How to Pack the Perfect Picnic

A picnic basket layed out on a blanket with food.

Spring is in full bloom and summer is close behind it. The weather is warmer now, the sun is shining, and you’re itching to embrace the sights and sounds of nature.

A picnic is a great way to enjoy time outside while nourishing your body with delicious and healthy food. You can pack a picnic to take to a local park, fill a backpack with a healthy lunch for a hike, or even have an evening picnic in your own backyard!

Healthy Picnic Packing Tips

Step One: Picnic Necessities

Find a bag, basket or cooler to carry all your essentials. Choose a size that fits comfortably and is easy to carry if you plan to hike or walk a lot.

  • Add a few ice packs to your bag to keep food and drinks cold. They come in handy when eating sandwiches, fruit, and other foods that are typically stored in a refrigerator.
  • Don’t forget plates, napkins, storage containers and silverware. Consider reusable items to reduce waste.
  • Depending on where you are picnicking, don’t forget chairs or a picnic blanket.

Step Two: Magnificent Main Dish

  • Make a variety of sandwiches for a sandwich buffet! Try turkey and Swiss, roast beef and cheddar, peanut butter and jelly, hummus and veggie wraps, etc.
  • Prepare some protein such as chicken, pork, beef or tofu for an easy main dish.
  • Make chicken or tuna salad ahead of time to serve with crackers or whole grain bread.
  • Incorporate beans into your main dish for their protein and fiber. Chilled bean salads are delicious and versatile.

Step Three: Sensational Sides

  • Vegetables: Chop up a variety of veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes and pair them with a low-fat dip or hummus.
  • All the Salads: What’s a picnic without a salad? Try a mixed lettuce salad, broccoli salad, coleslaw or whole grain pasta salad. Choose light sides and sauces. There is a recipe for loaded cauliflower salad below.
  • Great Grains: Pretzels, popcorn and whole grain crackers are crunchy snacks that pair well with cheese, fruit and nuts.
  • Fruity Dessert: Fresh fruit makes a great dessert because fruit is sweet and juicy. Try chopped fruit with low-calorie whipped cream or a dessert hummus like chocolate brownie or vanilla bean.

Step Four: Stay Hydrated

As the weather heats up and you spend more time outside, you’ll need more fluid. Bring a few bottles of water (refillable is best for the environment) and sip on them throughout the day. If you struggle to drink water, try infusing the water with fruit or stirring in a low-calorie drink mix. You can also choose other low-calorie beverages to stay hydrated.

  • Bring bottled water or pack some refillable water bottles.
  • Mix it up by choosing other low calorie beverages to maintain hydration.

Loaded Cauliflower Salad

Source: Delish.com

Note: This recipe can be made low-fat by choosing low-fat ingredients.

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped chives

Step 1: In a large skillet, bring about a ¼-inch of water to boil. Add cauliflower, cover pan, and steam until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and let cool while you prep other ingredients.

Step 2: In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, then chop.

Step 3: In a large bowl, whisk together sour cream, mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic powder. Add cauliflower and toss gently. Season with salt and pepper, then fold in bacon, cheddar and chives. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy your time this summer with friends, family, and healthy food!

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