The sun is shining, the birds are singing. It’s picnic season! What could be better than preparing a delicious feast to enjoy outdoors? Seasonal and refreshing, fruits and veggies have everything it takes to be the stars of your next picnic.
But there are a few things to keep in mind for enjoying a stress-free meal in the sunshine without the risk of food poisoning.
What to eat
The foods you bring to your picnic will depend on the type of activity you have planned. If you opt for a picnic hike, make sure your meal will survive several hours at room temperature. Don’t bring anything too heavy or too delicate.
For example, bring:
- Raw veggies like carrots, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. These options are perfect for snacking, don’t require utensils, and won’t lead to messy fingers.
- Sandwiches, wraps or pitas
- Bread with cheese or veggie pâté
- You can also bring a dip, like this guacamole
If you’re able to travel to your picnic in a vehicle, you’ll have many more options. Simply prepare a cooler with ice packs and bring food that stays fresh when cold. You can also use frozen water bottles. To keep the cooler at the right temperature, try to place it in a shady spot. When driving, keep the cooler inside your vehicle rather than in the trunk if you have air conditioning.
Here are some examples of picnic-worthy recipes:
- Bean or lentil salad
- A perfectly portable jar salad
- Chilled pasta salad
- Couscous or cauliflower rice
- Avocado toast with smoked salmon
- Spring rolls—they’re a little more time-consuming, but they make for a tasty change!
For dessert, why not bring fruit? Watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all make for a juicy, delicious treat when in season. You can also prepare a simple fruit salad. Click here for more fruit and vegetable snack ideas.
What to drink
Water is always the ideal picnic beverage. It provides hydration without adding sugar to your meal. To keep it cool, fill your water bottle up about ¼ of the way and put it in the freezer. Right before you leave, fill it up the rest of the way with cold water. This method will keep your water cool for longer.
You can also freeze grapes to use as ice cubes, or to eat as a snack. How’s that for a unique, tasty tip?
Food safety tips
If you don’t have a cooler, it’s best to avoid:
- Iced desserts like ice cream and ice pops, which will melt even in a cooler
- Chocolate if you don’t have a cooler
- Mayonnaise (instead, use olive oil, pesto or mustard, which won’t spoil as quickly)
Tip: Meat, dairy products and eggs only keep for up to 2 hours in temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius (the temperature of a refrigerator). So if you plan to hike all morning with a sandwich in your backpack, it’s best to keep it cool with an ice pack.
Picnic basket checklist
- Tablecloth or blanket
- Cloth or paper towels to wipe up spills
- Utensils as needed
- Garbage bag for collecting your trash before you leave
Now you’re ready to picnic safely! What do you like to bring on a picnic?
Written by Marie-Ève Caplette, Registered Dietitian and Half Your Plate Ambassador