By Rosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN —
in the northeast it’s been raining…a lot. We’re hoping for more outdoor picnic weather soon, but in the meantime I can make sure the picnics you’re planning are a success with these important tips. When planning picnics, you want to serve food that’s delicious, healthy and safe for everyone. Consider these picnic planning tips the next time you want to take your meal into the great outdoors.
While you may consider the meat portion of the meal the focus, use DASH and Mediterranean Diet principles and consider smaller portions of meats. You can also keep your spread budget-friendly by using less expensive cuts of meat and a marinade. A marinade is simply a mixture of oil, vinegar, herbs and spices. Try marinating skinless chicken thighs and drumsticks, and then packing them cold for a picnic to go.
Kabobs are picnic friendly and easy to pack. You can make short ones using 6-inch skewers which can be eaten without utensils. Skewer up small cubes of marinated beef, chicken or lamb along with thick slices of vegetables. You can even make “salad kabobs” by skewering cubes of spinach or bibb lettuce along with grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, yellow bell peppers, and chunks of cheese.
Showcase side dishes as a great way to balance out a meal and add more nutrients and fiber. Add more chopped vegetables to any pasta salad, or add nuts to green beans or a grain side dish. Nuts are nutritious and contain healthy fats that help reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Make things easy by using the grill to cook veggies. Cut zucchini or eggplant into quarter-inch planks, brush with olive oil and herbs, and grill on both sides until tender. Grill quartered, seeded, bell peppers, or thickly sliced onions. Cook until slightly tender, and then platter and cover with foil, while grilling the rest of the meal.
Liven up a pasta or rice salad by adding fresh blueberries to it. Or try a watermelon salad – cube melon, drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and add sliced onion, fresh mint or basil. Grill up some fruit – halved freestone peaches or thick pineapple slices are delicious accompaniments to chicken, fish or beef. Or, use fruit for desserts.
Offer a large iced tub filled with water bottles, diet soda, iced tea, or lemonade. Have water enhancers nearby or flavor jugs of water with fresh mint, cucumber slices or lemon to encourage people to stay hydrated.
Always keep cold foods cold, and hot food hot. Anything that’s not been kept at the right temperature for more than 2 hours should be pitched.
Rosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN is a registered, licensed dietitian-nutritionist with over 25 years experience. As a Nutrition Communications Consultant she delivers clear messages helping you understand the science of nutrition so you can enjoy eating for better health. Rosanne is the co-author of several books, including DASH Diet For Dummies® and the The Glycemic Index Cookbook For Dummies®. A wife, and mother of 3 boys, she practices what she preaches, enjoying regular exercise, good food and festive entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @RustNutrition.