Although our infamous British weather often threatens gloomy rainclouds on what may initially promise to be the most pleasant of summer days, from time to time it does allow us a break long enough to enjoy that rare combination - warm sunshine, gentle breeze and a clear sky.
What better way to enjoy those sun-drenched, lazy days than with a picnic with friends or family?
Whether you head to the park, the beach, or simply sit outside in your own back garden, picnics are such an ‘oh-so-very-British’ pastime that it would almost be rude not to…
As fun as they can be, picnics present a situation in which it can be alarmingly easy to eat large quantities of food – and lots of the food available is often less than healthy. High-fat sausage rolls, salty crisps, super-sweet cakes and mayonnaise-filled sandwiches can play havoc with your blood glucose levels and overall diabetes management.
We’ve compiled a list of tips and suggestions to ensure that you don’t fall foul of picnic eating. After all, you should still be able to enjoy these outdoor occasions without having to worry about sabotaging a healthy diet.
You’ll also find some great, healthy picnic food ideas that are right at home on a checkered blanket.
Healthier picnic checklist
We've created a handy Healthier Picnic Checklist (PDF, 233 KB) to make supermarket shopping ahead of your picnic quick and easy.
There are links at the bottom of the page to all of our tasty recipes should you require more ingredients.
Top tips for a perfect picnic
- Choose wholegrain varieties of starchy carbs such as wholemeal rice or pasta in salads, potato salads with the skins left on, and wholegrain bread for sandwiches.
- For cold meats, try leaner options such as chicken or turkey breast rather than salami or ham.
- Add crunch to sandwiches with extra veggies such as pepper, carrot, cucumber and lettuce.
- Use beans and pulses in a salad to up the protein content and to make it more filling.
- Swap sugary and fatty treats such as cake and crisps for healthier alternatives – mixed nuts, fruit, unsalted rice cakes and low-fat fruit yoghurts make great replacements.
- Sip on water, no-added sugar squash or diet drinks to stay hydrated.
- Make your own dips, dressings and marinades from scratch at home to avoid the high fat, sugar and salt content from shop-bought varieties.
- From playing games to going for a walk, combine your picnic with some physical activity to maximise the health benefits.
Stuck for ideas on how to bring the ‘wow factor’ to your next picnic? Try experimenting with our picnic-style essential dishes to add something a little healthier to your wicker basket. In addition to picnic staples such as sandwiches, why not try some of these suggestions?
Picnic safety tips
- Reduce the opportunity for bacteria to multiply by keeping cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Salads, dairy foods, cooked meats and rice-based salads, in particular, should be kept cool until needed. Be careful they aren’t left in direct sunlight. If you haven’t yet got one, invest in a cool bag - they can be bought from most supermarkets.
- Keep the number of times a food bag or container is opened to a minimum to reduce contamination.
- Rinse fresh fruit and veg under running tap water at home before packing them.
- Hot weather brings with it the risk of dehydration – drink plenty of water, no-added sugar squashes or diet drinks. If you’re drinking alcohol, stick to safe drinking guidelines and alternate with non-alcoholic drinks.