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Packing For a Healthy Picnic

Alyssa Simon • Jun 13, 2015

summer healthy foods for families

During the summer, many families look for ways to spend more time together outside. Whether it’s camping, a day at the beach or lake, or even just hanging out in the backyard, there is sure to be picnic food involved!

Summer picnic foods are a classic part of the season, but unfortunately, many picnic baskets are packed with foods that are high in sugar, fat, and salt and low in important nutrients like fiber and protein. This can result in an energy spike followed by a crash, which can leave your family feeling fatigued and uncomfortable.

To make the most out of your summer picnic, fill your basket with foods that fit into the USDA MyPlate, which includes fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy.

  • Fruits: Fruits such as watermelon, apples, bananas, berries, peaches, and oranges make a great addition to any picnic meal, as well as a snack or even dessert! Fruits are rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Fresh fruit also has a high water content, which can help keep you and your family hydrated during the summer heat.
  • Vegetables: Like fruits, vegetables make a great addition to a picnic meal, or they can be the star of the show! Take advantage of the abundance of fresh summer vegetables by serving them as a salad, or grilling vegetables such as zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, onions, corn, green beans, and peppers for a delicious side dish. 

Food safety tip: Be sure to rinse all fruits and vegetables before eating by running them under cool tap water and scrubbing with a vegetable brush.

  • Grains: When packing for a healthy picnic, choose products that are whole grain instead of enriched. Whole grain products offer more fiber and b-vitamins, as well as other minerals and antioxidants. Use whole wheat bread for sandwiches, hotdog and hamburger buns, and crackers and pretzels instead of potato chips.
  • Protein: Many picnics often involve cooking up hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, or seafood. These foods are sources of protein, which help keep you full and are important for muscle growth and repair. Some of these foods (particularly hamburgers and hotdogs) can be higher in fat and sodium, so look for lean ground beef or grill up turkey burgers. When cooking chicken, use boneless skinless chicken breast for a healthier option.  Remember, meat is not the only source of protein. Beans are a great vegetarian option, and can be served as baked beans, as part of a three-bean salad, or as an entrée in a burrito or veggie burger.

Food safety tip: When packing perishable meat items, be sure that they are stored in a container that is 40 degrees F or lower. Keep raw meat separate from cooked food by using separate cutting boards, plates, and utensils. Make sure the meat is cooked to a safe temperature by using a food thermometer. Ground beef, fish, and pork should be cooked to 145 degrees F, and chicken breast and turkey should be cooked to 160 degrees F.

  • Dairy: Dairy products such as string cheese and yogurt make a great addition to a well-balanced meal.  Pair string cheese with fresh fruit, and use plain Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise in dishes such as potato or macaroni salad, as well as tuna fish sandwiches.

Food safety tip: Like meat, dairy products need to be stored in a cool container that is 40 degrees F or less. Be sure to store dairy products separate from the raw meats!

It is also important to remember to stay hydrated during your summer picnic. Bring plenty of water, and sweeten it up with some fresh fruit if you desire!









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Written by Alyssa SimonWritten on Jun 13, 2015Last updated on Jun 19, 2015




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