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Picnic Basket Food Swaps That Will Help You Save Calories This Summer

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    Change Your Picnic Spread for the Better

    Summer marks the beginning of picnic season, so it's time to rethink our traditional spread. These are the latest snacks approved by registered dietitians: wraps and sweet treats that are chock-full of fruits and veggies. No, they're not your classic veggie tray and fresh cut fruit—though those are always a win, too! I've got cheesy crackers, cookies, and naturally infused "soda," plus a unique twist on your traditional sandwich. Who's ready to picnic?

  • Elizabeth Shaw, M.S., R.D.N., C.L.T. of Shaw's Simple Swaps

    Sip Smarter "Soda" with Sparkling Water

    No need to pack the cans of soda. If you're looking for that fizzy refreshing flavor, enjoy POM 100% Pomegranate Juice mixed with a crisp sparkling water. Not only will kids and adults both enjoy the fun color from the whole-pressed ruby red pomegranate, but you'll also rest easy knowing it boasts antioxidants and has no added sugar, artificial flavoring, or colors. Mix 2 ounces of juice into 8 ounces of sparkling water for a light, flavorful taste!

  • Alexandra Caspero Lenz, M.A., R.D.N., C.L.T., R.Y.T. , owner of Delish Knowledge, author of Fresh Italian Cooking for the New Generation

    Level Up (and Slim Down) Your Burrito Bowl

    Nix the urge to buy that stale packaged salad that's been sitting on the shelves for days! Instead, whip up this super-simple but totally delicious Burrito Bowl Mason Jar Salad. Not only does it deliver a hefty dose of vegetables from the lettuce, sweet potatoes, and salsa, but it also packs a protein punch from the black beans and quinoa mixture. Tell everyone it's a Chipotle Burrito Bowl—they'll never taste the difference!

    Get the recipe: Burrito Bowl Mason Jars

  • Talma Garcia, developed for Flatout

    Get Wrapped Up in New Produce

    Did someone say cactus wrap? Yep! A cactus is considered both a fruit and vegetable, so mark both on your MyPlate requirements when you dive into this tasty meal. Cactus is filled with antioxidants, vitamins C and E, and selenium, while the wrap delivers a hearty dose of protein and fiber. The combo here will keep your entire picnic group full and focused until your next adventure.

    Get the recipe: Flatout Cactus Salad Wrap

  • Choose Crackers Over Chips

    For those true chip enthusiasts in the group, I'm not going to hand you a kale chip. My latest find comes from Bitsy's Brainfood, a small but mighty new organic brand on the shelves today. Started by two moms on a mission to make healthy food fun for their kids, Bitsy's makes veggie-filled smart crackers, cookies, and cereals. They're marketed toward kids, but I keep these on hand in my pantry year-round—and I'm not even a mom! They're the perfect swap for your cheese puff craving, made with real carrots and cheddar cheese.

  • Katie Cavuto, M.S., R.D., chef, Healthy Bites: Nourish Breath Thrive

    Take Your Popcorn Up a Notch

    If you're still craving chips, I've got one more swap for you: popcorn! Katie Cavuto, R.D., has you covered with the perfect DIY recipe for punching up your popcorn. I've perfected a mix using Wonderful pistachios, dried apricots, and a little crystallized ginger. Unlike potato chips, pistachios offer a good source of protein and fiber, with over three times as many pieces per serving. Pistachios give you 49 nuts per serving; compare that to just 15 potato chips per serving (and who eats just 15 potato chips?). The whole grain from the popcorn paired with the protein-fat combo from the nuts plus fiber from the dried fruit really makes this combo a "whole in one."

    Get the recipe: Creative Popcorn Combos

  • Emily Cope-Kyle, M.S., R.D.N., of Emily Kyle Nutrition

    Indulge in Something Sweet (and Vegan)

    Everybody wants something chocolaty at a picnic, right? Rather than spend money on those mini plastic pudding cups filled with who knows what, I suggest you try the latest dessert recipe from Emily Kyle, R.D. Combining heart-healthy avocados with pure cocoa and raspberries, this chocolate pudding packs a nutritional punch. Make it ahead of time and fill up a container to it enjoy alfresco. Or use it as a dip for apple slices. The possibilities are endless!

    Get the recipe: Vegan Chocolate Pudding


Elizabeth Shaw MS, RDN, CLT

Elizabeth is a San Diego based nutrition communications consultant who works with local and national brands to help encourage healthy living behaviors. You can find her on social media @shawsimpleswaps.
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