Summer is back, which means picnics, cookouts on the deck, and other “outdoor” foods are back in vogue. While it’s tough to deny the appeal of a fresh meal hot off the grill under a warm summer breeze, summer picnics and cookouts can be perilous for those who suffer from gout. Painful attacks, which are often concentrated in the big toe and can come at any time (including the middle of the night), can make even the slightest touch or pressure agonizing.


Gout attacks are triggered by purines, a class of chemical compounds found in many foods. Your digestive system breaks purines down into uric acid, which ordinarily dissolves in your blood and passes through your kidneys. However, too much uric acid can build up, forming urate crystals that accumulate in your toe joint. This is what ultimately causes the attack.

If you’ve had a history of gout attacks, avoiding purine-rich foods can help you prevent the next one. However, that’s sometimes easier said than done when it comes to cookout food. Some guidelines for a picnic with gout:

  • Common high-purine meats include bacon, beef, pork, and lamb. High-purine seafood includes anchovies, sardines, scallops, mackerel, trout, haddock, tuna, and herring. These should be avoided or extremely limited.
  • Less common high-purine meats include organ meats (liver, kidneys, sweetbreads, etc.) and game meats. These should also be avoided or extremely limited.
  • Other types of meat, fish, and seafood have more moderate purine levels. Most people can eat them, but you should still restrict portion size.
  • Beer is a significant gout trigger and should be avoided.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “How am I going to have a picnic without beef or beer?” We sympathize, but don’t worry: you can still enjoy a great summer meal with safe, low-purine food that isn’t likely to trigger a gout attack. Along with, if you wish, a small portion of an approved meat or seafood (such as grilled chicken or salmon), opt for:

  • Green veggies and tomatoes
  • Fresh fruits
  • Dairy
  • Nuts
  • Coffee

It may take some adjustments at first, but with a little planning and practice you’ll be making great, delicious, low-purine meals for your summer festivities with friends and family—ones that won’t keep you up all night with agonizing pain.

For additional help managing your gout or addressing any other foot or ankle problem, please call Martin Foot & Ankle at (717) 757-3537.

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