Healthy Eating Tips for Picnics and Hikes
Healthy eating is always a good idea - it becomes even more important on a picnic or hike. Healthy foods are needed to keep you energized (Across that field to catch the frisbee! Up that hill to see that incredible view!). Healthy and tasty food adds tremendously to your picnic experience - so don't deprive yourself!
The best healthy eating tips for picnics and hikes is to bring food you like! While using your favourite recipes (and perhaps some we have offered), keep the following points in mind.
Carbohydrates = Quick Energy
Picnic and trail snacks should be high in carbohydrates for an immediate energy boost. Fresh and dried fruit, table sugar, chocolate, and other foods that are high in sugar content are one type of carbohydrate, called simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, pasta, legumes, vegetables and grains. In addition to adding energy, good (complex) carbs are a major source of dietary fiber.
Fat = Heat Energy
Yes, healthy eating does include some fat! Your body stores fat and converts it into heat energy when needed - it actually provides twice the energy of a carbohydrate or protein. It is also the carrier of the vitamins A, D, E and K.
This does not mean bringing fried chicken and potato chips to your picnics! Just keep it in mind on a cooler picnic/hike days to bring food that is slightly higher in fat content for the heat it will provide. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats - they are linked to greater risk of heart disease. Try to use heart healthy oils like canola, olive and sunflower whenever possible.
Protein = Long-Lasting Energy
Protein is a definite part of healthy eating for picnics and hikes. It uses calories in its conversion into energy. Protein also helps build and repair body tissue. Choose protein sources that are lower in fat such as low-fat milk and cheese products, lean meats, poultry, fish, dried beans, eggs and peanuts.
Salt = Dehydration Prevention
Salt is released from your body in perspiration and urine. When you are more active and perspire, you lose more salt which needs to be replaced. In other words, salt helps regulate the fluid in your body. Take along some salted peanuts, or be sure to add it (in small quantities) to your picnic recipe.
Healthy eating (drinking?) includes plenty of water! When exerting yourself, your body constantly loses water through perspiration and urine. Water performs many functions in your body: regulates body temperature, assists the digestive process, and transports nutrients and waste to and from the body. Limit the use of caffeine and alchohol too - it acts like a diuretic (making you lose even more water). Simply put, if you don't drink enough water you will have absolutely no energy to play a few fun outdoor games with your kids or hike up to that beautiful mountain lake you have been hearing so much about.
Burn Fat Using Food
Did you know that you can burn fat using food?
Using energy (like playing outdoor games and hiking) causes our bodies to generate heat. This is called thermogenesis. This is most obvious when we exercise, but is actually happening continously - including in our sleep. The "thermic effect" of our food is the amount of calories used to digest, absorb and store the nutrients from the food we eat. And some foods actually boost this effect, helping you melt fat!
Protein and Fat
High protein meals have been shown to produce more heat than both high-carb and high-fat meals. However, there are some very good fats in food that can boost thermogenesis.
Fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel contain Omega-3 fats which increase your metabolic rate. Omega-6 fats (also known as gamma linolenic acid or GLA) also boots your metabolic rate. GLA is found in evening primrose oil, black currant oil and borage seed oil. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)(a natural derivative of Omega-6) has been found to help decrease the size of fat cells in your body. They also help preserve muscle tissue, which helps you burn calories. CLA is found in beef, milk and butter. Unfortunately, these are also sources of potentially heart-damaging saturated fat, you may want to take CLA in a supplement form if your are concerned with your weight.
Other Food Boosts
Spice it up! Adding chili peppers to your meals boosts your metabolic rate for at least 30 minutes after the meal. Hot peppers also inhibit the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Drinking plenty of water can also help raise your metabolic rate.
Green tea has also been found to enhance thermogenesis. Plus! Green tea aids in your digestion when taken before a meal.
Eating fibre-filled foods can bind with fat to prevent its absorption into the body. Eat plenty of fresh fruit each day to take advantage of this process. Oats and other grains (like in high-fibre breads and baking) help with a slow release of glucose in the blood eliminating spikes in your blood sugar levels. High fibre foods also help to lower your cholesterol.
Convert Your Recipes!
Healthy eating doesn't always have to be about eating lots of fruits and vegetables and skipping all the good stuff (like chocolate!). Obviously, moderation is the key here, but there are many ways to make simple changes to your favourite recipes to make it healthier for you.
Remember - taste is still your top priority!
Lower the Fat Content
- In baking, the amount of oil in a recipe can usually be reduced by a third without affecting the taste. To keep the moisture, replace that fat with such things as applesauce, yogurt, and even fruit juice.
- You can use two egg whites instead of one whole egg in most recipes with excellent results. The yolk of an egg contains all the cholesterol.
- Use unsaturated oils when making your favourite recipes. Canola, sunflower and olive oils are all good choices. Use butter instead of solid margarine for your baking (no trans fats).
- Look for lower fat dairy choices. This not only includes switching to 1% or skim milk. Also look for lower fat cheeses (including cream cheese), sour cream and yogurt.
- Look for lower fat salad dressings and mayonnaise. There are many great tasting choices.
- Nuts and seeds are high in fat, but are often "good fats" and have many other nutrients. You can add them to everything from your cookies and muffins to a great topping on your salad.
Add Some Fiber
- Add some interest to your salads. Top your favourite salad with things like nuts, seeds, dried fruit (dried cranberries are my favourite), and fresh fruit (orange pieces, grapes, strawberries).
- Bake your favourite cookies, muffins and even cakes with some whole wheat flour. It contains nearly five times the fiber of all-purpose flour! You can replace up to half the amount of whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour (too much can make the batter too heavy).
- Try different combinations of other grains in baking. Rolled oats, bran and oat bran can be used as a partial substitute for flour with delicious results.
- Nuts and seeds add distinctive flavour, texture and fiber to baked goods. Add them often. (Helpful hint: If you sprinkle them on top of your baked goods they will toast, adding more flavour. Plus you will have fewer calories because of the smaller amount used.)
- Adding flaxseed to your recipes provides the very healthy omega-3 fatty acid, antioxidants and fiber. The seeds must be ground or milled (and can often be purchased this way) in order for your body to digest them.
Healthy Eating Books
Still looking for more information? Here are some great books on healthy eating.
Return to Healthy Picnics home page