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Heart-Healthy Ideas for Your Summer Picnic

July 24, 2019
Published in: Nutrition, Summer

bowl of fruit on a picnic table

When it's nice outside, it's easy to want to ditch the dining room table and get outside. A picnic is a perfect way to go about it - with the grass between your toes and a nice spread of food in front of you, there's no better way to spend a day off. For many, however, picnic foods are an invitation to eating some of the least healthy food options available. Bags of potato chips with French onion dip? Pasta salads with heaps of mayonnaise? Fried chicken and cookies? These are not exactly the epitome of heart-healthy living. Never fear, we have scoured the web for some picnic ideas that are not only tasty but will take good care of your ticker.

Include Some Leafy Green Vegetables

lettuceThe best way to start off any meal is with a salad, and a heart-healthy picnic is no exception. But not just any salad will do, no matter what your southern grandmother tells you a bowl of elbow macaroni and mayonnaise is not a proper salad. Instead, start with leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale or collards. These, in particular, are a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals including vitamin K, which is vital to proper blood clotting. A strawberry spinach salad, which also includes almonds, makes for a good example of where to start. Plus, salads on a picnic are easy. Just drop them into a mason jar and you've got storage and dining all taken care of at once!

Berries

Bring as many of these along as possible. Berries are known to be a source of natural anthocyanin antioxidants which have a wealth of healthy functions in your body that include reducing the inflammatory response that develops alongside heart disease. That means any opportunity you can take to include them in your salads like the one above or use them as a topper for other courses. If you want to get more inventive, try out this beautiful blueberry and chia seed pudding for a slightly sweet addition to your picnic.

Make Good Use of Whole Grains

Studies have shown that increasing one's whole grain intake can have a positive impact on your heart health, so ditch your white bread and replace it with bread made with whole grains! Whole grain bread with some lean meat, such as turkey or chicken, with some sprouts and slices of avocado, could be a great place to start. Alternatively, you can go one step further and make a salad featuring whole grains—quinoa or brown rice can be a great vehicle for other healthy fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

Fish is Your Protein

Grilled salmon and vegetablesDiets featuring fatty fish—such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel have been found to help reduce blood pressure, making them the perfect protein for our heart-healthy picnic. You could easily make your own mayo-free tuna salad (some olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, and mustard should do the trick) and put together some sandwiches using whole grain bread. Alternatively, you could put together some of these brilliant smoked salmon and cucumber rolls-ups for a simple and eye-catching picnic feature.

Finish Up with Dark Chocolate

No meal would ever be complete without dessert, and just because you're trying to make healthier decisions doesn't mean that you can't have a touch of chocolate now and again! In fact, dark chocolate in particular has been known to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. That means that we can still include it in our list of heart-healthy picnic options. This recipe caught our eye—a piece of sweet and sour chocolate bark can be a great way to round out your meal. So long as you consume it in moderation of course.