Five hacks for putting together the perfect healthy picnic

·3-min read

A picnic is a perfect way to complete any day out to the park or beach.

But while we can't control the weather, with a little bit of organisation, you can offer up your friends and family a vibrant and nutritious spread packed full of healthy foods.

Paula Werrett and Belinda Blake, registered nutritional therapy practitioners from the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION), have shared their top tips for putting together the perfect picnic.

Planning is key

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," noted Paula. "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."

Healthy options

When it comes to selecting your picnic goodies, pack your vegetables first.

"Make veggie sticks or crudités of carrots, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and radishes. These can be paired with a delicious dip of homemade hummus or guacamole," shared Belinda. "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. And Spanish omelette, cut into slices with salad, is a lighter alternative to quiche. For dessert, fresh fruit such as strawberries, blackberries, raspberries or chopped apples are delicious with natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of chia seeds."

Stay chilled

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," said Paula. "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."

Savvy swaps

Consider combining fibre-rich foods with protein to keep you fuller for longer.

"If you're making sandwiches, avoid white bread and instead opt for something wholegrain packed with healthy seeds," advised Belinda. "Or swap Pimms for sparkling water with mint, lemon and fresh berries - so tasty you won't miss the hit of alcohol!"

Nature's larder

While you're out enjoying your picnic in the countryside, it is the perfect opportunity to find a few tasty additions to your spread by foraging for the likes of garlic mustard, wild garlic, and elderflower.

"The spring and summer months are a beautiful time of year to forage," she added. "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."

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