Healthy eating: the big outdoors

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Posted by Abby

Here in London the weather seems to have finally got back on track. The rain has stopped, the sun is out and temperatures are rising. Finally, it’s starting to feel like summer.

It’s at times like this when I wish that I had a garden. Warm afternoons, balmy evenings, outdoor dining and the freckles to go with it! Still, it’s not all doom and gloom as London is full of fabulous parks just begging you to visit and have a picnic. More excitingly (for some) there are also lots of fabulous beaches only a short train journey away.

Choosing what to eat is when it starts to get tricky. Most supermarkets are well tuned to the laziness that lurks within us all and offer a wide variety of picnic friendly foods. As well as the ubiquitous (aka boring) sandwiches there are tubs of tzatziki and taramasalata, nestled alongside pasta, bean, lentil and rice salads. Bags of vegetable crudités and the seemingly-endless variety of cheeses and cold meats complement the quiches and pies. So many choices, and all ours in exchange for a few folding green notes.

And it all sounds quite healthy too so what’s the problem?

Well, appearances can be deceiving and most of those tubs of delight are packed with salt, fat and a variety of additives and preservatives. If you can avoid them, it’s worth making the effort to do so. The good thing is that a homemade picnic is easy to put together, and much cheaper than buying everything ready-prepared.

There are a lot of great ideas already on the Daily Tiffin as many of the packed lunches that are featured contain things that can easily be adapted.

And if you need a few more ideas, my perfect picnic hamper would contain:

* Homemade hummus with (home-chopped) crudités - I like dipping cherry tomatoes; celery sticks; carrot batons; red, yellow and green pepper pieces; cauliflower pieces and cucumber circles. Actually I lied, I hate cucumber with a passion but many others don’t so why not some in the picnic hamper to divert people from the good stuff!

* A vegetable tart – there are some ideas here, here and here. Leave large tarts in the tin to make transporting it easy. If you make your tart with puff pastry you might have some pastry leftover. This is easily turned into cheese and mustard sticks – roll out the leftover pastry, spread the top with wholegrain mustard and grated cheese (a hard cheese with lots of flavour, like parmesan, is best), fold the pastry in half, roll it out again and then cut into strips. Twist these and bake on a tray until golden and crispy. Sprinkle them with sesame seeds for extra nutritional goodness.

* If you have meat-eaters in your party, some marinated and roasted chicken drumsticks will go down well. Don’t bother buying the ready-marinated chicken with its lurid colours that scream warnings of the artificial colourings and flavourings that they contain, instead try a simple mix of garlic, lemon zest and olive oil. Or sundried tomato paste thinned with a little olive oil. Or honey and mustard, again with a bit of oil. Leave the meat to marinade overnight if you can for extra flavour.

* Cupcakes or muffins are good for a treat - I find individually-sized cakes much easier to handle on a picnic. Also take along a selection of beautiful fresh fruit as a more healthy option.

* Cold drinks are always in demand. A bottle of cordial (or just use water) that has been frozen for a few hours will remain cold enough to see you through your picnic. Frozen berries, kept cool with an ice-pack, are a nice addition to sparkling white wine (or water for the kids) if you want to push the boat out!

Are you interested in contributing to The Daily Tiffin? Drop us an email: We look forward to hearing your ideas.

This Post was written by Abby from eat the right stuff



Perfect! First I hope you send some of that good weather over to us in Germany. Second. I always look closely at these ready-made dips. The lovely thing about Germany is that you get quark in all types of flavors low-fat and totally healthy. I also love you idea about the chicken drum-sticks.

So as soon as you have sent us the good weather you can be sure we'll be using these great tips. Abby you are inspiring!

Meeta said...
August 9, 2007 at 8:20:00 PM GMT+2  

Hello Abby, Thanks for those exceptional ideas for picnic eats! They are really different!

Poonam said...
August 9, 2007 at 9:38:00 PM GMT+2  

Thanks Abby! I used many of your ideas for our day trip to Savannah with a picnic in the park.

Tartelette said...
August 12, 2007 at 5:46:00 AM GMT+2  

well, someone's taken away the good weather we were having - london is now grey and wet, as is the forecast for later this week!
tartelette, i'm glad someone else is getting to enjoy my picnic ideas!

abby said...
August 14, 2007 at 10:18:00 AM GMT+2  

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