The Healthy Family Picnic

Picnics can be so much fun, but unfortunately, they can also be pretty unhealthy. It’s tempting to buy pre-made foods with lots of salt and sugar, but with a little forethought you can put together healthy picnic foods for the whole family. Here are some ideas.


Healthy hummus can be bought at the store or made at home. Kids tend to enjoy hummus, and it has healthy fat (olive oil) and protein (garbanzo beans). Try bringing several flavors and varieties to your picnic. Hummus is a good picnic food because so many things can be dipped into it, such as:

* Raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, cauliflower, and cucumber
* Whole wheat pita wedges
* Whole grain crackers
* Crusty bread
* Pita “chips” or toasted pita wedges
* Sesame sticks

Lean Meats

Sliced baked turkey breast, chicken, and lean beef make good picnic foods (just make sure you keep the meat cool using ice, a cooler, or a portable refrigerator). Picnickers can eat the sliced meat as-is, or build their own sandwich. Meats can also be rolled into sticks and dipped into condiments like mustard, or rolled together with a cheese slice.


Picnics used to mean white, store-bought bread and some kind of fattening filling; but today, you can take back the sandwich and make it a healthy, tasty picnic food. Try whole wheat pita pockets or bagels, and let everyone stuff their own pita or make their own bagel sandwich.

Lean meats, tomato slices, cheese, alfalfa sprouts, shredded lettuce, pepper rings, and so forth make great take-alongs for everyone to make the sandwich to their liking. Don’t forget condiments like mustard, ketchup and mayo! Make sure all sandwich ingredients are kept cold.


Fruit is really an ideal healthy picnic food as-is. Bring along a knife for grown-ups to use, and you can take a variety of fruits to your picnic: melons, apples, and pears work well for cutting into slices. Plums, peaches, grapes, cherries, blueberries, and strawberries are great eaten out of hand. Oranges and tangerines can be peeled and segmented at the picnic site. Fruit also helps everyone stay hydrated – picnics nearly always involve active fun and games!

Food Safety Tips

As noted above, foods should be kept chilled to avoid food-borne illness. Use newspaper to keep containers insulated and to prevent spillage (the newspaper keeps containers from sliding around during transport). Leftovers should not be left out in the sun; dispose of them properly to chill them as soon as possible.

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