Friday, July 1, 2011

How to Eat Well at 4th of July Picnics

The most difficult times to consciously eat well is 1) when traveling and 2) when going to holiday picnics or parties.  Chips, hot dogs, & mayonnaise-filled potato salads make it hard to choose wisely.  Now, for those of us who get physically ill from eating unhealthy, cheating isn't too much of an option or you'll be paying for it for the rest of the week.  For those of you who don't mind cheating every few months I say, be careful & don't overdo it.  Since you eat well a majority of the time, your body isn't used to digesting some of the harsh foods.  Cheat, but in moderation.  While you may not have medical issues to worry about, your body still isn't used to the toxic nature of some of these foods. Be kind and don't gorge yourself.  As momof3 says: ~Savor the run cheat.~

Photo source: Lookiloos
Here are some foods to look out for or minor modifications you can make.  It's hard to be perfect at events like this, but knowing what you can do before you go can minimize the possible damage:
1. Fruit salad. Most parties include that big bowl of watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, & bananas.  Load up!
2. Pasta salads.  Look out for any pasta salads with an italian dressing base, not mayo.  Only eat this in moderation.  One scoopful and you're done. SAVOR IT.
3. Grilled vegetables or veggie platters.  This usually becomes my main dish.  I love my veggies and don't mind gorging on them all day.  If you must, bring your own hummus dip or dressing you know is healthy.
4.  If you're a sometimes meat-eater, skip the hot dogs but grab a burger patty. Lose the roll & cheese and load up with lettuce, onion, BBQ sauce (sans high-fructose corn syrup) & any other good toppings. It won't be as easy to eat but losing the bun & cheese will make a big difference.
5. Mixed Nut bowls.  Some picnics sometimes have bowls of chips, pretzels, or mixed nuts. Skip the first two, but feel free to have a few handfuls of those mixed nuts.

Another great option is to bring your own side dish to share, but make it something you can eat! I know most hosts ask for you to bring a side dish.  Go for it! Use this as an opportunity to bring something you can eat and introduce healthy food to the other party-goers. There's nothing wrong with being selfishly generous. The host will love that you brought free food, but you'll love having that one extra option on the picnic table.
1. Quinoa salad. There are some great summer pasta salad replacements you can make using quinoa.  My mom did this at my sister's graduation party last month and it was so delicious! (As soon as I steal the recipe from her, I'll let you guys know)
2. Hummus & wraps.  Make & bring your own hummus & some spinach wraps.  Use any veggies they already have at the picnic to fill it up and enjoy. A great replacement to burgers for vegetarians.
4. Strawberry Walnut Salad. (Salad greens, lots of spinach, sliced strawberries, crushed walnuts, raspberry vinaigrette...easy, right?)  There's nothing quite as refreshing as a fresh salad loaded with nuts & fruit. This is a summer favorite at our family picnics & its super healthy.
Photo source: Eggsonsunday
5. Desserts.  Skip the boxed cakes or sugar loaded cookies.  Go to and check out some of their incredibly tasty recipes. You can still enjoy some sweets over the holidays without making your body hate you.
6. Bring your own veggie/black bean burger in addition to your side. I really doubt the host will be super offended that you don't eat meat and want a replacement. Most hosts are pretty conscious of the popularity of vegetarianism and already keep a box of Boca burgers on the side, but just in case, pack one in your cooler.

Going to that picnic won't be as perfect as when you eat at home, but you can still enjoy some of the food without making yourself feel guilty.

Here's to summer fun & wine coolers. 

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