August 31 is Eat Outside Day, but the truth is most of us want to eat meals outside this summer for more than one day. Whether you're planning a family day at the beach or a romantic first date, it’s easy to prepare a meal to eat outside without resorting to pre-packaged snack foods, the ever-present hot dog stand or the fast food drive-through.
A simple homemade picnic can cover all the nutritional bases without the added sodium and fat found in many pre-packaged or fast food options, according to dietitian Gloria Tsang, founder of nutrition network HealthCastle.com and author of Go UnDiet: 50 Small Actions for Lasting Weight Loss.
"It doesn’t take much longer to prepare a picnic from scratch that it does to open all those plastic snack packages," Tsang said in a press release. "And the resulting meal will be much healthier, allowing your family to enjoy a meal outdoors without feeling bloated and dehydrated from eating too much processed food."
Here are HealthCastle.com’s picks for each course of a healthy, easy-to-prepare picnic:
- Main: Sandwiches. Skip the cake-like white bread and salty luncheon meat. Choose whole wheat or multi-grain bread and fill with chicken breast or the old favorite PB&J.
- Side: Fruit and Veggies and dip. Low-fat sour cream, hummus, and tzatziki are all healthy dip choices for veggies, or try low-fat yogurt for fruit. Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, grapes, and berries require no prep work at all.
- Dessert: Trail mix. Mix nuts, whole grain cereals, and dried fruits to add some sweet crunch to finish off your meal.
- Drinks: Water, juice, or milk. Water keeps you hydrated without a lot of calories and sugar. For the kids, try milk or non-GMO soy milk. Avoid "fruit drink," which is loaded with added sugar and artificial ingredients (get 100% juice instead).
- Bonus: Check out a food truck instead. If you just don’t feel like preparing food, seek out a local food truck with healthier options than the hot dog stand. Apps like Roaming Hunger and TruxMap can help.