National Picnic Month: Healthy food swaps for your summer picnic

Who doesn’t love a good picnic? July is National Picnic Month, and it’s the perfect opportunity to grab some friends, pack the picnic basket, and enjoy some al fresco dining. Whether you’re picnicking at the beach, park, campground, or tailgate, picnics are a fun and nostalgic way to share a meal and spend quality time together.

Fortunately, many of the best picnic foods are healthy, too! Here are some of the best healthy food swaps you can pack for your next picnic that are more nutritious but just as delicious.  

Healthy picnic food swaps for National Picnic Month

Check out these healthy picnic ideas for filling and delicious alternatives to familiar favorites. 

greek yogurt in a bowl

Swap mayo for Greek yogurt

Potato salad is classic summer picnic food, but it’s often loaded with mayonnaise. Instead of mayo, you can make your potato salad with Greek yogurt as a healthier option. Greek yogurt maintains the creamy texture while adding calcium and potassium. This trick works for coleslaw and pasta salads, too! 

carrot sticks

Swap potato chips for veggie sticks

Every picnic needs a crunchy side to scoop up some delicious dip. Veggie sticks are a great healthy food swap for potato chips. Some of the best veggies to use are bell peppers, celery, carrots, and cucumbers.

guacamole in a wooden bowl

Swap fatty dips for healthy dips

Not all dips are created equal! Trade your ranch, French onion, or cheese dip for lighter options, like salsa, guacamole, tzatziki, or hummus. These are just as delicious, without the extra calories and fat. 

loaf of whole grain bread

Swap white bread for whole-grain bread

Sandwiches are a picnic classic. An easy way to make yours more nutritious is by swapping the white bread for low sugar, whole grain bread. Go easy on the condiments, too! 

frozen fruit pops

Swap cookies or brownies for frozen fruit pops

Instead of cookies or brownies for dessert, satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruit, fruit kabobs, or frozen fruit pops. Watermelon is a classic summer picnic food, so be sure to pre-slice and pack some!

fruit juice

Swap soft drinks for fruit juice

A sweet, cold drink in the summertime is a perfect refresher. 100% fruit juice without artificial sweeteners is lower in calories and sugar than regular soft drinks. Flavored sparkling water is another great option, as well. 

Don’t forget about food safety

Bacteria quickly grows on food that’s kept out for too long. Foodborne illness can turn the perfect picnic into a nightmare. The food safety danger zone is between 40 and 140 degrees for two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90 degrees. This is a pretty short window, so you’ll want to take special care to keep your cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Here are a few ways to safely pack and store your picnic foods: 

  1. Pack your cold food in a cooler with ice packs to keep it cold.
  2. Limit how often you open and close your ice chest to prevent cold air from escaping.
  3. Clean all fruits and vegetables before packing.
  4. Keep your cooler in a shady area out of the direct sun. On your way to the picnic site, keep the cooler in your air-conditioned car rather than the trunk. 
  5. Pack hand sanitizer and wash or sanitize your hands before handling food. 
  6. Throw out leftover food that has sat out for more than an hour. 

Learn more about properly handling food while outdoors on the FDA website

Best picnic spots in Houston

With six locations across the Greater Houston area, we know our way around pretty well. Here are some of the best places to plan your healthy picnic around town: 

  • Discovery Green
  • Memorial Park
  • Menil Park
  • Buffalo Bayou Park
  • Hermann Park
  • Baytown Nature Center
  • River Grove Park in Kingwood

Where are your favorite picnic spots in Houston? What did we leave off the list? Share your best picnic plans and snacks with us on social media! Hit the links below to follow us: