National picnic month
As July is here, we have officially entered the national picnic month of the year! Warm sunshine, blue skies, plus the summer holiday, when would be a better time to gather family and friends around to enjoy a lovely picnic session?
Here @Dietitianfit, we are delighted to offer some useful tips for you to plan your picnic and enjoy the foods that will benefit your loved ones’ wellbeing.
What to put in the picnic basket/bag?
Let’s start from the basics. Here are some of the necessities you may want to bring with you when you hop on the car:
- Picnic blanket
- Hand sanitisers
- Thermos or other containers to keep liquids cool
- Kitchen towel for any spillage and cleaning
- Tissues and wet wipes
- Rubbish bags
- Sun scream
Insect repellents (why not try out mixing peppermint essential oil with water in a spray bottle?)
For the best experience, food safety comes in no second place. It’s always a good idea to choose foods that don’t require refrigeration, this way you can perfectly avoid the nuisance of having to pack everything with ice bags. Some examples include fresh fruits, oil/vinegar dressed salads, bread, canned fish and spread.
If you want to be cautious or would like the privilege of enjoying some of the more perishable options such as homemade pasta or chopped raw foods, a thermal lunch bag with several ice packs may just save the day! If you would rather save the ice bags, a handy way of replacing them is to freeze your bottled drinks and put them in the thermal lunch bag. They will thaw before lunchtime, but still, keeping the food nice and cold.
Do be careful with mayonnaise in your food, as it can go bad in a few hours at room temperature due to the egg it contains. Fresh cheese, such as cream cheese, can go bad soon enough as well, but you’ll be happy to know that aged cheese such as cheddar or parmesan lasts a little longer than fresh cheese and that bringing unopened packs with you is always worth the effort.
Foods and Beverages
It is a good idea to base your picnic on fruits and vegetables, and the idea of enjoying natural whole foods in nature may just appeal to you.
If you fancy nice sandwiches or tortillas wraps, why not choose whole grain options that will give you extra fibre and vitamins? If you would like to have an extra crunch, how about replacing some of the wraps with nice, large lettuce leaves? Using mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise just takes the freshness to another level. Make sure that you also include some protein in your meal; foods such as beans, pulses, lean meat & fish will keep you fuller for longer and sustain your energy better too!
When it comes to drinks, people may enjoy a variety of different options. These can include carbonated drinks and alcoholic beverages. There is nothing wrong with occasionally having these drinks, but there are healthier options that may just bring you the same amount of joy. If you would like to see whether these work for you, here are some ideas for drinks to bring to your picnic:
Water infused with sliced fruit such as watermelon or lemon can bring the freshness of the summer right to your heart -don’t forget to pack some ice cubes in your thermos to chill them down. If you would be a little experimental, you could try creating your own herb-infused water – mint works really well! The antioxidants in the herbs will diffuse into the water and give you that extra health benefit. Similarly, flavoured unsweetened tea may be an ideal substitution for your favourite sweetened commercial drinks. With these, you can explore the variety of flavours out there while enjoying all the benefits that tea has to offer.
If you would rather buy drinks off the shelves for convenience, where possible choose the no added sugar versions. Remember the term ‘carbonated drink’ doesn’t automatically mean unhealthy, it’s the sugar that comes with them that we want to be aware of. It is a good idea to keep your daily free sugar intake under 30g, which is equal to the amount of sugar found in around 3/4 regular can of coke.
Do you ever feel a little bit guilty about how the foods you have? Are you worried about picnics may make you gain weight, yet you in no way want to miss these valuable occasions with your loved ones? If these feelings prevent you from fully enjoying the fun picnic session with family and friends, mindful eating practice may just be helpful for you!
This wonderful idea of mindfulness originates from Zen Buddhism, and it has gained increasing popularity in promoting healthy eating behaviours. At the centre of mindful eating is focusing on the emotional and physical sensations of the foods that you enjoy at the very present moment, in a non-judgemental manner.
Here are some practical tips for incorporating mindful eating into your picnic session!
- Slow down your pace and focus. Put away your phone and devote your full attention to the food in front of you, the bite that you are going to take, and the nature around you.
- Think about where the food came from, how it was produced, who prepared it and how it relates to nature, to sunshine, and to the soil underneath your picnic blanket.
- Don’t bring any assumptions about food with you when trying them. For instance, most of us have had wholegrain bread before, hence you have developed either a preference or a distaste for it. Try to forget about this for now but re-meet the food as if you have never encountered it before. Without judgement, let the next step show you everything about this food.
- Look at the sandwich you are holding, pause, and then appreciate it. How does it feel between your figures? How does it smell? Experience and feel the sensation of the softness it gives you when you take a small first bite. Imagine how it is then digested in your body and all the nourishment it will release, as well as the energy and vigour that comes along.
- After the first bite, accept however it makes you feel. You may experience an intense joyfulness, or perhaps you would rather not take a second bite. Please know that both are okay, and there is no right answer here. Don’t feel obliged to force yourself. Instead, try out another option, until you find a range of right foods for you.
- Remember, you don’t have to eat all of what’s available. Embrace the satisfaction that each bite of food gives you and check in with your body afterwards. Does it give you satiety? Or is your body telling you that you need more nourishment right now? If it’s the latter, then don’t hesitate to take on another bite.
- Finally, you don’t need to set particular goals or expectations. Bringing in thoughts such as weight loss goals doesn’t facilitate mindfulness. In contrast, work on having the mindset that what happens in this moment will happen, try to enjoy the present moment and let go of your expectations.
At first, practising mindfulness may not be as easy as it seems, especially when we are so used to always multitask during the day. However, slowing down is the key. In the long run, mindful eating has been proven to promote positive eating behaviour, reduce stress levels and of course, facilitate weight loss.
If you would like more personalised advice on mindful eating, enhancing healthy eating behaviour or weight loss, reach out to our team now and we are always here to help.
Nelson, J., 2017. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presence While You Eat. Diabetes Spectrum, [online] 30(3), pp.171-174. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5556586/>.
The Nutrition Source. n.d. Mindful Eating. [online] Available at: <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/mindful-eating/> [Accessed 6 July 2022].
Thompson, J., Manore, M. and Vaughan, L., 2019. The science of nutrition. 5th ed. New Tork: Pearson Education, pp.533, 534.