How to have a healthy picnic

Summer is the perfect time to get the family together for a day out in the country or by the seaside – and, of course, that great British tradition, a picnic.

But if your idea of a picnic includes nothing but pork pies, sausage rolls, packets of crisps and salads swimming in mayonnaise, you’ll be eating way too much salt, fat and calories.

So how can you make sure your hamper is healthy?

Here’s a quick guide to packing a nutritious picnic:

1. Choose whole grain or wholemeal versions of starchy foods such as bread, rice and pasta. And if you’re making potato salad, leave the skins on whenever possible.

2. Add some healthy proteins, including cold meats, fish, eggs, beans and pulses (add beans and pulses to salads, for instance). Dairy foods are good sources of protein too, but try adding low-fat cheese and yoghurt instead of the full-fat varieties.

3. Include salad to your sandwiches or make a big bowl of salad with as many colours as possible (peppers, tomato, grated carrots, red cabbage etc). Use a low-fat yoghurt-based dressing instead of mayonnaise (add the dressing just before you eat to make sure the salad doesn’t go soggy). Alternatively, chop up some carrots, cucumbers and celery to go with low-fat dips.

4. Take low-fat fruit yoghurts and lots of fresh fruit for dessert instead of chocolate biscuits or cakes.

5. Forget fizzy sugary drinks. Instead, bring lots of water, milk or diluted fruit juice or sugar-free squash.

It’s also important to make sure your picnic doesn’t end with a bout of food poisoning. Here are some tips to keep your outdoor feast safe:

  • Store cooked foods in the fridge overnight so they’re properly chilled before you pack them.
  • Pack foods as they come out of the fridge (don’t let them get warm).
  • Keep any meats, fish or eggs cold by packing them with ice blocks, ideally in a cooler bag. If you don’t have any ice blocks, use a frozen bottle of water that’s about two-thirds full.
  • When you reach your destination, store your hamper in a shady spot instead of leaving it in the sun or in the car.
  • Wash your hands before you eat. Pack some moist wipes if you’re not going to be near water.
  • Take plenty of cutlery and use different serving spoons for each dish.
  • Unpack your picnic just before you’re going to eat and throw away any food that’s not eaten within two hours.

Don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun, even if it’s cloudy when you have your picnic. Ask your local Careway pharmacist to recommend a suitable sun cream with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Read more about the right way to apply sun cream in Does your sunscreen technique measure up? and How to keep children safe in the sun.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.