Healthy Picnic Food Ideas for the Long Weekend

Cooler weather will be rolling in any day now, which means it’s time to take advantage of the last few weekends of summer. Why not pack a healthy picnic and get outdoors? 

We’ve put together a guide with seven tips and several picnic food ideas to help you trade in unhealthy picnic dishes for healthier ones.

1. Take advantage of late summer produce.

Stocking up on end-of-summer produce is one of the best ways to guarantee a fresh, healthy picnic. Tomatoes, corn, bell peppers, summer squash and zucchini are still in season, and make for great additions to salads, salsas, wraps and more.

2. Pack a rainbow of colors in your picnic basket.

Fill your picnic basket with a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits instead of meats, refined carbs and unhealthy sweets. You can find your red produce in tomatoes, bell peppers, radishes (the exterior, at least), raspberries, peaches and apples. Carrots and bell peppers can help you get your fix of orange and yellow vegetables. Greens are easy; kale, cucumbers, green beans, cabbage, pears and grapes are all at your disposal this month. Finally, blues and purples can be found in blackberries and eggplant. The more varied the produce, the more nutrients, vitamins and minerals you’ll be eating.

3. Opt for a healthier crunch and more nutritious dip.

Many picnic appetizers and snacks involve highly processed chips, fat-laden dips, and mayo-based salads. Instead of chips, pack lots of crisp, raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, broccoli, radishes, cucumbers and bell peppers. Instead of unhealthy dips, grab hummus, guacamole, salsa, low-fat bean dips and low-fat yogurt herb dips. You can also pair nut butters like almond butter with apples and celery for easy, healthy snacks.

4. Ditch the mayo for olive oil, mustard or Greek yogurt.

Picnic side dishes typically include coleslaw, potato salads, pasta salads and other mayo-filled dishes. Lighten up these foods by swapping the mayo for healthier alternatives such as olive oil, mustard or Greek yogurt.

5. Use whole grains.

Whole grains, as opposed to refined grains, will fill you up and provide you with the energy you need to make the most of your outdoor activities. Use grains like quinoa, bulgur, barley and spelt as bases for grain salads; add protein like grilled chicken, nuts and seeds, along with lots of vegetables and you’ll end up with a satisfying main course. If you’re craving sandwiches instead, opt for open-faced ones served on a slice of whole grain bread. Top with grilled chicken, arugula and olive oil, or maybe some almond butter and bananas to create a nutritious lunch.

6. Make smart beverage choices.

It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re spending time outside. Be sure to pack lots of water for you and your fellow picnic-goers. Spruce things up by adding fresh fruits and vegetables; strawberry basil water and cucumber water are refreshing options for warmer days. Instead of juice, try agua fresca with water, fresh fruit and lime juice; watermelon and strawberry are two of our favorite flavors. As for iced tea, trade in the sweetened kind for unsweetened.

7. Keep desserts light and fresh.

No picnic is complete without something sweet. Instead of high calorie options like cookies, brownies and cake, bring a variety of fresh fruits and honey to add to nonfat Greek yogurt. Frozen fruit pops are classic, as long as you can keep them cold. If you have access to a grill, grilled pineapples and peaches also make for quick, easy desserts.

What are your go-to healthy picnic foods? Share in the comments below!

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