How to Pack the Perfect Family Picnic
A how-to guide for the best family picnic you'll ever plan.
Summer is officially picnic season—which means it's time to pack up your family and a delicious meal for a fun day outside together.
Here's how to pack for the perfect family picnic.
Make a go-to sandwich
When it comes to the main course for your picnic fare, sandwiches are always the way to go.
Try this turkey and veggie sandwich, courtesy of Jessica Crandall Snyder, a registered dietitian at Vital RD.
The Traditional Turkey
2 slices whole grain bread
3 slices of turkey
1 slice of cheese (mozzarella or cheddar)
Mustard or Greek yogurt as condiments
2 lettuce leaves
2 slices tomato
Handful of shredded carrots
"I recommend putting each sandwich in a bento box, putting the veggies on the side to add to your sandwich when your kids are ready to eat to avoid sogginess," says Crandall Snyder.
Choose a variety of foods.
"Like any meal when I pack my daughter's lunch, it has to be well-balanced. I like to include a protein, starch, fruit, and vegetable," says Crandall Snyder.
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Try a fruit or veggie kebab.
"Fruit kebabs, like berries and melon chunks, is always fun (just make sure the kids aren't running around with the skewers since they can be sharp!)," says Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, registered dietitian of Real Mom Nutrition and author of The 101 Healthiest Foods For Kids.
It can make fruit easier to transport, too.
"You can also thread ingredients onto smaller skewers: try mini mozzarella balls, tomatoes, and basil leaves," says Kuzemchak.
Pick quality ingredients.
Focusing on the best quality ingredients will keep your picnic super healthy.
"Find whole grain bread that has greater than 3 grams of fiber per serving," says Crandall Snyder. "And look for deli meat that is lean, lower in sodium, and has no nitrates."
Choose crunchy sides that aren't fried.
"Air-popped popcorn and nuts are great options," says Crandall Snyder. "Popcorn is a whole grain, and both are high in fiber."
You can mix them together to make your own trail mix, and throw in a few dark chocolate chips.
"Pistachios or almonds are really good sources of vitamin E, antioxidants, and fiber," says Crandall Snyder.
If your kids like chips, choose the baked kind instead of fried, suggests Crandall Snyder.
Choose drinks with no added sugar.
"Stick with water, fruit-infused waters, or iced herbal teas," says Crandall Snyder. "A low-fat milk would be fine too. Stay away from sodas and things that aren't nutrient-rich or have added sugar. Hydration is important and doesn't need to be a calorie contributor (unless it is a nutrient-rich option like milk)," says Crandall Snyder.
Really load up on veggies.
"Pack veggies, even if you don't think your kids will eat them, like carrots and cucumber slices with a dip like hummus or individual packets of ranch dressing," says Kuzemchak.
Or try a veggie jar.
"Put about an inch of dip on the bottom of little glass or plastic jars then stack veggie slices on top, lengthwise. Sometimes the novelty of a new environment makes foods like veggies seem more fun or lightens the mood enough to open their minds a bit," says Kuzemchak.
Think "grab-and-go" foods.
"When you're eating outdoors like that, kids will want to move and play, not sit down for a long time and leisurely eat like the adults will. So, I'd recommend packing things that are grab-and-go," says Kuzemchak. "Hard-boiled eggs are a high-protein, hand-held option. Even cutting sandwiches into smaller pieces, like strips or triangles, can make them more manageable for active kids."
Keep foods at the right temperature.
Make sure you keep your cooler or kids' lunch boxes at 40 degrees or cooler.
"Try putting a frozen water bottle or ice packs so it stays cold and fresh," says Crandall Snyder. "It depends on the food, but food cannot be left more than 2-3 hours outside of the 40-degree window."
You can check the temperature and food poisoning information about different foods on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services FoodSafety.gov site of FoodKeeper app.
And be sure to not leave food out.
"Be sure food isn't left out in the sun, because it will get warm quickly (and bacteria can multiply)," says Kuzemchak.
- RELATED: Summer Food Safety Tips
And don't forget to have fun!
"Having a picnic is fun and new, so don't focus on how much your kids eat or how many different food groups they've consumed," says Kuzemchak. "Don't make your kids take a certain number of bites before they rush off to play. Enjoy the family time and being outside."