10 Aug 2022

Laurann O'Reilly: Top tips on how to plan the perfect summer picnic

In this week's Nationalist - out on Wednesday

Six top nutrition tips for boosting your immune health with Laurann O'Reilly

Laurann O'Reilly

The summer is well and truly upon us, with beautiful pockets of sunshine. What a great opportunity this is to get outdoors and enjoy amazing picnics, full of fresh ingredients, flavours and colours, weather permitting of course.

Here, nutritionist Laurann O’Reilly and owner of Nutrition by Laurann, brings us through her key tips for embracing the outdoors and planning a perfect and healthy picnic for you, your friends and family.

1) Satisfying Salads - Whether you have it as a side or as a main dish, salads are perfect for any picnic with so many options available
Salad Ideas

- Green Leafy Salad: A great way to get those greens in with lettuce, kale, spinach and rocket salads. Tip: Why not top with some microgreens for an extra nutrition hit

- Potato Salad: You can’t go wrong with your traditional potato salad. Tip: Use light mayo to reduce the energy content and mix in some spring onions for some extra flavour

- Coleslaw: Another traditional salad which almost everyone loves. Tip: Why not add in some raisins for a little hint of sweetness.

- Wholegrain Rice/Pasta/ Quinoa/Couscous Salad: A great one to prepare in advance and can be packed full of delicious proteins (see below), vegetables, nuts and seeds.

- Raw Veggie Salads: Such as chopped carrots, broccoli, cucumber, tomatoes and beetroot.

2) Picnic Proteins - Be sure to include some delicious protein options such as lean meats which you can season and cook up in advance, as well as plant-based protein options and cheeses.

Picnic Protein Ideas

- Lean Meats: Cooked chicken, turkey, ham and fish (for example salmon, tuna or mackerel).

- Plant Based Proteins: Tofu, tempeh, edamame, cooked lentils, roasted chickpeas, nuts and seeds.

- A selection of cheeses: Why not try a combination of cheddar, brie, Cashel blue or you can check out the ‘Old Irish Creamery’ for their unique and distinctly flavoured cheeses such as pumpkin, blueberry, chilli and smoked versions for something different.

Tip: Don’t forget your cheese board and knife

3) Choose Brown/Wholegrain - Not only are they a great source of fibre which aids healthy digestion, it will also help you feel more satisfied, as well keeping your blood sugar levels stable.

Healthy Wholegrain Ideas: Wholegrain bread, wholegrain/seeded crackers, wholewheat pitta bread, brown pasta/rice, quinoa and tabbouleh dishes.

4) Healthy Fats - We can fit in some delicious healthy fats into our picnic too, this will help us absorb our fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E & K as well as benefits for our hair, skin, nails, joints, circulation and concentration.

Healthy Fat Ideas

- Nuts: Hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and cashew nuts

- Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower and sesame

- Oils: Extra virgin olive oil/rapeseed oil

Tip: Why not mix a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and some pumpkin seeds for a tasty salad dressing

5) Fresh Fruit - Why not add some pre-prepared/chopped fruit in your picnic mix. You also can’t beat a delicious and healthy fresh fruit salad.

Fresh Fruit Ideas: Strawberries, raspberries, chopped watermelon, sliced apples, mandarins, grapes

6) Freshly Prepared Vegetables - Your picnic can be a great opportunity to fit in some extra veggies which can work a treat along with a healthy dip

Fresh Vegetables Ideas: Celery/carrot/cucumber sticks, sliced peppers and cherry tomatoes

7) Delicious Dips – You’ll definitely be needing some healthy and delicious dips which can also be used as sandwich filling on the day too.

- Salsa: Why not add a bit of spice to your picnic with a little salsa dip, perfect for dipping your veggies and also it goes beautifully with a small portion of tortilla chips.

- Reduced Fat Hummus: Not only is the perfect dip for your freshly prepared vegetables but being made from chickpeas it’s a great source of protein. Tip: Opt for the ‘reduced fat’ version to keep down the energy content.

- Guacamole: This always goes down a treat, not only is it tasty and great to prepare in advance but avocados are also a great source of healthy fat. Tip: Half an avocado is a good adult portion size so keep this in mind when preparing your dish.

8) Picnic Drinks – You may need some healthy drinks to wash down some of your delicious food. Remember to keep in mind your ‘liquid calories’ such as those found in full sugar fizzy drinks and alcohol, here are some healthy options.

- Alcohol Free Alternatives: As I mentioned in last week’s column, the alcohol-free trend is well and truly upon us. Whilst some may fancy a glass of wine or a beer, here are some alcohol-free alternatives. For those who may have missed it, here’s a little reminder:

1) Beers: Such as Guinness 0%, Heineken 0%, Carlsberg Pilsner 0% and Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0%,

2) Ciders: Bulmers 0%, Kopparberg Alcohol Free Mixed Fruit Cider and

3) Gins: Gordon’s London Dry Gin 0.0%, Cedars Crisp Non-Alcoholic and Silk Tree Irish based gin alternative,

4) Vodka: STRYKK Not Vodka,

5) Wines: Torres Natureo Tinto 0.5% or White 0.5% and Carl Jung Red or Sparkling Non-Alcoholic Wine

- Safe Squashes: Whilst most squash drinks can contain artificial sweeteners, my favourite is ‘MiWadi sweetened with stevia’ (a natural sweetener) which comes in a range of different flavours such as orange, apple and pear and apple berry. This can be found in most larger supermarkets such as SuperValu, Tesco and Dunnes Stores.

- Fruit Infused Water – For those who don’t like the taste of water on its own, why not fruit infuse your water overnight. Not only does it taste amazing but it’s also great for your digestion. Tip: Why not try lemon and cucumber or some lime and mint leaves.

9) Jarcuterie: A play with the traditional charcuterie boards, these are jars filled with beautiful ingredient combinations, such as bread sticks/crackers, meats, cheese and fresh fruits. These are great to prepare in advance and perfect for outdoor dining and picnics.

10) Healthy Treats: You’re allowed the odd treat, but you don’t have to totally fall off the wagon completely either as treats can also be healthy such as

- Dark Chocolate: That is chocolate above 70% cocoa, is a healthier alternative to your regular chocolate being rich in antioxidants and lower in sugar.

- Raw Energy Balls: These no bake healthy treats are so easy to make up in advance, see recipe below!

11) Local Produce: Why not add check out some local and award-winning Tipperary food producers who can provide some delicious ingredients for your perfect picnic.

- The Apple Farm: Why not pick up some fresh juices, cider, fruits such as apples, pears, plums, sweet cherries, strawberries and raspberries. Check out

- Tullahay Farm: With a range of delicious savoury soft cheeses (chilli & honey and tomato and basil) as well as two fruit flavoured whey drinks (mango and passion fruit and raspberry) these could be the perfect addition to your picnic. Check out

- Irish Hedgerow: With a beautiful range of sparkling elderflower refresher drinks. Wild elderflowers are handpicked from hedgerows of Tipperary. A great way to quench that picnic thirst. Check out www.

- Martins Fruit & Veg: Not only do they stock a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, they also hold a range of gourmet foods including sauces, cereals and fresh treats. Check out martinsfruitvegclonmel

- Hickeys Bakery: If you’re looking for some traditional soda bread, pastries or Hickey’s famous sliced pan bread to make up some tasty sandwiches you can find them all here. Check out

- Blanco Niño: If you need some tortillas for your beautiful fresh dips this Tipperary based company is a great choice. For stockists check out

- Ayle Foods: Producing a range of award-winning artisan chutneys, juices, relishes, cooking sauces and preserves with the purest ingredients these could be the perfect accompaniment to your picnic. Check out www.

- Clonmore Foods: If you fancy some fresh, naturally grown, seasonal, nutritious salads, herbs, fruit and vegetables which are free of pesticides and artificial fertilisers then this one’s for you and can be perfect for your picnic salad. Check out www.

12) Reusables/Recyclables: Be sure to pack enough cups, plates and cutlery. We can also play our part in being environmentally conscious too through using washable or recyclable versions.

13) Food Safety: It’s important to be cautious of perishable foods such as cooked meats, cheeses and salads. Tip: Keep these in the fridge until the very last moment before you leave and then pack into prepared cooler bags, so that they don’t overheat on your journey.

14) Plan Some Entertainment: Be it for the adults or the children, it’s always handy to have some back up entertainment these could be cards, board games, books, colouring books, music or a bucket and spade.

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