We have a lot to be thankful when summer rolls in, the longer days, lighter nights, and lots of opportunities to eat outside. Somehow, eating al fresco makes everything taste better. Picnics are just one way to enjoy eating outdoors. While you probably could pack anything you'd like into your picnic basket, we recommend selecting items that are portable, travel well, can be made ahead of time, and full of flavor. Some of our favorite picnic fare can come with a hefty calorie count per portion, so here we offer a list of our favorite lightened up picnic recipes.

Let's kick things off with this refreshing, ruby-red lemonade. Take advantage of summer's best watermelon and strawberries and be sure to taste how sweet the lemonade is before adding the sugar -- you might not need a full cup. For a more festive variation on the lemonade, try sparkling soda in place of water.

102347932 Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade Photo by Meredith 650x465
Watermelon and Strawberry Lemonade | Photo by Meredith

Who doesn't love a good potato salad for a summer picnic? Unfortunately, the mayonnaise adds a lot of calories and doesn't keep well in the summer heat. Instead, try this German version of potato salad. The salad is dressed in a tangy vinegar dressing, with just a little bacon for extra flavor.

Authentic German Potato Salad
Photo by Dianne

3. Baked Crispy Potato Chicken | 203 Calories

We love fried chicken, but let's be honest, it's not the most healthy of the summer dishes. Instead, here's an oven baked chicken recipe where the chicken is coated in buttermilk and potato flakes for a crispy coating.

Baked Crispy Potato Chicken
Photo by naples34102

Fire up your grill to make this outstanding grilled salmon with the creamy avocado topping. The beauty of this recipe is that the salmon tastes delicious cold, so it's easy to pack for the picnic. The Greek yogurt added to the avocado dip, makes it especially creamy and tangy. If you can't find the Greek yogurt, use the plain yogurt, strained overnight. Insider tip: double up the dip recipe and use it on chips or as a burger topping.

Grilled Salmon with Avocado Dip
Photo by Sherri

5. Awesome Pasta Salad | 310 Calories

As far as we are concerned, no picnic is complete without a pasta salad, and this recipe is one of our favorites, in fact, it's awesome! Recipe creator Irlandes says "It's a very easy, light-tasting side dish for a picnic." The combination of spiral pasta, Italian dressing, cherry tomatoes, cheese, salami, sliced pepperoni, and vegetables, makes this salad just as easy on the eye as it is tasty.

Awesome Pasta Salad
Photo by The Sporadic Cook
| Credit: The Sporadic Cook

6. Thai Cucumber Salad | 238 Calories

Recipe creator camp0433 says it best: "This sweet and tangy summer salad of cucumber, cilantro, and peanuts with just a hint of heat is always a hit at picnics and potlucks since it doesn't need to be refrigerated and you're pretty much guaranteed to be the only one bringing this dish!" We agree!

Thai Cucumber Salad
Photo by lutzflcat

It takes just 4 ingredients and 10 minutes to make this delicious apple coleslaw, bursting with flavor and made deliciously creamy with Miracle Whip Light dressing. Try this Sweet & Tangy Apple Coleslaw as a smart side.

Sweet & Tangy Apple Coleslaw
Photo by Kraft

8. Pita Chips| 125 Calories and Cilantro Edamame Hummus | 201 Calories

Here, you get two recipes for the price of one, since they go so perfectly together. Skip the store bought chips, and and make your own baked pita chips instead. Try this deliciously different dip made with edamame and cilantro to go with them. Feel free to pack a selection of cut up celery, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower as alternative hummus dippers.

Cilantro Edamame Hummus
Photo by chachachica

You can't beat this super easy, 2-ingredient appetizer that's oh-so-perfect for your summer picnic. The juicy, sweet, cantaloupe is wrapped in thin strips of salty prosciutto. You can cut the melon into wedges as per the recipe, or to make one-bite appetizer, cut the melon into 1-inch cubes.

Prosciutto e Melone (Italian Ham and Melon)
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

10. Muffuletta Pinwheels | 83 Calories

This is a lightened up version of the famous New Orleans sandwich, served as a tortilla wrap appetizer. As with the classic muffuletta sandwiches that are made ahead of time to allow all flavors to mingle and develop, these wraps are best when made ahead and refrigerated for at least 2 hours.

Muffuletta Pinwheels
Photo by Mallinda

11. Summer Fruit Galettes | 269 Calories

We've got to finish on a sweet note and this old-fashioned rustic pie with fresh summer fruits will be a hit at your picnic. Serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Summer Fruit Galettes
Photo by Buckwheat Queen

Don't forget to pack plenty of water, fruit, and napkins, and get out there to enjoy the summer!