Healthy Picnic Foods

7 Healthy Picnic Foods To Enjoy

Nothing screams Australian weekend like a picnic, but creating a menu that’s nutritious, delicious and (most importantly) portable can be a bit tricky. Here are seven picnic foods that will give your picnic a tasty, healthy edge.

While some may think it’s mandatory to bring home-baked goodies like muffins or banana bread to a picnic, there are days when you just don’t have time. Plus, when it comes to what to eat, you might not feel like the typically heavier picnics of the past, those filled with sweet treats, cured meat, a cooked chicken and enough processed cheese to feed a small village.

To keep things healthy and delicious, aim for a variety of foods, making sure there’s enough protein to keep everyone full, a bowl of colourful fruits to feast your eyes on, lots of nutritious veggies to munch and some delicious snacks for those in-between moments.

If you’re keen to take your picnic to a new level, grab your closest esky and favourite picnic blanket and let’s tuck into a healthy feast.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are legumes to the stars as they pack a protein-rich punch and are exceptionally versatile. I mean, does anyone need an excuse to eat more hummus? Chickpeas contain around 19g of protein per 100g and they help reduce blood sugar. They’re a genuine wonder food.

Sure, hummus takes just a little bit of extra effort, but it’s so worth it. You can transform your chickpeas into hummus with tahini, garlic, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and spices in a blender. Simply give it a blitz and when you’re at the picnic, you can refresh it with a little olive oil and some paprika on top for a bit of fun and serve in the middle of a platter with vegetable sticks like carrot, celery and cucumber.

If hummus isn’t your thing, try baking chickpeas in the oven with salt and spices for a popcorn-like sensation, or mash them up and use them as a replacement in your tuna wrap.

Cucumbers

What is a picnic without veggie sticks? While crackers and dips are synonymous with barbecues and picnics, most crackers contain processed vegetable oils and little nutritional value. On the other hand, cucumbers are exceptionally low in calories, full of fibre and high in water, meaning they’ll keep you full and hydrated, and rev up that digestive system, too.

Swap out your processed crackers for cucumbers, and while you’re there, add some other veggies like carrots, celery and capsicum. You can pack a tub of veggies to enjoy with a flavourful dip such as hummus, goat’s cheese or eggplant dip. If you want to unleash your creativity, pickle your cucumber with vinegar a few days before your picnic to spice up your sandwiches.

You can also use chopped cucumber in a fresh and baked vegetable salad bowl. It’s aesthetically pleasing, extremely versatile and full of the good stuff — veggies, greens, seeds, and a deliciously creamy tahini dressing. The combination of fresh and wholesome baked veggies means this is a bit of an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink kind of salad. Mixed vegetable bowls are a melting pot of flavours and textures, where everything is welcome and loved in all its mess and glory.

Almonds

We couldn’t talk about the best picnic foods without talking about almonds. There is a plethora of ways you can enjoy almonds, or any type of nut, but let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, nuts are high in fat. However, our bodies need fats for satiation, hormones and healthy skin. When eaten in moderation, nuts provide an excellent source of protein, fibre, vitamin E and iron. Almonds are exceptionally versatile and full of the good stuff.

Enjoy almonds in homemade bliss balls, roast them in the oven with your favourite spices and maple syrup for delicious roasted nuts, or scatter them as is on your grazing board and combine with fruits, vegetables and colourful dips.

Berries

Fresh berries like strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are wonderful picnic foods. Berries are a treat to eat, provide antioxidants that both your immune system and your skin love, and contain fibre that’s great for the gut.

Did you know different-coloured berries offer various health benefits? Blue fruits, like blueberries and blackberries, help promote heart health and reduce bodily inflammation, while red and orange berries, such as strawberries and raspberries, help protect the skin from sun damage and pollution.

Fresh berries by themselves make a lovely picnic addition, but may feel a bit tiresome for some. In that case, why not dry out your berries in the oven to make divinely dried fruit or create a homemade jam. An easy jam recipe uses 500g fruit, ¼ cup maple syrup, 2 tbsp chia seeds and a pinch of vanilla. All you need to do is bring the ingredients to the boil, then let cool in a jar in the fridge.

Eggs

Eggs go down very well at an alfresco event and tick the three picnic p’s: portable, protein-rich and potent. Eggs contain all the essential amino acids needed to nourish your muscles and provide optimum results. They are also incredibly versatile — try a homemade egg dip, enjoy some boiled eggs by themselves, create hard-boiled devilled or scotch eggs, or even bake a homemade frittata if you have the time. Just be warned: boiled eggs can be a bit smelly upon opening, so you may want to err on the side of caution.

Cheese

I can’t beat around the bush with this one: a picnic isn’t a picnic without the cheese. While not everyone responds well to cheese, it provides a fantastic amount of protein and bone-building calcium. Like everything in life, eat cheese in moderation. Instead of digging straight into a cheese wheel, try to eat cheese slowly and mindfully and balance it with veggies.

There’s nothing better than a feta, watermelon and mint salad for a sweet and savoury sensation. Or elevate your picnic salads with a few slices of goat’s cheese. You won’t be disappointed, plus they look pleasing on a picnic blanket.

Chocolate

It would be sinful to offer you an array of favourite picnic foods without including chocolate. Before you ask if chocolate is healthy, cocoa beans have triple the number of antioxidants as green tea! Cocoa beans contain many nutrients, including vitamins A, B, C, D and E and the minerals calcium, zinc, iron, copper, potassium and magnesium. Dark chocolate contains more cacao and less sugar and milk fat than milk or white chocolate. Remember: the higher the percentage of cacao, the greater the benefit.

Enjoy chocolate in homemade treats like chocolate bark with dried fruit and nuts or dark chocolate-dipped strawberries. But let’s be honest, there’s nothing better than a few pieces of dark chocolate on your fruit platter!

There you have it, seven foods for a healthier picnic. These foods are sure to keep your picnic looking and tasting excellent while being nutritionally balanced, too. Now, go on and enjoy your picnic with your friends and family. You deserve it!

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes

Lee Holmes is a nutritionist, yoga and meditation teacher, wholefoods chef, Lifestyle Food Channel’s Healthy Eating Expert, blogger and author of the best-selling books Supercharged Food: Eat Your Way to Health, Supercharged Food: Eat Yourself Beautiful, Eat Clean, Green and Vegetarian, Heal your Gut, Eat Right for Your Shape and Supercharged Food for Kids.

Lee’s food philosophy is all about S.O.L.E. food: sustainable, organic, local and ethical. Her main goal is to alter the perception that cooking fresh, wholesome, nutrient-rich meals is difficult, complicated and time-consuming. From posting recipes, her passion to share her autoimmune disease story and help others has snowballed and the blog has recently taken home the overall prize at the Bupa Health Influencer Awards as well as the best blog in the Healthy Eating category. She also runs a four-week online Heal Your Gut program.

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