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Food coolers a wise investment for summer outings

By Margie Mansure (

Article Published: Jun. 13, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 13, 2013

With kids out of school after a long winter semester, summertime has officially begun in the High Country.

It’s the time of the year for day trips and vacations. Whatever the occasion, taking along a cooler filled with smart food and beverage choices saves money and keeps everyone happy. While requiring a little bit of planning, the actual time to pack a cooler and dry bag of goodies is minimal.

To keep well hydrated, mix 100-percent juice with carbonated water, half and half. This is a sweet alternative to expensive, high-fructose corn syrup, food-coloring laden drinks found at convenience stores. Chilling tap water in reusable water bottles is a freebie. Adding a slice of squeezed lime, lemon, or orange to the bottle makes it more appealing.

For meal stops, enjoying a picnic seems so much better than driving through or sitting in a restaurant. Both kids and adults that are able to move around periodically are easier to travel with.
Here are a few suggestions for the food cooler:

If traveling with a group, pack a variety of lean luncheon meats bean dips or hummus and reduced-fat cheeses. Include dark green lettuces and other veggies for topping. Let everyone make their own sandwiches on whole wheat or pita bread.

Honey and nut butter, such as peanut, almond or sunflower seed provides a sandwich choice that doesn’t require refrigeration.

Have your travelers build their own whole wheat crackers, with toppings, such as avocado, smoked salmon, reduced fat cheeses, cucumbers, bean dips, hummus and lean meats.

Wraps travel especially well, but need to be made beforehand. See recipe below.

Fresh fruit of all kinds are refreshing, with oranges and apples traveling well. Pack raw vegetables or salad, with your dressing of choice in a separate container.

For a snack, make your own trail mix by combining low sugar cereal, dried fruit and nuts. Fresh or dried fruit, dried vegetable snacks and nuts of all kind make a satisfying snack. Baked snack foods and whole wheat crackers are the best choice for munchies. Check the ingredient labels to make sure they don’t contain hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup.

Here is a versatile wrap recipe that I make for trips beforehand.

Travel Wraps

Whole wheat flour tortillas
Reduced fat cream cheese
Lean meat of choice, or meat substitute, such as vegetarian pepperoni
Reduced fat sliced cheese
Favorite fresh vegetables, such as avocado, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers or bell pepper

Spread cream cheese over tortilla. Place 2 slices of cheese and desired amount of protein over ¾ of tortilla. Cover with vegetables of choice. Roll tortilla, ending the roll with the bare cream cheese so it will stick together. Place in reusable plastic container or bag and refrigerate. This recipe may be used to dip crackers, pita bread, and raw vegetables.

Creamy Lemon Dill Dip

Combine together:
1 cup plain, low fat Greek style yogurt
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped dill
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. For more information, email or (828) 264-3061.

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