Picnic food ideas: make healthier choices

Being mid-July, picnic season is now in full swing. Picnics are cheap, fun and convenient venues for enjoying time outdoors with family and friends. Unfortunately, typical picnic food choices in the United States are, well, fattening and devoid of  important nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals!

Poor Picnic Food Choices

If you are not careful, you can down over 2,000 calories easily by loading your plate with common picnic food choices, such as a loaded hamburger (with cheese and a white bun), coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad, chips and dip, beverages and desserts, such as cookies. Even ketchup isn’t ‘free’ at 20 calories per tablespoon. While that might not seem like much, check this out: a 1-cup scoop of traditional potato salad, a true picnic food staple, can set you back nearly 400 calories!

It doesn’t take long to fill up on poor picnic food choices. What’s worse is that during most picnics, you are sitting, which burns few calories. Making a few smart trade-offs and adding physical activity can literally save you hundreds of calories. Over time, trading in high-calorie foods with lower-calorie foods can help keep the pounds from piling on. Keep in mind that consuming an extra 100 calories each day (beyond what you need to maintain your weight) over a year can mean a 10 lb. gain. And many Americans consume picnic food fare throughout the summer.

Better Picnic Food Choices

Trade-in that 1/4-pound hamburger on a white bun for a grilled 5-oz. chicken breast on a whole wheat roll for a savings of approximately 150 calories. An ear of sweet corn and a cup of fresh fruit provides about 210 calories. Salsa, with its chunky tomato-base, vegetables, and fresh herbs, offers a mere 5 calories per tbsp. Use it as a dip for raw vegetables and baked tortilla chips. Swap sugary beverages for low-cal lemonade, water or unsweetened iced teAdd playtime to your picnica. For dessert, fill your cooler with homemade Popsicles or fruit ice. Other diet-friendly picnic food choices include: hummus with pita wedges, three-bean salad, grilled veggies, fresh watermelon and toasted marshmallows. Play softball or throw around a Frisbee for exercise and fun and you’ll walk away having consumed fewer than 800 calories and expending, on average, 175 calories.