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How to pack a picnic that won't pack pounds

By Hilary Meyer, May 13, 2010 - 12:11pm

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How to pack a picnic that won't pack pounds

I used to be into rock concerts packed with people, and the louder the better. Well, things have changed. I much prefer sprawling out on a checkered blanket on a lawn listening to live classical music. Not only is this more relaxing, but it allows me to do what I do best, pack an awesome picnic. Portability is key. But I also want to make sure what I’m packing in my picnic basket isn’t going pack on the pounds.

I’ve learned a few tricks since working in the EatingWell Test Kitchen that help keep my picnic fare light. I use low-fat mayonnaise and yogurt instead of full-fat mayo in my coleslaw (see the recipe below). I batter my “fried” chicken without skin and cook it in the oven instead of in a huge vat of oil. That way I can relax, eat healthfully and enjoy the music.

Here are a few classic picnic food recipes that I have learned to make healthier and are still delicious. Remember to use plenty of icepacks and a good insulated cooler to keep your picnic fare cool on warm days:

Potato Salad—Lebanese Potato Salad: Dressed with a tangy lemon vinaigrette and fresh mint, this invigorating—and dairy-free—potato salad makes the perfect summer potluck contribution.

Pasta Salad—Garden Pasta Salad: This lightly dressed pasta salad gets lots of flavor from Kalamata olives and basil. A colorful mix of diced bell pepper, shredded carrot and tomatoes adds vitamins and minerals. Serve on a crisp bed of greens. Toss in canned chunk light tuna, cooked chicken or flavored baked tofu (see Note) to add protein and make it more substantial.

Deviled EggsEatingWell Deviled Eggs: Deviled eggs are a perennial potluck favorite. Our recipe replaces some of the egg yolks with nonfat cottage cheese—keeping the filling velvety and rich while reducing some of the fat. No one will know the difference.

Coleslaw—Broccoli Slaw: We've lightened this popular potluck classic with a dressing of reduced-fat mayo and yogurt. To speed preparation, use shredded broccoli slaw from the produce aisle.

Fried Chicken—Oven-Fried Chicken: Great news—crunchy, flavorful fried chicken can be healthy. In our Oven-Fried Chicken recipe marinate skinless chicken in buttermilk to keep it juicy. A light coating of flour, sesame seeds and spices, misted with olive oil, forms an appealing crust during baking. And with only 7 grams of fat per serving rather than the 20 in typical fried chicken—that is good news.

What do you like to pack for a picnic? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Hilary Meyer, Healthy Cooking Blog, Dinner, Family meals

Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Hilary asks: What do you like to pack for a picnic?

Tell us what you think:

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