It’s almost Memorial Day weekend – time for sunshine, swimming, grilling and camping.

Although hot dogs and hamburgers are the usual staples of outdoor cooking, they may not always be included in a balanced meal. It’s important at mealtime that you consume a variety of foods from all the food groups. Using the MyPlate method is a way to make sure that one-fourth of your plate is a lean protein, one-fourth is a grain and at least half your plate is made up of vegetables and/or fruit.

Using foil packets to grill or heat on a campfire is an easy way to ensure you and your family are eating a balanced meal and the cleanup is a snap. There is no need for plates; all you need is foil and a fork.

Your family can even personalize their foil packs by choosing their own ingredients. Combine ground beef, rice, beans, peppers and cheese for a Southwestern meal, or tilapia and summertime vegetables for a fresh and light meal. Make a side by combining potatoes, vegetables and seasonings. Don’t forget dessert; a sweet combination of diced pound cake, fruit, brown sugar, margarine and cinnamon is sure to please everyone.

Make your foil packs ahead of time, throw them in the cooler and they will be ready to cook when you reach your destination. Here are some important foil pack cooking tips:

• Use heavy-duty foil. You don’t want the foil to rip and have ashes get in and your dinner leak out. If you use regular foil, double up on the sheets. If your food is heavy and/or you plan to eat directly from the pack, it’s a good idea to double up even on the heavy-duty sheets.

• Spray the side of the foil on which you’re going to place the food with cooking spray before you add your ingredients and seal it up.

• When placing your ingredients on the sheet of foil, always put the meat on the bottom as it takes the longest to cook.

• Cook your foil packet on the fire’s coals, not in the fire itself. Ideally, you want to place the packet on a bed of coals about two inches thick.

• Hard, raw vegetables like carrots and potatoes take a long time to cook. If you don’t want to wait, use the canned variety.

• When cooking meat, throw in some high-moisture veggies like tomatoes and onions. This will keep the meat from drying out.

• Cooking times will depend on how hot the fire is and the kind of food in the packet. I generally err on the side of cooking it too long; this is the kind of food that you don’t need to be overly delicate with. Flip the packets over a few times during cooking, and open and check on how the food is progressing from time to time.

• When it’s finished cooking, open your foil packet carefully, as it’s full of hot steam!

BBQ chicken and cheddar foil packet dinner

Serves 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 37 minutes

All you need:

• 4 tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided

• 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 pound)

• 2 small unpeeled red potatoes, thinly sliced, divided

• 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and sliced, divided

• 1 green onion, finely chopped, divided

• Salt and black pepper, to taste

• 1½ cups shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese, divided

All you do:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place a foil sheet, approximately 12-by-12-inches, on a work surface. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Spoon about 1½ tablespoons barbecue sauce in the center of the foil sheet. Place one chicken breast half over barbecue sauce, and spread another 1-1/2 tablespoons of sauce over chicken. Top with a quarter of the potato, bell pepper and onion. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold foil in half to cover contents; make narrow folds along edges to seal. Repeat with remaining ingredients to assemble 3 more packets. Place packets on grill or over campfire for 30 to 35 minutes.

Open foil packets with scissors and carefully pull back edges (contents may be very hot). Sprinkle a quarter of the cheese over the top of each chicken breast half and return to grill or campfire, unsealed, for 2 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Source: Every-Day of Dairy.

Nutritional Facts: 290 calories, 4.5g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 75mg cholesterol, 630mg sodium, 21g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 38g protein.

Daily values: 20 percent calcium.

Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at