Whether you use the backyard patio or deck furniture, or go boating, or take one last dip in the pool, Labor Day is typically regarded as “the last weekend of summer” (even though summer isn’t officially over until September 22 this year). tomatoesPIC

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882, with New York state being the first to officially adopt the day (always the first Monday in Septembers) in 1886. It originated as the beginning of the labor movement, recognizing the social and economic achievements of workers.

As always, your health is a 365 day a year job, so this weekend will be no different. Many Americans will celebrate the Labor Day weekend with a picnic and family gathering, so here are some ideas to incorporate heart health into your weekend plans.

  • Take a walk, hike, or a bike ride each day
  • Mix up a big batch of kale and wild rice salad on Friday to eat through the weekend. There are a lot of versions of this recipe – make it your own!
  • Slice some melons and place them onto a platter for everyone to enjoy.
  • Chop more vegetables into your pasta salad
  • Mix up a chopped green salad with chopped nuts, chopped spinach, red leaf lettuce, minced bell peppers, celery, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and grape halves.
  • Serve fish tacos for your picnic instead of the traditional hamburgers and hot dogs
  • Make slider-sized burgers using a variety of low fat choices – extra lean ground beef, ground turkey breast, and garden-bean burgers
  • Offer healthy toppings for your burgers – sautéed onions, mushrooms, spinach leaves – in addition to the traditional catsup, mustard, or cheese.
  • Keep it simple. Sometimes we feel side dishes have to be fancy, or have a lot of ingredients. Try simply slicing tomatoes, chopping cucumbers, and adding an oil and apple cider vinegar mixture (1:1 ratio oil to vinegar). Done.
  • If you mix up some lemonade, water it down a bit to lower sugar and calories, and add fresh herbs for an extra pop of flavor: Try mint leaves or thyme sprigs.
  • Instead of mayo-based potato salad, try this one.
  • Extra zucchini in the garden? Bring these Zippy Zucchini Bites to the neighbor’s picnic!
  • Instead of gooey cupcakes, bake a simple sheet cake and top with fresh sliced berries and fresh whipped cream.

Just a bit of thoughtful planning and a few swaps can make your weekend picnic healthier! Enjoy the weekend.