Focus on Nutrition

Tips for a Healthier Cookout

Picnic Plate


Beautiful weather, friends and family, delicious food – it’s hard not to love a picnic! But special get-togethers like these can often mean calorie-rich treats. Before you head to your next cookout, remember to choose mindfully. A typical picnic plate, like the one pictured below, can easily be over 1,000 calories. Try these tips for making the most of your picnic plate – the healthy way.

  • If you plan to enjoy treats like brownies or potato chips, skip the bun for your burger.
  • Make half of your plate vegetables and fruit.
  • In general, plates filled with more colorful choices tend to be more nutritious and have fewer calories.
  • Portion size matters: 1 cup of mayonnaise-based potato salad has more than 350 calories. Aim for ½ cup, which is about the same size as ½ of an apple.
  • Try grilling fruit as a sweet and tasty treat.
  • Beer and cocktails can add hundreds of extra calories and may make you more likely to indulge in extra calorie-rich treats. Opt for unsweetened iced tea or water with cucumber slices and basil.
  • Many people tend to eat a little more during special gatherings, and it’s important to balance your calories for the rest of the day (by eating a lighter breakfast, for instance).

Make better choices when filling your plate; these healthy trade-offs are simple switches.

The Not-So-Great Plate:

High Calorie Picnic Plate
  • 12 oz. can of light beer
  • 4 oz. cheeseburger with ketchup
  • 1 c. potato salad
  • 5 oz. corn on the cob with 1 T. butter
  • 1 oz. potato chips
  • 1 med. (3 in. x 3 in.) brownie
  • = about 1,400 calories

A Healthier Picnic Plate:

Lower Calorie Picnic Plate
  • Glass of unsweetened iced tea
  • 4 oz. hamburger, no bun, topped with ketchup and mustard drizzle and 2 pickle coins
  • ½ c. potato salad
  • salad greens
  • 1 ¼ c. watermelon cubes
  • 1 small (2 in. x 2 in.) unfrosted brownie
  • = about 640 calories

Members, find mouth-watering summer recipes like lettuce cups with shrimp and chicken kabobs with low-cal marinade in the Members Area recipe section.