Healthy and Fresh Picnic Side Dishes

On picnics and at barbecues, it isn’t often the main dishes that contribute the most calories to the meal. Side dishes, picnic salads and desserts can all be heavy and high-calorie if you aren’t careful to limit the oil, dairy and other indulgent ingredients.

Make a few simple swaps next time you plan a picnic or outdoor dinner party to shave hundreds off calories off your summer meals.


Carrot Hummus: Baby carrots are often used as a dipping vehicle for this chickpea-packed Middle Eastern spread, but this recipe incorporates carrots within. Serve over whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita bread – or even with raw veggie sticks for even more nutrition.

Herbed Dip for Veggies: If you want to up your veggie intake at your next picnic, ditch the chips and whip up a dip for your favorite vegetables that uses light sour cream and silken tofu.

Mango Salsa: Fruit-based salsas are a great way to add more nutrients into your diet. Channel the tropics this summer with refreshing mango and tangy tomatoes for a dip you can serve on tortilla chips or cinnamon sugar pita chips.


Caribbean Rice & Beans: If you can’t take a Caribbean vacation this year, still get a feel for the islands with this exotic-tasting bean dish that is scrumptious and filling. It can be served as a main course or in 1/2-cup side dish portions with grilled chicken or shrimp.

Orzo with Fresh Vegetables: Orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, might not be the best dish for the Atkins Diet but if you want to slim down some of your side dishes, opt for a whole grain, vegetarian option that’s hearty and delicious.

Quinoa Tabouleh: Anyone trying to incorporate more whole grains into their diet should experiment in the kitchen with quinoa, an amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a  creamy, crunchy texture perfect in vegetables and salads.


Aromatic Roasted Vegetables: Even if you aren’t craving hot food in the hot weather, you can roast these vegetables ahead of time and serve them slightly chilled. They have so much flavor that you won’t even miss the butter.

Buttery Corn on the Cob: Corn on the cob is a summertime staple. If you don’t have access to a grill you can prepare them in the microwave for the delicious seasonal taste you’ve grown to love.

Grilled Balsamic Vegetables: While simply grilled vegetables can be satisfying fresh from the grill, adding the rich, savory flavor of balsamic can be a nice change.

Asian-Style Cabbage Carrot Cilantro Slaw: Rice wine vinegar and sesame oil add a unique flavor to fresh vegetables and herbs you probably already have on hand.

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