Plan a safe and healthy picnic
Jill K. Fulk, R.D., L.D., C.D.E.
Registered and Licensed Dietitian
With all the festive occasions going on during the warmer months - from graduation parties to cookouts to holiday traditions - the summer season does not have to mean overindulgence on unhealthy food and weight gain. Look for small ways to promote healthy habits at celebrations with family and friends. Here are some ways you can live healthier during the summer:
Bring a healthy dish. Set a good example by bringing fruit and vegetable dishes or modifying traditional dishes with ingredients that have lower calories and fat.
- Try using fat-free mayonnaise and salad dressings in place of full-fat versions. Plain non-fat yogurt works well in place of mayonnaise or sour cream in traditional mayonnaise-based salads. Try cutting the amount of mayonnaise or sour cream in half and use the yogurt for the remaining amount.
- Instead of traditional potato salad, try a German-style potato salad which uses more vinegar and less oil. Remember to keep the skin on the potatoes for additional nutrients.
- Use lower fat cheese in salads and casseroles and no one will know the difference.
- For pasta and rice dishes, use whole wheat pasta and brown or wild rice.
- Instead of preparing a baked bean dish with several cans of baked beans, try using only one can and add other dried beans like lima or butter beans. This will cut back on the amount of the sugar from the canned baked beans without forfeiting the sweet taste. Frozen or dried beans are great to use because they add very little sodium. This will also add some excitement to the traditional dish. Omit the bacon and save even more calories and saturated fat.
- Cut back on sugar by one-third to one-half and increase the use of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. These give a hint of sweetness without adding calories. You can also use a sugar substitute like Splenda or Equal Granular to replace sugar in recipes to lower calories and carbohydrate.
- Baste your meat with fat-free broth, apple cider or fruit juice instead of high fat drippings or sauces. Create your own marinade with low sodium broth or water loaded with herbs and spices.
Take advantage of the abundance of produce during the warmer months. Add fiber, vitamins and minerals to your recipes by adding extra veggies, nuts, beans or fruit.
- Add diced apples and walnuts into dishes.
- Throw grapes, mandarin oranges, pineapple or dried fruit into salads.
- Take a favorite casserole and throw in some peppers, onions, celery, frozen peas, black beans or garbanzo beans while cutting back on some higher fat ingredients.
- Add vegetables such as mushrooms, onions and peppers to your meats on the grill.
- Throw leftover cabbage from coleslaw mixes into another salad or casserole to add fiber, vitamins and minerals and very little calories.
- Substitute other vegetables for some or all of the starchy ingredients in dishes.
If the meat options are limited to higher fat selections such as ribs, hotdogs or hamburgers, try taking a small portion or ask to share with someone. Watch high calorie additions such as mayonnaise and choose vegetables for sandwich toppings.
- If chicken is served, remove the skin if it is intact.
- Avoid visible fat on the meat.
- When possible, go for lean cuts like skinless chicken breast, pork tenderloin or beef cuts like sirloin or round. Turkey hotdogs or turkey sausage may be leaner than the regular version.
- Don't forget that a serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.
- If you are in charge of the cookout, provide whole wheat buns.
Curb your hunger. Arriving with an empty stomach makes it difficult to make healthy choices.
- Before going to a party, eat a light, healthy snack such as light yogurt, fruit or a handful of whole grain cereal or crackers.
- Plan for healthy appetizers such as fruit or vegetable trays with low-fat dip, celery and peanut butter, or baked chips and pita bread cut into triangles with salsa, low-fat bean dips or hummus.
- Whole-wheat crackers also go well with salsa and low-fat dips.
- You can make a simple appetizer with low-fat dip and whole-wheat tortillas. Spread the dip on the tortillas, roll them up and cut them into small pieces. For even more nutrition, add some vegetables before rolling them up.
Limit alcoholic beverages. Alcohol can add many calories and might decrease your will to stick with healthy options and controlled portions.
- Don't forget that alcohol can interact with medications.
- Stick with one serving if you must and then switch to diet soda or water with lemon or lime.
- If you are hosting the party, provide low-sugar beverages such as water, sugar-free lemonade and unsweetened iced tea.
Rely on others to bring dessert items. There will always be someone who will bring the brownies, pie or cookies. This will leave less high calorie food for you and others to feast upon at celebrations.
- If you do prepare a dessert, rinse out mixing bowls immediately to avoid sampling of batters and packing on extra calories.
- Freeze leftovers so they are out of sight.
- Fruit also makes a great dessert, especially with the abundance of berries and melons during the summer season. Add some light flavored yogurt or sugar free gelatin, which by itself is a great sweet treat.
Choose the smallest plate or bring your own. You will be less likely to eat large portions if you have less room on your plate.
- Fill your plate with veggies first, then add some lean protein such as chicken, turkey or ham. The remainder of your plate can be used for fruit and casseroles. You will have less room on your plate for the higher fat selections.
- The high-fiber veggies and lean protein are also filling, and this could prevent you from reaching for seconds. Remember, starchy beans such as pinto or black beans add protein and fiber too.
Slow down and enjoy the food. Some ways to slow your eating include talking with other guests, putting your fork down between bites and chewing foods completely. You will recognize your fullness earlier and be able to stop eating sooner. But don't get preoccupied with conversation either. Make sure you are focusing on what you are putting into your mouth. Remember, just because someone else is eating it does not mean you have to eat it too.
Act on activity. Exercise is a great stress reliever and can make things seem less hectic. It will also help you burn off those excess calories.
- Take the stairs or park farther away from the store when shopping.
- Plan a walk with other family members or friends after a meal.
- Go out and play with the kids for awhile.
- Try signing up for an athletic event or join a local team during the summer season to stay committed to your exercise regimen. Start a walking group with friends.
Be safe. Make sure your picnic food stays at safe temperatures. When in doubt, use a thermometer.
- For cold dishes, place them in a larger bowl full of ice to keep them chilled.
- Try to keep most hot items in crock pots or roasting pans.
- If food has been sitting out for several hours in unsafe temperatures, don't risk it - throw it away.