Packing a picnic basket and heading to your favorite park, beach, or lake is part of the summer season. So is hosting a picnic or outdoor gathering with family and friends. It may be tempting to serve classic picnic fare, such as fried chicken, mayo-based salads, salty snacks, and sweetened beverages.
Instead, try these delicious and portable healthy picnic foods that taste great but are better for your health.
Healthy Picnic Food Alternatives
Try lightening up the menu with these better-for-you picks.
It doesn’t get any easier than setting up a build-your-own sandwich bar at summer picnics. Since everyone can mix and match their preferred bread, fillings, and spreads, it’s also sure to please the pickiest palates. Here are some healthy options:
- Breads – 100% whole-grain tortillas, pita pockets, sliced bread, hamburger buns, rolls
- Fillings – lower-sodium deli meat, tuna, grilled chicken, chickpeas, sliced cheese
- Spreads – hummus, pesto, guacamole, olive-oil mayo, gourmet mustard
- Extras – leafy greens, sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, cucumber slices, bell pepper rings
Salad in a Jar
What’s a picnic without a side-dish salad? Jar salads offer a portable and attractive way to serve one. Here's how to make it:
- In a large glass jar, layer ingredients from bottom to top in this order: dressing; hearty veggies; softer veggies; cooked grains, beans or meats; cheese, nuts, and seeds.
- Fill the rest of the jar with leafy greens.
- Seal the jar and store up to 2 days.
- When it’s time to eat, pour into a large bowl, toss, and dig in.
Skewering fruit on a stick is fun to eat for picnic-goers of all ages. It’s also a more creative way to serve fruit than on a platter.
Alternately thread wooden skewers with seasonal fruits, like whole berries, watermelon, grapes, kiwi, pineapple, and cantaloupe.
For an added touch, serve with a lower-sugar vanilla Greek yogurt for dipping to make this a healthy picnic food favorite.
Get Your Heart Checked
Staying on top of checkups and screenings can help you lower your risk of heart disease.
All that picnicking is sure to make you thirsty. Skip sugar-sweetened tea, lemonade, and soft drinks, and sip no-sugar-added infused water instead.
In a pitcher, combine fresh still or sparkling water with muddled herbs, fresh fruit, or vegetables for a deliciously attractive beverage. Try these tasty flavor combinations:
- Blueberries + Lemon + Mint
- Watermelon + Strawberries + Basil
- Cucumber + Lemon + Rosemary
Don’t Forget Outdoor Food Safety
Remember to take the necessary precautions to keep your healthy picnic food safe to eat. This means:
- Keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Put cold foods in an ice-packed cooler at 40°F or below and use heating devices to keep hot foods at 140°F or higher. Perishable foods shouldn’t be left out for more than two hours (or one hour if it’s above 90°F) before cooling or discarding.
- Separate raw and ready-to-eat foods. Pack raw meat in one cooler and other cold foods in another to prevent cross-contamination. The same thing applies to plates and utensils. Use one set for raw foods and another for freshly-cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
- Be prepared to keep things clean. If you don’t have access to running water and soap, pack hand sanitizer and wipes to clean and disinfect hands and surfaces to keep germs at bay. Also, make sure you have trash bags so you can properly dispose of any mess.
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