Healthy Picnic Guide.

Posted by Emma McDonald on

Healthy Picnic Guide

As I write this, winter is wrapping up in Australia and my absolute favourite season, Spring, is just around the corner.

Spring, and the glorious weather it traditionally brings, creates a great opportunity to organise long overdue catch ups with friends and family.

For me, this usually happens over a meal, and it will come as no surprise that my favourite meal meet up of choice is a picnic.

The problem with increased meal activity in Spring is that Spring is also the time of year I have earmarked to lose some winter kilos so I feel a little more comfortable (and can fit into) my favourite swimwear when it is time to hit the beach come summertime.

To fix this dilemma, I have started thinking about creative ways to prepare and pack healthy, but tasty picnic feasts so I can still have some Spring fun, while not sacrificing my health Spring goals.

My research started purely looking at the better food choices I could make, but the deeper I dived into the subject of healthy picnics, the more I discovered just how healthy picnicking is in general, so I had to share my findings with you all.

But before I share my healthy picnic food tips, let's take a minute to reflect on a few other points outside of food itself that make picnics a healthy choice for catching up with friends.

The first point is an unfortunate one, as sadly we live in a world where pandemics are a “thing”. So the fact that the key point of a picnic is being outside, no other eating with friends scenario can be safer than a picnic. 

Plus, if you have a large picnic rug like a Saltwater Picnic Co picnic rug being able to social distance is no problem, so if you are like me and a little phobic about crowded restaurants and cafes, picnics are definitely your best option.

Family Picnic

Second great thing about a picnic is that you can choose a location that is close to activities that you can add into your social event. Whether it is near a skate park, bike track, sporting fields, beach, lake or a walking trail, just by choosing a good location you can work in some extra circular picnic activity to keep you and the family moving. 

The third one is a great tip if you are fortunate enough to see sunlight during your picnic, if this is the case you are helping your body produce vitamin D, which is great for improving all kinds of health, physical and mental. But as in most things in life, too much of anything is never good, so aim for 10-20 mins direct sunlight on your legs or arms as they absorb sun into your cells the best.

Fourth tip is a great one for those of us with mortgages as it is a money saving tip. Choosing a picnic catch up with friends over a meet up at a restaurant will save you lots of money and improve your financial health. On average a picnic meal with drinks will save you over 60% eating the same thing in a café / restaurant, plus for some bizarre reason, food always tastes better eating el fresco.

Our last but most important tip, especially for fellow parents that struggle to keep kids off screens is that setting up a picnic with some fun games will mean that sunscreen will be the only screen in sight ... AMEN!!

No doubt by now I have all you dusting off the old picnic blanket and looking for where you stored the board games, but don't leave me just yet, as we still have the tasty food bit to get to. But before I do, please do me a personal favour and be mindful of the effect of plastics on our environment and try and pack a Picnic where everything is in reusable containers, so no rubbish, especially single use plastic rubbish … thanks a bunch!

ok ... Onto the food tips.

Thinking Bread? Go Whole Grains.

Whole grain bread packs a lot of healthy fibre which has lots of health benefits and If you are considering sandwiches (or even wholemeal crackers for your cheese and bikkies), my tip is to not make the sandwiches before you go, but instead prepare everything and take it with you to have a “make your own sandwich” adventure at your location. 

Not only will your kids like making their own, you will avoid the risk of serving soggy sandwiches, which no one will want … trust me I’ve been there. 

Plus if anything chopped or sliced for the sandwiches is left over, you can put it back in the cooler bag and use it in a salad for dinner that night to reduce food wastage.

healthy picnic bread

Sliced Apple and Nut Butters.

Balancing food is normally pretty tricky, but when it comes to Apple and nut butters like peanut butter or almond butter, nothing could be easier … or more delicious. Apples are a great whole food source of carbs and fibre, while nut butters provide the fats and proteins to balance your snack. I think you would struggle to find a pre-packaged snack that has the balance of this tasty combo. 

If you are anti apple, try switching out with some celery instead.

Hummus & Veggie Sticks.

Hummus is made by blending chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seeds), olive oil, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor. Great for gut bacteria and full of fibre, this creamy dip is perfect for dipping carrots, cucumber, capsicum, celery or some wholemeal crackers if veggies aren't your thing.

It also makes a great sandwich spread if you have leftovers and for those that struggle with garlic, I have made with garlic oil instead and it is equally delicious (without the belly ache).

Fruit Salad / Fruit Kebabs / Fruit and Yoghurt Jars 

Fruit Salads need no explanation, or the health benefits of fruit,  but there are a couple tips I want to share for those with fussy eaters that poo poo fruit.  First is taking the fruit pieces and threading them onto skewers to make a Fruit Kebabs and second is to put the fruit in small jars (I keep old salsa jars) and add some yoghurt, so they have their own jar of goodness. Both add some novelty to the eating fruit exercise and in my experience, led to way more fruit being consumed by my fussy ones. 

 picnic fruit kebabs

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

There are many studies showing the health benefits of a Mediterranean style diet, but personally, it is the perfect diet for me (type 2 diabetic) and my family made up of vegetarians and pescetarians. This salad is perfect cold using your favourite pasta tossed amongst your other favourite legumes and veggies. For me red beans, cherry tomatoes, capsicum, olives, baby spinach and corn, drizzled in my favourite chilli olive oil is heaven. Pop in a jar or tupperware container and you are good to go.

Mini Filo Frittatas

I love this one almost as much as my kids as it is a great way to clean out the fridge. All I do is grab all the veggies that need using, mix it with eggs and some favourite herbs and spices and pour into some muffin trays lined with filo pastry and in the oven it goes.

The filo adds a great crunch that's usually missing for traditional frittatas, it also makes them way easier for the kids to handle which in my experience reduces the mess.

Rainbow Salad Jars

Nothing screams good gut health than a salad made from as many different coloured veggies as possible. Not only will your gut bacteria be happy, but due to the visual awesomeness of this goodness jar, you may just be surprised when your kids show some interest in it too.

My tips here are to use a large jar with as wide an opening as you can find, put the dressing in first and try and coat as much of the jar as possible before adding the firm veggies like carrots on the bottom, building up to the soft avocado type veggies at the top. Be sure to add any beans, meats, seeds or cheeses and for me baby spinach is a must to finish.

These jars will keep for a couple days in the fridge too, and when you are ready to go you can eat from the jar or tip the contents into a salad bowl or straight on a sandwich, wrap or roll.

Try Infused Water or Kombucha

I have spent a bit of time making food suggestions, but there is no point eating all this deliciously healthy food and then washing it down with some sugary fizzy drink or juice beverage.

Instead try combining your favourite fruits, veggies or herbs into still or sparkling water. Fruits like Blueberries, Lemon, Watermelon, Strawberries combined with Veggies like Cucumber and herbs like Mint, Basil and Rosemary make for some great and refreshing flavour combinations that the kids will have a ball helping you make.

If time is limited, Kombucha is another consumable that is great for gut health. Its gone mainstream too, so you will be able to find them in your local supermarket in a flavour combination that is sure to tickle your taste buds.

Infused water drinks for picnic

Also remember to keep raw meats and prepared foods very separate to avoid contamination, this applies to the handling of them too, so take a couple sets of tongs and plates with you and use one for one and one for the other.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and get a bunch of ideas and inspiration to get outside and enjoy a picnic with friends.

You might also enjoy a couple of my other blogs ….

Public Holidays Perfect for Picnic's

Why Sandwiches Make Great Picnic Fare 

Hope to see you out there.

Much Love Emma.

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