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Healthy Picnic Food Ideas

Lighten up your summer outings with these healthy picnic recipes and tips.

Healthy Picnic Food Idea No. 3: A Different Main Dish

Instead of picking up a basket of fried chicken or grilling burgers, why not pick up a roast chicken or try making wrap sandwiches?

"Wraps are easy to eat and transport, and can be supernutritious if you make them with lean meat, stuff them with veggies and a salsa or light dressing," says Neville.

Making lean beef burgers or ground turkey breast burgers will shave fat and calories over regular ground beef. Skip the cheese and save even more.

Skinless chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, and veggie burgers are other delicious picnic food ideas. Try them brushed with barbeque sauce and topped with lettuce, tomato, and other veggies. Hot dog lovers, choose the lower-fat brands or try a chicken or turkey dog.

Brighten up a chicken or turkey entrée salad with green grapes, mangoes, peaches, or toasted slivered almonds.

Healthy Picnic Food Idea No. 4: Sensational Salads

Resist the temptation to load your picnic basket with high-calorie salads held together with mayonnaise. Mayonnaise-based salads are not only high in fat, but are also a medium for growth of bacteria that can cause food-borne illness.

Instead, use dressings made with less oil and more vinegar or other added liquids such as fruit juices. Using salad dressings that contain acidic ingredients such as vinegar or citrus instead of mayonnaise not only cuts fat but helps keep foods safer at room temperature.

In starchy salads, substitute whole-grain pasta for white pasta and sweet potatoes for white potatoes. Or break free of tradition and try a brown rice salad or whole-wheat couscous salad. Combine cherry tomatoes with green beans and a little whole-grain pasta and add a little pesto for a tasty, nutritious salad that travels well.

Neville makes her favorite Mexican bean salad using a can of drained and rinsed black beans; a can of drained corn; a can of chopped Mexican-style tomatoes in lime juice; a chopped red pepper; a pinch of cumin; and a bit of cayenne. 

Healthy Picnic Food Idea No. 5: Add Some Whole-Grain Goodness

Breads, rolls, and starchy salads can pile on lots of calories. So limit the starches in your picnic basket and wherever you can, make them whole grain for added nutritional value.

For a welcome change to the usual picnic fare, use whole-grain buns, pita bread, or wraps for your grilled meat, chicken, fish, or veggies.

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