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Choosing My Plate at Summer Picnics

By Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

The new USDA healthy eating graphic, ChooseMyPlate.gov, is a simple guide to smart meals anywhere. You can use MyPlate to quickly and easily plan healthful meals at home and on the go. MyPlate is perfect for summer picnics, since many picnic plates are already divided into sections!

PLAN

The KISS Principle (Keep It Super Simple) is a delicious way to make picnics popular with people of all ages. Choose a limited number of foods (no more than 4 to 5 items) that can all be served at the same time. Make the meal fun with a simple theme - like red, white, and blue foods for the 4th of July or an all-kebob meal on small skewers.
  • Plan picnics for the yard, park, or lake: A picnic can make any meal special. Use beach towels for lunch in the backyard or pack a weeknight dinner to the park.
  • Plan to keep picnic food safe: Always keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Frozen water bottles and juice boxes can do double duty as drinks and as chill packs.
  • Plan active fun with your picnic: Plan to play before and/or after you eat. Bring along a Frisbee® or two. Pack some balls (or water balloons when it is really hot).

EAT

  • Go fresh with fruits and veggies: Summertime is a very tasty time to follow the MyPlate tip to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets and supermarkets have local produce at great prices. It’s easy to prepare simple tossed or fruit salads at home. Or take a bag of baby carrots and slice a melon once you arrive.
  • Go hearty with whole grains: Sandwiches, wraps, and pita pockets are perfect for picnics. MyPlate says to make half your grains whole, like whole wheat bread for sandwiches. Whole grains (cracked wheat, barley, brown rice, and the exotic quinoa) also make delicious cold salads, with chopped veggies and light dressings. 
  • Go smart with protein and dairy: MyPlate suggests protein and dairy foods at every meal. Protein can be tuna in a sandwich or a cold salad with black beans or chickpeas. Serve well-chilled plain or flavored milk (fat-free or 1%) or refreshing drinkable yogurts. String cheese is always popular with kids and easy to carry along.

ENJOY

Treat your family to regular picnic times this summer. Everyone can enjoy time to eat in a relaxed and casual setting. Just remember to keep fun on the menu!!

For more fun, easy tips on healthy living, go to www.eatrightmontana.org/eatrighthealthyfamilies.htm



Dayle HayesDayle Hayes, MS, RD
Author, Speaker, and Nutrition Therapist

Dayle Hayes is a registered dietitian committed to innovative, delicious nutrition solutions for busy families. As a consultant to Billings Clinic, she specializes in positive nutrition tips, eating disorders, and sports nutrition. Dayle graduated from U. Mass-Boston and received a Masters of Science in Community Health Education from U. Mass-Amherst.
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