Good-For-You Picnic Foods
By Shannon Crocker MSc RD, Vibrant Nutrition Communications
Follow Shannon on Twitter and Instagram @shancrockerRD
As a dietitian, mom and avid park visitor, I know that packing a good-for-you picnic that everyone enjoys takes a little creativity. It should include fresh, nutrient-rich foods that nourish your body but also satisfy cravings for tasty food.
Here are my five top tips for packing good-for-you picnics that will help keep you and your family eating well.
1. Put protein on your picnic plate.
Protein helps you feel energized and satisfied for longer than carbohydrate-rich meals. Eating enough protein can help you fend off the munchies so you won’t be so tempted to nibble on treats.
Turkey sandwiches are simple and perfect for picnicking. They can be made ahead, travel well and require no utensils. Here is one of my favourites:
- Turkey and Egg Muffuletta Sandwich. This sandwich is filled with whole food ingredients including eggs, veggies, cheese and roast turkey breast. Each serving boasts 21 grams of protein – an ideal amount to promote long-lasting satisfaction. Try it with a whole grain sourdough round.
2. Stick with salads that won’t wilt.
Vegetables are a must for me at a picnic, but leafy lettuce salads can quickly go soft on a hot day. I prefer sturdy salads like broccoli, bean or potato. I like this light bean salad made with turkey breast:
- Southwestern Turkey Bean Salad. This crunchy salad features lots of colourful vegetables, kidney beans and turkey breast. It’s low in fat but high in fibre and protein. That combination helps keep you feeling full with a realistic (not huge) portion of food.
3. Pack smart snacks.
Packaged salty snacks (e.g., chips) and sweets (e.g., cookies) are prolific at picnics. I get it. They have a reputation as “fun food”, but these treats are easy to overeat and leave you craving more. For a better balance of snacks in your picnic basket, pack:
- Try chunks of watermelon on a skewer, layered with strawberries for a fresh fruit kabob. Drizzle with a squeeze of fresh lime for a tasty twist.
- Pop your own or pick up a big bag of plain, lightly salted popcorn. I like popcorn because it offers whole grain goodness and satisfies the craving for crunch.
- Fresh veggies. Crisp baby carrots and snap peas are perfect for nibbling. Add a garlicky guacamole for dipping and you’ll be back for more.
4. Skip sweet drinks.
To help beat the heat, and stay energized, keep plenty of non-sugary drinks on ice in the cooler. Here are a few cool sips to pack for a day at the park:
- It’s your best bet for quenching thirst. Bring lots of water in reusable bottles.
- Homemade iced tea. Unsweetened berry teas are tangy and refreshing. If the tang is too much for you, add a little honey to get a hint of sweet.
- Sparkling water. Enjoy “as is” or pour into a cup and add orange slices for a burst of citrus.
5. Be food safe.
The last thing you want at a picnic is for your fresh food to spoil. Keep your cooler in the shade and don’t forget to add ice packs to keep your picnic foods safe.