South Charlotte

Learn to pack a healthy picnic

Is there anything more American than a picnic at the park?

We asked registered nutritionists and dietitians Barbara Bapst of Carolina Nutrition and Wellness, LLC, and Judy Fischer, owner of My Diabetes Dietitian in Matthews, for a few pointers.

Whether it's a potluck affair or lunch date for two, here are 10 of their tips for a healthy spread:

1. Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot: As cold and hot foods edge toward room temperature, bacteria grow rapidly. The maximum time at room temperature is supposed to be one hour, said Fischer. After that, throw it out. "Don't save it for leftovers the next day," said Fischer.

2. Ditch the fried chicken and bring on the rotisserie: Other healthy meat options are veggie burgers, turkey burgers and chicken hot dogs.

3. Snack on fresh fruit: The options are limitless in the summertime. You can also freeze them for a different taste. "Frozen grapes are my all-time favorite picnic snack," said Fischer.

4. Swap potato salad for vegetable pasta salad: Vinaigrette- or citrus-based pasta salads (instead of cheese- or mayonnaise-based) save on calories and makes storing them in the heat easier. Bapst suggests preparing the pasta salad the day before and leaving it in the fridge overnight because it absorbs the flavors better.

5. Grill veggies: Squash, zucchini, onions, peppers, portabella mushrooms, asparagus, tomatoes. Just use a little olive oil and sprinkle some basil or other herb seasoning.

6. Dip the right way: Switch out the sour cream with a hummus dip or salsa with pita chips. Bapst says another option is yogurt with some dill and freshly-grated parmesan.

7. Throw back an ice cold...water: The heat dehydrates your system, so the ideal drink is water. For adults, other good options are wine spritzers (white wine with club soda), light or nonalcoholic beer, as well as and juices and teas low in sugar.

8. Go "lite" on the desserts: Try a low-fat brownie or angel food cake with fresh fruit, Bapst said. Fischer also suggested frozen fruit popsicles.

9. Slather up: For an afternoon in the sun, sunscreen is a must.

10. Stay active: Fischer suggests families bring bubbles, chalk, Frisbees and different kinds of balls. "Just like adults, kids eat when there's nothing to do," she said. And if you bring your kids to the store to pick out a ball or activity they want to do, they'll be more likely to do it.

"You're going to be moving around. You're going to be outside, getting some vitamin D," said Fischer. "Family-bonding time is better than having kids in front of the computer all day. ...At least at a picnic, everyone's out there doing everything together."