A Nutritionist’s Guide To A Healthy Picnic
A Nutritionist’s Guide To A Healthy Picnic

A Nutritionist’s Guide To A Healthy Picnic

Planning a picnic this summer? If you are, it doesn’t have to mean sausage rolls and pre-packaged coronation chicken. Here, four leading nutritionists share their top tips for putting together a healthier combination – including lighter treats, healthy dips, filling salads and refreshing drinks…

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Strike A Balance

“Most people think of a picnic as a variety of snacks rather than a meal. Instead of a last-minute scramble at the supermarket buying pre-packaged sausage rolls, think about some form of healthy protein – this can be as simple as packets of roast chicken, hot smoked salmon or a three bean salad. If you have time, roast a chicken the day before and make a healthy coronation chicken salad using Greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise. Pair this with a complex carbohydrate like quinoa, buckwheat or dark sourdough and good fats in the form of guacamole or hummus. When it comes to vegetables, crudités made with celery, carrots and cucumber are the perfect base for dips.” – Sophie Trotman, nutritional therapist 

Make Your Own Hummus

“It’s far more nutritious to make your own dips, especially hummus, as many store-bought products are made with inflammatory oils like rapeseed. Even M&S’s hummus with extra virgin olive oil contains more rapeseed oil than olive oil. If you don’t have time to make your own, Moorish Houmous is made with olive oil, making it a good option. Holy Moly Guacamole Original is also great – it contains real ingredients and no nasties. Scoop it up with crunchy crudités or toasted wholemeal pitta.” – Sophie 

Think About Your Containers

“If you still use plastic containers, try glass versions instead. Research shows BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers made with BPA, which can disrupt hormones. Wearth London is a great website which has everything from bamboo fibre lunchboxes and recyclable plates to silicone ziplock bags. Save old jam jars to transport dressing, too. My go-to dressing recipe is two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of Dijon mustard. You can use the jam jar to shake it up.” – Lucy Miller, nutritional therapist

Watch Out For ‘Healthy’ Options

“Tortilla wraps are often thought of as a healthier option, but they don’t hold much air so they’re actually far denser than bread and can contain as many as 250 calories per serving before you put anything in them. Also, remember gluten-free and plant-based options aren’t necessarily healthier. In fact, these foods can be highly processed and full of fillers, fats and additives. Low-fat salad dressing is a classic example as the fat is replaced with added sugar and salt. And when it comes to antipasti, this can be loaded with sodium and nitrates. Unearthed is a great brand that doesn’t use nitrates.” – Lucy 

Make A Store-Cupboard Picnic

“If you have an empty fridge, a tin of chickpeas goes a long way. Roast the chickpeas in a hot oven with olive oil and smoked paprika for 25 minutes for a tasty snack, or blitz them with olive oil, tahini, garlic, cumin, salt and lemon juice to make hummus. A tin of butterbeans works well with a jar of good-quality tuna (I rate Ortiz), lemon juice and dried oregano, while wholewheat pasta makes a delicious pasta salad mixed with tuna, chopped olives, chopped sundried tomatoes and dried oregano.” – Lucy 

Baked and popped chips may seem healthy but they are still highly processed, refined carbs that will spike blood sugar.

Always Include Lean Protein

“Quail eggs are full of protein and vitamins A and C. They are a healthy nibble with a drink or can be added to a salad. Organic cooked prawns are also a rich source of protein and contain selenium and B vitamins, which are needed for immunity, energy and the nervous system. Serve them with grains in a salad or simply pop on individual baby gem lettuce leaves.” – Lucy 

Choose Natural Plant-Based Options

“If you follow a vegan diet, or are trying to cut back on meat, avoid ready-made vegan products, such as sausages, burgers or bacon. Plant based or not, these items are full of additives, chemicals, sweeteners and preservatives. Instead, try a Mediterranean-style spread of dishes – tomatoes dressed with olives and basil, and hummus and fresh sourdough is a far more nutritious alternative. For healthy, protein-rich dips, have a look on Ocado, which offers a great range, including beetroot and horseradish hummus, ginger and turmeric hummus and tangy tomato salsas.” – Clementine Campbell, naturopathic nutritional therapist

Bake Your Own Crisps

“Baked and popped chips may seem healthy but they are still highly processed, refined carbs that will spike blood sugar and contain no nutritional value. The same goes for pretzels – they tend to be empty calories. Instead, make your own roasted kale chips. Place one bag of kale on a baking sheet and drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil and flaked sea salt. Cook in a hot oven for around 20 minutes.” – Lucy 

Keep Cheese Chilled

“If it’s a warm day, keep your cheese chilled to avoid the risk of food poisoning. When it comes to cheese, good things come in threes so opt for a soft cheese, hard cheese and something unique or seasonal. A double crème, cheddar and goat’s cheese are guaranteed crowd pleasers, and goat’s cheese is a good alternative to anyone sensitive to cow’s dairy as it’s gentler on the stomach and more easily digested. Serve cheese with a slice of wholegrain, seeded sourdough. When it comes to bread, the darker the better.” – Clementine 

Don’t Forget About Sweet Treats

“Strawberries covered in dark chocolate are a lovely treat for a picnic. Try to use 85% dark chocolate for a more nutritious option. When melting the chocolate, add a teaspoon of avocado oil to stop the chocolate from being too brittle when it hardens. Deliciously Ella’s sweet potato brownies are also simple to make and are delicious served with fresh berries.” – Lucy 

Stay Hydrated

“In warm weather, it’s very easy to mistake thirst for hunger. Freeze bottles of water the night before – this will not only keep water cool if it’s hot but means they can also act as an ice pack to keep food fresher for longer. Swap alcohol for sparkling water and add fresh mint, basil, rosemary, lemon wedges or cucumber slices for a twist.” - Clementine

Here, The Experts Share Their Nutritious Supermarket Picnic Heroes…

M&S Roasted Vegetable Couscous: “This contains a variety of plant foods, which is great for your gut. Pair it with a source of protein and a dollop of hummus.” – Sophie 

Natoora Manchego: “If you fancy cheese but struggle to digest dairy, try manchego, which is lower in lactose than other cheeses.” – Sophie 

Pep & Lekker Seed Snacks: “This savoury snack is made with rice flour, buckwheat flakes, rice protein and seeds.” – Clementine

M&S Olives With Feta: “This is a fantastic combination of protein and healthy fats – a tub of these olives features in all of my picnics.” – Clementine

Hodmedos Roasted Fava Beans: “Rich in protein and fibre, these roasted beans are delicious and are a great alternative to crisps.” – Paola Langella, nutritionist

OHMG Water: “This is a summer picnic staple – it contains zero sugar or additives and is full of magnesium.” – Lucy 

Peter’s Yard Sourdough Crispbreads: “High in fibre and low in sugar and fat, these go well with dips and a far better option than crisps.” – Lucy 

Holy Moly Guacamole: “If you don’t have fresh, ripe avocadoes, this ready-made guacamole is a nutritious alternative.” – Sophie 

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