Eating Healthy at Picnics and Barbecues



July is National Picnic Month and a time when family and friends get together for outdoor celebrations and barbecues.

With that comes the overabundance of foods and the inclination to overeat. Whether your goals are maintaining or losing weight, managing a medical condition, or staying well, building a healthy plate at the picnic can help you stay on track.

Start with filling half of your plate with some fruits and mostly non-starchy vegetables (e.g. not potatoes, corn, or peas). For the remaining half of your plate, fill one part with a whole grain or starch (potato salad, baked beans, ½ of a corn on the cob, corn bread, ½ of a sandwich bread or hamburger bun if very large).

For the final spot, choose 6 ounces of a lean protein, such as grilled skinless chicken or turkey breast, a lean ground turkey or beef hamburger (at least 90% lean) or fish. Some vegetarian options may include a black bean, tofu, quinoa, or portobello mushroom-based burger.

To include some healthy fats, sprinkle a small handful of nuts or a vinaigrette dressing on your fruits or vegetables, or add some avocado slices to your sandwich. For beverage options, choose water, unsweetened tea or low fat or fat free milk or alternative (e.g. unsweetened soy or almond milk).

For additional healthy picnic options, make your own sparkling juice with 12 ounces of sparkling water and just an ounce or two of juice. For additional flavor, add sliced citrus or fresh herbs like mint. Consider using infused water by adding any of the following to a cold glass or pitcher of water (and check out our Pinterest page for more ideas!):
  • Sliced citrus fruits or zest (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
  • Crushed fresh mint
  • Peeled, sliced fresh ginger or sliced cucumber
  • Crushed berries
If you’re concerned about dessert, bring a healthy option to the picnic or barbecue such as cottage cheese with fruit and almond slices Eat slowly, being mindful of enjoying your food, and enjoy the conversation and company of those around you.

To avoid going for seconds, move to an area away from the food, take a walk, engage in a game or activity at the BBQ, or be the event photographer. Most importantly, focus on the positive engagement and memories. Happy Summer! For more ideas on a healthy picnic or BBQ, check out: The Half-Your-Plate Picnic The American Diabetes Association also has a great article that can apply to anyone, not just those managing diabetes.

Heather Burchall, MS, RD RMHP Contributing Blogger