This week’s guest blog is from Nourhan Barakat, who is a Registered Associate Nutritionist (ANutr), she has completed a MSc in Public Health Nutrition at London Metropolitan University. Since graduation Nourhan has been exploring different areas of nutrition, she particularly likes writing blog posts, sharing practical nutrition advice, tips and debunking fad diets. “I am passionate about encouraging and helping individuals to have a sustainable, healthy and positive life. My passion in the food industry and public health lies in empowering individuals with information and the tools needed to have better visibility about healthier choices available”.
Top tips for a healthier picnic this summer
With the sun coming back to our sky after the long winter days and the lockdown easing, many of us are packing blankets, preparing the picnic baskets and heading to the nearest park or beach for an opportunity to relax and wind down.
Nourishing the soul, mind and body
Picnicking is fun – but it also offers more than just a time-out. Here are some of the mental and body related health benefits of having a picnic:
-Stress-relieving: a very recent systematic review showed that spending time outdoors for viewing the nature or doing outdoor exercising has positive effects on reducing stress and improving mood and wellbeing health (1).
-Vitamin D boosting: sunny days are always the optimal source to get our natural vitamin D especially between early April to September where majority of people can obtain sufficient vitamin D from sunlight. Vitamin D has been shown to play an important role in enhancing our mood and health (2).
-Mood booster: having some quality time outdoors with our family or friends through our busy lives can help to boost our mood and recharge our energy.
-Fun activities: picnics often provide a great opportunity to take part in activities when playing games such as rounders, bat and ball or doing some exercises. Also, picnics are a good opportunity to encourage children to engage with parents in doing some fun physical activities.
-Healthy eating: besides the sun, enjoying each other’s company, games and entertainment, food is certainly the main part of the picnic experience.
Packing your food and drinks for picnics can be the most exciting part. Picnics could be a fun way which contribute to our 5 a day. Packing your favourite dips, bites and drinks for picnics, what’s not to love.
Picnics and our 5 a day:
Smoothies are a popular drink choice for picnics as they can easily be made and are a refreshing drink in the heat. Smoothies can help you to stay hydrated while enjoying the sun.
Tips to create healthier smoothies:
-Add fruits and greens together to your smoothie, this helps to increase the fibre content
-If you want to sweeten your smoothie you can do so by adding fruits such as bananas, pineapple, mango or berries, the natural sweetness from the fruits can add a delicious flavour
-Adding milk, yogurt or kefir to your smoothie can help you feel fuller for longer and this provides a source of protein and calcium
-Adding spices such as cardamom, cinnamon and turmeric are a good way to boost the taste
-Remember, if you are taking a smoothie to your picnic it is recommended not to exceed a glass (150 ml) of unsweetened juice a day because sugar is released from fruit’s cells when blended, which makes it a free sugar and the fibre content is decreased. Therefore, it’s good to be mindful of how much you are drinking.
-You could infuse your still or sparkling water by adding your favourite flavours such as fruit or/and veg slices such as lemon, mint, rosemary, cinnamon sticks or basil. These flavours are a great way in creating a hydrating and refreshing drink.
Jumping to snacks and light bites, fill your picnic basket with healthy and colourful snacks options.
Tricks for preparing healthy snacks and dips:
-Add varieties of fruits and veg
-Go for fibre and protein rich dips, such as hummus, edamame bean, yogurt with mint, beetroot or avocado dips. These examples are rich in fibre, protein and are a source of vitamins and minerals.
-Fresh salads are one of the most traditional and healthy picnic foods, get creative and prepare your favourite salad mix.
-Include dietary fibre into your salad: quinoa, new potatoes with skin, legumes, beans and pulses.
-Chicken or falafel wraps, prawn or tuna tacos and veggie and cheese toasts are examples of light and delicious picnics snacks. Get creative in decorating your ingredients inside wraps, toasts and tacos with varieties of veggie and spices.
-Dress your salads with fresh or dried herbs or spices such as basil, mint or coriander or use olive oil, balsamic vinegar or yoghurt dressing.
Sweet snack ideas:
The humble fruit salad is a simple way to enjoy a colourful variety or fruits, you can enjoy the fruit salad with your favourite dressing e.g. zesty lemon, mint, honey and ginger, basil and lemon or mixed seeds and a yoghurt dressing. Using skewers or making fruit faces can be a fun way to get children interested in fruit. Using mason jars are a good way for pre-packaging your fruit salads or simply using large Tupperware bowls.
It feels like there is something missing!
Of course, ice creams are a firm favourite for many during summertime. Ice cream is usually high in sugar but here are some ways to enjoy your ice cream with a lower sugar content in comparison.
Making your own ice cream, sorbet or frozen yoghurt are great ways to make refreshing desserts. Using frozen fruits and yoghurt are a healthier and fun way.
Here is my favourite recipe for homemade ice cream, you will need:
· 4 ripe bananas (frozen overnight)
· 3-4 tbsp natural or Greek yoghurt
· 1 tbsp flaked almonds or roughly chopped nuts of choice
· 1 tbsp chocolate chips
· ½ tsp of honey (optional)
Mix all the ingredients (except for the chocolate chips and nuts) together in a food processor or mixer until you get a smooth and creamy texture. Scoop your ice cream into 4-5 small bowls and top with nuts and chocolate then freeze them again for 10 mins. Enjoy your ice cream, you can make any variation of the ice cream using other fruits such as frozen berries or mangoes using the same technique and get creative with your toppings. This can be a great activity to do with children.
Finally, enjoy your picnic and remember to drink water to help to you stay hydrated. Be mindful and plan your picnic basket ahead. Prepare homemade healthy options and try to estimate how much food is needed preferably per person to help to reduce food waste. Also, a top tip is to pack your food and drinks in reusable containers so you can bring your leftovers home.
1.Kondo et al, (2018) “Does spending time outdoors reduce stress? A review of real-time stress response to outdoor environments [Available via: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29604546/]
2.Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. Vitamin D and Health Report. (2016) [Available via https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-vitamin-d-and-health-report]