Dining Al Fresco style!

The sun is shining, flowers are in full bloom and people just seem chirpier. Summer is a great time to get on track with a healthy lifestyle, and the array of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables in season make eating well so much easier. The more colours you choose the wider the range of nutrients. For example, chop some bright orange peppers and you'll get a healthy dose of beta-carotene, which is converted into vitamin A in the body, needed for night vision. Add some sliced tomato to your cheese sandwich and you’re adding the antioxidant lycopene, which research suggests has a role in helping to reduce your risks of certain cancers.

You can enjoy dining outdoors in many different ways. If you're a barbecue person, lean meats and fish cook in minutes and retain much of their moisture. You can even barbecue vegetables such as courgettes, peppers and aubergines. You might also want to try a different carb like sweet potatoes or cassava.

Experiment with a range of different marinades. Tandoori mixes are not only delicious with chicken; they also work well with potato or cassava. Lemon, chilli and garlic are failsafe ways to bring fish and chicken to life. You can either put chicken and meat on skewers, interlaced with colourful vegetables, or just pop them straight on the barbecue grill. The beauty of barbecuing is its casual nature, so don't feel you have to wait for everyone to get their plates full. Just dig in as soon as it comes off the barbie. If you don't fancy cooked vegetables, have some colourful salad on the side.

The Picnic
Picnics can sound very romantic, but having to prep for hours just to carry heavy bags and tablecloths to the park can sometimes make picnics a chore. So make life easier by taking shortcuts. Instead of making piles of sandwiches, try mixing the sandwich filling and popping it into a container. Accompany this with different breads and buy some olives, gherkins, hummus dip, reduced fat coleslaw, leafy salad and satsumas, and you're on your way. You could buy your drinks ice-cold from a nearby store so all that’s left for you to bring is napkins. Let everyone build his or her own unique sandwich creation while sitting on the grass in the sunshine.

Here are some quick and easy sandwich fillings:

1. Mix tuna with sweet corn, chopped peppers, sliced spring onions and reduced fat mayonnaise.
2. Add low-fat soft cheese to green olives and sprinkle on some red chilli powder.
3. Add leftover shredded chicken to chopped apple, peanuts and raisins and dress in a mixture of turmeric and reduced fat mayo for a speedy coronation chicken.
4. Simple smoked salmon dotted with coarse grain mustard.
5. Use ready-made ingredients from the supermarket: chop some roasted peppers and sun-dried tomatoes (all available in a jar) and add this to chunks of mozzarella. Dress in green pesto.

By Azmina Govindji RD MBDA, Consultant Nutritionist & Registered Dietitian

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Page last reviewed on 07/08/2014