Usually when planning a picnic your first thought is to have food that tastes great. But, tasty doesn’t have to equate to unhealthy. A picnic menu can be just as nutritious and easy as a meal you would serve at home.

Picnic appetizers keep guests from going stir crazy while they wait for the grill to warm up. Prepare or buy a container of veggie dip. If you buy the dip, purchase the light version. When whipping up a dip, substitute regular ranch dressing with a ranch seasoning mix and a container of low fat sour cream. The taste is just as flavorful, but without all of the added calories.

To accompany your dip, consider a raw vegetable platter. Vegetables are less heavy than chips and they won’t negatively impact your waistline. You can prepare the vegetables the night before your picnic. Vegetables can be sliced into decorative chips with a crinkle cutter for added variety.

If the kids want salty snacks, opt for the baked variety. Most snack companies make a baked, lower fat option of their popular snacks. Even better, one hundred calorie snack bags will keep them from consuming too many of their favorite snacks.

Frozen burger patties don’t have to be diet busters. Choose from turkey burger patties or 98% lean hamburger. When dressing the burger, add a generous slice of tomato, onion, and/or lettuce.

The more food items you can make ahead of time, the more you will enjoy your party. Chicken breast or seafood kabobs can be purchased fresh directly from the meat department of the local grocer. A side dish of brown rice can be served with the kabobs for a complete meal.

Dessert at a picnic usually consists of cake or some other sweet confection. Fruit salad is a healthy twist on dessert. A combination of sweet fruits topped with coconut pieces or served with a fruit dip satisfies the sugar craving. Try grilled fruits like pineapples or peaches for a tangy tasting dessert.

When it comes to drinks, opt for bottled water or juices. Sugar free flavor packets can be added to bottled water for a fruity drink if you don’t want to drink juice. If picnickers will be in the sun a lot, water offers better hydration than soda drinks.

A picnic doesn’t have to be the end of a health conscious way of eating. Healthier menu items can be managed even on the grill. Pre-planning can keep the menu less filling not to mention easy and stress-free.

Creamy Herbed Corn

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 (3-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes

2 (11-oz.) cans whole kernel corn with peppers

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves

1/8 teaspoon dried sage leaves

1 cup diced tomatoes

1/2 cup sliced pimiento-stuffed green olives

In medium saucepan, combine butter and cream cheese; cook over medium heat until butter melts and cheese softens, stirring constantly.

Add corn, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, marjoram and sage; mix well. Cover; simmer 6 to 8 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes and olives; cook and stir 1 minute.

Black Bean Salad

1 cup black beans (cooked and drained)
1 cup frozen corn (thawed)
1 cup celery (diced)
1/4 cup sweet onion (diced)
1/4 cup red pepper (diced)
1/4 cup tomato (diced)

Marinate all of the above in your favorite Italian Dressing (the longer the better), stirring occasionally for best results. Serve on shredded lettuce or eat as is.

Great Alternative to Ice Cream

Blend 5 frozen over-ripe bananas, 6 or so strawberries, 3/4 cup frozen blueberries and a handful of walnuts. Freeze. This makes about a quart and is delicious!