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Summer nutrition: how to pack a healthy picnic

Most of us love a picnic and we should certainly be embracing them during July as it’s National Picnic Month.  Picnic fare can tend to be on the unhealthy side, but a few simple swaps can make all the difference to the quality of your macro and micronutrient intake.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer suggests some deliciously healthy picnic food swaps.

Swap white for brown 

Wholewheat bread loaf with a scoop of flour

Wholemeal and whole grain foods contain more nutrients than white as they have not been highly refined and processed.  For example, the nutritious and fibrous part of a wheat kernel is on the outer layer, which gets stripped away during the refining process.

Consequently, white bread is nutrient-poor and lacks energy-producing vitamins.  A much better choice is wholemeal bread, pitta or wraps. Load them with a choice of avocado, tuna in brine, tofu, chickpeas, or grilled halloumi cheese (or a combination of your favourites!)

Swap potato crisps for vegetable crisps

Crispy kale chips

Picnic hampers generally contain something crunchy like potato crisps, which are high in fat and low in nutrients.  However, there’s no reason to miss out on the crunch or the nutrients by making your own kale crisps.

Kale is an amazing cruciferous vegetable, which is loaded with fibre, vitamin K, iron and calcium.  Just rub bite-sized leaves with some olive oil and a little salt and bake in the oven for around 10 minutes. Let them cool and pop them into your picnic basket.

If time is not on your side, then opt for other veggie crisps such as parsnip or beetroot, readily available in the supermarket.

Swap fizzy drinks for kombucha

Bottles of kombucha

Fizzy drinks will do your body no favours. Even the low-sugar versions contain artificial sweeteners, which, while low in calories, can rob the body of other nutrients, upset blood sugar balance, and trigger sugar cravings.

If you can’t do without the fizz kombucha is the healthy choice.  It’s a slightly fizzy drink, which contains probiotics (the good bacteria in the gut) and is also rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s readily available in supermarkets and will satisfy all soda addicts!

Swap peanuts for real nuts

A bowl containing a range of nuts

The name ‘peanut’ can be misleading: they are not actually tree nuts so don’t contain the amazing array of nutrients that other nuts do.  Instead opt for other nuts as snacks, including walnuts (great for blood pressure), almonds (full of calcium) and Brazil nuts (rich in the antioxidant mineral selenium).

Rich in heart-friendly oils, seeds tend to go well together with nuts when it comes to healthy snacks. Why not throw some pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds in with your choice of nuts? Or add seeds to your salads, sandwiches or wraps to add some real ‘bite’.

Swap mayonnaise for dips

Hummus with vegetable crudites

Although the ‘go-to’ dip for many, mayonnaise is often high in fat and added sugar.  Why not introduce some healthy dips that contain good amounts of protein, plus many other nutrients, into your picnic hamper?

Great choices are hummus, tzatziki, or guacamole (made from nutrient-dense avocados). These go well with with chopped celery, peppers, and carrots.  What’s more these vegetables also contain immune-boosting vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Swap dried fruit for fresh

two strawberries and a banana made to look like a happy face on a blue wooden background

Dried fruit can satisfy those sweet cravings and make a great portable snack.  However, dried fruit has concentrated amounts of sugar, and can send blood sugar levels soaring.  Plus, it is often high in preservatives and sulphites- chemicals the body doesn’t need.

Instead go for delicious and nutritious fresh summer fruits. Get some colour into your hamper with slices of watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and cherries for a refreshing dessert that really delivers on the nutrient front.  The more colour you have in your hamper, the more the body is going to benefit from a range of antioxidants.

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