Pack the Perfect Picnic

Spring is here and it’s the perfect time to head off for a picnic now that we can meet outdoors with the rule of 6. Whether you’re eating in the park, on the beach or by the river, I’ve got some great tips for healthier options for your picnic which will impress your family or friends.

Enjoying the Great Outdoors

Eating out of the home especially having a picnic is a fun activity that we all enjoy. For children, it is a chance to try new tastes and flavours and enjoy food in a happy environment. The distraction of eating outdoors can mean that some children will even try new foods.

Healthier Picnic Options

It doesn’t have to all be about sausage rolls, scotch eggs, crisps and cake. There are lots of healthier options available to choose from. It’s also a great way to use up leftover food and use seasonal veg including veg or herbs that you have grown yourself. Here’s some ideas for you to try:

1. Sandwiches, bagels, rolls, wraps, pitta or baps – whatever bread you want to use is great. Choose wholegrain varieties where possible. These are some of my favourite fillings:

Tuna and cucumber

Soft cheese and tomato

Hummus and salad

Chicken and sweetcorn

Salmon and avocado 

There are more great ideas on the Change4Life website  https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/healthier-lunchboxes 

2. Plenty of vegetables

Use seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber, leafy salads, beetroot, green beans, sugar snap peas, spring onions or sweetcorn. You can cut up the veg into small pieces or strips like crudites and pack them ready to eat.

You can check which vegetables are in season right now by looking at my What’s in Season in the UK in April infographic here https://zgnutrition.co.uk/whats-in-season-in-the-uk-in-april/

3. Pack some fruit

When Summer arrives, take some of the wonderful fruits in season at that time of year such as raspberries, strawberries, peaches or nectarines. You can either chop them up in advance or take them whole. Remember to pack some kitchen towel or napkins as juicy fruits can be messy as well as delicious.

4. Pasta or rice salad

You’ll need to remember to pack some forks to eat pasta or rice salad but they are a great accompaniment to any picnic. I love this recipe for Coconut Rice Salad from Change4Life.  https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/coconut-rice-salad-recipe 

5. Frittata

A slice of frittata served cold is a great addition to any picnic. You can use whatever vegetables or herbs you have in a frittata and it tastes great served warm from the oven at home or cold in a scenic setting. This recipe from Jo Ingleby for Kids Cheese and Vegetable Frittata is perfect for picnics. https://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/kids_cheese_and_79582 

6. Pizza

Making your own pizza is a lot healthier than shop bought pizzas and you can customise the pizza to include your favourite toppings and add lots of extra veg. This pizza from Change4Life is great for getting the kids involved in making it. https://www.nhs.uk/change4life/recipes/four-seasons-pizza 

Food hygiene

It is important when we are eating outdoors to remember to be safe with food. Firstly, during the pandemic, it is important to wash our hands for 20 seconds to reduce our risk of catching coronavirus. If handwashing facilities are not available, then it is important to use hand sanitiser before eating.

It’s a good idea to use a cool bag with plenty of frozen ice packs to make sure your food stays cool. 

Zoe Griffiths is a Registered Nutritionist (Public Health) with over 25 years experience working with public health organisations across the UK including the Department of Health and many public health departments. Zoe has specialised in working with children and young people and helping practitioners to implement healthier eating into their setting. Zoe has worked as a Public Health Nutrition Lecturer in many Universities and has run hundreds of training courses for caterers, chefs, personal trainers, leisure staff, health and other professionals. She now runs her successful freelance nutrition consultancy – ZG Nutrition.