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Americans Love Grilling and Eating Outdoors

June 2021

Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FCHS Educator, Union County

The pandemic has caused Americans to rediscover their love of barbecuing and with it includes more meals and snacks outdoors. This has been a helpful way to get Americans outside their homes during the pandemic as well as eating many delicious dishes.

Studies have shown that outdoor eating and smells of barbecue bring back happy family memories. Grilling outside has been the top cooking method used during COVID but also a favorite of many Americans during the year. The most likely foods to be grilled are beef, chicken, fish, veggies and fruit.

Grilling is a “social event” for many families with their friends, relatives and neighbors. We grill for celebrations like Memorial Day, July 4th, birthdays, holidays, wedding receptions and graduations. It is an activity that brings groups together to socialize, catch up on what’s happening and to be able to have a relaxing time  eating and enjoying each other’s company. Grilling can also be a healthy method to cook meats, poultry and other foods as the fat cooks off the food. Marinating foods in salad dressings and home-made basting sauces adds rich flavor. Quick burgers are served frequently and well-liked by kids and adults alike. The open fire gives food a rich and delightful flavor.

Barbequing Adds Flavor to Outdoor Dining and Healthy Activities

Outdoor eating during the pandemic became a lifesaver for many families. That doesn’t mean taking the dining area out of the home is a seamless transition, but families tried it and worked on mastering eating outdoors along with grilling their food.

A survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the American Lamb Board, found the most common outdoor culinary mishaps included forgotten ingredients, over or undercooked food, and dropping meals. Many families learned to really cook for the first time rather than eating away from home at restaurants. How did families navigate the grilling?

Many families found cooking shows on the internet and TV were helpful. They learned cooking skills by experimentation, following videos and facebook live and lived a different lifestyle during the pandemic. Outdoor cooking has led to experiencing new activities like hiking, walking in neighborhoods, and sitting on front porches to speak to neighbors. A mix of old and new family routines have impacted all Americans. We have learned more about nature and the beauty of our parks, and our surroundings. For many, the lifestyle changes have actually been  healthier if daily breaks in computer zoom time was part of their daily routine. A balance between sitting and moving along with healthier methods of cooking such as grilling, has been critical throughout Covid 19 from March 2020 until today. Taking small steps to keep active and eat healthy allow everyone to stay well. See RCE Fact Sheet 1089, Grilling with Care for more information on safe grilling.