The Summer Picnic Basket

By Shannon Crocker, MSc, RD

Summertime seems to offer up a never-ending temptation of treats. An afternoon visit to a friend’s pool comes with chips. A walk to the library leads to ice cream. And a trip to the park brings picnics.

As a dietitian and an avid park visitor, I know that packing a good picnic takes a little creativity. Let’s face it. Packaged salty snacks and sugary baked goods offer convenience. But healthy snacks can be simple too. More importantly, they can be delicious!

Whether you’re packing a small picnic for an afternoon down by the water or planning a family reunion feast at the park, these super summer snacks will help keep you and your family eating well.

  • Popcorn. Make it yourself (air-popped or stove-top) or buy a lightly salted, plain version. Skip the cheese popcorn – it often has close to the same calories and fat and more salt than potato chips!
  • Single-serve cups of cottage cheese. The protein in cottage cheese will keep you satisfied and that helps keep the munchies under control.Leftover, cooked corn-on-the-cob.
  • It’s tasty cold and is a fun, easy-to-eat picnic food – no forks required!
  • Wedges of watermelon. This is iconic picnic food – try drizzling with a squeeze of fresh lime for a tasty twist.
  • Tortilla swirls. Spread a whole grain tortilla with almond butter. Sprinkle with lightly salted trail mix. Place a banana on the tortilla and roll it up. Slice into small sections, wrap and refrigerate. Ready to go, sweet n’ savoury little snacks.
  • Snap peas. If you like a snack with crunch, try snap peas! Enjoy as is or serve with flavourful black bean dip or hummus.

To help beat the heat, keep plenty of drinks on ice in the cooler. Here are a few cool sips to pack for a day at the park:

  • Water – it’s your best bet for quenching thirst. Bring lots of water in reusable bottles. Or, try adding slices of orange to a big jug of water for a hint of citrus.
  • Homemade iced tea. Add a little honey or skip the sweet stuff and flavour with lemon.
  • Sparkling water or club soda. Both come in cans to drink “as is”. Or, pour into a cup and add some fresh sliced strawberries or raspberries and a sprig of mint.

The last thing you want at a picnic is for your fresh food to spoil. Keep your cooler in the shade and don’t forget to add ice packs to keep your picnic foods safe. Happy picnicking!

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