A Healthy Summer Picnic Plan by Kate Ortak, Holistic Nutritionist #wellbeingwednesday
Summer picnic. For most people, those two words conjure up memories of family, friends, laughter, fresh air and fun in the sun. Without fail, these memories are wrapped up in a red checkered tablecloth full of delicious food, because let’s face it, everything always tastes better when you eat it outside.
When planning a picnic, the first thing we often organize is the menu and sometimes it’s the only thing. Most people stock up on salty and sweet snacks, like chips and candy, sugary drinks like pop and alcohol, and processed foods like hotdogs and hamburgers or sandwiches with cured, lunch meats.
These picnic staples can leave you feeling bloated, sluggish and uncomfortable. Just because picnics feel like a vacation from busy life, doesn’t mean they need to be a vacation from healthy eating too.
With these three delicious and healthy recipes, you can take in everything a summer picnic has to offer without sacrificing any of the flavour and fun.
The Best Homemade Iced Tea
Water makes up 70% of our bodies. It is the main component in blood which is needed to transport oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in muscles. On a hot summer day, your body temperature can rise 1ºF every 5mins so staying hydrated is crucial whether playing frisbee, badminton or tag.
Drinking enough water helps to reduce muscle cramps, prevent heat exhaustion and combat heatstroke. Staying hydrated during those hot summer days is easy with this delicious homemade iced tea. It’s so flavourful and refreshing, you won’t miss the artificial, sugary options.
You’ll need 2L water, 4 teabags or 4tbsp loose leaf of your favourite tea. I like raspberry, mint rooibos or cinnamon liquorice.
Simply boil the water and add teabags or loose leaves to steep overnight. In the morning, remove the bags or strain out the loose leaves and add 1-2 sliced lemons. Taste the tea and dilute with water to your taste, if necessary.
I like my iced tea unsweetened but if you prefer a sweeter taste, add 1tbsp of real maple syrup or raw honey. You can also add fresh mint leaves, quartered strawberries or sliced oranges for a beautiful assortment of colours.
Pour into glass jars and store in cooler, with a separate container of ice, to keep cold and for serving at the picnic. When you’re ready to serve, simply add ice and enjoy!
Tex-mex Quinoa Lettuce Boats
Now that you’ve got the beverages covered, onto the main course. Even though hotdogs and sandwiches with cured deli meats are all-time picnic favourites, there are very good reasons to ditch the processed meats for good.
Full of preservatives, nitrates, nitrites, flavourings and colourings, you’ll want to avoid these processed foods. Instead try these Tex-Mex Quinoa Lettuce Boats, they’re quick and easy to make, handheld for convenience, and are sure to become your family’s new favourite picnic tradition.
Tex-Mex Quinoa Lettuce Boats
2 cups cooked quinoa
2 tsp taco seasoning (recipe below)
8-12 romaine lettuce leaves (depending on size and how hungry you are)
1 small red onion, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, cubed
1.5 cup black beans
15 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1-2 ripe avocado, pitted and cubed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced (adjust depending on how spicy you like it)
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Taco Seasoning (make a batch ahead of time and keep in jar with other spices):
1 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1.5 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
Rinse quinoa well and cook according to package. You can cook the quinoa in water or I like to use GoBio stock cubes for a little extra flavour. Once the quinoa is cooked, stir in taco seasoning. Do this to your taste preferences – add less or more depending on how flavourful you like your food.
Tear lettuce leaves off the head and wash. Pat dry or put in a spinner and pack away for use at the picnic. You can also use endive or collard leaves instead. Dice the red onion, chop green pepper, drain and rinse the black beans, half the cherry tomatoes and add all to the quinoa.
Remove the pit and peel of the avocado, cut into cubes and add to the salad.
Combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust any seasonings to personal preference. Toss quinoa salad with dressing and store in a large bowl with lid. Pack the bowl with a serving spoon for when you’re ready to eat at the picnic.
Lastly, onto many people’s favourite part of any gathering, the dessert. Avoid loading up on cookies and cakes full of artificial colours and flavours, as well as additives like maltodextrin and soy lecithin and go with real, whole foods. I promise you’ll notice the difference in your energy levels and the way you feel. After dessert comes a game of frisbee so make sure you’re at your best with these summer fruit kebabs.
Summer Fruit Kebabs with Vanilla Orange Mint Marinade
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange
2 whole vanilla beans with inside scraped out, or 2tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
1 pint strawberries, washed, tops removed
1 pint blueberries
1/2 cup chopped pineapple
2 ripe kiwis
1/2 ripe cantaloupe melon, chopped into pieces
Prepare the fruit and marinade and let the flavours combine in a large bowl while you make the quinoa salad from above, about 30min. Once the quinoa is packed and you’re almost ready to go, use wooden skewers to make the kebabs by skewering the fruit pieces in a colourful assortment. This is a great activity to get the kids involved in picnic food prep. Place the fruit kebabs in a tupperware and pour remaining juice on top.
Pack your goodies in a basket, grab a blanket and a sun hat and you’re ready to enjoy a long, lazy day in the park.