7 Healthy Summer Picnic Ideas
Summer picnics are the perfect social activity in the current climate – and by climate, I mean both temperature, and social distancing! Outdoor socialising is becoming increasingly popular this summer and is a perfect way to eat, catch up with friends and soak up some of that all important vitamin D…
When it comes to picnic food, it doesn’t have to be all boring sandwiches, and sausage rolls – there are some really healthy, tasty and easy-to-prepare savoury options to choose from. Here are some of my favourites:
This is one of those recipes that is delicious eaten hot or cold. Eggs are packed with good quality protein as well as an array of other nutrients.
Cooked and cooled potatoes are a great source of resistant starch. If you’re not familiar with this, resistant starch has a much slower energy release (and therefore causes a slower blood sugar rise) than regular starch, helping to keep you feeling full - and it’s great fuel for our healthy gut bacteria too!Pushed for time? Buy it ready-made. Most supermarkets have these available to buy along with other deli foods.
Looking for a low carbohydrate alternative? Frittatas are an alternative, that also allows you to mix in some vegetables, such as peppers, mushrooms, courgettes and peas.
Kebabs are another high protein option that can also be enjoyed cold.
Simply make up some chicken, halloumi or tempeh kebabs on some bamboo skewers – alternating your protein pieces with vegetables, such as mushroom, cherry tomatoes or peppers.
(If you’ve not heard of this before, tempeh is fermented soya beans, used in a similar way to a very firm tofu).
You could marinate the kebabs beforehand, or lightly brush with pesto, harissa or chermoula sauce (if you like things a little spicy) before grilling until cooked. For tempeh, this is around 5 minutes each side, for halloumi a little less, and for chicken for approximately 10-15 minutes or until cooked through.Pushed for time? Buy them ready-made – most supermarkets have pre-prepared kebabs with vegetables.
I love this as a gluten-free alternative to cous-cous. It’s a complete source of protein – meaning that it contains good levels of the essential amino acids (the breakdown products of protein). However does not have high levels of protein. If you follow a plant-based or vegan diet, I would always recommend combining quinoa with other sources of protein. It’s also a good complex carbohydrate for slow release energy, and rich in manganese, magnesium and folate – all important for energy production.Pushed for time? Buy it ready-made – most supermarkets now sell packets of pre-cooked quinoa.
For a tasty quinoa salad, mix in some chopped cucumber, chopped avocado, chopped fresh mint, along with pumpkin and hemp seeds for an essential fatty acid boost. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice just before serving, so best to pack these separately.
4. Faux-tato Salad
As a fan of Spanish omelettes, I have no problem with potatoes! However, I do like increasing vegetable variety, and so roasted cauliflower and radishes work perfectly in a salad in place of potatoes. And of course, this is ideal if you are taking a low carbohydrate approach to your diet.
Check out this recipe below (inspired by Every Last Bite)
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Cut up one head of cauliflower into florets and place along with a couple of handfuls of radishes (trimmed and halved if large) in a large baking tray. Season with sea salt and black pepper and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked.
- When cooled, add the cauliflower and radishes to a large bowl and mix with 2 celery sticks (finely chopped), ½ red onion (finely chopped), 2 tbsp fresh chives (chopped), 2 tbsp fresh parsley (chopped), 2 tbsp fresh coriander (chopped).
- Finally stir 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of mayonnaise (homemade is a good option and surprisingly easy to make!). Check out the recipe here.
- When stirred together, mix into the salad
5. Rainbow Salad
A leafy, green salad is always a must in both picnics and barbecues, but they often look dull, boring and generally unappealing.
Why not go for a range of colourful vegetables amongst the leaves? Incorporating a rainbow of colours helps to broaden the range of antioxidant nutrients in this side dish – as well as making it look fab! Work through the colours:
- Reds – cherry tomatoes, red peppers, beetroot
- Oranges – grated or roasted carrots, sweet potato or butternut squash
- Yellows – yellow peppers or roasted yellow courgettes
- Greens –salad leaves always make a good salad base. Personally, I favour rocket and watercress over lettuce, as these are bitter leaves that can help to stimulate digestion. But may sure you chop them up. There’s nothing more off-putting than having massive clumps of foliage hanging from your fork!
- Purples – purple sweet potatoes, red cabbage and aubergines
Pushed for time? Find the most colourful salad you can find from the supermarket and add any other pre-prepared salad vegetables for even more variety.
Pack your salad dressing separately - This helps to keep the salad crisp, and avoids any annoying leaks in transit!
Salad dressings can be super simple. Just put the following into a small jar:
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ - 1 tbsp balsamic or apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
Shake to mix, and you’re ready to pour!
If you want to add some extra healthy nutrient boosters to your salad, check out last year's summer salad toppers blog
Hummus, guacamole and taramasalata are easy to make at home, but you can also find these ready made in most shops.
Rather than pairing them with crisps, you could use a selection of vegetable crudites (carrots, celery, peppers and cucumber) along with some good quality oatcakes.
7. Fruit Treats
Summer fruit is an ideal sweet treat on a picnic, but timing is everything!
Watermelon, in chilled slices, is perfect and refreshing to eat around 20 minutes before starting on the other foods. Why before? Watermelon digests a lot more quickly that the other foods, and so isn’t ideal to hang around in the stomach for too long!
Raspberries and Strawberries can also make a delicious dessert, relatively low in sugar, but still sweet enough on their own. Although these don’t digest as quickly as watermelon, try and leave a couple of hours after finishing the savoury foods before tucking into these.