Nutrition-wise blog

Ingredients for the perfect picnic

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. May 20, 2015

The perfect picnic has three key ingredients: tasty food, nice location and good company. Here's what you need to know about each to ensure that your picnic is safe and enjoyable.

Preparing and packaging food

Just like at home, build your menu around vegetables and fruits. Balance the meal with lean meat or plant-based protein, such as a veggie burger or lentil salad.

Keep the following in mind as you plan your picnic menu:

  • Packaging
  • Temperature
  • Time

Keep your salads and fruit crisp and fresh. Wash and pat or spin your lettuce dry. Chop greens and other vegetable and fruit toppings. Seal in an airtight rigid container. Keep other salad ingredients, greens and dressing separate. Assemble on site.

Fruit can be cut ahead of time or packed whole and cut on site. Cut-up fruit and vegetables should be kept in a rigid container in the cooler for protection. Raw meats should be packed tightly to prevent leaking and packed at the bottom of the cooler. Pack serving bowls, platters, and utensils for assembly at the picnic site.

Picking a location

Check what amenities are available at the site — such as water, electricity, shade and tables. If clean water isn't available, bring hand sanitizer. Electricity is a bonus because it will allow you to plug in chaffing dishes or crockpots to keep hot food hot (above 140 degrees). Is there shade to keep coolers and food out of the sun? If not, consider packing a canopy to keep you and your food cool. Also pack or buy extra ice to cool food down quickly for the trek home.

Inviting guests

Let your guest know where and when food will be served. This limits the time food has to sit out. Food should not be out for more than 2 hours. If the temperature is above 90 degrees, that drops to 1 hour, unless you're controlling the temperature with ice or  heat to maintain safe temps beyond this time.

Get out and enjoy the outdoors. Be mindful of time and temperatures, and keep your food and guests safe. Have fun!

May 20, 2015