Six Tips for a Safe and Healthy Summer Picnic

July is a fantastic time of year for combing two of my favorite activities – enjoying the outdoors and… EATING!

It should come as no surprise that in the United States, July is National Hot Dog Month, National Blueberry Month, National Grilling Month and, of course, National Ice Cream Month. When you combine 4th of July celebrations plus the warm weather, you’ve got a month full of eating outdoors. But, warm summer temperatures can make eating out in nature a bit more risky. Here are some simple tips that you can use to enjoy your picnic without worry.

Keep it Clean

Bring soap, antibacterial lotion, or wipes to help prevent contamination to clean hands and utensils. Do not reuse plates or utensils that have come in contact with raw meats. Keep seafood, red meat, pork and chicken all separate so there’s no cross-contamination.

Food Prep

Defrost meats at home in the refrigerator before you pack them up for grilling and rinse fruits and vegetables before packing them up, so they’re already clean when you’re ready to eat.

Pack it Up and Pack it In

Separate raw and cooked foods in separate coolers- this is important! Be sure to pack raw meats in tightly sealed bags or containers.

Cooler 101

Be sure to get a well-insulated cooler that will keep food at 40 degrees and below. A well-stocked cooler will keep the temperature better so try to bring the right size for the amount of food you will be bringing. Hot food needs to be kept at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and above and cold foods need to be kept at 40 degrees and below.

Consider bringing multiple coolers, that way you can keep drinks in a separate cooler so that food/ice is not warmed up with frequent opening of the cooler. Replenish ice and drain off water used for food storage. Finally, make sure your cooler is sitting in a shaded area.

Pitch it

Throw out any perishable foods that have sat out for more than 2 hours or 1 hour when it is 90 degrees and above.

Take a Temp

Use a food thermometer to check if food is cooked to the appropriate temperature. Check out for a list of safe temperatures to remember.

Delicious Dishes Perfect For Sharing

Here are great picnic staples that have been altered to make them safe and healthy options – and delicious to boot!

  • OilVinegar Slaw. This recipe ditches the mayonnaise and uses Stevia to cut fat and calories. The vinegar base makes it very refreshing on a hot day and won’t turn as easily in the heat sans mayo. You could jazz this recipe up by adding dried cranberries for a new twist.
  • Red Sangria. This low-sugar spin on a refreshing cocktail use Stevia and diet soda to add sweetness without the add calories. Feel free to go heavy on the fruit is this delightful summer drink.
  • Cucumber Dill Salad. Cucumber salad is a family staple when it is too hot to stay in the kitchen for long. This recipe uses Stevia to cut sugar and calories.


Carolyn ReynaudCarolyn Reynaud, MS, RD, LD is a licensed registered dietitian. She received her BS in nutrition from Michigan State University and her Masters and Certificate in Public Health from Georgia State University. She has experience working in several avenues of health care including corporate wellness, clinical disease management, research, and health promotion. She has been working as a health coach specialist for close to 6 years, where she counsels patients on preventative healthcare and helps them meet their health goals. Follow her on Twitter @ReynaudCari.