Let’s Have a Picnic!

Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of the sunshine and have a meal outdoors. When people think about picnics they think red checkered blankets and wicker baskets, but many people also think bags of potato chips, pasta salad, and other potentially high-calorie foods. For those of you seeking deliciously healthy foods to pack on your voyage to the beach or park, you’ve come to the right place! Here you will find tasty picnic recipes with minimal preparation and maximum health benefits.

Fruit Salads

Fruit salads are a perfect addition to your picnic because they contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber to help prevent chronic disease. The fiber in fruit can help keep your digestive tract clean and healthy and your blood cholesterol levels down (good news for your heart). Fruits like honeydew melon, cantaloupe, bananas, peaches and apricots are high in potassium, which can help maintain healthy blood pressure. The vitamin C in fruit helps heal wounds, repair tissues in the body, and keep gums and teeth healthy. Fruit also contains folate, which helps aid the body in the formation of red blood cells and helps prevent changes in DNA which may otherwise increase cancer risk.

But can’t I just take a vitamin?

Fruits and vegetables contain more than just the nutrients found on nutrition labels. They also contain many naturally-occurring beneficial substances, such as phytonutrients, that may help prevent disease. The most important thing—when deciding which fruits and vegetables to eat—is to remember the colors in the rainbow. Now, we aren’t talking about Skittles here! Brightly colored produce contains a variety of nutrients to help you stay strong and healthy.

Now for some fun picnic salad ideas…

Almond Strawberry Salad

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Instructions: In a large mixing bowl, toss the spinach, strawberries, and almonds together. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, shake the vinegar, honey, and sugar into a dressing. Drizzle the dressing over the salad before serving.

Nutrition Analysis: 1 cup equals 90 calories, 5 g fat (trace saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein

The spinach in this salad contains non-heme iron (meaning iron from a plant source) which is important to transport oxygen in the blood. Vitamin C, which comes from the strawberries, will help the body absorb this iron. The almonds contain unsaturated fats that can help keep arteries clean and promote heart health.

Watermelon Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (plus 6 whole mint sprigs, reserved)
  • 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) cubed watermelon
  • 1 Vidalia (or other sweet onion), chopped into rings
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Instructions: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil, a few drops at a time. Add in the chopped mint. In a large bowl, combine the melon, onion, and feta cheese. Pour the dressing over the melon mixture and toss gently until everything is coated and evenly mixed. Taste to adjust seasonings, as needed. To serve, divide the salad among individual plates and garnish with mint leaves.

Nutrition analysis: 1 serving (yields a total of 6) equals 155 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 17 mg cholesterol, 245 mg sodium, 16 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein.

Watermelon is fairly low in calories and is a source of fiber, so you can feel good about munching away on this salad as a side dish, paired with grilled chicken or a tuna fillet for added protein.

Picnics are fun, but it’s easy to mindlessly eat all afternoon…

The most important thing to remember when choosing a picnic meal is to watch portion sizes and balance food groups for sustained energy to fuel an afternoon of outdoor activities. Try these recipes and your body will thank you. Now get outdoors and enjoy the weather!

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Our Be Fit Nutritionists are comprised of dietetic interns studying at Massachusetts General Hospital. During their internship, they receive training on acute care nutrition, ambulatory and community nutrition, food service systems management, and research. Their comprehensive work is done in collaboration with registered dietitians.

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