Nutrition Articles

Pack a Delicious, Nutritious Summer Picnic
What's not to love about a summer picnic—except maybe typical picnic fare that's blanketed with calories and fat. Try these tips to put together a lighter picnic that's still packed with flavor and fun:

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Tote smarter starters. Whet everyone's appetite with low-fat dip or flavored hummus served with scoopers such as whole-wheat pita wedges and colorful cut-up veggies.

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Sandwich in good nutrition. Make sandwiches on whole-grain bread with lean meats like turkey, ham, roast beef, reduced-fat cheese, and lots of veggies. Use light mayo, stone ground mustard or zingy ground horseradish as spreads.

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Choose chicken wisely. Cold fried chicken is a must in many picnic baskets, but cold baked or grilled chicken is just as delicious—with fewer calories and less fat. Whatever your chicken choice, remove the skin before eating to reduce calories and fat.

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Enlighten salads and sides. Make picnic favorites such as potato salad, coleslaw and macaroni salad with light mayo and light sour cream. For a nutritious twist, try broccoli or cauliflower "slaw" or make grain-based salads with whole-grains such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or bulgur and plenty of chopped veggies. For a speedy bean salad, drain and rinse a mix of canned beans and toss with low-calorie Italian dressing.

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Bring a better-for-you chip. A variety of chip options are ready to accompany your picnic sandwiches. Consider baked potato or tortilla chips, multi-grain chips, vegetable or sweet potato chips—even dried fruit chips made out of apples, mangos, peaches, bananas, pineapples or strawberries.

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Offer a sweet finale. Make easy-to-eat mini-fruit kabobs by threading grapes, pineapple chunks, cantaloupe cubes—or any summer fruit—onto toothpicks. Or pack a selection of juicy fruits such as icy-cold watermelon wedges, peaches, nectarines, plums and cherries. Lighten up cakes, cookies and brownies (and sneak in some fruit) by reducing some of the butter, oil or shortening and substituting an equal amount of applesauce or prune puree. Or serve angel food cake topped with fresh berries and light whipped topping.

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Think about thirst-quenchers. Fill the cooler with no- or low-calorie drinks such as water, plain iced tea, diet soft drinks and "light" fruit drinks and lemonade. Or make "spritzers" with sparkling water and a splash of 100% fruit juice. Bring lemon or lime wedges to add a refreshing tang to your drinks.

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Chill out to keep picnic foods safe to eat. Pack perishables into an insulated cooler with plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Bring two coolers—one for perishables and one for drinks—and keep them in a shady spot.

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Pack in some activity. A picnic is the perfect time to get fit in the fresh air. Gather the group to take a walk, toss a Frisbee, or play a game of soft ball, volleyball or badminton.