What’s in Your Picnic Basket for International Picnic Day?

With the warm summer sun and the perfect shade from trees, there is nothing quite like dining al fresco! Today is International Picnic Day and we are celebrating by offering healthy picnic basket ideas from a variety of UPMC’s dietary experts.  Each basket can feed two people for less than $20. Most items don’t require much preparation, but some should be refrigerated so be sure to keep these groceries cool until you’re ready to eat.

The majority of the food items used in these videos was donated to the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. 

Adult Athlete Picnic Basket: 

Expert: Leslie Bonci, M.P.H., R.D., director of Sports Nutrition, UPMC Sports Medicine
Athlete #picnic basket: Tart cherry juice, spinach, carrots, ginger vinaigrette, pineapple, edamame, tuna i… https://t.co/ezGEglG2kI
— UPMC/PittHealth News (@UPMCnews) June 18, 2013

This basket is packed with inflammation-fighting foods, protein and good fats for the adult athlete. Start off with spinach and carrots with a ginger vinaigrette dressing – all three provide anti-inflammatory benefits, and the vinaigrette also contains good fats. Choose tuna packed in olive oil for omega-3 fatty acids, protein and monounsaturated fatty acids. Eat the tuna on whole wheat crackers, which contain carbohydrates for added energy. Edamame provides additional protein, and pineapple will give you extra fluid, carbs and bromelain, which may also be anti-inflammatory. Drinking tart cherry juice can decrease inflammation and muscle-related soreness, according to multiple recent studies.

Healthy Pregnancy Picnic Basket:
Expert: Andrea Zalno, R.D.,  Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

Healthy pregnancy #picnic basket: Seltzer water with orange slices, hummus, crackers, carrots, grapes & alm… https://t.co/qBfCAD9EZf
— UPMC/PittHealth News (@UPMCnews) June 18, 2013

During pregnancy, it is important to consume a balanced diet to meet nutrition needs for both mother and baby by focusing on the five food groups, and to promote a healthy weight gain. Drink approximately 12 cups of water or other non-caffeinated beverages per day to meet fluid needs and stay hydrated during the summer months.

Healthy Aging Picnic Basket: 
Expert: John Rizzo, director of Dietary Service, UPMC Senior Communities

Healthy aging #picnic basket: Kiwi, apple, pistachios, raisins, graham crackers, dark chocolate & hard boil… https://t.co/r1qXz52rIU
— UPMC/PittHealth News (@UPMCnews) June 18, 2013

Studies show apples may slow cognitive decline and contain flavonoids, a natural antioxidant also found in dark chocolate that can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Pistachios can also contribute to a lower risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol and are rich in phytoserols. Pistachios also contain selenium, an anti-aging antioxidant and are high in protein and fiber. Hardboiled eggs are another excellent source of protein, giving a long lasting “full” feeling and helping to reduce overeating throughout the day. Raisins are a perfect snack, packed full of nutrients like fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, copper and phosphorous. But the most nutritionally dense fruit, kiwi, is an excellent source of vitamin C, antioxidants the can help ward off inflammation and cancer, and Lutein, an antioxidant that can protect against macular degeneration. For a sweet addition, all-natural graham crackers are low in saturated fat and cholesterol with whole grains.

Cancer-Fighting Picnic Basket: 
Expert: Joyce Diacopoulos, R.D., Dietitian Coordinator, Hillman Cancer Center

Cancer-fighting #picnic basket: Iced green tea, melons, berries, spinach, salmon & brown lentils. https://t.co/HPwIsvxv3I
— UPMC/PittHealth News (@UPMCnews) June 18, 2013

Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are high in fiber, vitamin C and some antioxidants which may offer help in several fronts of fighting cancer, such as slowing cancer cell reproduction, deactivating some carcinogens and providing protection. Spinach may also block carcinogens from other food, while watermelon is high in vitamin C, potassium and lycopene, a phytonutrient that acts as a strong antioxidant and may prevent tumor growth. A high intake of lycopene has been associated with a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and macular degeneration. Salmon, which can be grilled, contains fatty acids that may suppress the formation and growth of some types of cancer; essential fats are needed to maintain all cell membranes in the body. Brown lentils, which may reduce the risk of some cancers such as breast and prostate, are a good source of magnesium, potassium and iron. Finish the meal off with some iced green tea – some lab studies suggest quercetin, a flavonoid that is thought to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory benefits, may have anti-cancer effects.

Healthy Weight Picnic Basket: 
Expert: Lindsay Lee, R.D., Outpatient Bariatric, Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC

Healthy weight #picnic basket: Water, raw veggies with hummus and salsa, melons & water-packed tuna. https://t.co/ISGxLjU54w
— UPMC/PittHealth News (@UPMCnews) June 18, 2013

For a great crunchy snack on the go, raw veggies are low in calories but high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Salsa and Hummus are examples of low-calorie dips, with hummus having both fiber and a bit of protein for satiety. Melon, also low in calories and a good source of fiber, is high is water content. Hydration is critical in warm weather, especially when exercising – many people do not drink enough water and you should not just wait until you are thirsty to drink. Lastly, canned tuna is low in calories but contains heart healthy fats. This quality source of protein is filling, gives you a metabolic boost and the protein will ensure that you maintain and build muscle mass.