Best & Worst Foods for a Picnic

Pictured Recipe: Turkey, Cheese & Veggie Plate

As the temperatures warm and summer is quickly approaching, it's time for meals outdoors enjoying the sunshine. I love the traditional foods of summer: burgers and dogs, creamy salads, yummy desserts. Unfortunately, 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 dinner. You can lighten it up with one of our low-carb picnic recipes, or keep it classic with a vintage picnic recipe. 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 picnic foods.

Turkey, Cheese & Veggie Plate
Turkey, Cheese & Veggie Plate

The Best Foods for a Picnic

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

Fruits & 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 are 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 & 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 & Deli Meats

Sliced 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 bring a cooler so foods are not left out in the sun for longer than two hours.

Nuts & 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. Add in other healthy fats like olives and fiber from dried fruit for extra flavor.

Single-Serving Desserts

It is important to bring something sweet that will help you finish off your picnic meal. Try desserts that are pre-portioned in single servings to keep things easy and simple. We have ample cookies, brownies, energy balls and more for you single-serving dessert needs.

The 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 which might not be the best food to sit out in the sun on hot days. Instead, opt for a grain salad, bean salad or coleslaw.


While we love our chocolate at EatingWell and it boasts some serious health benefits, it is unfortunately not the best picnic food. Chocolate melts, which can cause a serious mess. Choose dried fruit or a single-serve dessert instead.


Sugar-sweetened beverages like soda can actually dehydrate you, which is not good news when you are spending all day in the sun. Plus, it can pack on empty calories, added sugar and some undesirable health consequences. Choose drinks that hydrate you and are lighter on added sugars, like water, seltzer and homemade iced teas.

Fish & Seafood

Fish and seafood are super healthy foods, but they don't do well when left unrefrigerated. To make sure your meal is food safe, leave these food groups at home. Instead, bring other protein foods like cheese, hummus, nuts and deli meats and don't leave them out at room temperature for more than two hours.

Whole Pies & Cakes

Trying to slice up a whole cake or pie on a picnic blanket sounds... stressful. Skip the hassle and leave whole desserts at home. Choose a single-serve dessert like cookies, brownies or energy balls instead.