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Going on a healthy picnic outdoors is one of the most popular American pastimes as the weather warms up, according to the National Recreation and Park Association. Picnics offer more than just a scenic meal; they’re a recipe for boosting both physical and mental well-being. Surrounded by nature’s tranquility, picnicking provides a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation. Engaging in outdoor activities like frisbee or hiking during a picnic encourages physical activity, benefiting cardiovascular health and enhancing mood through the release of endorphins. Additionally, the nutritious and customizable meal options typically packed for picnics ensure a balanced diet, contributing to overall health. So, next time you’re seeking a dose of wellness, consider spreading out that checkered blanket and indulging in the simple pleasures of a picnic.

The Benefits of Going on a Healthy Picnic

Going on a picnic offers a myriad of health benefits.

The Benefits of a Healthy Picnic For Your Mental Health and Wellness

healthy picnicFirstly, spending time outdoors amidst greenery and fresh air can reduce stress levels and improve mood, thanks to the calming effects of nature.

“When we’re in urban environments or the office all day, we can experience sensory overload, resulting in tension and mental fatigue,” warns the University of California. “Studies have shown that our minds and bodies relax in a natural setting. This increases feelings of pleasure and can help us concentrate and focus more effectively, according to studies in the National Library of Medicine.”

Additionally, picnics often foster social connections and quality time with loved ones, which is vital for mental health and emotional resilience.

So, whether you’re enjoying a serene lakeside view or lounging in a city park, picnics offer a holistic approach to wellness for your entire spirit and mind!

Want to dig deeper into how to boost your mental wellness? Learn more in our guide to springtime mental health!

How a Healthy Picnic Can Boost Your Physical Health

Engaging in activities like walking, hiking, or playing games during a picnic provides an opportunity for physical exercise, promoting cardiovascular health and strengthening muscles.

Multiple studies have have revealed how not only exercise, but physical movement specifically done in nature, can have a positive effect on your physical health by minimizing cortisol levels (the so-called stress hormone)  and reducing pressure on your cardiovascular systems (exercise in nature lowers heart rate and blood pressure). UC Davis also notes: “Being out in nature often may lead to lower rates of heart disease. The great outdoors can also help you increase your vitamin D level, which is important for your bones, blood cells, and immune system.”

The Connection Between a Healthy Picnic and Healthier Eating

Moreover, picnics encourage mindful eating, allowing you to savor nutritious, homemade meals packed with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which can contribute to better digestion, weight management, and overall well-being.

How to Have a Healthy Picnic

healthy picnicIncorporating exercise into a picnic is a fun and easy way to stay active while enjoying the outdoors:

  • Choose an Active Location: Opt for a picnic spot that offers opportunities for physical activities such as hiking trails, open fields for sports, or beaches for swimming.
  • Plan Active Games: Bring along equipment for games like frisbee, soccer, volleyball, or badminton. These games are enjoyable for all ages and can get everyone moving.
  • Take a Nature Walk: Explore the surroundings with a leisurely nature walk. Look for trails nearby or simply wander through the park, taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
  • Include Stretching or Yoga: Bring a picnic blanket and incorporate some gentle stretching or yoga poses into your picnic. It’s a relaxing way to unwind and improve flexibility. If you’re scared to try yoga for the first time, read our yoga tips for beginners!
  • Organize a Scavenger Hunt: Create a scavenger hunt with items to find around the picnic area. This activity adds excitement and gets everyone walking and exploring.

Of course, every picnic orients itself around food. Forget hot dogs and processed chips. You can have a delicious picnic that pleases everyone of all ages and backgrounds, while also providing a nutritious and easy-to-pack-on-a-hike meal:

  • Fresh Fruit: Pack a selection of ripe, seasonal fruits such as berries, grapes, apple slices, or watermelon chunks. They’re refreshing, hydrating, and packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
  • Vegetable Crudites: Prepare colorful vegetable sticks like carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Pair them with hummus, Greek yogurt dip, or guacamole for added flavor and protein.
  • Whole Grain Wraps or Sandwiches: Use whole grain wraps or bread to make sandwiches filled with lean protein sources like grilled chicken, turkey, or tofu, along with plenty of veggies and a spread of avocado or mustard.
  • Quinoa Salad: Whip up a hearty quinoa salad with colorful vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and herbs. Toss with a light vinaigrette dressing and some feta cheese or toasted nuts for added flavor and texture.
  • Mason Jar Salads: Layer mason jars with leafy greens, cooked grains like quinoa or farro, protein sources such as grilled shrimp or chickpeas, and a variety of chopped vegetables. Seal tightly and shake before serving for a convenient and nutritious meal on the go.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs are a portable source of protein and nutrients. Pack them whole or slice them up to add to salads or sandwiches.
  • Nuts and Seeds: Create a trail mix with a variety of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for a satisfying and energizing snack. Just be mindful of portion sizes as nuts are calorie-dense.
  • Homemade Energy Bars or Bites: Make your own energy bars or bites using ingredients like oats, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and a natural sweetener like honey or dates. They’re perfect for a quick and nutritious pick-me-up during your picnic.
  • Hydration Station: Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Pack plenty of water or infused water with slices of citrus fruits, cucumber, or mint for a refreshing beverage option.

As you look at what outdoor activities you want to enjoy as we move into summer, embrace all the perks of a healthy picnic.

References:

  • https://www.nrpa.org/publications-research/park-pulse/park-pulse-survey-who-does-not-like-a-good-picnic/
  • https://health.ucdavis.edu/blog/cultivating-health/3-ways-getting-outside-into-nature-helps-improve-your-health/2023/05
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4204431/