Tips For Packing a Healthy Picnic

Christy Brissette, MSc, RD of 80 Twenty Nutrition www.80TwentyNutrition.com
For Gabriella’s Kitchen skinnypasta

One of my favorite summer activities is packing a picnic and eating outside. It’s a great excuse to lounge on the grass with family and friends and soak up the sunshine.

But picnics aren’t always the best place to find healthy food options. Chips and dip, potato salad and cookies are some of the typical items set out on a picnic blanket.

So what can you pack in your picnic basket if you’re looking to stay healthy? Whether you’re celebrating Canada Day (Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!) or the 4th of July, here are my tips for nutritious picnicking all summer long!

1. Pack Produce

Picnics are all about food that’s easy to pack, eat and share, but that doesn’t mean that a bag of chips is your only option! Grabbing grapes, berries, melon or a veggie platter helps you bring healthy snacks with minimal prep work. That’s why they’re staples in my picnic basket.

Not only are fruits and veggies a more nutritious alternative to chips and other packaged snacks, they’re also so much more refreshing. Perfect for when you’re out in the summer heat.

If you are looking to bring or make some chips, try kale chips, zucchini chips or apple chips for extra fiber, vitamins and phytochemicals.

2. Bring a Healthy Dish

Heading to a potluck picnic? Take that as an invitation to bring a healthy dish. When you prepare a lightened up recipe, you’re making sure you’ll have at least one thing there to eat at your picnic that won’t throw you off track. That way if you end up surrounded by some not-so-healthy options, you’ve still got a healthy dish to rely on and you won’t go home hungry. Of course, you can still taste and enjoy some of the higher calorie fare, but it won’t be your main meal.

What should you bring? A dish full of fiber, protein, and veggies to keep you full without going overboard on calories. The perfect choice: the Mediterranean Pasta Salad recipe below!

3. Lighten Up Classics

So you want to pack a healthy picnic, but you know it just won’t feel the same without a classic dish like pasta salad or macaroni & cheese. No worries – just lighten up the classics! Using Gabriella’s Kitchen skinnypasta SUPERFOOD TEFF Macaroni is the perfect way to turn classic macaroni-based dishes into healthy options.

Teff is a gluten-free ancient grain that’s full of fiber, protein, and minerals like zinc, iron, copper, and manganese. About 20% of the fibre in GK skinnypasta is resistant starch, which can help you manage your weight, making it a healthier swap for regular pasta in your picnic recipes!

Check out the Mediterranean Pasta Salad recipe below for the perfect picnic addition that’s comforting and delicious, yet so nutritious.

4. Use Your Plate

It’s easy to be at a picnic for hours and not realize how much you’ve eaten. When everything’s easy to eat and laid out in front of you, it’s a recipe for mindless snacking.

The trick to avoiding this? Pick up a plate. Eating from a plate, rather than out of a bag or off a platter, allows you to see exactly how much you’re eating so you can avoid accidentally overeating.

Fill up one healthy plate and enjoy eating it slowly. Make it half fruits and veggies, a quarter whole grains (like pasta salad made with GK skinnypasta), and a quarter protein (like lean meats and beans or hummus).

5. Fill Up on Water

Getting munchy on your picnic could mean you’re thirsty rather than hungry. Load up some water bottles with ice and water. Drop in a few orange slices, cucumber slices or mint leaves for delicious naturally flavored water that will help you stay hydrated.

Now that you’ve got those healthy picnic tips down, let’s turn our attention to the perfect picnic recipe: Mediterranean Pasta Salad!

It’s full of fiber thanks to the GK SUPERFOOD TEFF pasta, loaded with veggies and it’s a crowd-pleasing healthy option for potlucks, picnics and barbecues. It tastes like a comforting classic (but is much healthier) and fits perfectly into your healthy picnic plate! Not to mention, it’s super quick and easy to make.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 7-oz box GK skinnypasta SUPERFOOD TEFF Macaroni
  • 1 seedless cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
  • ¼ cup chopped red onion
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse quickly with cold water, and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, olives, red onion, feta, and basil, and toss to combine.
  3. In a small jar or bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Shake or stir to combine.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the pasta mixture, toss to coat, and serve or store in the refrigerator or in a cooler bag with ice packs until ready to serve. Enjoy!

What are your favorite healthy picnic recipes? Share with us on Twitter @skinnypasta and @80twentyrule!