With the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations (2-5 June), National Picnic Week (19-26 June) and National Picnic Month (July) coming up, what better excuse is there to enjoy a picnic – without it becoming a joyless wash-out?
Whilst we can’t control the weather, a bit of pre-planning can go a long way towards creating a vibrant and nutritious picnic spread – proving that picnic food doesn’t have to be beige and unhealthy.
Paula Werrett and Belinda Blake, registered nutritional therapy practitioners from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION) share their five top tips for a tasty and healthier picnic.
Planning is key
“It can be easy to eat unhealthily at a picnic, if you choose lots of highly-processed foods, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” says Paula. “With a little planning, you can quickly throw together a delicious meal to eat outside. Think ahead to what you need in your picnic hamper to ensure you don’t fall back on the unhealthy sausage rolls and cheese-heavy options.
“If you are short on time, supermarkets can provide a great variety of interesting and healthy picnic options, although this can make things more expensive.
“For ease, I prefer a more Mediterranean feel picnic with lots of fresh foods such as tomatoes, olives and hummus. I love to share food so enjoy picnics where everyone brings a dish.”
When it comes to selecting your picnic goodies, Belinda suggests trying these easy healthy options:
- Veggie sticks or crudités of carrots, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and radishes, which can be paired with a delicious dip of home-made hummus or guacamole.
- Cold, cooked salmon is a healthy omega-rich option that goes perfectly with lots of freshly made salads.
- Try falafels or meat koftas instead of pork pies and sausage rolls.
- Spanish omelette, cut into slices with salad, is a lighter alternative to quiche.
- A tasty Greek salad of feta, orange and beetroot with a sprinkling of oregano will give you a Mediterranean moment in seconds!
- For dessert, fresh fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or chopped apple are delicious with natural yogurt and a sprinkling of chia seeds.
In the hot summer weather it’s important to keep the food and the picnic-goers cool! Wrap picnic food well and use ice packs to keep food fresh and cool.
It’s also important to stay hydrated and remember that we can mistake thirst for hunger. A great tip is to freeze bottles of water the night before – not completely full, so to allow room for expansion as the water freezes. Not only will they keep you cool if it’s hot but also act as an ice pack to keep any food fresh for longer.
Add lemon or lime wedges to water to give it a zesty zing and avoid sweetened fizzy drinks, which contain large amounts of sugar.
To keep your picnic basket as healthy as possible, here as some savvy swap ideas:
- If you’re making sandwiches, avoid white bread and instead opt for something wholegrain packed with healthy seeds.
- Combine fibre-rich foods with protein to keep you fuller for longer.
- Swap Pimms for sparkling water with mint, lemon and fresh berries – so tasty you won’t miss the hit of alcohol!
While you’re out enjoying your picnic the countryside, it is the perfect opportunity to find a few tasty additions to your spread by foraging. If you’re new to foraging and not sure what to look out for, Belinda shares her top recommendations for the season:
- Garlic Mustard
- Ransoms (wild garlic)
- Elderflower (late May)
Belinda says: “The spring and summer months are a beautiful time of year to forage. It is a time filled with hope and expectancy and this year more than ever, we will all feel the benefits of being out in the great outdoors and feeling the positive benefits of nature and foraging on our health and wellbeing. Why not see if there are any foraging classes near where you live or, alternatively, invest in a good wild plant identification guide to help get you going and pick safely?”
Always check the Foraging Code for full details on safe foraging and to ensure you comply with the law