Picnics are a fun way to create memories, celebrate holidays and spend time outdoors. Planning the food is part of the fun. Invite your friends and family to join you in eating a great meal filled with exciting, tasty and nutritious foods. Try to steer clear of hot dogs, as a study in the 2008 "Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism" reports that people who regularly consume hot dogs have a 40 percent greater risk of developing diabetes and obesity. Remember to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold so everyone stays safe and healthy.
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You can make salads ahead of time and take them to the picnic in a cooler. Make salad on a stick by threading chunks of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and zucchini onto a bamboo skewer. Kids will love this. The classic tomato, mozzarella and basil salad tastes delicious when paired with a homemade vinaigrette. For a twist on potato salad, use cooked red potatoes dressed with dill and plain Greek yogurt. Fruit salads are healthy and cool. Make it interesting by serving the salad in a hollowed out watermelon.
Chips are a classic picnic food, so be sure to bring a variety of baked and regular chips. Make your own tortilla chips by cutting flour tortillas into bite-sized pieces, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling with garlic salt and baking for five minutes in a 450-degree oven. These tortilla chips have very little fat and are a healthy alternative to regular chips. Serve with a homemade chunky salsa or hummus.
Sandwiches and Wraps
Prepare a selection of sandwiches and wraps the morning of your picnic. You can make a Mediterranean wrap by combining couscous, grilled chicken, cucumber and tomato slices with a bit of olive oil. Wrap all the ingredients in a spinach tortilla. Use different breads for a change of pace from standard sandwich bread. Bring Reuben sandwiches on kaiser rolls, chicken salad and grape sandwiches on a plain bagel, or serve a grilled chicken and roasted tomato pita. At the very least, opt for whole grain breads for your sandwiches. Whole grains provide fiber, B vitamins and several minerals, all of which can help prevent heart disease according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
On the Grill
Many picnic areas have charcoal grills available. If you want to grill meat at your picnic, remember to bring charcoal and lighter fluid. Grill chicken thighs and drumsticks and brush them with barbecue sauce. Try flat steak and marinate it in a mixture of honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic and cook it at the picnic site. You can also grill turkey burgers, hamburgers and the perennial favorite, hot dogs. While you are grilling the meat, add ears of corn on the cob to the grill.
A picnic is not complete without a sweet finish. Bring a variety of desserts that will appeal to all ages. Bake chocolate chip cookies, brownies or lemon bars and arrange them on a serving tray. Fresh fruit that doesn't have to be cut until you eat it makes transporting dessert easy. Watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas and sliced pineapple are all easy dessert ideas. Berries are also portable and tasty; just be sure to wash them before you eat them.