• jesswyly

Build a better Summer Picnic Basket in 2 steps

I couldn’t help but wonder...how do we decide what to pack for a picnic? Are we concerned with making good choices, even on these special eating adventures?

picnic, beach, sandwich, vegetables, healthy lunch
I don't own a picnic basket, but I do have some tupperware.

Last week I was at the beach with my fam jam, walking along the water, finding myself distracted… I wasn’t looking out onto the glistening lake, wasn’t looking at the jet skis cruising by, or the birds splashing in the water, I wasn’t even looking at the gun shows surrounding me...I was distracted by FOOD, what is everyone eating? Which is very typical of me...can have a one track mind sometimes. Why does food distract me so much?

Walking by each blanket or towel set-up and observing the feast on the beach. Small containers rammed with fresh, plump cherries, veggie trays with dip, random sandwiches with meat piled high (even some PB & J), bags of chips, snacks, candies and chocolates all a part of the picnic feast. And what I thought for each “station” I observed, was how good everything looked, and I couldn’t help but wonder...how do we decide what to pack for a picnic? Are we concerned with making good choices, even on these special eating adventures? Why not! We can always make better choices, even when it comes to packing a picnic lunch. So let me break it down for you real slow, actually there are 2 steps you can follow to build your “better picnic” menu, and it goes a little something like this.

  1. Ask yourself, what do you feel like eating? At the beach, camping, in the park, what are some foods you want/have positive memories attached to? This will help build your menu, you may say “‘Oh, we always had sandwiches when I was a kid, or we always ate brownies at the beach”, so naturally you WANT those foods. So DO NOT deprive yourself, just follow step number 2….

  2. Find better for you versions, or “made-over” recipes for your favorite foods, becuase there is ALWAYS a better version of something. Let me give you an example. If you always ate a processed ham sandwich with cheesewhiz or rubber cheese slice, you might try this change→

  • Whole Wheat Bread

  • Put LESS processed ham if you don’t change your meat altogether

  • Add veggies on that dang sammie, to replace the ham you removed :)

  • Use real cheese, or another creamy spread like light cream cheese or hummus

So you see, this is not complicated, we just think about it backwards. We start with “healthy” and force ourselves to bring hemp kale salads to the beach (though that sounds yumm) and we end up not eating what we want, which makes us think “healthy food” doesn’t taste good because we relate it to depriving our self. So basically, put yourself FIRST, then make your revisions, works every time. Now here are my revisions to some of my fav picnic treats.

Better for you breakfast ideas

  • Whole wheat English muffins with natural peanut butter

  • Fresh fruit like umm, any of them or fruit cups packed in water or light syrup

  • Hard Boiled Eggs

  • Individual yogurt or milks to go

  • Try this inspo for a mini-granola parfait to go

Mini-granola parfait to go

  • Start with a mason jar or small tupperware for layering your goods

  • I used Vegnola Granola here and added a generous tablespoon on the bottom

  • 1/2 cup of plain greek yogurt, with a drizzle of honey on-top (still in the jar)

  • another tablespoon of granola

  • topped off with 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

  • lid on and ready to transport

Better For You Meal Ideas (lunch or dinner)

  • Salad in a jar. Put your dressing on the bottom, followed by "harder" vegetables like sliced cucumbers and carrots. Add protein like chickpeas, chicken or chopped hard boiled eggs, then add "softer" vegetables like tomatoes, or some cheese and finish with salad greens and pumpkin seeds on top! Shake before, eat straight from the jar, or pour it upside down onto a plate.

  • Bring VEGGIES period, and a lot of them, fresh crisp and cleaned ready to eat. Try to pack them with a filling dip like hummus or greek yogurt dip.

  • Try leftover cold pasta salad here is my fav quick combo (cooked whole wheat noodles, greek salad dressing, chopped cucumber & tomato, feta cheese, and cubed cooked chicken)

  • SANDWICHES ARE EVERYTHING FOR ME. I just love them for a picnic lunch

EGGSALAD, a childhood favourite

Serves 4:

  • 6 hardboiled eggs, if you need a refresher on cooking the PERFECT hardboiled egg, check my blog post with video here

  • Smash cooled eggs in a bowl with the back of a fork

  • add 1 tbsp of olive oil mayo

  • add 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt

  • 1 quick squirt of dijon mustard

  • 2 tbsp chopped green onion

  • fresh cracked pepper

When packing this eggsalad, chill it VERY well in your cooler, and have it in a container, do not assemble sandwiches until you are ready to eat.

Better for you Snack or Dessert Ideas

  • Try trail mix paired with fresh fruit

  • Natures CANDY- Fresh Summa' time fruit, like plump berries bursting with fresh flavor

  • Pack whole wheat crackers or melba toast with cheese or canned tuna for dipping

  • Popcorn, but what I like to do is mix my popcorn with a handful of my favourite chips, and I take those chips and crush them into the popcorn, so it flavors the whole lot, but you are not eating all those chips!

  • Bring some sweet treats for dessert like muffin, banana bread, or these delicious, chewy Almond Energy Bars, they pack really well for a picnic ie) don't melt in the heat. Or if you have a cooler, these Sweet and Salty Energy Bites will satisfy that sweet craving too.

Now that you have a general idea of how to choose the foods you want for your picnic, and maybe have some possible food ideas, let's review some VERY IMPORTANT food safety tips. Food safety is the most important thing to consider in the preparation phase of a BBQ or picnic.

Remember to pack cold foods properly for a picnic

Cold foods or perishable foods like meat, poultry, eggs, fish (unless it is canned) and dairy products should be packed safely.

  • Use a cool or insulated bag with ice packs. I have a small freezer with no room for ice-packs so I suggest freezing water bottles and use those.

  • Eat perishable foods first when they’re still cold.

  • Keep the cooler out of direct sunlight, and if you are in direct sunlight, please wear sunscreen :)

Now here's the kicker....THROW AWAY any perishable foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours! When food goes bad or is spoiled, it may not necessarily look, smell or taste bad – but you can get very sick, so just toss it, and otherwise strive to avoid food waste in your life.

Tips to avoid cross contamination

Cross contamination means, the spreading of dirt or bacteria from one item to another, this can be hand to food (like sand or dirt), or bacteria from meat for example contaminating your fresh fruit.

  • Pack items separately like meals or snacks by using reusable plastic or glass containers and zip plastic bags

  • Keep it clean and wash out coolers and containers with hot soapy water

  • Wash your hands with soap often, or get some hand sanitizer, just remember this does not replace washing your hands. You don't want to be biting into that delicious sammy with grubby paws now do you?

OK RANT DONE, thanks mom right? , just had to make sure everyone is playing safe while they are picnicking:) Big Shout out to my Instagram community for giving me this inspiration on how to revise the summer picnic basic, it was a fun topic to pull content together for!

One last thing, sign up for my monthly NUTRITION REMIX and get excited about nutrition & food information delivered monthly, in point form, no fluff, with some humor and puns, in true SAS style.

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