Who doesn’t love spreading a blanket in the great outdoors and enjoying a delicious meal? Picnics evolved from the elaborate traditions of outdoor feasts enjoyed by the wealthy. In Europe during the 14th century, the earliest picnics were medieval hunting feasts in England. Renaissance-era country banquets, and Victorian garden parties lay the foundation for today. By the mid 19th century, Americans caught on and picnics were common during the warm weather months. And while most anything can be eaten at a picnic, there are most definitely traditional choices. Unfortunately, some of those most traditional are the unhealthiest. Avoid these picnic foods if you can:
- Mayonnaise – When potatoes, pasta, tuna, chicken or sandwiches are dressed with mayonnaise, they need to be kept at 40ºF to remain safe from spoiling. That’s pretty chilly, even for an ice-packed cooler. A good alternative is an oil and vinegar dressing.
- Deviled Eggs – They have that name for a reason! Deviled eggs can deliver about 60 calories and 120 mg cholesterol per each 1/2 egg serving. Make them healthier by substituting the mayonnaise with cottage cheese, greek yogurt, or even avocado.
- Soda – Those cans are so convenient, right? But at 140 calories per serving, and 39 grams of sugar in your average can of Coke, they’re useless. They’re also full of preservatives and dyes. Fruit juice and lemonade aren’t much better since they’re also full of sugar. Stick with water flavored with a citrus slice or a sprig of mint leaf. Sparkling water is also becoming popular if you’re looking for something with some fizz. Just make sure there’s no added sugar.
- Creamy Dressings – Salads are a great picnic food, but try to avoid creamy salad dressings. They are loaded with fat and calories. One 2 tablespoon serving of blue cheese dressing can pack on 150 calories and up to 15 grams of fat! Not to mention, these dressings need to be kept cold and can spoil. Instead, opt for a light oil and vinegar and keep the dressings on the side so guests can choose what type and how much they’d prefer.
- Fried Chicken – yes, it’s a picnic staple – but it’s a terrible choice. According to KFC’s website, one piece of their Original Recipe Fried Chicken Breasts includes 320 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 1130 milligrams of sodium. Instead make grilled marinated chicken breasts and serve it cold.
- Chips and Dip – potato chips and picnics go hand in hand. They’re easy to toss into bowls for snacking and are especially appealing with a thick, creamy dip. Unfortunately, most potato chips offer little nutritional value and high amounts of fat, calories and sodium. If you’re looking for a crunchy alternative, try whole-wheat pita chips with hummus, or multigrain tortilla chips with fresh salsa.