5 Tips to Plan a Diet-Friendly Backyard Summer Picnic

5 Tips to Plan a Diet-Friendly Backyard Summer Picnic

Planning on a staycation this year because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Join the crowd in not joining the crowd. Not going to the beach, the lake, the mountain or the water park puts a lot of pressure on your backyard to be the place you want to be, especially for fun summertime activities. Now is the time to plan for a summer picnic… and to have a plan to keep it healthy and diet-friendly!

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Here are five fun ways to enjoy backyard summer picnic food and still lose weight:
1. Load some veggies on that grill.

grilled vegetables

Even veggie haters find grilled vegetables to be irresistible. That’s probably because this particular cooking method brings out their inherent sweetness. Slice up some onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots and even cabbage “steaks,” then grill them up as a healthy side.

To keep your meal diet-friendly, load up half of your plate with veggies. Trending now: the carrot “hot dog.” Cook whole carrots on the grill and serve them on a whole wheat frankfurter bun with all the fixings. You can also use veggies in another way: in some grilled vegetable recipes, vegetables are layered between cubes of chicken, a firm fish like tuna or swordfish, shellfish such as shrimp or even lean beef. Vegetable kebabs can help you keep your meal balanced between higher calorie protein and lower calorie veggies with a fiber-friendly twist.

Check out these seven foods that taste better on the grill! >

2. Make sides that are the star of the meal.

The Leaf healthy summer picnic tips

Forget the mayonnaise-laden potato salad, pasta salad and coleslaw that crowd every summer picnic table across the land. They’re as ho-hum as they are fattening. Instead, focus on some of the farm fresh produce that’s readily available this time of year.

Consider replacing slaw with a Zesty Cucumber and Dill Salad that takes minutes to prepare and can sit in the fridge for hours, just getting more and more savory the longer it marinates! You also don’t have to nix slaw completely from the menu—just liven up a cabbage-carrot mix with a dressing of low-sodium soy sauce, rice vinegar and peanut butter. This Spicy Peanut Slaw recipe supplies one PowerFuel and two Vegetables to your daily count.

Love pasta salad? Broccoli, bell pepper strips and cherry tomatoes turn a simple Creamy Pasta Salad (mixed with nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise) into a work of art. Plus, it clocks in at only 228 calories per serving, even with the chopped turkey bacon added for crunch and protein. One serving counts as one SmartCarb, one PowerFuel and one Vegetable. Click here for the recipe! >

You also don’t have to banish potato salad if you make it the Nutrisystem way, using reduced fat mayo, nonfat Greek yogurt or even a piquant vinaigrette. Think outside the summer picnic basket too: Eliminate half of the potatoes from the recipe and mix in turnips, cauliflower or parsnips. Add fun and flavorful ingredients like dill, green onions, chives or capers. Then throw in some of your favorite vegetables, like fresh peas, bell peppers or radishes for a flavorful bite. Make a healthier potato salad for your summer picnic with these five tips. > 

3. Add Nutrisystem foods to the mix.

The Leaf healthy summer picnic tips

How good would your Nutrisystem Hamburger or Grilled Chicken Sandwich taste if you made it on the grill? What about the Chicken and BBQ Beans? Yes. THAT good. End your picnic meal with a Nutrisystem Ice Cream Sandwich or, as just about everyone does, with s’mores. Well, with our own S’mores Pie made with a graham cracker crust, ooey gooey marshmallow and real melted chocolate tucked inside. Mmmmm—and it’s only 140 calories!

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4. Plan active backyard fun and games.

The Leaf healthy summer picnic tips

Exercise off any excess calories from your summer picnic by planning outdoor activities for young and old. If you have enough yard, set up a volleyball or badminton net. Kids aren’t the only ones who can enjoy backyard games like tag, freeze tag or dodge ball, particularly if you incorporate water balloons into the fun. You can even do a riff on the egg-and-spoon relay race with filled water balloons and a wooden spoon. Throw Frisbees back and forth or set up a game of cornhole or horseshoes. Organize a post-picnic walk around the neighborhood or a nearby park.

5. Hydrate wisely.

The Leaf healthy summer picnic tips

While you can always turn to light beer and wine coolers to save some calories, don’t forget that studies have shown that alcohol can stimulate the appetite center of your brain and make you eat more, says the United Kingdom National Health Service.

Both wine and beer come in non-alcoholic versions. You can also whip up some delicious and satisfying “mocktails” that will wow your guests. Try a non-alcoholic Strawberry Daiquiri that combines fresh and frozen strawberries with water and lime juice in the blender. It’s only 55 calories per serving and counts as one SmartCarb on Nutrisystem. Find this mouthwatering non-alcoholic drink recipe and four more mocktails right here! >

Avoiding alcohol at your backyard picnic can help you avoid unnecessary calories. However, you can still enjoy alcohol in moderation on your Nutrisystem program. If you’d like to have a drink, check out this article on 10 Low Calorie Beers That Actually Taste Good! > You can also brush up on your Nutrisystem knowledge and learn more about alcohol on our program right here. >

Be sure to explore The Leaf for more tips to enjoy this summer season with family and friends, including expert fitness and nutrition tips as well as delicious seasonal recipes for your weight loss journey!

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The post 5 Tips to Plan a Diet-Friendly Backyard Summer Picnic appeared first on The Leaf.

Read more: leaf.nutrisystem.com

10 Tips for a Healthy Home Cookout

10 Tips for a Healthy Home Cookout

We may not be able to gather in ballparks or big groups yet, but summer is coming. Whether your area is still on lockdown or starting to loosen restrictions, you can always enjoy a healthy cookout in the comfort of your own home. Memorial Day isn’t canceled and warm weather has arrived. Take your social distancing to the backyard and whip up some nutritious and delicious food that fits into your Nutrisystem plan.

In many places, smaller gatherings are going to be allowed with proper social distancing. Depending on the regulations where you live, these small, at-home gatherings are going to be more important than ever–;reconnecting, in person, with loved ones for Memorial Day or weekends beyond. With the right recipes and meal idea ideas, it can also be a satisfying, delicious way to boost your immunity and keep pushing towards your weight loss goals. We put together these 10 tips for making your at-home cookout a healthy reunion.

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Here are 10 easy tips for a healthy backyard barbecue:
1. Don”;t starve yourself before the cookout.

healthy breakfast

We”;ve all done it–;skipping meals before a big event to “;save up”; calories for the party spread. But when you”;re trying to lose weight, this can backfire. You can get so hungry that you wind up eating even more than your planned “;splurge.”;

Keep yourself from going so far overboard–;and from showing up hangry–;by keeping your blood sugar stable. Eat your prescribed Nutrisystem foods and snacks before the party and save any SmartCarbs or PowerFuels to go with your cookout meal. The fiber, protein and healthy fats in your normal meals will keep you from being too hungry, so you can measure portions of your cookout favorites and stay on track.

2. Start by filling half of your plate with veggies.

cookout grilled veggies

Less than 10 percent of Americans get their recommended daily servings of vegetables, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They explain that eating two to three cups per day can reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and yes, obesity.

By eating an abundance of vegetables, you”;re getting a lot of water with your food. Eating water-rich foods means that you can have more volume for less calories. This can ultimately help you lose weight. According to Science Daily, Penn State research discovered that “women who added water-rich foods to their diets lost more weight during the first six months of the study than those who only reduced fat in their diets.”

So, start with the veggies and use the grill to make them even more delicious! Get some Leaf-approved tips for grilling tomatoes, mushrooms and greens for even more flavor by clicking here! >

3. Find tasty, low-calorie side dish recipes on the Leaf.

home cookout

A “;healthy”; cookout doesn”;t mean the food is boring–;it should be just the opposite! The Leaf Weight Loss Blog is your source for keeping things deliciously diet-friendly. Spice up your coleslaw game with sweet options like this Broccoli Slaw with Cranberries and Lime or a fiery, crunchy bowl of this Spicy Peanut Slaw. Or go cucumber crazy: Whip up some of this five-star rated Cucumber Dill Dip or a bowl of this Zesty Cucumber and Dill Salad.

Find more recipes like these healthy cookout sides right here! >

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4. Tackle your cravings head-on.

cookout cravings

Now that your plate features some veggies, get down to business. Identify the cookout food you”;re craving most and dish out a healthy, measured portion. That”;s advice straight from our Nutrisystem registered dietitians: If you”;re really craving a food, you should eat it. Denying yourself a small piece of a favorite pie or a slice of cheese on your burger won”;t make the craving go away–;it will more likely lead you to graze on other fare, unsatisfied. It”;s better to have a portion you can measure and enjoy, so you can calm your cravings and stay on track.

Click here for more surprising weight loss tips from our health experts! >

5. Keep the calories on your plate, not in your glass.

cookout recipes

Sugary beverages are thought to be a big part of the obesity epidemic in America: From 1977 to the year 2001, Americans increased their daily consumption of sweetened beverages “from 50 to 144 calories per day, says The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Over the course of a year, that could add up to over 50,000 extra calories!

Keep your calories down and the flavor up with something summery and fun that features fruit: Try one of these refreshing summer mocktails! > If you”;re a beer drinker, choose one that satisfies for fewer calories–;like one of these 10 low-calorie beers that actually taste good. >

6. No grill? No problem! Pan sear your meat for a crisp crust worthy of the grill.

cookout recipes

If your go-to grill move typically involves heading to a local park, you may not have a grill in your backyard. However, you can get the same flavors you love inside by pan searing your meat to perfection.

Brush a cast iron skillet with oil and turn the burner on high. Make sure to turn on the exhaust fan so your smoke alarm doesn”;t go off! Brush a small amount of olive oil on each side of the steak and season liberally with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, cook the steak for 90 seconds to two minutes on each side. Then transfer the steak–;in the pan–;to the oven to bake at 325 degrees for five to seven minutes until medium-rare.

7. Marinate meat to fight cancer.

marinated meat

When you grill meat, compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) are created, according to Natural Medicine Journal. HCAs are considered carcinogens and are said to increase the risk of a cancer. However, marinating your meat in herb-infused mixtures, especially ones including rosemary, can decrease the formation of HCAs on your grill by up to 70 percent.

Try this simple, rosemary marinade for beef: Mix a half-cup of red wine vinegar, two tablespoons olive oil, a quarter-cup of chopped rosemary, two crushed garlic cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate the meat for at least an hour, then drain and cook.

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8. Grill some fruit for a sweet, surprising dessert.

grilled peaches

Grilled watermelon, pineapple, peaches and plums are bursting with flavor: The grilling caramelizes their natural sugar, so the foods taste even sweeter. These delicious and refreshing fruits are packed with fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins. Plus, they are much lower in calories than the sad, melting fare you”;ll usually find at a cookout”;s dessert table.

Get grilling tips for a variety of different fruits right here on The Leaf! Check out this guide for 10 fruits that taste even better grilled. >

9. Don”;t focus just on the food!

cookout recipes

Sure, it”;s a “;cookout,”; and burgers and dogs are delicious. However, it”;s not the reason everyone”;s together. We”;re finally able to get together. So, have a plate and make sure it satisfies. Sit down, take your time and concentrate on the flavors and textures of these delicious cookout foods. In a recent study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, researchers looked at the eating habits of 60,000 people. They found that eating slowly can decrease the risk of obesity.

When you”;re finished eating your healthy barbecue meal, put your focus on those around you. We”;ve all been apart so long that this could be easier than ever. But make a point of remembering: This event is about food, yes, but it”;s really about being together. So be present and be together (even if it”;s six feet apart)!

10. Have a plan for the food and the leftovers.

cookout recipes

In most places, the number of people who can gather will be limited in the coming months. Keep this in mind as you shop and cook: You only need enough food for 10 or less people, not for the normal 20 or 30!

But if spreading out a smorgasbord is in your cultural DNA, have a plan in place for the aftermath. Before guests arrive, figure out how many portions of each type of dish you can plan to add to your eating schedule in the following days. If there”;s a favorite dessert, salad or entree you”;re making, think about when it can fit into your plan. Keep the correct number of pre-measured portions for yourself and your family when guests leave. Then have containers ready for others to take the rest of the leftovers home with them. You”;ll have pre-measured treats that fit your lifestyle, and less temptation to pull you off your plan in the days following the fete.

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The post 10 Tips for a Healthy Home Cookout appeared first on The Leaf.

Read more: leaf.nutrisystem.com