Navigating Healthy Eating at a Holiday Picnic: Tips for Making Smart Choices.

Now that summer is in full swing and Fourth of July festivities are here, it’s a great time to talk about making better choices when faced with traditional picnic fare. In this blog post, I’ll share some tips on how to navigate your way through a picnic while making nutritious choices and I’ll share ideas for healthy dishes you can bring to the picnic.

To begin, a little bit of planning goes a long way. Before the picnic, take some time to consider healthy options you can bring with you. Having a dish or two that meets your goals will give you control over your choices.

Once there, load up on veggies! Look for salads packed with colorful vegetables like mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. Opt for vinaigrette-based dressings instead of creamy ones to keep the calorie count in check. 

Remember to prioritize protein. Look for lean options like grilled chicken, turkey burgers or fish. If you are vegetarian or vegan, opt for a plant based meat option or a bean salad. These lean proteins are lower in saturated fat and can provide you with the energy you need.

It’s easy to get carried away at a picnic with tempting treats. Practice mindful portion control by using smaller plates and enjoying small portions of indulgent dishes. Remember to savor the flavors and focus on the company rather than overeating.

It’s important to stay hydrated especially on hot summer days. Drink plenty of water throughout the picnic; avoid sugary drinks and opt for sparkling water or infused water with fruits and herbs for a refreshing twist.

When it comes to picnics and parties, alcohol is often involved and overindulging can quickly sabotage the best of intentions. Depending on your goals however, alcohol may no longer fit in with your plans. If this is the case, there are many non-alcoholic options you can enjoy. That said, if you want to enjoy a drink or two, here are some practical ideas for including alcohol into your plans. 

First, think moderation. Set a limit of how many drinks you’ll have and stick with it. 

Pace yourself by enjoying your drink slowly. Take breaks in between drinks by drinking water or another unsweetened beverage such as iced tea or flavored sparkling water. 

Opt for lower-alcohol beverages to reduce your overall alcohol intake. Light beer, wine spritzers, or cocktails made with sparkling water or low-calorie mixers can be good choices. Be mindful of added sugars in mixers and choose those with less sugar or opt for natural flavors like fresh lime or lemon.

Look for non-alcoholic options. Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, will reduce both your alcohol intake and the overall impact on your health. There are many non-alcoholic beer, wine and recently, even spirits options available on the market today.  Plan ahead and bring some non alcoholic options with you to share-you might even start a trend!

Don’t Drink on an Empty Stomach! Eating a balanced meal or snack before drinking can help slow down alcohol absorption in your body. Include foods rich in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, as they can help reduce the effects of alcohol.

Remember, moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption. Always drink responsibly and be aware of the potential effects of alcohol on your health and well-being. 

Now that you know how to make your way around the buffet table as well as the bar, here are some great shareable dish options to bring with you:

Fresh fruit salad: Combine a variety of seasonal fruits for a refreshing and naturally sweet treat. Consider including toppings such as unsweetened coconut, granola or dried fruit. 

Quinoa salad: Mix cooked quinoa with diced vegetables, herbs, and a light vinaigrette dressing. Quinoa provides good plant based protein and is a great option for vegetarian as well as vegan eaters.

Grilled vegetable skewers: Thread colorful vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes onto skewers and grill them for a delicious and healthy side dish.

Whole grain wraps or sandwiches: Use whole grain bread or wraps and fill them with lean protein (such as turkey or grilled chicken), veggies, and a light spread like hummus or avocado.

Yogurt-based dips: Prepare a yogurt-based dip with herbs and spices as a healthier alternative to creamy dips. Serve it with crunchy veggies or whole grain crackers.

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated, even at holiday picnics. By making mindful choices, such as opting for nutrient-dense options and balancing indulgences with healthier alternatives, you can maintain a healthy eating pattern during the picnic and enjoy the festivities guilt-free.