Last weekend was Memorial Day Weekend, which means it’s the unofficial start of summer. The beaches are open! It’s sunny! Days are longer! This is the perfect time of year to take as many meals as possible outside. Of course, since you can’t bring your entire kitchen out to the park, this is often easier said than done. Not all food travels well, and it’s often hard to figure out exactly how to eat healthy while still enjoying the sunshine. Have you ever had salad with dressing that’s sat on the lettuce for hours? It’s not pleasant. Don’t worry, we’re here for you. Check out some of our ideas for a healthy picnic, minus the soggy salad.
Fruit, fruit, and more fruit
What’s a picnic without fruit? Sad, that’s what it is. Fresh, cut fruit is one of the best choices to bring in your picnic basket. It’s easily portable, healthy, cheap, and quick to prepare. Put together a quick, colorful fruit salad in less than ten minutes and spend all that time you saved soaking up the nice weather. My favorites are the summer superstars like peaches, plums, and watermelon.
Cooked veggies tend to not do so well when they’re sitting in a cooler. Substitute your usual roasted favorites with the raw version. For extra added flavor, throw in some hummus or another dip. Just make sure to go easy on the creamy choices, like ranch. In small doses they’re fine (like everything else!), but if you’re someone who likes to have some vegetable with your dip, it can get out of control really fast.
Meat, fish, or tofu – sans sauce
One of the biggest issues with bringing your usual dinner outside is a lot of recipes are really only good if you eat it right away. That’s because marinades, sauces, and other toppings don’t usually taste that great if they’ve been sitting around. Can you tell I’m pretty against soggy foods? Adding some simple seasoning, like pretty much anything from Primal Palate, allows you to avoid this problem and gets you out of the boring sandwich rut. If you have a grill on hand and can turn your picnic into a cook out? Total win.
This one’s a little tricky, since you don’t want to have cheese sitting out in the hot sun. If you eat it right away and have a good cooler, some bread and cheese is a great nice weather snack. Even better when paired with the wine of summer -rosé!
What to avoid
Trying to be mindful about healthy eating? Aside from the creamy dips, there are a few other picnic offenders to stay away from. Limit your chips, crackers, and pretzel consumption to a handful. It’s so easy to continue to go back to that bowl of chips and salsa because it’s just sitting RIGHT THERE, but try to add a small amount to a plate so you can enjoy, and then opt for those fruits and veggies instead. Same goes for those desserts. It’s hard, because picnics can very quickly become the equivalent of an outdoor buffet, but stick to the “one portion on my plate” rule. Another culprit are the sugary summer cocktails. If it looks too good to pass up, try to stick to one and then switch to beer, wine, or a mixed drink with less of that sugary syrup. The best way to combat a lack of healthy options at a picnic? Bring them yourself. Then you at least know you’ll have one delicious (and nutritious!) option.
What’s your go to picnic item? Favorite place to dine al fresco? Tell us in the comments!
Rachel is a licensed therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness. She gets most of her inspiration for the blog while on the run, and if you ever need to find her, she’s probably in Central Park. If she’s not running, you’ll find her planning the next time she’s going to eat, exploring all things wellness in NYC, or raising her stress level by watching her sports teams.