Summer Picnic Survival Tips: Conquering the Temptations

By Teresa Melick, Dietetic Intern, West Chester University

Whether you’re planning a low-key picnic for your family or someone else is doing the cooking it’s easy for your sweet (or salty) tooth to be tempted with sugary, high-fat foods; however, keep in mind a few guidelines and you can make picnics a fun and healthy way to spend time outdoors with your family and friends


After reading this article, foodies will be able to:

  1. Choose healthier foods to pack for a picnic lunch

  2. Feel confident about attending a buffet-style picnic without overloading on sugary and fatty foods

The Key to Success…

Don’t go into the situation with the mindset that you aren’t going to be able to escape without consuming a hefty amount of calories. It’s okay to treat yourself, but remember that the key to success is moderation.

  • Try having a small meal before heading out to the picnic. This will keep you from overeating when you get there

  • Don’t fall into the buffet trap. Put a little bit of the foods that you want on your plate and sit down to eat them. Wait to go back for seconds until you’re sure you want them.

  • Pay attention to what you’re eating. You will most likely be socializing, so don’t mindlessly graze

  • Try bringing a low-fat dish with you so you have something to fill up on without feeling guilty

  • Stay away from the mayonnaise-based salads, such as macaroni salad and cole slaw. They are high in fat and addicting!

  • Contribute a lean meat (such as turkey burgers) to the grill so you don’t have to eat high-fat burgers or hot dogs

  • Keep a water bottle in your hand. It’s easy to get dehydrated in the summer heat. Also, you’ll feel less hungry if you are properly hydrated (most times when people feel hungry they are actually thirsty!). You’ll also be less likely to involuntarily grab for food when one of your hands is already busy.

  • Steer clear of sodas and fruity cocktails. They are loaded with sugar and can be dehydrating.

  • If you want a sweeter drink, try mixing 100% fruit juice (not fruit cocktail) with sparkling water. It has the same kick as soda without the sugar.

Here are a few recipes that won’t jeopardize your hard work to eat right and will still taste delicious!

Confetti Summer Salad

Prep: 30 minutes; Chill: four to 24 hours.

4 medium ears fresh corn or 2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
4 baby zucchini, thinly sliced, or 1/2 of a small zucchini, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 green onions, sliced
1 medium yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup bottled clear Italian salad dressing (such as Newman’s Own brand)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Fresh thyme (optional)

If using fresh corn, cook ears of corn in a in a covered large saucepan with a small amount of boiling water for 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut corn from cobs (you should have about 2 cups corn kernels).

In a large bowl, combine fresh cooked corn or thawed corn, zucchini, tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, salad dressing and, if desired, cayenne pepper. Cover and chill for four to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. If desired, garnish with fresh thyme.

Yield: Eight side-dish servings

Per serving: 99 calories, 5 g total fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 253 mg sodium, 14 g carbohydrates, 2 g fiber, 2 g protein

Antipasto Kabobs

The variety of textures, colors and flavors in this recipe makes it the perfect prelude to virtually any entrée. These no-cook kabobs can also be served as satisfying snacks.

Prep: 30 minutes; Marinate: One to 24 hours.

1 1/2 to 2 cups assorted fresh vegetables (eg, baby carrots, halved radishes, bell pepper squares, whole miniature bell peppers or halved pattypan squash)
2 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, provolone cheese, or smoked Gouda cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 oz cooked smoked turkey sausage, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices and quartered
2 tablespoons refrigerated basil pesto
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
12 whole fresh basil leaves

Place vegetables, cheese and sausage in a self-sealing plastic bag set in a deep bowl.

For marinade, stir together pesto and vinegar in a small bowl; pour over vegetable mixture in bag. Seal bag; turn to coat vegetable mixture. Marinate in the refrigerator for one to 24 hours, turning bag occasionally.

On 12 four-inch-long wooden skewers, alternately thread vegetables, cheese, sausage and basil leaves.

Yield: 12 skewers (6 servings)

Per serving: 84 calories, 6 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 13 mg cholesterol, 188 mg sodium, 3 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 5 g protein

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