Looking for a fun (and inexpensive) weekend activity to do with friends and family? Nothing says summer like an old-fashioned picnic.
Whether you picnic in a park or in your own backyard, packing something tasty and healthful is easier than you might think. Start by following these simple tips:
- Bring what’s in season. From berries to cherries, bell peppers to green beans, many fruits and veggies are freshest in summer. Make a colorful and healthful variety a part of your picnic. Enjoy fruits and veggies raw with a low-fat dip. Fill a container with a fresh-fruit medley. Make a chopped veggie salad with brown rice and beans. Or top a green salad with sweet berries.
- Reimagine your sandwich. A PB&J isn’t your only picnic-friendly option. Try a whole-wheat wrap with lean turkey and low-fat cheese. Add lettuce, spinach, avocados and tomatoes for a healthy dose of vegetables. Or how about noshing on a chicken, olive oil, feta and tomato combo?
- Make it fun to eat. Use cookie cutters to turn your kids’ sandwiches into interesting shapes that even fussy eaters can’t ignore. Kids also love fruit and vegetable kebabs. Serve them with a sweet or savory yogurt dip.
- Pack a thirst-quencher. Fill a water bottle with 100 percent fruit juice, ice and sparkling water. Add lime, orange or strawberry slices.
- Don’t spoil your picnic. Hot temperatures can quickly turn good food bad. To help steer clear of food poisoning:
- Place perishable food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Park the cooler in the shade. If you don’t have a cooler, you can safely bring nonperishables to the picnic like fruits and veggies, hard cheese, canned fish, or peanut butter to pair with bread or crackers.
- If you’re going to grill, keep raw meats separate from other foods. Use a thermometer to make sure meat is thoroughly cooked.
- Think outside the box with grilling. Alicia Buterbaugh, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Kettering Health Network suggests, “Toss vegetables in a little olive oil, season with a little of your favorite spice blend and place them on the grill. Carrots, peppers and zuchhini or yellow squash are great on the grill. To make this simpler, pack thinly sliced and seasoned vegetables in single serving-sized foil pouches that can go directly onto the grill. For dessert, try grilling fresh pineapple wedges or peach halves. Let everyone top with yogurt, a little granola or nuts.”
If you’re going to be eating outdoors, make sure everyone stays comfortable by bringing a thick blanket with a waterproof underside or a combination of a waterproof cover or tarp with your own favorite blanket.
One final tip: Picnickers of all ages will want to do things besides eat. Bring something to play with. Pack a ball to toss or kick. Or pack some paper and colored pencils, and invite everyone to draw the nature they see around them.
Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Institute for Cancer Research; International Food Information Council; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services