As summer brings warm days and later evenings, many of us head outdoors for good fun and food. Whether you’re hosting a backyard cookout, or planning a picnic on the go, be sure to fuel your family with summertime meals that are both nutritious and safe.

Best Picnic Eats

If you plan to bring food that will remain outdoors for several hours, choose foods that won’t wilt, melt, or spoil easily in the heat. Good choices are fresh firm vegetables (raw or cooked), chopped fruit, whole grains, pasta salad, beans, and trail mix! Here are some additional ideas to inspire your picnic basket or cookout spread:

  • Make vegetable kabobs with raw or lightly grilled cubed zucchini and summer squash, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms. Pair with heat-friendly dips such as salsa, pesto, hummus, or baba ganoush (pureed eggplant).
  • Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas make a flavorful high-fiber protein-packed snack.
  • Slice peaches, mango, melon, strawberries, and pineapple, or any other combination of fruit to create a brightly-colored fruit salad. Or, finely dice the fruit and sprinkle with cinnamon, lime juice, and lime zest to create a fruit salsa. Serve on top of mini brown rice cakes.
  • Consider going meatless with plant proteins that hold up well in the heat like beans, nuts, seeds, tofu, or tempeh. These can be mixed into salads, grain dishes, and casseroles. A high intake of red meat, especially processed types (sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami), has been linked to a higher risk of death.
  • While soft high-moisture cheeses can spoil, firm lower moisture cheeses like cheddar or parmigiana reggiano are good alternatives. For a savory-sweet dessert, serve thin cheese wedges with walnuts or shelled pistachios and dried fruit like figs, apricots, cherries, mango, or pineapple.

Check out these other picnic-friendly (and portable!) ideas:

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay


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