You may have missed National Picnic Day on April 23, but if you ask us, picnic season is year round! During the summer months there’s no need for a holiday to pack up your basket, grab your blanket and head outside for a meal. During the summer, there’s always something to look forward to: an entire season of warm evenings that are conducive to eating meals on a patio, snacking poolside or enjoying a picnic in the park? Sign us up!
There’s something about the relaxed way we approach mealtime in summer – especially on the weekends – that is such a nice way to shake up our normally structured routines. Whether your “picnic basket” is a backpack you take to the ball game, a beach tote loaded with your favorite snacks or a cooler filled for a day trip, here are our favorite healthy tips how to keep the contents of your basket healthy, your snacks delicious, and your picnic at its best.
5 Swaps that will Keep Your Picnic Basket Healthy
1. Swap out the Soda
If you’re someone who turns to soda or sugary fruit juices, try subbing in some carbonated water! Sparkling water is all the rage right now because it’s healthy AND delicious. At Get Healthy U, we’re HUGE fans of La Croix, which comes in flavors ranging from orange to grapefruit to coconut. If you stick to plain carbonated water, try adding a splash of 100% fruit juice for some additional flavor.
A 2006 study of 2,500 people published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that unlike soda, sparkling water is not associated with low mineral bone density in women. Also, we have to mention it, having a bottle full of ice cold water is always an inexpensive, refreshing way to stay hydrated! Try adding fruit or herbs to your water to spice things up! (We’ve got some ideas for you here!)
2. Trade your Toppings
Instead of overly processed dips and spreads, make your own homemade dips for a fraction of the cost. My two go-to sandwich spreads, which can also serve as dips for veggies are homemade hummus (with S&W Garbanzo Beans, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, salt and pepper) and avocado yogurt dip (with mashed avocado, a heaping spoonful of Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt and pepper).
In one tablespoon of some of the most popular condiments, there lies a disturbing amount of sodium, sugar and calories. For example:
Ranch Dressing: 75 calories, 122 milligrams of sodium
BBQ Sauce: 30 calories, 450 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of sugar
Ketchup: 15 calories, 165 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of sugar
Mayo: 100 calories, 90 milligrams of sodium
Remember: a tablespoon is a SERVING, but not often the portion people use. These numbers often multiplied many times in the course of one meal.
Instead of choosing the classics: Ranch, BBQ Sauce, Ketchup and Mayo, opt for those healthier options. If you think making hummus or guacamole is difficult to make, you’re mistaken! Check out our FAVORITE recipes for homemade hummus and guacamole! Not only do these taste amazing, but you’ll feel no guilt afterwards. OR, if you can’t give up your unhealthy condiments, try our healthier recipes that lighten up your favorites: 7 Layer Bean Dip, Ranch Dressing, and BBQ Sauce!
3. Switch Up Your Salads
Whole grain salads are the perfect dish to take on picnics. As they sit in your cooler, they soak in all the delicious flavors so they keep getting better and better (rather than wilted and inedible). Whole grains confuse some people, and if you want a break down of which grains are best for you, what their benefits are and some delicious recipes including them, check out our Comprehensive Guide to Whole Grains.
4. Try a Different Dessert
Instead of something super sugary and unhealthy, try nature’s candy – fresh or frozen fruit. Fruit is high in fiber, antioxidants and contains only naturally occurring sugar. A growing amount of research supports that a diet high in fiber can help promote a healthy weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even certain types of cancer. Both watermelon and strawberries are DELICIOUS and in season during summer. Chop them up, throw them in a bowl, and enjoy them under the sun!
5. Substitute Your Snacks
Don’t turn to store-bought snacks full of sodium, sugar and chemicals. Instead, make a batch of these Garlic Parmesan Roasted Chickpeas or try my Spicy Roasted Garbanzo beans below. They’re easy to make ahead, store well in a container and are higher in fiber, protein and antioxidants than your average potato chip. Simply including pulses, such as beans, lentils and chickpeas in your daily diet may help promote weight loss, according to a new meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Picnic Packing List:
If you aren’t sure what to pack in your picnic basket aside from food, we’ve got you covered! From blankets to portable wine glasses, we’ve made a list of our favorite fun and functional items to pack for your next outdoor destination meal. These 10 items are some of our favorites.