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Picnic Food Ideas – Healthy foods + fresh air = ultimate enjoyment!

Freelance journalist
Carina is a freelance journalist. She writes about food and for our "healthy lifestyle" column.

The picnic season is here and we’ve put together some tips and picnic food ideas for you.

Tips and Ideas for the Perfect Summer Picnic

Our summer to-do list always includes a picnic. After all, it’s where some of our favorite things all come together: friends/family, nature, and food, of course. What do you need to pay attention to create those perfect picnics you’ve seen everywhere from movies and television to your Instagram feed? Keep reading for the best tips and tricks.

Minimize the number of things that can go wrong, and focus on preparing just a few items. You might have tons of great picnic food ideas, but you should also stay realistic. Even if you’ve made sure everything is easy to make, you’ve still got to get everything to your picnic spot.

Besides the snacks, which we’ll describe in more detail below, you’ve also got to remember some non-edible essentials. The most important one is a big blanket for both setting out all the food and giving some guests space to sit.

What else belongs in your picnic kit? A basket to carry everything, a cooler or ice-packs, maybe a few cushions for extra comfort, disposable silverware (made of wood or bamboo so it’s good for the environment!), reusable plates and cups, napkins, bottle openers, corkscrew, pocket knife, and water. It’s important to stay hydrated – especially under the summer sun!

The right music is also important for setting the mood. Make a playlist at home in advance with all the songs you need for a fun picnic – and don’t forget your speaker on picnic day.

Healthy and Simple Picnic Recipes

Wondering what to put in your picnic basket for a trip to the countryside? Just about anything your heart desires! But you’d better keep this one unspoken rule in mind: Snacks that are delicate or likely to make a mess should probably stay at home. That’s why, for example, instead of a cake with frosting and cream filling, we think it’s better to bring homemade banana bread. Not only is it less likely to fall apart before it gets to the picnic, it’s also quite a bit healthier.

It’s also a good idea to turn your picnic food ideas into finger food or food in individual serving sizes that are easy to transport. Focus on foods that can be eaten cold, because you’re not going to reheat something quickly in the middle of the countryside! But now let’s get into the nitty gritty – it’s time for our perfect picnic recipes that’ll make your foodie heart skip a beat.  

One last tip before you head to the kitchen: Pack an extra pack of Protein Balls just in case you need some extra easy picnic snacks.  

Couscous Salad

couscous salad

A tasty salad is an essential part of any picnic spread – in this case couscous is a particularly good picnic food, because it’s also easy to keep in a cooler and, unlike some green salads, doesn’t get soggy before you get a chance to eat it. The best thing about it: This picnic recipe is easy to make ahead or prep in a jiffy.

Get the recipe here

Wraps with Chicken

photo of a sweet chili chicken tortilla wrap

Wraps are great for picnics because they’re both easy to prep and perfect to eat with your hands. Use our recipe for wraps with chicken as a basis, and then adapt it to your tastes. Switch out grilled chicken for chicken salad, or add one or two ingredients – like shredded carrot, cheese, or coleslaw. And if you like, cut them down to bite-sized servings and use toothpicks to help keep them together if necessary

Click here for the recipe

Quinoa Tomato Salad

photo of a bowl of quinoa salad with parsley and tomatoes, one of many picnic food ideas

Another perfect summer salad recipe that’s easy to prepare ahead of time and chill in the fridge, this tomato salad gets an extra boost of flavor, texture, and nutrition from quinoa. Substitute a dairy-free sour cream or yogurt for a vegan version of this salad recipe. 

Check it out here

Hummus

A photo of a bowl of hummus with some celery and cucumber sticks next to it
©foodspring

What would snacking be without dips? Our hummus recipe is just right, because it swaps out unhealthy chips for carrot sticks. Prep the carrots in advance and wrap them individually for your guests. Or check out the baby carrots or other pre-cut options in your supermarket!

see the recipe

Empanadas

©foodspring

A powerful punch of flavor in a small package – our delicious empanadas with minced meat filling will impress your picnic guests with their flavor and healthy ingredients. This perfect finger food stands out on any picnic spread and it’s also gluten-free! Trying to avoid red meat? Substitute finely chopped chicken instead!

Click here for the recipe

Moist Vegan Banana Bread

©foodspring

We hinted at it above and now it’s finally time to reveal the recipe for our vegan banana bread. It’s fluffy, moist, and just the right amount of sweet. 

Get the recipe here

Peanut Butter Cookies

A peanut butter cookie with a pile of coconut shavings nearby

Wow your guests with these luscious cookies that also happen to be vegan and gluten-free! They’re super quick to make and the dried coconut gives them that little something special. Who said easy picnic food has to be ordinary!

see the recipe here

Is a Low-Carb Picnic Even Possible?   

We think it’s just a myth that picnics have to be full of carbs! And we can prove it with some perfect low-carb picnic recipes. Low-carb versions are in no way inferior to the typical finger food staples and have at least the same level of flavor – no matter if they’re sweet or savory.

Inspiration is just seconds away! Browse through these low-carb picnic food ideas and find something that fits your needs:   

Homemade Low-Carb Crackers

©foodspring

Say goodbye to cheap, high-fat, processed snacks – with these DIY crackers you control what goes into them. Have it two ways! These crispy, delicious low-carb snacks taste great on their own or with a dip as a side dish.

Click here for the recipe

Superfood Salad

photo of kale leaves topped with chia seeds and apple slices

This salad is more than just low-carb deliciousness, it also showcases the crisp freshness of healthy raw foods! This easy salad recipe also works with other varieties of lettuce: Make it your way!

Go to the recipe

Jackfruit Wraps

A photo of four jackfruit tacos with a peanut butter sauce drizzle on a tan plate

Instead of the usual corn tortillas, grab some large crisp lettuce leaves to transform this jackfruit taco recipe into fresh wraps with fewer carbs. You can also substitute some beef, chicken, or pork (sauteed until well done) for a carnivore-friendly version.

Get the recipe here

Protein Pasta Salad

A bowl of orange-tinted Protein Pasta noodles with shrimp

Pasta doesn’t have to be full of carbs all the time. Our Protein Pasta makes this hearty pasta salad a gold mine of healthy protein with veggies! Substitute chicken for the shrimp and make a combo pasta and chicken salad for a double punch of nutrition. 

Click here for the recipe

Coconut Protein Snacks 

©foodspring

Served cold, these easy coconut protein snacks pack a ton of coconut flavor for a bite-sized addition to your picnic desserts. And they prove that low-sugar summer picnic food can also be rich and creamy. 

">Get the recipe here

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecakes

chocolate peanut butter cheesecake

Make this cheesecake in a muffin tin (and reduce the cooking time!) to make it more picnic friendly. It’s got all the creamy chocolate goodness of a cheesecake with much fewer carbs! But make sure that you’ve got a cooler to keep them in, because if you leave these out in the summer sun too long, the cream cheese filling won’t be the same.

Get the recipe here

Picking out Perfect Picnic Snacks

Picnic food ideas don’t always have to be something homemade, because raw vegetables are also an easy and refreshing snack in the summer. Foods with built-in packaging – like bananas – make for an extra-convenient choice.

Want to please any picnic fan? Pick a variety of the following: melons, grapes, firm cheese, ham, cucumbers, figs, apples, peaches, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, nuts of all kinds, cherry tomatoes, olives, radishes, carrots, and ready-made antipasti.

©Westend61

Tips for During the Picnic

Once you’ve taken care of all the food, you’re ready to enjoy your picnic with your guests to the fullest. It only gets annoying when various insects start invading your blanket to nibble at your food. Be ready to protect your snacks with lids, cake covers, and rubber bands or clips for bags. To prevent mosquitoes and wasps from making their way to you in the first place, remember to pick up a special outdoor candle with essential oils like citronella.  

In addition to some form of insect protection, your picnic kit should also include sunscreen and, of course, garbage bags. Our tip: The garbage cans in park areas will probably already be full by the time you get there. They aren’t designed to accommodate everyone’s picnic waste! So help take care of your public spaces and gather it all together, tidy up everything, separate out leftovers, put all the waste in a garbage bag and dispose of it when you get home.  

Picknick
©Ainsley Duyvestyn-Smith / EyeEm

Conclusion

  • In addition to some tasty snacks, your picnic won’t be complete without sunscreen, a picnic blanket, cushions, garbage bags, a cooler, and some napkins.
  • Finger foods and individual snacks such as sandwiches, skewers, and muffins are particularly perfect picnic food ideas.
  • Of course a picnic can also be low-carb! If you want to cut the carbs, try wraps with lettuce leaves instead of tortillas, or high-protein coconut snacks instead of cakes and pies.
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