9. Instead of sweetened sodas or fruit juices, bring seltzer mixed with all-natural fruit juice; unsweetened, flavored iced tea; or bottles of water. Freeze the bottled water the night before, to use as cold packs to keep food cold. When you’re ready to eat, you’ll have an icy bottle of water ready to drink.
10. Instead of hot dogs, take along turkey kielbasa or apple chicken sausages for grilling.
11. Make a Thanksgiving-in-the-summer salad. This recipe comes from Joan Salge Blake, R.D., clinical assistant professor of nutrition at Boston University’s Sargent College. Mix leftover chicken or turkey with dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and stuff into a whole wheat pizza pita.
12. Go Mediterranean. Microwave two boxes of whole wheat couscous (boil the water in a Pyrex measuring cup, add the couscous, cover with a plate, and let steam) and add fresh or roasted vegetables, a can of chickpeas, a sprinkling of feta cheese and sliced black olives, and a drizzle of olive oil. “Now you’ve got a gorgeous Mediterranean salad that goes great on a picnic,” says Blake.
13. Pack frozen mango cubes. They provide a sweet accompaniment to any picnic. Or mix several bags of frozen fruits in a container. By the time you’re ready to eat, you’ll have a sorbet-like treat.
14. Make your own salsa. Drain a 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and add a handful of fresh cilantro leaves and a pinch or two of cumin and salt to taste. Put through the food processor or mini chopper and voilà! Salsa. Serve with baked tortilla chips or add to black beans for a cold salad just perfect for picnicking, says Lisa C. Andrews, R.D., a nutritionist at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati.
15. Make your pasta salad a meal. Before the picnic, Andrews recommends grilling skinless chicken breasts, cutting them into strips, and adding them to pasta salad. Toss in some fresh broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes with low-fat dressing and you’ve got a main course.
16. Try a sweet potato salad. In a great variation on the original that’s chock-full of valuable antioxidants and beta-carotene, Andrews suggests peeling and boiling a few sweet potatoes, then letting them cool. Cut into chunks and toss with enough orange juice to cover, a pinch of cinnamon, and your favorite dried fruit (Andrews prefers cranberries). Serve cold.
17. Bring a whole watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew and slice it open on the spot. Nature’s packing works beautifully to keep fresh fruit cool and fresh.