When you’re trying to lose weight, picnics and barbecues can be kind of frustrating. (Oh yippee, another gathering where I’m not allowed to eat 90% of the foods offered.) But there are many delicious, low-calorie dishes you can bring to a picnic or barbecue that are very satisfying and perfect for warm weather. Below are 5 of them that can be whipped up in a jiffy.
All right, you’re thinking that salads are boring, but they don’t have to be. You can start with a traditional green lettuce base and then add virtually any kind of vegetable (or fruit, for that matter) that you want. Think colorful, flavorful additions like radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, onions, baby spinach leaves, mushrooms, carrots, olives, capers, cranberries, nuts and seeds . . . check out the produce and condiment sections of your local supermarket and you’ll find plenty of exciting ideas.
Fruit salad is an excellent picnic food and there are many ways to spice it up too. Add the common fruits first, like canteloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, grapes, pineapple – but also add some fruits with zing, like kiwi fruit, passion fruit, blackberries, blueberries or any other interesting fruit you find at the store. There are a lot to choose from! Chunk up the larger fruits, toss in your choice of smaller berries or grapes, drizzle a bit of pineapple juice on top and toss well. If you want to make the fruit salad more dessert-like, bring along a container of low-fat, low-calorie whipped cream or cottage cheese.
Low-Fat Deviled Eggs
Traditional deviled eggs are pretty high in fat because of the egg yolks and mayonnaise, but you can make a low-fat version that’s just as delicious. Start with a dozen hard boiled eggs (or as many as you need for your gathering; remember you’ll be cutting them in half so you’ll have double the amount of deviled eggs). Carefully cut the eggs in half lengthwise and place the yolks in a separate bowl. Mash the yolks and add low-fat mayonnaise (1/2 cup, or as much is needed to make the yolks creamy). Add a few teaspoons of mustard (depending on how spicy you like it), and one teaspoon of horseradish. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix well. Then scoop one small spoonful of the yolk mixture into each half egg white and sprinkle a little paprika on top.
If you want to make them even lower in fat, try substituting hummus for the mayonnaise. You can use plain hummus or a flavored variety like garlic or roasted red pepper. Another way to add extra flavor with very few calories is to top them with a teaspoon of salsa (just the veggies, not too much juice).
Cold Cut and Cheese Roll-Ups
A cold cut and cheese platter is incredibly simple to make, and you can easily keep it low-fat and low-calorie. Buy low-fat, low-sodium turkey breast, chicken breast, ham, and any other cold cuts you prefer. Ask the deli clerk to slice them thin. Same thing with the cheese; you can get low-fat Swiss, American, cheddar, and other flavorful cheeses at the deli counter. Again, ask the clerk to slice them thin. Then take each slice of cold cut and each slice of cheese and roll them up into a small tube and arrange them on a platter. You may want to bring some whole wheat rolls or pita bread, along with small jars of mayonnaise and mustard, and even a container of shredded lettuce. A platter like this takes little time to prepare, but is always popular at summer gatherings.
Pita chips with Salsa
A great low-calorie appetizer for picnics is homemade pita chips and salsa. Buy whole wheat pita pockets and cut them into triangles. Place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake on low for 10 minutes, or until crisp. After they’ve cooled, place them in a basket or container alongside a dish of salsa (mild, medium or hot) for dipping. Super-simple and really good! Hummus goes really well with this dish too – simply spread it on a chip and top with a spoonful of salsa.
Picnics and barbecues don’t have to be loaded with heavy, fattening foods. With a little creativity and planning, you can create endless yummy dishes that will be enjoyed by everyone – not just people who are trying to lose weight.