[NUTRITION] What should I pack in my picnic basket this summer?

 Summer is the perfect time to get outside and visit parks, go hiking, or relax by the water. But what should you bring while you’re out exploring? Read on to learn about packing a healthy (and safe) picnic basket.
Try these healthy picnic basket ideas:


  • Try yogurt cups and homemade granola
  • Pack whole wheat English muffins spread with natural peanut butter
  • Bring fresh fruit like bananas, apples, peaches or pears, or fruit cups packed in water or light syrup
  • Pack individual sized low fat milk

Lunch or dinner

  • Layer ingredients for a hardy salad in a plastic or glass jar. Put your dressing on the bottom, followed by vegetables like sliced cucumbers and carrots. Next add chickpeas, edamame or chopped hard boiled eggs. Finish with salad greens and pumpkin seeds on top! Shake before serving and add pita wedges on the side.
  • Add a flavour twist for a tasty new sandwich idea: Try mango slices with cooked chicken, red onion and mixed lettuce wrapped in whole wheat tortillas.
  • Enjoy a cold pasta salad with cooked chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. Add your favourite vegetables to add flavour and colour.


  • Try trail mix paired with fresh fruit
  • Bring cut vegetables to dip in bean hummus
  • Pack whole wheat crackers for tuna mini sandwiches
  • Bring dried fruit as an easy and portable option
  • Fill reusable water bottles with sliced cucumbers or lemons


  • Try a light cookie or enjoy a low fat brownie
  • Add fresh fruit to a milk-based pudding

Remember to pack perishable foods properly

Perishable foods like meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products should be packed safely.

  • Pack perishable foods in an insulated cooler bag with freezer packs. You can also freeze water bottles or juice boxes and use them as freezer packs.
  • Eat perishable foods first when they’re still cold.
  • Keep the cooler out of the sun and in the coolest part of your vehicle when travelling to your destination.

Throw out any perishable foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours in the summer time. Food that is spoiled does not necessarily look, smell or taste bad – when in doubt, throw it out!

Tips to avoid cross contamination

  • Pack meals and snacks separately in your picnic basket. Use reusable plastic or glass containers and zipper plastic bags.
  • Wash out coolers and cooler bags using hot soapy water and/or sanitize them with a mild bleach solution (1 tsp of bleach per 3 cups of water).
  • Wash your hands with soap often. Keep a hand sanitizer gel with you when you’re not able to use fresh water and soap.


Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.

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