We all love a good picnic – sunshine, food, friends, outdoor activity, and lots of laughs. Arrange your environment so that you naturally and easily feel great in your body all day (and always).
Re-think snacks. Is it really necessary to have starchy, chippy things on the table from the get-go? I find that folks fill up on these things to the point of not needing any more calories for the entire day (yet that doesn’t stop anyone from eating the meal and dessert, does it?). Just put out veggies, hummus or yogurt-based dip, and slice up some fruit. This turns the snacks into a health benefit instead of a health detriment.
Let your guests know what time you will be serving the meal and then stick to it. Everyone enjoys food more when you eat a meal when you actually feel hungry. Allow your guests to be hungry for the meal.
Where are the veggies? Rather than pasta and potato side dishes filling the buffet, assign veggie dishes for your guests to bring: grilled vegetables, roasted root vegetables, broccoli salad, green salads full of crunchy veggies, raw veggie trays, fruit salad. Ask your guests to bring what they are picking from their garden – strawberries, cukes, sliced tomatoes, beets, a pickled veggie?
Lean meats help to make lean body mass. The occasional hot dog, beef burger, sausage, or steak tastes delicious, I know. Just stick to one and, if you want to feel virtuous, skip the bun (especially if you are going to have pasta or potato salad on your plate, too). There are leaner options you can try so that every weekend doesn’t end up being hot dog central… veggie burgers (ever had a homemade black bean burger with spicy salsa?), chicken legs or thighs, and fish. Put chunks of fish, pork, shrimp, or tofu on skewers for lean kebabs.
Eat dessert without wrecking your day of healthy eating. Fruit desserts, sorbet, ice cream on a stick (portion control is built in), chocolate covered strawberries… or just stick to one reasonable portion of your favorite item on the dessert table (that chocolate chip cookie, perhaps?) Then, stay away from the food table!
Drink Well. Obviously, we all know that water is the best liquid we can drink and we need to drink lots of it, especially when you spend the day outdoors. At the very least, drink a bottle or glass of water in between alcoholic beverages (if you drink alcohol). For the kids, have water or homemade non-carbonated beverages available, preferably made with less sugar than the recipe dictates (example: if you are making lemonade or sweetened herbal tea, sweeten it until it just tastes sweet instead of dumping in loads of sugar). Serve watermelon slices at some point for a delicious way for everyone to hydrate themselves.
The best picnics are ones that have fun, outdoor activities (especially when the weather cooperates and being outdoors is a total delight!).
- Have a pool? Encourage swimming and pool games for kids and grown ups
- Borrow your neighbor’s Ladder Golf set
- Bring out the frisbees and balls
- Bocce, anyone?
- Volleyball games get lots of people involved in an activity at once
- Create a nature scavenger hunt for the kids (then serve the watermelon as their “prize”)
- Water balloon chase games
- Go for a group walk down the street or road (big groups stand out and are safer!)
Another idea for your own personal wellness is to get some exercise before the picnic begins. Not only will it make you feel great, it may also set you up for a healthier eating day because you want to remain feeling good in your body after all the effort. And, if not, at least you burned a few of the excess calories already!
The bottom line, Folks, is that, at least here in Western NY, we have a fairly small window of opportunity for hot weather fun. Make the most of it, enjoy those weekend picnics, and see if you can enjoy the people more than the food!
Dr. Amy Mercovich