6 superfoods to pack for a picnic
Spring is the perfect season to head outdoors. So, there’s no better time to pack a picnic with your favorite foods. Instead of including the same old staples, focus on foods that add a fun — and healthy — spin to your next outdoor outing. A good source of inspiration? Superfoods. Superfoods are often plant-based. And many offer an array of nutrients and health benefits.
Here are 6 superfoods that will make a tasty addition to your picnic.
In need of a salad or starter? Try avocados. They’re packed with heart-healthy fat, fiber, and vitamins, including B, C, and K. Make a classic dish like guacamole. Just go easy on the salt, and consider using veggies, whole wheat crackers, or sweet potato chips for dipping. Or make a salad with avocado, thinly sliced red onion, orange sections, butter lettuce, and a simple lemon vinaigrette. No matter the dish, remember to add lemon or lime juice to keep your avocados from turning brown.
They may seem like an odd choice for a picnic, but this member of the legume family makes a great pick. Chickpeas (sometimes called garbanzo beans) contain fiber and give you a dose of plant-based protein. And you can easily roast a batch at home. Sweeten them up by tossing them with olive oil, cinnamon, and a (small) sprinkling of sugar, then roast until crisp. Or go spicy with your seasonings by coating them with cayenne pepper or chili powder. You could also try cardamom, ground cloves, minced garlic, or ancho chili powder. Spicy or sweet, chickpeas provide a satisfying crunch — and a great alternative to chips. Another bonus? Chickpeas are inexpensive and can usually be found in your local grocery store.
For many people, no picnic is complete without a bowl of potato salad. One way to include this popular dish while still eating healthy? Use olive oil instead of mayo to make the dressing. It’s a heart-healthy choice. And an olive oil-based dressing can be served at room temperature, so you won’t have to worry about the dish spoiling. Whisk olive oil with Dijon mustard — and consider adding other flavor boosters such as sherry or champagne vinegar. You can also sneak in more good-for-you foods, like tomatoes, green beans, or herbs.
A great source of protein and fiber, quinoa is a strong base for salads or a grain bowl. Build a hearty dish by combining it with sweet potatoes, sautéed chard or spinach, walnuts, shredded carrots, and a tasty citrus dressing. And consider arranging your quinoa salad ingredients in mason jars. They make for convenient storage — and help keep your salad crisp. If you want to include a meat protein, simply add grilled or roasted chicken breast. Be sure to store any perishable items in a cooler so they don’t spoil.
Skip the brownies and cookies, and instead bring along beautiful berries for dessert. They’re delicious and will add a splash of color to your picnic table — or blanket. Blueberries are an especially smart choice. Full of antioxidants and potassium, they can even help lower your risk of heart disease.1,2
Pass on sugar-heavy drinks, like lemonade, and opt for refreshing, antioxidant-rich green tea. The compounds found in green tea can help protect you from certain types of cancer.3 And you can up the superfood power by including ginger root. Add a few pieces of peeled, sliced ginger to a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 or so minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, steep tea bags in the water, then strain, and cool.
Not a tea fan? Make your own flavored water by adding sliced strawberries, and even jalapeños, for an added kick. You’ll get a dose of spicy and sweet —- minus the sugar.
For more recipe ideas, check out our Food for Health blog.
1Cai-Ning Zhao et al, “Fruits for Prevention and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease,” Nutrients, June 13, 2017, mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/6/598/htm.
2Aedín Cassidy et al, “High Anthocyanin Intake Is Associated With a Reduced Risk of Myocardial Infarction in Young and Middle-Aged Women,” Circulation, January 15, 2013, ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.112.122408.
3Sarah C. Forester and Joshua D. Lambert, “Antioxidant Effects of Green Tea,” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, May 2, 2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3679539/.