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Food Ideas for Your Summer Picnics

Summer picnics are a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors, whether at a nearby park or by a river. Relaxing on a blanket while eating a meal is a great way to connect with nature. Kids can have fun running around, exploring nature, and taking a break from screens. Don’t forget to check out our surprising picnic must-haves for your next sunny day. Here are some healthy food options to consider:

Salad in a Jar 

When it comes to picnics, salads can be difficult to pack since they require multiple containers for the salad and dressing. However, jarred salads are a great solution. The trick is to layer the ingredients in the right order to avoid any sogginess.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Prepare a mason jar with hard veggies such as peppers and onions at the bottom and cover with a dressing of choice. The goal is to avoid mixing high-water-content veggies like lettuce with dressing. 
  2. Next, add protein such as beans or grilled chicken, then watery veggies such as cucumber followed by cheese and nuts. 
  3. Finally, fill the jar with lettuce and store it in a cooler for a fresh meal that just needs a good shake before eating.

Watermelon Jalapeño Gazpacho Shooters

Indulge in the ultimate summertime soup with this delectable gazpacho recipe. Bursting with vibrant colors and flavors, this chilled soup is a perfect blend of sweet and savory, providing a refreshing and light appetizer.


  • 4 heaping cups of seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • ½ jalapeño
  • 4 Campari tomatoes, diced, reserve 1 tomato for garnish
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 stalks of green onions, chopped, reserve ½ stalk for garnish
  • ¼ cup basil leaves
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil plus 1 tsp. for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Add all ingredients to a blender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour into the desired container to cool. Chill for 4 hours or overnight.
  2. Pour into shot glasses or other small glasses and garnish with diced tomato, green onion, and olive oil drizzle.

Sundried Tomato Italian Pasta Salad

This pasta salad recipe packs in nutrients from a variety of vegetables and adds a nice crunch from bell peppers and cucumbers. With a vinaigrette-based rather than mayonnaise-based dressing, this pasta salad fares better for outdoor summer events from a food-safety aspect.


  • 12-ounce box rotini pasta, preferably whole wheat
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/4cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup black olives, drained and sliced
  • 1 English cucumber, diced
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
  • ½ cup sundried tomatoes, julienne cut in oil
  • ½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup Italian dressing, homemade (recipe below) or store-bought


  1. Bring pasta to a boil and drop in the pasta. Cook for about 6 minutes, or to desired texture. It’s recommended to have the pasta hard to bite so that it does not have a mushy texture when combined with dressing.
  2. Combine all ingredients. Enjoy!

Homemade Italian Dressing


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3/4 tsp. dried parsley
  • 3/4 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Optional: to get more flavor from the dried spices, first grind with your fingers or in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Whisk all ingredients or place them in a blender.

Cheese and Fruit Board

If you’re pressed for time when it comes to meal preparation, a cheese and fruit board is a quick and effortless option. You can either cut fruit and slice the cheese yourself at home or purchase pre-sliced cheese and cut fruit from the grocery store. It’s important to keep the cheese chilled until you’re ready to serve, especially on hot days, as warm temperatures can cause bacteria to multiply rapidly.


Looking for a fiber-packed whole-grain snack that’s perfect for picnics? Popcorn is a great choice. Not only does it not require cooler space, but it’s also safe to leave in the sun for the duration of your picnic. Try these ideas for taking your popcorn flavors to the next level.

Shanthi Appelö is a registered dietitian and health and wellness spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan based in Detroit. Passionate about the science of nutrition and behavior, Shanthi has experience working in clinical nutrition, public health and teaching in the university setting. In her free time, she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen, exploring the outdoors, working on art and spending time with family. For more recipes and health information, visit

A Healthier Michigan
Author: A Healthier Michigan

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