Summer cookouts and picnics are a popular way to enjoy the summer season, but that doesn’t mean that unhealthy temptations need to get in the way of your health goals. Here are a few ways to make your next cookout or picnic healthy and delicious.

1. Sip On Water

Staying hydrated when outside will not only keep you from feeling sluggish and tired, but it may keep you from overeating.  A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) study found a significant association between dehydration and obesity. 1 If you feel energized from proper hydration, you are less likely to grab a soda or chips for quick energy.

Tip: Add fresh mint and cucumber to a pitcher of water to add a refreshing flavor that’s sure to impress your guests.

2. Keep It Fresh

Prepare a side dish like marinated veggies, a fruit platter or a fresh summer salad. Make it a goal to fill half of your plate with veggies. Veggies are loaded with fiber, flavor and nutrition. Plus, did you know that all fruits and veggies are good sources of potassium? Potassium is an important nutrient for good blood pressure and a healthy heart.

Tip: Try grilling sliced fruit like pineapple or peaches for a lighter and festive dessert option.

3. Limit Alcohol Consumption

Remember that alcohol is not a calorie free beverage and the calories that it does provide are empty calories. Calories provide the energy we need to fuel our bodies, but too many empty calories contribute to excess weight gain. It is easy to have more than one drink when socializing with friends, but stay on track by limiting it to one drink or alternating water between drinks. A 5 oz. glass of wine or beer provides 120-150 calories. If you are having several drinks the empty calories can really add up.

Tip: Mix your favorite liquor with a calorie free club soda in place of juice or regular soda.

4. Choose Lean Protein

Hot dogs and cheeseburgers are loaded with saturated fat. A 4 oz. burger has 34 grams of fat—and that is without the cheese! If you have a choice, go for the grilled chicken or fish instead. There are also a variety of chicken and turkey sausage options now available. Not only are they flavorful, but they provide less than half the fat of their pork or beef alternatives. Your arteries will thank you! 

Tip: Avoid adding calories by saying no to heavy add-ons like mayonnaise or cheese. Try using mustard or dill relish to flavor your dish instead.


5. Enjoy More Than Just The Food

Don’t just sit around the picnic table and graze. Get up and organize a game to get you and your guests moving!

Tip: Horseshoes, cornhole and badminton are a few popular games that you and all your friends will enjoy!

In good health,


  1. Ann Fam Med. 2016 Jul;14(4):320-4. doi: 10.1370/afm.1951. Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009-2012. Chang T, Ravi N, Plegue MA, Sonneville KR, Davis MM.