Updated: Nov 26, 2019
1. Bring something healthy to share.
Nobody ever brings a vegetable side dish and I bet they would welcome it. Vegetable side salads do not have to be lettuce based. Vegetable salads add new color, textures, and flavors to the picnic buffet. Consider bringing with an Asian cabbage slaw salad, carrot ribbon salad, or dill cucumber salad. If the salad includes creamy dressing, opt-for low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt as the base. Be aware of high calorie toppings like dried fruit, nuts, cheese, croutons, and noodles. I’m not saying you have to avoid those toppings all together, but be aware not to use too heavy of a handful in your recipe.
2. Examine all the options.
Before making your food choice decisions, take a few minutes to scope out the prospects. Eat with your eyes and nose. Food should not only be nourishing, but it can and should be enjoyable too! What is your “I gotta have it!” item? What is your “I could do without that” dish? Make your first food choice something you would regret not trying. When you do eat that one special item, be completely 100% totally in the moment and enjoy the living daylights out of those bites.
3. Make the rest of your selections.
Choose what you enjoy and is close to lower-fat and lower-sugar as possible. We know that potlucks and picnics don’t always have the best options. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Do your best with what you know.
4. Fill your plate once with the plate method:
¼ plate proteins , ½ plate fruits and vegetables, and ¼ plate starches.
Using the plate method is a method for creating well-balanced, beautiful, and satisfying meals. Of course, some foods in each category are better for you than others. The foods below are ranked by food group and best option to not as great option, but it still counts
Choose 1 protein: grilled fish, grilled chicken, chicken kabob, bean burgers, lean burgers, turkey brats, regular cheeseburgers, sausages, ribs
Choose 2 fruits/ vegetables: raw veggies, grilled vegetables, whatever gorgeous side salad you brought with, fruit salad, grilled pineapple or grilled peaches, greens, coleslaw, marshmallow fruit salad (aka Ambrosia salad)
Choose 1 starch: baked sweet potato, whole wheat hamburger/ hot dog bun, corn on the cob, baked potato (free of toppings), potato salad with vinegar base, hamburger/ hot dog bun, potato salad with creamy base, pasta salad
5. Be aware of mindless grazing.
It’s not hard to get distracted in conversation while nibbling at a party. Create more awareness of mindless grazing by setting a time limit to eating the food in front of you. For example, snack on your small plate of snacks 45 minutes maximum. When the time is over, toss or push away the plate out of reach. Don’t refill until on snacks until another 3-4 hours passes. Don't eat anything that isn't on your plate.
6. Choose your drinks wisely.
Picnics are an all-day marathon; not a get boozy fast race. If you do decide to have an alcoholic drink, share it, enjoy it, savor it, and respect it and yourself. Alcoholic beverages are meant to be shared with friends. That means don't drink alone. Since you're going to drink a high-calorie empty-calorie alcoholic beverage, make sure it at least tastes good and is something you genuinely enjoy. Then, drink slowly to taste all the flavor. Drinking slowly allows your body to have a chance to process the alcohol to keep your blood alcohol content from getting out of control. Aim for no more than one to two alcoholic beverage servings per hour if you're at an all-day drinking event. Be a moderate drinker. Know your limits. For all day events, I would suggest one low ABV alcoholic beverage(light beer or sparkling alcoholic seltzer) and trade it off with a completely calorie-free beverage like sparkling water, a fruit and herb infused water, or unsweetened home brewed iced tea.