Nutrition Corner: Lighten up your Memorial Day picnic

May 19th, 2016 3:17 pm

Memorial Day officially marks the beginning of outdoor cooking. Many of us might be planning social get-togethers with family and friends or maybe just a quiet day in the backyard.

The holiday also officially kicks off the summer picnic season. Whether you enjoy outdoor spending time on your home deck or heading to one of our local parks, most likely food is involved.

Traditional picnic foods include hot dogs, mayo-based salad, chips and brownies. While these can be enjoyed in moderation, why not try to lighten up your picnic with a lighter fare menu?

Shish kabobs make a great entrée. They add a variety of flavors based on which vegetables you add to the skewer. Yellow or green squash, colorful peppers and even a wedge of fresh pineapple give enough flavors to spark anyone’s palate. They may take a bit longer to prepare, but it’s worth it in the long run.

Try a new salad recipe this year. Look for those that use a light mayo or olive oil and have vegetables as an ingredient. For instance, add cucumbers to the traditional potato salad or serve it on a dark green lettuce leaf. Try leaving the potato skins on for added fiber. Remember to scrub well before cooking.

We do enjoy snack foods, especially at large family and friends outdoor gathers. Try to pre-arrange who is bringing what snack food so there aren’t duplicates. Suggest bringing other chips like carrot, cucumber or even whole grain pita wedges for dips.

Last but not least, the brownies: Try a homemade brownie recipe that uses oil instead of shortening. Or try this dark chocolate avocado mousse recipe (below). Try substituting peach dumplings for the traditional peach pie. Either way, making them at home will reduce the sodium and change the fat to a healthy fat.

Try to lighten your picnics up this year beginning with Memorial Day. By Labor Day, these lighter ideas and recipes will be a part of your families’ favorites.

Dark chocolate avocado mousse

1 large avocado

¼ cup skim milk

2 Tablespoons dark cocoa powder

2 Tablespoons maple syrup

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until thick and creamy. Enjoy! Serves 2.


Peach dumplings

32 oz. can peaches

1 Tbsp. margarine or canola oil

1 cup skim milk

1 cup white whole grain flour (or ½ cup whole grain flour and ½ cup white flour)

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

Pour peaches and syrup into 2 quart pan. Add margarine or oil. Bring to a boil. Make dumplings by mixing flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl with milk. Drop large spoonful of batter onto peach mixture. Cover and cook on medium for 20 minutes or until the biscuits are done.

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford Counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at