Healthy Picnic Menu

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Published July 09, 2009

| FoxNews.com

Whether at the park, on the beach or in your own backyard, a family picnic is a great way to spend time together while bonding over delicious food and fun activities. Unfortunately, traditional picnic foods, like dips and mayonnaise-based salads, can wreak havoc on anyone's health. With a little modification, you can enjoy a picnic without compromising your waistline and while keeping your family happy and healthy!

Colorful Crisp Produce:

Go raw! Get your picnics off to a 'fruitful' start by packing your cooler with a wide variety of colorful fruits. The more colorful produce you add to your menu, the healthier the meal. If they are in season, there is nothing quite like a juicy watermelon to finish the meal. Sliced apples, berries and dried fruit like raisins and dried apricots are perfect travel snacks without the mess of fruits you have to peel. Of course, don't forget to pack your cooler with a burst of color from vegetables, providing your family picnic with antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. Try baby carrots, slices of celery, cucumbers and peppers, cherry tomatoes and broccoli. All of these are perfect for dipping into low-fat or fat-free dressings for a fun and nutritious snack.

Powerful Protein:

Pack slices of lean chicken, turkey, ham or roast beef and top them on a salad or sandwich for a delicious, healthy meal. Nuts can also boost your protein and fiber intake when sprinkled onto salads, but note-to-self: Watch your portions, because although they are high in healthy fat, the calories can quickly add up.

Say cheese! An ounce or two of low-fat cheese adds bold and tasty flavors to any sandwich, cracker or salad. Low-fat or fat-free yogurts make a yummy fruit dip, a savory veggie dip or just a plain old snack. If you're bringing a grill, store lean chopped turkey, lean steaks and chicken at a safe temperature in a cooler. When grilling, avoid food poisoning or dangerous situations by making sure you follow instructions on how to properly clean, grill, and serve these meats.

Hearty Whole-Grains:

Refined breads, rolls and starchy pasta salads can pile on lots of calories and little fiber. Choose whole-grain products like whole-wheat rolls or whole-wheat pita bread, for an added boost of fiber and nutritional value without sacrificing taste. Bring along whole-wheat tortillas-kids love the fun shape of a rolled up sandwich. Turkey and veggies, lean ham and low-fat cheese, and peanut butter and jelly are all great options for fillings. Another kid tip: Use a potato chip bag clip to seal your wrap and keep the healthy contents from going to waste!

Delectable Desserts:

Berries, cherries and apples - oh my! Instead of baking them in a cobbler, which can be over 400 calories a slice, arrange a colorful fruit platter or fruit salad, which is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. Top your fruit with single-serving, low-fat puddings which are easy to store and mess-free, or add a dollop of fat-free whipped cream to tantalize your taste buds. If you can't help but indulge in cakes or cookies, opt for ones that are low-fat and high in fiber, like World of Grain cookies. Pack along high-fiber cereals to add to yogurt with berries for a delicious parfait.

Best Beverages:

It's so easy to become dehydrated without even knowing it, especially when you are outdoors playing in the sun, hiking or tanning. Kids are especially prone to losing fluids, and often don't want to interrupt their fun to drink. Beat the heat with plenty of ice water, sparkling water, unsweetened iced tea and an assortment of low-calorie beverages. You can freeze water bottles the night before and use as cold packs to keep food and drinks cold.

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of

www.Skinnyandthecity.com

. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto

www.FFactorDiet.com

.

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