RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Whether you pack your picnic lunch in a cooler and head to a nearby park or just hang out on your porch or backyard patio, Fathers’ Day is the perfect time for an outdoor family meal. Besides enjoying a great menu of flavorful early-summer recipes, you'll get a much-needed boost to your health and well-being. It's a benefit getting outside for any reason provides.
Even during the lazy, hazy days of summer, the average American spends the vast majority of his or her awake time indoors. Sadly, the same goes for kids, who today spend two hours less each week on outdoor activities than they did just 20 years ago. Annual family vacations are on the decline, as well (time away has decreased by 28 percent), as is national park attendance. None of which is a good thing, especially because experts say that kids who spend more time in green spaces have lower stress levels, better success at school, and fewer attention-deficit symptoms. Adults, too, experience stress relief from spending time in nature. Also, a judicious dose of sunlight is a simple way to get adequate vitamin D.
Exercising where it’s green leads to extra health benefits: A recent Swedish study found that people who exercised in parks tended to feel more restored than those who exercised the same amount on treadmills or on city streets. Studies also show that being in nature reduces depression, boosts creativity, aids healing, and may even increase life expectancy.
So, starting this Sunday on Father’s Day, try instituting an outdoor “green hour” with your family, as recommended by the National Wildlife Federation. A picnic with these easy-to-fix, easy-to-pack recipes should do the trick. Then, add more weekday events, such as after-dinner walks or bike rides, to take advantage of the long days of summer.
But first things first: Try these Father’s Day picnic dishes courtesy of the Rodale Recipe Finder :
#1: Gazpacho-Veggie Twister.  Icy gazpacho, a fresh, tomato-based Spanish soup, is a refreshing summer classic.
#2: Avocado Panzanella.  You’ll need just four ingredients for this easy take on the traditional Italian bread salad. For another summertime, bread-based starter, try bruschetta topped with tomatoes, corn, capers, and herbs .
#3: Southwest Steak Salad.  These salads can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at your picnic. Just remember to pack the dressing separately to keep the greens from getting soggy. Choose between mesclun greens topped with juicy slices of beef tenderloin or Grilled Chicken and Potato Salad over Greens .
#4: Favorite Bean Salad.  Work with the ingredients you have on hand to make this versatile recipe—it’s totally adaptable.
#5: Five-Layer Bars.  Have the kids help make these easy, gooey bars for Dad’s Day—they’re simple and sure to please.