Lifestyle Tips — healthy eating

6 Healthy Picnic Ideas That Are Big On Flavor

6 Healthy Picnic Ideas That Are Big On Flavor

Healthy Picnic Ideas

If there's one thing that we here at MEP HQ believe in is that no matter how old you are, throwing a checkered blanket down over grass and opening a basket full of goodies can turn any bad day into a good one. With National Picnic Day coming up (that's on April 23rd, you guys!), we can finally turn our backs on winter's gloomy mood and take the party outside.

Of course, planning and prepping for a family picnic is no walk in the park, especially when you want to keep your little ones nourished. That's why we rounded up six healthy picnic ideas to help you pack the perfect (a.k.a. balanced) alfresco lunch with minimal effort. So, let's show everyone that eating healthy while in the great outdoors is totally doable, shall we?

Load Up On Freeze Dried Vegetables Instead of Chips

Serving lots of veggies on your picnic table/blanket is always a good idea. But, keeping them fresh for your family to enjoy isn't always possible unless you own a super duper cooler. Since that takes a lot of effort, money, and space, we’ve come up with a less expensive alternative that's just as tasty and nutritious as the real deal. Folks, say hello to freeze dried veggies.

These bite-sized treats are basically fresh vegetables with a long shelf life. Specifically, they're stripped of the water, which makes them somewhat immune to spoiling, especially when stored at the right temperature. With that in mind, they're addictively crunchy and get to retain their original flavor and nutrients, making them the perfect snack for a day out in the sun.

Choose Nut Butter Over Cheese Spreads

Another easy way to healthify your picnic basket is to ditch the store bought cheesy spreads. These uber yummy treats can sure make your bland sandwiches taste better, but they're often packed with additives and preservatives that won't do your health any favors.

On the flip side, nut butters (preferably homemade) are rich in healthy fats, fiber(1), and protein, meaning they provide your body with lots of energy and can keep you full for longer. That's perfect for keeping up with all the picnic activities (think games, walking, etc.) without having to grab a bite every now and then.

Swap Bread for Whole Grain Crackers

We'd be lying if we said that we don't like to indulge in a freshly baked baguette during our picnics. But, more often than not, we try to keep our fondness for the carb treat on the DL, because not only does it make us crave more carbs but it's also a bonafide "bed" for other gut-busting noshes, such as butter, meat, cheese, etc.

That's actually why we prefer to pack a box of whole grain crackers instead and keep our and our little ones' cravings under control. For those of you who are wondering what's up with whole grain snacks: they are rich in fiber, meaning they can satiate our hunger on the spot, so no nibbling between activities. That's a win in our book!

Pro tip: For an extra dose of nutrients, make sure you grab a box enriched with ingredients like quinoa, flax, pumpkin,  or sesame seeds.

Prefer Fruit Infused Water and Ditch the Caffeine

Although the word "caffeine" conjures up images of adults sipping on coffee, you should know that most sodas on the market today pack their fair share of the stimulant. With that in mind, when you give your little one a can of soda, you basically give them a hall pass to an unnecessary amount of caffeine which is not good for their developing body.

On the other side, you and everyone in the family need to hydrate as much as possible, and for small children who want to have fun, water doesn't always cut it – especially when all the other kids are sipping on flashy colored drinks.

That's when fruit infused water steps in. Thanks to its popping color, the homemade drink is a favorite amongst kids - who have no trouble downing it. Experts(2) even suggest that (besides keeping you hydrated) fruit infused water helps regulate blood sugar levels and soothes digestion, so you and your little ones are in for a slew of health benefits.

Pro tip: Freeze dried fruit and veggies are an excellent alternative to fresh produce, which tends to go bad pretty quickly, especially when outside the fridge.

Ditch the Plastic Containers and Embrace Mason Jars

It's no secret that plastic containers aren't friendly to the environment. But, what you may not know is that they're also not friendly to your health. Most of them are made using a chemical known as Bisphenol A(3) (BPA), which may not be classified as carcinogenic but has raised a lot of eyebrows in the scientific community.

In the spirit of being proactive, we recommend you ditch the plastic stuff and opt for mason jars instead. So, if you have a salad, parfait, or scramble that needs to be transported, these glass containers are the safest alternative. More than that, stuffing your goodies in mason jars will help you control how much you eat.

Opt For Homemade Desserts Instead of Store Bought Sugary Treats

Ever heard of the #1 (unwritten) picnic rule? You know, the one that says you should always save room for dessert? Well, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes are classic choices for a successful picnic, but unfortunately, they're up to no good healthwise. From added sugar to food colorings and preservatives, store bought sweet treats are there to throw your family's clean eating goals out the window.

Of course, that doesn't mean you should ditch desserts from your picnic basket. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with homemade treats, such as granola bars, nut butter cups, or fruit leather. This way you'll know the last (and usually sneakiest) course of your alfresco meal is low in sugar and high in all the right nutrients.

Do you know any other ways to make your picnic basket a tad healthier? Let us know in the comments down below!


5 Easy Ways to Stick To Your Diet When Eating Out With Your Friends.

5 Easy Ways to Stick To Your Diet When Eating Out With Your Friends.

Follow these tips to help you stick to your diet when eating out with friendsIt’s tough to stick to your diet, especially when eating out. You have no control over the ingredients used or the portions, unlike when eating home-cooked meals.
Restaurants serve food that is appealing to their customers. Sadly, most of their foods tend to be unhealthy. They are often high in fat, salt, and sugar, thus making them addictive.
You probably eat out a lot due to your work schedule. Furthermore, eating out is a social occasion for friends and families, thus we cannot rule it out. You just have to control it.
Is it possible to maintain your health plan when you eat out a lot? Talk of having your cake and eating it, too! Here are five tricks to help stay on course.

Check the menu online

The sight and aroma of food may make it difficult for you to stick to your diet plan. Therefore, consider pre-selecting your options online so that you won’t need to make the decision at the table.
Avoid looking at the menu when you get there, lest you decide to change the order. Another trick is to make sure that you’re the first to order to prevent being influenced by what your peers order. You never know, your friends may decide to follow your choice.

Modify your meal

Don’t be afraid to ask for slight changes in your order since most restaurants can modify food if a customer requests. Their menus always have varieties of each of the food groups.
Don’t hesitate to order fried chicken and vegetables if you want to avoid the fries that are on the menu. Or a chicken burger without the bun, if you’re on a low carb diet. The customer is king, and for most restaurants, their goal is to make you happy.

Select the right restaurant

If you have the chance to choose the restaurant beforehand, do your research before settling on one. Check the menu online and familiarize yourself with it. Pick a restaurant that offers healthy meal plans and skip fast food joints.
In addition, ensure that the restaurant has enough food options to choose from. You can select restaurants that either serve steak, seafood, vegetables, or breakfast food to ensure healthy options are available.

Adjust your portions

Restaurants servings tend to be huge. Don’t be afraid to reduce your portions or ask for smaller portions. Plus, you don’t have to eat the whole portion. Well, since you’ve paid for it, consider requesting for half of the portion to be packed for you.
If it’s self-service, it is even better. Fill your plate with half vegetables, and the rest protein and starches. Select whole grain rice or pasta instead of white rice or pasta. For the starters, choose a vegetable option rather than the steak or potatoes.
Skip dessert, especially if you have already overindulged. It is okay to say no to dessert, because once it’s there you may feel guilty not eating it. You can satisfy your sweet tooth by eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Play it cool

Be calm when your friends criticize your choices and compel you to do as they do. You can take a bite of what they are eating, if you’re sure taking a bite of cake won’t make you want a whole plate. If you can’t, decline politely.
Don’t criticize your friends for their choices, either. Instead, explain to them how healthy eating has improved the quality of your life if they express interest in your food choices.
Sometimes you will be strong and other times your willpower will fail you. Don’t be hard on yourself. Remember that you’re human. If you cheat today, tomorrow is still another opportunity to start again.
The truth is that you can go to eat out with your friends and maintain your diet without just eating salads. Try these tricks today and share your views in the comments section below.
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