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Healthy Picnic Food Ideas

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

Healthy Picnic Food Idea No. 6: Better Beverages

"It is so easy to get dehydrated, without even knowing it, when you are outdoors playing in the sun," says Neville.

Children are especially prone to losing fluids, and often don’t want to interrupt their fun to drink. 

Neville suggests beating the heat with plenty of ice water, sparkling water, unsweetened iced tea, and an assortment of low-calorie beverages. You can freeze water bottles the night before and use as cold packs to keep food and drinks cold.

If alcohol is on the menu, select light beer and wine spritzers. Both are more refreshing in the midday heat and lower in calories.

Other options to satisfy thirst include:

  • Frozen fruit pops
  • Lemonade with a splash of cranberry juice
  • Fruit juices mixed half and half with water
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