Tips for a healthy and safe Memorial Day holiday weekend

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer. As you get ready to spread the picnic blankets, fire up the grills and enjoy the warm evenings, EWG has useful tips for helping you and your family have a healthy, safe and fun holiday weekend.

Sun Safety

Wearing the right clothing can help protect you from ultraviolet radiation. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses serve as a first line of defense for a healthy (and fashionable!) day in the sun.

If you’re going to the lake or the beach, think about bringing an umbrella or canopy. If you’re planning a picnic, consider sitting under a tree. Staying in the shade is an easy way to avoid sunburn and skin damage.

Even if you’re not planning to spend all day outside, you may want to apply sunscreen. EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens can help you find the right sunscreen option for you and your family, with information available about ingredients, SPF and lists of the best-rated SPF products.

Keep in mind that the best sunscreen and SPF products will protect against UVA and UVB radiation, won’t include vitamin A, and will have an SPF between 15 and 50.

It’s also a good idea to check the UV Index before heading outside this weekend. While ultraviolet radiation usually peaks midday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the UV Index can provide more specific information about your location to help you avoid the harshest rays. 

Healthy Eating

Many Memorial Day traditions include barbecues, picnics and summery feasts. EWG’s Food Scores makes finding nutritious options at the grocery store easy, and the Healthy Living app lets you access this information right on your phone.

It’s important to eat at least five to nine fruits and vegetables a day. (QUIZ: Are you eating enough? ) The benefits of a produce-filled diet far outweigh any drawbacks, regardless of whether the produce is conventionally grown or certified organic. If you have questions about your produce, the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce can help you lower your pesticide intake.

Try replacing items on the Dirty Dozen list with other nutritious fruits and vegetables on the Clean Fifteen list, like avocados, sweet corn or pineapple. For example, you could make fruit salad with kiwi instead of strawberries. Maybe rather than slicing up celery for a cold snack, think about making fresh cole slaw from cabbage.

If you plan to serve meat during your Memorial Day festivities, be mindful of the source and try to chose meat that is free of antibiotics and hormones. If you aren’t sure how to find antibiotic-free meat, look for products certified with a USDA Organic seal.

You should also look out for nitrates and nitrites. These common food additives in meats like bacon and hot dogs are linked to an increased risk of stomach cancer. They’ll usually appear as sodium nitrate on meat packaging, and EWG’s Meat Eater’s Guide can help you decode labels and find safe, sustainable meat for your barbecue.

Remember not to overdo it on meat. Most Americans eat too much meat-based protein while not eating enough plant- and fish-based protein. You don’t have to swear off the ribs, but think about including non-meat protein alternatives. Bean chili, fish tacos and edamame are all delicious, healthy protein options for you and your family.

Bug Management

Bites from mosquitoes and ticks are annoying to be sure, but they can also spread dangerous viruses and diseases, like the West Nile virus and Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a significant increase in tickborne disease since 2004, so it’s important now more than ever to protect yourself and your family from insect bites.

As with sun protection, you should first avoid, cover, then apply skin products. The best way to avoid getting bit is to stay away from areas busy with bugs.  Nets and fans can help keep bugs out of outdoor eating areas and tents, and full-coverage clothing will help keep most of your skin off-limits.

As with sun protection, you should first avoid, cover, then apply skin products. Check out EWG’s Guide to Bug Repellents to find the safest option for you. Be sure to wash your hands after applying repellent and to wash any skin and clothing that was in contact with it at the end of the day.

Protect infants younger than six months old by covering baby carriers and strollers with fine netting. Insect repellent isn’t safe for them just yet.

No matter how careful you are, you should check yourself and your children for ticks every night just in case. If you find a tick, keep calm and check out the CDC’s guide for correctly removing the bugs.  

Most importantly, enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! Check out CDC guidelines on gatherings to make sure you are staying safe from the COVID-19 virus while observing the holiday.

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