Summer time is a perfect time to be outdoors as much as possible. There is no better way to enjoy the outdoors than through a relaxing picnic complete with family, good friends and, of course, good food! There are some things you need to know, however, to ensure that your picnic is safe, complete with healthy food options and happy memories.

An important component of being a healthy eater, and raising healthy eaters, is to plan ahead. Since you will be outdoors and eating away from home, you want to ensure that you have nutritious foods that travel well. Get an idea of what foods you want to bring along with you, and always keep balance in mind when planning what snacks and meals you are taking on your picnic.

Make sure you are including every food group by choosing from the following picnic perfect to-go foods:

Grains: whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta salad, whole wheat dry cereal, whole grain crackers (look for the whole grain stamp on the box), whole wheat pita bread. Sandwiches are a great lunch food to pack for picnics. Use whole wheat bread or pita bread. Incorporate chopped apples, fresh tomatoes and celery into your pasta salad and dress with olive oil and seasonings.

Protein: low fat string cheese, nut butter, walnuts, almonds, cashews, hummus, edamame, quinoa salad (grain + protein + fiber!), bean salad, sliced chicken or turkey breast, unopened canned tuna. Picnics are the perfect time to eat plant based proteins. Animal protein is difficult to store and temperature sensitive when you don’t have proper refrigeration.

Fruits & Vegetables: apples, bananas, melons, oranges, grapes, dried fruits, cherries, celery sticks, carrot sticks, bell peppers, snap peas, broccoli florets, and fresh salad. Fresh fruit and vegetables are the perfect picnic foods. Choose those that are easy to eat without utensils. Combine the vegetable sticks with hummus for a nutritious, high protein snack. Bring fruit to the picnic with their peel on, once the flesh is exposed it browns quickly, especially when exposed to a warmer temperature.

Beverages: bottled water, sparkling water, seltzer, coffee, tea. If you have kids that love flavored beverages, prepare a thermos of water flavored with freshly squeezed oranges, lemons and lime. You can also infuse it with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and herbs like mint and sage. Create your own flavored water creation for a burst of refreshment.

Having nutritious foods is important when planning for an outdoor picnic, but it is also just as crucial to have the proper storage for these foods, since fresh food is more perishable than processed food. Tupperware, re-sealable plastic bags and large coolers should become your best friends while packing your picnic perfect foods. Keep everything sealed and in the cooler when they are not being eaten. Food can go bad quickly when left sitting in the hot sun.

You may also not have access to clean water to wash your hands, so bring along antibacterial hand sanitizer and wipes for your hands. Make sure you have plenty of utensils, plates, napkins, cups and trash bags. Always keep in mind that you want to keep cold foods cold (40 degrees or lower) and hot foods hot (140 degrees or higher). It may be easier to stick with cold foods like sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables and pre-made salads. Unless you have access to a grill at the picnic site, coolers are easier to transport than food warmers.

Enjoying good food is only one part of a perfect picnic. Enjoying good times with family and friends is another. Make your picnic a physically active one. Start a game of Frisbee, have a catch, or bring your bikes. With family fun, healthy food and the warm sun, you and your loved ones will have the perfect day to end off the summer.

Author's Bio: 

Bonnie R. Giller is a registered and certified dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor who helps chronic dieters break free of the pain of dieting and get the healthy body they love. She has multiple degrees in clinical nutrition, a certification as a certified diabetes educator and she works with people who are struggling with dieting or health conditions like diabetes take back control so they can get a healthy body and live their lives symptom free.

Bonnie utilizes the principles of intuitive eating in her work with her clients, which is eating based on internal signals of hunger and satiety versus situations or emotions. The result is they lose weight, keep it off without dieting and live a healthy life of guilt-free eating.

Bonnie is the author of 2 cookbooks and is now working on her third cookbook. She is also the author of an e-book called “5 Steps to a Body You Love Without Dieting” which you can download free at http://www.DietFreeZone.com

For more information on Bonnie’s programs, books, lectures and presentations, visit http://www.brghealth.com