competition hots up!

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