How to Pack the Perfect Healthy Picnic

How to Pack the Perfect Healthy Picnic


It’s a beautiful time of year to enjoy the great outdoors and get some sunshine; it’s good for your soul and your waistline. Take some time to enjoy a nice hike, a swim in the river, or just a casual stroll with your loved one. While you’re at it, take a healthy picnic lunch with you, customized for your event, with these great tips.

Planning For A Picnic With Kids

Taking kids into the great outdoors can be a fun and simple way to help them get plenty of exercise this summer. Along with the sunscreen, be sure to bring some healthy, portable, kid-friendly snacks that they can grab and run with during their adventure. Be sure to plan a variety of choices for different taste buds, but these don’t have to be elaborate.

A simple picnic for kids can include some sandwich choices packed on whole grain bread, small sized fruits such as mandarin oranges, grapes or raisin boxes, and some carrots and celery with dip. A good drink option is a juice box that has been frozen ahead of time, which then doubles as ice while being transported. Be sure to read labels though, opting for products that are 100% juice.

Enjoying A Picnic For Two

Whether you’ve been married for years or just getting to know that special someone, why not plan a picnic date this summer? Summer picnics can be quite romantic. You can easily find a scenic spot to grill out using a cheap portable grill.

An easy recipe to make in the great outdoors is this cucumber ranch steak from Beef; It’s What’s for Dinner. Simply season your steak and dice your veggies before leaving home and pack your ingredients in small containers. Don’t forget to include a steak knife on your picnic list!

Cucumber Ranch Steaks (downsized for two)

  • 2 ranch steaks or small ribeye steaks
  • ¼ cup deseeded diced cucumbers
  • 2 Tablespoons ranch dressing
  • 1½ tsp. garlic pepper seasoning
  • ½ small tomato, diced, optional

Combine cucumber and dressing in small bowl. Set aside. Press garlic-pepper seasoning evenly onto steaks. Place steaks on grill over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 8 to 11 minutes (over medium on preheated gas grill, times remain the same) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Serve steaks with cucumber sauce. Garnish with tomato, if desired.

To round out your picnic meal, pack some diced potatoes in water with fruit fresh (to keep from browning), then season and wrap in foil at your picnic site; these can be cooked right on the grill. Uncork a bottle of wine and enjoy your romantic evening.

How To Keep Your Picnic Safe And Nutritious

Food safety needs to be at the top of your picnic list. Foods left out too long can ruin your fun if you end up with a bad case of food poisoning. Be sure to pack foods on ice and discard anything that has been left sitting outside within 2 hours. Some more great food safety tips can be found at and at Perfect Food Safe Picnics.

To keep your picnic from sabotaging your waistline, choose healthy picnic side dishes such as fresh fruit salads and vegetable salads that have a vinegar base rather than mayonnaise. Many healthy picnic recipe ideas can be found online or on Pinterest. You can also find many cute picnic ideas for the holidays or various party themes.

Many traditional picnic salads such as macaroni salad, pasta salad, seafood salad and potato salad can be high in calories, so enjoy them in moderation. To increase the protein content in vegetarian picnic foods and salads, simply add beans, cheese, eggs or tofu as desired. Keep in mind the food safety information above, then go out and start enjoying the great outdoors this summer!

Jennifer M. Wood, MS, RD

Jennifer M Wood, MS, RDN is registered dietitian nutritionist and successful food and nutrition consultant in Southeastern Minnesota. As the founder of a nation-wide gourmet food company, Wood wrote Jenny’s Country Kitchen…recipes for making homemade a little easier! (2003), which is a timeless collection of make-ahead, freeze-ahead and pantry-stocking recipes and time saving tips to help busy families put nutritious food on table. Wood graduated with a pre-med bachelors degree in nutritional science in 2001, completed her dietetic internship in 2007 and went on to complete a master’s degree in food and nutrition in 2011.

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