The summer is meant for outdoor activities and loads of socializing, but due to coronavirus restrictions, many people are avoiding large group gatherings and crowded attractions like amusement parks. So what’s a person to do when the sun is shining and the fresh air is beckoning? Grab your closest friends and family for the perfect picnic, of course!
But planning a great picnic takes more than just grabbing a basket full of sammies and heading to the park. Use these expert-approved tips to prep for success.
1. Drink Up
No, we’re not talking about sipping on chilled rosé. Be sure to always pack water when spending extensive time outdoors to keep hydration high. “Pack your drinks in mason jars with ice, as this can help them stay cold,” suggests The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionist Karen Cooney, M.A., C.N., C.H.H.C.
Aim to drink a baseline of at least half your body weight in ounces of water. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, you’d have about nine cups of water for the day.
It also won’t hurt to add some form of electrolytes to help replenish lost minerals from sweat—especially if you’ll be active in the heat, Cooney adds. “You can add in electrolyte tablets or drink something with electrolytes, like coconut water or a low-sugar sports drink.”
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One of Cooney’s favorite options: Nuun. “Nuun offers several flavors of their advanced electrolyte hydration tabs to replenish more electrolytes than just sodium,” she says.
2. Keep Things Chill
It’s essential to keep any foods you plan to consume during your outdoor activities at a safe temperature throughout the day.
“I highly recommend using an ice pack,” says Kelly Jones, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN. Generally, after two hours away from the fridge, contamination or bacteria can spread. When temps reach above 90 degrees, though, your safety zone is only an hour, according to the USDA.
Avoid melty sweet treats by packing something like Lily’s Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels, which contain chicory root fiber and are less likely to liquify in the heat, Jones adds. (They’re also made with fair-trade chocolate and are low in sugar.)
3. Go Plant-Based
Jones suggests limiting the amount of animal-based foods you include in your basket, since they are most likely to carry food-borne bacteria when exposed to heat.
Can’t imagine a picnic without deli meat? Don’t worry, there are plenty of picnic-friendly plant-based foods you can enjoy. Make this an opportunity to experiment with more produce and plant proteins, like beans, edamame, or quinoa salads, Jones suggests.
“A bean salad or taco as the entrée—sans chicken, cheeses, or mayo dressings—is a great plant-protein idea,” says Cooney. “Tortillas can be wrapped in foil to keep warm and salad can be packed in one tightly sealed bowl.”
As far as snacks go, try Bada Bean Bada Boom Crunchy Broad Beans. “I love the texture and flavors of these bean snacks,” Jones says. Plus, they provide filling protein and fiber.
4. Don’t Forget the Carbs
Spending your day outside is not the time to experiment with cutting carbs, since they’re so crucial for energy and hydration.
“Carbohydrates are stored in the muscles and liver as glycogen, which hold on to three milliliters of water per gram,” Jones explains. “If your glycogen stores are depleted, you won’t be able to maintain adequate hydration as easily in the heat.”
Add some snackable bread (like a sliced whole-wheat baguette with nut butter), salads full of hearty grains (like quinoa and buckwheat), or chips and dip.
Another fun option: peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls. To make them, spread peanut butter and jelly onto tortilla wraps, and then simply roll them up. Slice into sushi-sized pieces for a fun, high-protein finger food that will keep you (and hungry kids) feeling satisfied. You can also work with hummus and veggies, or bananas and nut butter.
Of course, fruits are also excellent sources of both carbohydrates and fluids, so don’t forget the watermelon, grapes, mango, cantaloupe, and berries, Jones adds.
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