Pack Up a Healthier Picnic

food set out for a picnic

If your summer fun includes a senior loved one, planning heart smart menus is important. Many picnic and party foods are high in fat, salt, and sodium.

All three are known to contribute to an increase in blood pressure and can exacerbate existing conditions such as Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). The experts from Optalis have pulled together some quick tips to help you make smart food choices this summer.

Heart Healthy Picnic Tips for Older Adults in Central Ohio

1.    Skip the fried chicken.

Instead of buying fried chicken to go at the local supermarket or fast food restaurant, bake up a quick and healthy version at home. It is as easy as rolling chicken breasts in Greek yogurt and covering them in panko breadcrumbs and your favorite seasonings. Line a baking sheet with foil and set a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Spritz with a healthy cooking spray of your choice. Place the chicken on the wire rack and bake 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown. By skipping the heavy breading and oils, you can cut the grams of fat from an average of 20 per serving to 7 or 8.

2.  Lighten up the salads.

If potato or macaroni salads are a must-have part of your family’s menu, lighten them up this year. While switching to mustard-based salads is best, another option is to replace some of the mayonnaise with low-fat plain yogurt. Our friends at WebMD have some great tricks for creating healthier salads you can try out this summer.

3.  Serve fresh veggies and hummus.

Many picnic menus already include fresh vegies. The problem is that most also include dips loaded with mayonnaise and sour cream. This summer swap out the vegie dip with hummus. The chick peas found in hummus can help lower your cholesterol and better balance blood sugar which helps prevent binge eating.

4.  Skip sugary, salty foods.

Instead of packing sodas and chips in your picnic basket this summer, opt for water and lemon slices. Skip the chips all together. Sugary foods and snacks high in salt can all contribute to dehydration.

5.  Munch on fruits.

Melons and berries are great additions to heart healthy summer picnics because they can curb your sweet tooth. That helps you from indulging in high fat, high carb foods like cookies and brownies. Fruit also has a high water content which helps promote hydration.

Finally, one reminder you may have heard before bears repeating again.  Keep the hot foods hot and the cold foods cold. It’s the best way to prevent food poisoning when dining outdoors in the summer!