It's almost the 4th... a day to over eat fatty, salty, sugary food and wash it down with beer? It doesn't have to be this way. Here are my tips for having a healthier and I think more enjoyable picnic.
1) Ditch the Empty Calorie Junkfood. How many times have you arrived at a barbecue and have been handed a beer while being directed to the picnic table that is filled with potato chips, popcorn, pretzels and other high calorie, salty snacks that you end up filling up on. But of course, you can't say no to the main course or any of the wonderful desserts your friends and family... beg you to just take one bit of...
The host was well meaning putting out this quick food while they got the rest of the meal together, but American's need to get over this. "We are not going to starve if we have to wait a few minutes, even a half hour to eat something worth eating." So the next time you are the host. Prepare one or two really special appetizers and don't over do it. They are meant to stimulate the appetite not satisfy it. If you don't have the time to make something special, you can a put out some low calorie, nutritious, and not very filling fruit salad and a raw vegetable platter.
2) Plan Your Meal Around a Theme: Don't haphazardly make a potato salad, a pasta salad, some chicken, some sausage etc. Offering your guest WAY TOO many choices that they feel obligated to taste, and yet the flavors don't go together in any particular way... You can easily end up with a stomach ache from this type of smorgasbord.
Some of my favorites themes are:
Americana: Fried/grilled Chicken, potato salad, cole slaw, biscuits, baked beans, deviled eggs...
Italiano: Sausage and peppers, eggplant parmesan, baked ziti, zucchini salad, olives, etc...
Turkish Delight: Kebabs, grilled mixed vegetables, pita bread, yogurt sauce, hummus, etc...
Korean Barbecue: Korean Short Ribs, Asian noodle and rice dish, along with stir fried vegetables.
3) Don't Make too Much Food: This was a really hard one for me to get over. Having been raised in an Italian-American household I always believed you needed to make enough extra food for a family of 6 to stop over.
Now I've been to parties that have been to the other extreme: were there was exactly one serving of each item per person (usually a ladie's lunch). Have a little extra, but not too much, maybe enough for 1 extra person to stop by.
Remember, people are not going to eat the portion they would normally have for dinner because you most likely have more offerings. Guests are going to eat no more than a large spoonful of each dish.
4) Always Have Plenty of Iced Water: Now, I caution not to over do the food, but please feel free to buy more than enough to drink... especially if it is hot outside. Display it nicely in pitchers, add some lemons or cucumbers to add a splash of flavor to the water. Nothing quenches your thirst or prevents a hangover like water.. and it doesn't have artificial ingredients like soft drinks or calories either! So please, have plenty H2O on hand.
5) Remember What a Real Portion is of Meat. I am often repulsed by what a meat fest picnics can be. Sometimes there are very few fruits and vegetables on the table, and the ones that are there are obviously after thoughts... because what I'm really suppose to be impressed with are the large slabs of meat, in quanities proportial to the net weight of all the guests in attendance. Guys, yes, I am mostly talking to the men, chill your inner caveman. Too much meat... is just too much fat, calories, etc. a portion is a deck of cards, not a whole grilled animal per person.
6) Limit the Desserts: So you've gorged on meat and potato chips and now Aunt Mary really wants you to try her apple pie, and you must have some of cousin Rita's brownies, and chocolate chip cookies... etc.
Offer one rich dessert and one light dessert, and maybe some marshmallows for the kids to roast. If you already have two desserts being brought to the party and Aunt Millie offers to bring another, say "Thank you, we have enough desserts, but we can always use some more cold drinks." By limiting your offerings, quality not quanity, you and your friends will leave the party content - not gorged.
Weekly Meal Plan:
Sunday: Road Food Yikes!
Meatless Monday: Meatless Braised Cellophane Noodles
Tuesday: Quiche Lorraine with Boston Bib Lettuce
Wednesday: Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiches & Dill on top of miniature zucchini and corn cakes
Thursday: Spaghetti and Meatballs with Cucumber Salad
Friday: Chili-Maple Glazed Salmon with quinoa and green beans.
Saturday: Asian Take Out. (It must be summer we are cooking less.)