Plan a Healthy Picnic: Tips and Recipes

Picnic foods, recipes and menus for your next healthy outing

healthy picnic
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A picnic always sounds like such a healthy summer activity. And sometimes it is. But then other times it ends up turning into an outdoor junk food fest. Typical picnic food like chips, hot dogs, and high-calorie sodas can ruin a diet in a hot minute.

If you want to keep your outing healthy, try one of these picnic ideas. The food selections will keep your diet on track and the activities will help you move more so that you don't fall victim to mindless overeating.

How to Keep Your Picnic Healthy

A healthy picnic starts with a plan for activity. In addition to the menu, arrange to bring several games or toys to keep everyone busy. This way, you’ll avoid the distracted overeating that happens when friends and family members sit at a picnic table full of food and pick away while chatting.

Pack paddle games, badminton, a Frisbee, hula-hoops, croquet or whatever fun activity your family enjoys. For guests who prefer to sit, bring a deck of cards or a board game. The point is to shift the focus of the picnic. Make your picnic about spending time together rather than just eating.

If you do keep food on the table for nibbling, create a selection of colorful crisp veggies such as sliced yellow squash, sugar snap peas, baby carrots or jicama. Fruit kabobs are also especially popular with kids. If you prefer a salty, crunchy snack brings a bag of unbuttered popcorn rather than chips.

Lastly, skip the drinks that will derail your diet. Stay hydrated with delicious flavored water that you make in advance. Then choose from one of these healthy picnic menus, or mix and match to create a menu that suits you. Get creative and shop your local farmer's markets before you go. Often, local growers have the best ideas for preparing their food in new and interesting ways.

Healthy Picnic Menu #1: No Grill Needed

This is a great menu for picnickers who don't have access to a grill. If you’re heading to the beach or to a state park where fires aren't allowed, use this menu to enjoy a fresh summery meal without the high fat content and excess calories.

  • Turkey or Ham Wrap Sandwich
  • Farro Spring Salad
  • Lemon Meringue Cookies with fresh berries

Healthy Picnic Menu #2: Outdoor Grilling

If you have access to a grill, skip the hot dogs or high fat hamburgers and grill lean kabobs instead. Use this chicken recipe or prepare a traditional beef kebab with onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Lean cuts of beef like flank steak and tenderloin are relatively low in fat and are packed with flavor.

After dinner, use the kebob sticks to roast a few marshmallows. While the puffy treats are high in sugar, at 23 calories each they are still low in calories. The key is to just have a few.

  • Marinated Chicken Kebobs
  • Easy Low Fat Cole Slaw
  • Roasted Marshmallows

Healthy Picnic Menu #3: Light Vegetarian Fare

This menu takes more work to prepare but it is a good alternative for people who don’t eat meat.

Remember that if you add one of the popular peanut sauces to the spring rolls, you’ll be adding plenty of calories so you might want to skip the dipping sauce and eat them plain.

  • Fresh Spring Rolls
  • Mock Deviled Eggs
  • Fruit Kebobs (use pineapple, watermelon cubes, cantaloupe, grapes or whatever fruit you prefer)

Remember that the key to enjoying a picnic spending time with friends or family and getting in some much-needed relaxation. Create a menu that you enjoy but it let it take a back burner to ​the more important parts of your outdoor experience.

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