Health: Best and Worst Foods for a Picnic

July 23rd, 2021

So, what to pack – and what to leave at home – for your next outing

Potato salad is one of the worst foods for a picnic

As the temperatures warm and summer is quickly approaching, it’s time for meals eaten outdoors while enjoying the sunshine. Most of us love the traditional foods of summer: burgers and dogs, creamy salads, yummy desserts. Unfortunately, many of these foods tend not to be the stuff that’s going to win any nutrition awards. Some might not be easy to pack and bring with, either.

That said, there are plenty of ways to have a healthy and delicious summer picnic. We broke out some of our favorite picnic-friendly foods, as well as some dishes to skip. Check out our picks for the best and worst foods for a picnic.

Best Foods for a Picnic

Here are some of our favorite easy-to-pack items that can be thrown together for a healthy, tasty meal outside.

Fruits and vegetables

Fresh produce is packed with vitamins, nutrients and water to help keep you hydrated and feeling your best. Vegetables are a low-calorie, high-fiber choice to scoop dips and enjoy with cheese. Fruits make a nutritious and refreshing sweet treat for when you’re spending time in the sun. Prep ahead by washing and cutting up your produce in advance so all you have to do is enjoy it at your picnic.

Hummus and dips

Pair veggies, chips and crackers with a healthy and filling dip. Options like hummus, guacamole and bean dips are packed with protein, fiber and healthy fats to keep you feeling satisfied.

Cheese and deli meats

Cheeses and deli meats are a great way to add protein and flavor to a picnic. They are easy to bring on the go and simple to serve outside. Just make sure to pack perishable foods in a cooler and don’t let them sit out for more than an hour.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are filling, nutritious and add a welcome crunch to any picnic spread. They are shelf stable, making them a good choice for grab-and-go snacks. Pair them with other healthy fats like olives, or add dried fruit for fiber and extra flavor.

Single-serving desserts

Bringing treats is a sweet way to finish off your picnic meal. Try desserts that are pre-portioned in single servings to keep things simple. Look for easy recipes for homemade cookies, brownies, energy balls and more for your single-serving dessert needs.

Worst Foods for a Picnic

These foods are not as easy to pack, don’t boast much nutrition and don’t do well out in the sun. It’s probably a good idea to skip these foods for your next picnic.

Potato salad

There’s nothing inherently bad about potatoes. They’re actually a great source of vitamin C and fiber and boast some health benefits. However, they contain more calories than other veggies. Plus, most potato salads are smothered in way too much mayo, making this not the best food to sit out in the sun on hot days. Think grain salads or bean salads for more picnic-friendly options.


We all love chocolate and it boasts some serious health benefits, but unfortunately, it’s not the best picnic food. Chocolate melts, which can cause a serious mess. Pack fresh or dried fruit or single-serve desserts instead.

Fish and seafood

Fish and seafood are super-healthy foods, but they don’t travel well. Instead, bring sturdier protein foods like cheese, hummus, nuts and deli meats, making sure to keep perishable items in a cooler.

And for even more wellness tips, visit our health page!

EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at

©2021 Meredith Corporation. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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