As the temperature climbs, people can’t wait to head outside for some al fresco dining. The trouble is, outdoor eating has become synonymous with gluttonous fare—like barbeque ribs, fried chicken and mayo-doused potato salad—that can derail even the most valiant weight loss efforts. Though you don’t have much control over the menu at a neighbor’s cookout or the local baseball stadium, you can makeover your picnic basket to better align with your weight loss goals.
Here, we tell you how to pack a nutritious, waist-friendly picnic basket that the entire family will enjoy. We’ve covered snacks, entrées, special treats for your tiny tots and even low-cal desserts! Ditch your old picnic standbys and pack our better-for-you picks, below, to ensure those pounds keep coming off fast.
Lesser Evil Buddha Bowl Foods Avocado-Licious Organic Popcorn, about 3 cups
120 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 190 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 5 g fiber, less than 1 g sugar, 2 g protein
Popcorn makes for a great low-cal alternative to chips. You can down three whole cups before you hit the 120-calorie mark. (For some perspective, you can only eat nine Nacho Cheese Doritos for the same number of calories.) We love Lesser Evil’s organic popcorn because it’s free of dangerous additives—like diacetyl, a chemical that has been found to break down the layer of our cells that protects the brain—found in many microwave popcorns. It’s also made with avocado oil, which boasts healthy monounsaturated fat that comes from pressed avocados and may help improve cholesterol while it wards off hunger.
Harvest Snaps Snapea Crisps Black Pepper, 22 pieces
120 calories, 6 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 85 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 5 g protein
Thanks to Harvest Snaps, eating veggies away from home has never been easier—or crunchier! This natural snack offers a solid serving of muscle-building protein and hunger-busting fiber, a nutrient many Americans don’t get enough of. They’re a hit with adults and kid alike—yes, even the picky ones that hate vegetables–thanks to Harvest’s commitment to enhancing the peas’ natural flavor with spices like black pepper. Munch on them solo or, for some additional flavor, dip them in the hummus we suggest bringing along to make your main course.
Planters NUTrition Heart Healthy Mix, 1 ounce
170 calories, 15 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 45 mg sodium, 5 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 6 g protein
Inside this can is an awesome blend of peanuts, almonds, antioxidant-rich pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts and heart-protecting walnuts. If the taste alone doesn’t convince you to throw these in your picnic basket, consider this: A Georgia Southern University study found that eating a high-protein, high-fat snack like nuts can increase your calorie burn for more than three hours. That means, if you munch on this trail mix when you first sit down outside, you’ll increase your calorie burn for the full duration of your picnic!
Chicken, Shredded Veggie and Hummus Wrap, 1 wrap
212.5 calories, 5.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 440 mg sodium, 15.5 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 28 g protein
When it comes to picnicking, prepping the main course is often seen as the most challenging part. But with the right ingredients in your cooler, whipping up something healthy and fast is a cinch. To make our Chicken, Shredded Veggie and Hummus Wrap, roll two ounces of hummus, three ounces of pre-sliced, pre-grilled chicken (we like Applegate Farms’ variety) and a sprinkling of shredded veggies (such as Mann's Broccoli Cole Slaw) into a Mission Yellow Extra Thin Corn Tortilla and dig in! While most traditional wraps are loaded with hydrogenated oils (it’s what makes them so pliable and bendy), these corn tortillas are free of the additive, and, therefore much lower in fat. Stick with our pick to stay slim.
unreal® Dark Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Cups, 1 cup
80 calories, 6 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 45 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 1 g protein
No picnic would be complete without a little something sweet. Indulge—without going off the deep end—with this low-sugar, chemical-free alternative to a classic peanut butter cup. The addition of coconut gives them a unique (and mouthwatering delicious) flavor, so you won’t feel like you're eating a knock-off.
Peeled Snacks Much-Ado-About Mango, 1/2 bag
120 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg sodium, 28 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 20 g sugar, 2 g protein
Think of Peeled Snacks’ Much-Ado-About-Mango like a Fruit Roll-Up for adults. It contains no added sugars or artificial ingredients — just organic mango. That’s how each bag ends up with more than half a day’s vitamin A, a nutrient that’s key for healthy vision and cell growth.
Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax Cookies, per cookie
120 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 70 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 2 g protein
You get a guilt-free cookie fix with these soft and chewy snacks. Each cookie contains 10 grams of whole grains and 4 grams of belly-filling fiber, which can help keep your weight in check. Thanks to the walnuts and flaxseed in the batter, each of these cookies has 600 milligrams of omega-3s, a healthy fat that can ward off heart disease, depression and asthma.
Looking for more sweet ideas? Be sure to check out these additional healthy junk foods. Just about each and every pick—except maybe the ice cream—would make a great addition to your basket.
Chobani Tots Greek Yogurt, Banana & Pumpkin, 1 pouch
100 calories, 4.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 35 mg sodium, 8 g carbs, less than 1 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 4 g protein
These creamy pouches of whole-milk Greek yogurt are ideal for the toddler crowd. Train their palates to like whole foods like bananas and pumpkins when they’re young, and you'll never have to worry about hiding veggies in their hamburger patties or feeding them Flinstone chewables to make sure they hit their daily vitamin marks. (Be sure to check out these healthy yogurts for weight loss, too.)
Kashi Ripe Strawberry Cereal Bars, 1 bar
130 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 100 mg sodium, 24 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 2 g protein
Kids will love the sweet fruity interior, and you’ll love the fact that these snacks are made with whole grains and free of high-fructose corn syrup, an additive that can lead to obesity and diabetes that’s often added to other snack bars.
Crunch Pak Dipperz Sweet Apples with Peanut Butter, 1 pack
150 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 105 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 5 g protein
One of the best ways to convince your kids to eat more produce is to serve it with peanut butter! Your little one will love dipping the pre-sliced apples into the protein-packed creamy spread. They may get their hands a bit messy, but it will be well worth it when they’ve polished off the entire pouch of vitamin-packed fruit.