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Picnics and barbecues

Loads of ideas for tasty outdoor eating.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in health

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Barbecuing is a great way to cook and can make healthy food even tastier. With some creative thinking, you can revamp your barbecues and picnics for more flavour and nutrition. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Tasty meat, fish and poultry

Use oil-vinegar based marinates for meat, fish and poultry. Fruit purees, diluted fruit juice and low sugar preserves can also be used for tasty marinades. For example, marinate slices of beef in orange juice before barbequing. Then, put them in a plastic freezer bag for less mess and quicker clean up. Use a brush to lightly apply the marinade during barbecuing. Herbs can also be added to meat, fish and poultry before placing on the barbecue also (see below).

Experiment with fruit and vegetables

Add colour to your barbecue or picnic with fruit and vegetables. The wide variety available in summer makes it is easy to eat the recommended five portions daily. Perk up traditional dishes by using strawberries, pears, pineapple, and kiwi. Add them to salads and salsa, or puree them in smoothies. Buying fruit in season also means you will get them at the best price. Look out for special offers on exotic fruit, like kumquats, mangoes or star fruit in your local supermarket. Try barbecued fruit kebabs or banana parcels. 

Vegetables like peppers, corn, aubergine or onions can be seasoned with herbs and placed directly on the barbecue until tender and brown. Vegetables like courgette, tomatoes, mushroom or carrot can be sliced, seasoned and wrapped in foil before placing on the barbecue and cooking until tender.


Salads don’t have to be boring. Use different varieties of lettuce to form the bases of your salad. Spinach leaves, watercress, celery tops, basil, parsley and chicory are also great in salads. Experiment with ingredients like cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, cucumber, onion, different varieties of cheese, olives, chickpeas, etc. Add milk, fruit juice, or yoghurt or mayo for a tasty dressing. Serve with a natural, or less processed, salad dressing, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, or herbs. 

Rice, couscous and pasta also provides an excellent basis for salad. Spice them up by adding flaked almonds, raisins, sun-dried tomatoes, different varieties of beans (kidney beans, black eyed beans), peas or lentils. Remember fruit and vegetables can be eaten alone, added to salads or used as garnish.

Get physically active 

Barbecues and picnics provide great opportunity for some exercise. Throwing around a frisbee, going for a walk or playing football can make you work up an appetite. And just getting outside in nature can boost your mood.

Tips for your barbecue picnic :

  • Remember your starchy food, like whole wheat rolls for your meat or veggie burgers.
  • Try to eat the same size portions that you would eat at home.
  • Keep well hydrated throughout the day.
  • If you are eating meat, choose leaner cuts where possible.
  • Enjoy the salads, but avoid the high fat or sugary dressings.
  • Watch your alcohol intake.
  • Get active and enjoy the outdoors with a walk or some games.

This information was provided by the Community Nutrition & Dietetic Service of the Health Promotion Department, HSE Dublin North East.

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Published Jan­u­ary 2nd2013
Tags food picnic barbecue summer
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