Dieting Can Be A Picnic


Diet and picnic.  These two words are not usually used together – unless the phrase “is not a” connects them.  Why? Because picnics are fun and people think dieting has to be torturous.  They associate dieting with deprivation: no taste, no fun, no enjoyment.  Ugh!  Who’d want to do that, even for their weight and better health?   If being on a diet, or even changing our diet, is going to be a part of our lives, it’s time we also made it part of our fun and the things we enjoy. 

A summer picnic can be a perfect way to illustrate this.   What comes to mind when you think of a summer picnic?  There’s the food, for sure, but what about the food comes to mind?  For many, it’s all about the barbecued chicken, burgers, hot dogs, and ribs.  For others it’s your aunt’s famous potato salad or your neighbor’s pasta salad with the diced mozzarella and olives, or the baked bean dish.  Then there are those desserts – the red, white, and blue cupcakes, brownies galore, or any number of store-bought calorie-laden pastries.  Then of course, you have the basic, ever-present “required” elements of sodas, punch, beer, chips, and savory snacks that don’t spoil and can be out all day long, to be consumed while waiting for the rest of the food to be readied.  

Face it – picnics can be a day-long meal. What we often forget is how we feel AFTER that huge barbecue or picnic.  How many times have you ended one of these gatherings feeling bloated, overfed, and unhappy about what you ate, promising yourself that you’ll “start on Monday”? 
Maybe it’s time to break that habit and start enjoying not only the picnic but also the day after. 

Picnics and barbecues: a dieter’s dream

That’s right.  I actually think picnics give us a great opportunity for eating well that is often harder at other social occasions.  Think about it this way:

  • You have control.  You’re probably expected to bring something, so right there you have an opportunity for some control.  Whatever it is, you can control the ingredients.  Bringing a cooler of fresh fruit or a watermelon makes you a hero in hot weather and gives you a safety zone from those salads that are awash in mayo.
  • All the meat is grilled.  The perfect no-added-fat way to go.  Bullseye.
  • Corn on the cob. Everyone’s favorite veggie, but it’s actually a grain, and a whole grain at that. 
  • Veggie opportunity.  Grilled veggies are the best.  Even if they’re brushed with olive oil, they’re still a calorie bargain.  And no one accuses you of eating rabbit food.  Chow down.
  • Fruit is always welcome.  For some, it’s a “palate cleanser” but for you it’s dessert.  Better still is a big cold watermelon.  I never met anyone who gained weight eating it. 
  • Water, water, everywhere, and sugar-free drinks, too.   You’ll need to hydrate anyway.  Water and sugar-free drinks do this best, so stay with them and you’re half way home.
  • Get physical.  Outdoor parties like barbecues and picnics always have opportunities for activities.  Sit-down indoor stuff just doesn’t lend itself to burning calories. Besides, keeping active keeps you from eating something “just because it’s there.”

When you look at the above list, you’ll see that barbecues and picnics provide you with some relief from the usual dieting dilemmas at other social gatherings.  Next time – and there will be a next time – accept the invitation and exhale.  Then think about all the good food and good fun you’ll have.  Most of all think about how good you’ll feel the NEXT day as well.