There are two kinds of people in life: those who love picnics and those who avoid them.
If you’re an avoider – the wasps! The heat! The inconvenience! – we’re unlikely to change your mind. But if you’re a picnic lover, the arrival of the sunny summer months can only be good news. Whether your destination is the park, beach, or even your garden, there’s a whole world of possibilities for outdoor dining.
Of course, the games, blankets, sunscreen, hats and everything else the day demands are important. However, everyone knows that the picnic food is the main event!
You don’t have to entirely abandon any health goals you have in pursuit of picnic perfection. If you’re committed to eating more healthily, there are plenty of fantastic foods you can include.
Here are our tips for packing a picnic that is wholesome, nutritious and delicious.
Try to include as many colourful vegetables as possible
The more vegetables you include in your picnic, the better! Summer picnics occur at the height of the fresh fruits and vegetables seasons, so you have plenty of options when choosing your ingredients.
Pack some snacks to enjoy before you eat. An easy and healthy option is to chop up a variety of raw vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, celery, asparagus tips and cherry tomatoes. Serve with dips such as hummus, salsa, or tzatziki. Buy your dips at the supermarket or try this easy home-made avocado hummus and crudités recipe here.
Make or buy a few different salads to serve at your picnic. This will provide a variety of flavours and textures, and everyone is guaranteed to find one they enjoy. We love this easy tabbouleh recipe that uses ready-made grain pouches available in most supermarkets, simply topped up with different vegetables.
Don’t be shy about trying new flavour combinations or incorporating fruits or vegetables you might not have considered before. For example, this black rice salad is combined with fresh mango and crunchy cashews to provide a delicious dish.
If you have a go-to combination that you love, such as a pasta or potato salad, simply make a few healthy changes by adding some vegetables. Choose dishes that you can make ahead of time, so the actual day of your outing isn’t stressful, and all the flavours can develop.
Prepare dishes that are easy to transport
Practicality is the key to a good picnic, so think about food that is easy to pack up, transport and assemble on a plate on the floor. Food needs to keep well and stay fresh – no one wants a soggy sandwich, or a dish that requires plenty of cutlery and crockery to assemble.
Skewered food is a life-saver here as food is already cut up into bite-sized pieces and is ready to eat with minimal effort. Try these refreshing and tasty melon, prosciutto and mozzarella skewers or these chicken skewers with tzatziki that you can simply push off the stick and into a wrap for a nutritious meal.
Wraps are a good option as they’re easy to eat and transport and can be nutritious if you make them with the right ingredients, for instance, these rainbow veggie wraps.
Make healthy replacements where possible
An easy option when it comes to picnics is to pack plenty of minimum effort, ready to eat carbohydrates like breads, rolls, and starchy salads. These don’t add much nutritionally, so try and limit these if you can. Replace with whole grain buns, pita bread, or wraps if they’re available to you.
Try to make healthy swaps when it comes to dressings and sauces as classic options like mayonnaise contain plenty of sugar and unhealthy ingredients. For example, traditional potato salads are loaded with mayo – and calories! Try this delicious herby potato salad that skips the unhealthy mayonnaise, replacing it with plenty of flavour in the form of an herb-packed, apple cider vinegar dressing. Find the recipe here.
Likewise, this colourful summer slaw loaded with healthy veggies like cabbage, carrots and radishes, uses crème fraiche, vinegar and mustard for a tasty, creamy dressing.
Pack plenty of hydrating, low-sugar drinks
When you’re outdoors playing in the hot sun, it is easy to become dehydrated without even realising it. Children are especially vulnerable to losing fluids, and don’t normally like to slow down to take in liquid.
Make sure you pack plenty of drinks to keep you adequately hydrated throughout the day. Try to stick to low-sugar drinks like water and some fruit juices where possible. Freeze your drinks the night before, and pack in a cooler box if possible, to keep cold and refreshing throughout the day.
Try to limit sweet treats
No picnic is complete without a sweet treat. While indulging here is great, try and keep an eye on how much you’re consuming. Serve treats like cupcakes or brownies alongside summer fruits like berries, cherries, and peaches. Make a large fruit salad ahead of time or chop up some watermelon into slices for an easy and juicy sweet treat.
Enjoy your picnic!