Do Healthy Picnic Foods Exist?
Summer is full of picnics. And what do we usually find? Burgers-on a roll. Potato salad. Pasta salad. Ice cream. Beer.
I think I gained 5 lbs just writing those words. No fiber, a lot of bad fat, sugar, and unrefined carbs, and not much nutrition. How can we turn these picnic foods around without being a total buzz kill?
Trust me, living with food allergies for the past 16 years, I hate drawing attention to myself by eating something different. And I don’t want to spoil the fun of the party by pointing out how unhealthy the food is – not very gracious. What healthy picnic foods can you serve at parties that are similar to those familiar bad habit foods, but more nutritious? Or what can you offer to bring to a party to make sure you have something good to eat? Here are some suggestions:
1. OFFER TO BRING SOMETHING
A staple healthy picnic foods strategy – it ensures that I’ll have something healthy AND TASTY to eat.
2. SUGGEST RECIPES
I am not shy about making recipe and food suggestions by saying, “hey, I don’t know if you have a plan for your pasta salad, but I have a great recipe if you’re interested.” Instead of putting the focus on healthy, I simply focus on the awesome tasting food – because my food tastes great first. The fact that it’s healthy becomes a discussion point after the meal.
Picnic people don’t want to hear about healthy as they stuff their faces with chips and ice cream, so if you want to eat healthy at a picnic, make your awesome tasting food the focal point – healthy picnic foods strategy #2.
3. BURGERS and HOT DOGS
Swap your beef burgers for a healthier lower fat meat, like chicken, turkey, pork, or buffalo on a whole grain bun – two healthy picnic foods.
The key to making these burgers taste great? Seasoning. Unlike beef burgers you can’t just grill them with salt and pepper because they don’t have the enormous fat content to give you easy flavor. Think out of the box. Try Worceshire sauce, grated garlic, or go asian with Tamari and fresh ginger, or spice it up with Srirachi and red peppers. Top them with guacamole or simple avocado, spiced ketchup or a lower fat cheese – these burgers will be fabulous.
My brother called me and told me he grilled seasoned turkey burgers, topped them with a little goat cheese (a lower fat cheese) and a homemade honey mustard dressing – perfect! Way to go little bro and H-Dog! Try my Good for You Burgers Recipe to get started. YUM!
As for hot dogs go for nitrite and nitrate free all beef or all turkey lower fat brands that are much better healthy picnic food options than the traditional preservative filled pig scrap dogs. Read the labels! And again, go for the whole grain bun.
4. POTATO SALAD
Higher fiber and lower fat potato salad that tastes awesome makes a great healthy picnic food:
- Leave your skins on your potatoes
- Use Spectrum’s Eggless Canola spread for Mayo. This spread is only 3 g of fat per serving (instead of 11 g). Being dairy free, I’ve used it for years for mayo in chicken salad, crab cakes, potato salad, tuna salad, tartar sauce – no one knows the difference. Available at Whole Foods and other stores that carry organic foods. You can get it online at almighty amazon or at vitacost.com.
- OR: Make Italian Potato Salad, which uses a vinaigrette instead of a mayo based dressing.
As for potato chips – if you can’t have just one handful, I suggest avoiding them – they are truly addictive! There are brands like Michael’s Seasons that are lower in fat and sodium, but just as tasty.
5. PASTA SALAD
- Use a whole grain pasta (high fiber!)
- Make a vinaigrette instead of a mayo based dressing.
- Load it with chopped veggies, sliced olives, and even some beans and you actually have created a complete protein, and a very healthy full meal just with this dish – good job!
6. ICE CREAM
I do scream when I see ice cream because it makes me so sick, but no doubt it tastes yummy. Instead of going for that reduced fat stuff that has a ton of sugar try:
- Agave sweetened Coconut milk ice cream. The Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut Chocolate Fudge, and Vanilla flavors are my favorites. I also like So Delicious’s Cookie Dough flavor (and it’s gluten free cookie dough – score!). Yes, it’s more expensive, but if you are eating a normal size serving, you shouldn’t need vats of ice cream.
- Go the hero route and serve my low glycemic, low fat 5-Minute Fudge Sauce with strawberries. Out of the park. Every time I bring this, it disappears faster than I can re-fill the bowl. Always a hit. (It’s great on that vanilla coconut agave sweetened ice cream, too!) If you can’t remember why less sugar is such a key strategy in weight management, check out my blog on sugar.
Lots of calories and carbs – as is any Mike’s drink, too. You can go light beer, or eat less – the drink your calories approach – my sister’s strategy since 1988. Mike’s drinks pile on the sugar, too. More reason to make my own “sweet tea” with a lot of flavor using a combination of herbal and green teas and a little agave syrup. From there I make my own drinks, controlling my sugar. Low carb sweet tea vodka, coming right up!
A Step Towards Healthy at a Time
Start with just one or two of these replacements. One change is a great step in the right direction. You’ll be surprised at how much easier and tastier it is than you thought!