The Healthiest Foods to Pack in Your Picnic Lunch

Healthy Living

June 9, 2022

Summer calls for family picnics. And what’s the most important part of any picnic? The food, of course! This summer, lighten up your outdoor meals with dishes that are both healthy and kid-friendly. 

New recipes will add variety to your picnic routine. They’ll also energize your family for one summer adventure after another.

Main Dishes

The main dish often provides the biggest protein punch, so it’s an essential part of any picnic plan. If you’re tired of the same old sandwiches, give these alternatives a try.

Vegetable Wraps

A loaded veggie wrap is like a salad and a sandwich in one. The basic idea is to start with an outer shell, cover it with a spread, and then pile it high with an assortment of vegetables before rolling it closed. 

There are lots of ways to make this dish your own, though. You could opt for a grain-free wrap or even use lettuce if you’re cutting down on starch.

If you’re looking for inspiration to get started, Tastes Better from Scratch suggests pairing whole wheat tortillas with hummus. A dish made from chickpeas, hummus provides fiber, protein and healthy fat. 

The site’s recipe also includes a list of suggested vegetable fillings, including spinach, cucumber, alfalfa sprouts and edamame. For the spread, try light cream cheese or guacamole.

Chicken Dippers

Deli meat is often high in sodium and contains unhealthy nitrates. Baked chicken breasts are a better choice. For added flavor, cook them ahead of time using this marinade recipe from the Healthy Foodie.

Once the chicken has cooled down, cut it into slices. Serve the strips cold at your next picnic. 

Kids may enjoy dipping the meat into salsa, honey mustard or barbecue sauce. Adults can add the pieces to a crisp lettuce salad or stuff them into a whole-grain pita.

Peanut Butter Bananas

For kids who just can’t get enough PB&J, try a banana with peanut butter instead. The banana will give your kiddo vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium and a variety of other nutrients.

This is an easy dish to prepare once you arrive at your picnic site. Peel the banana and slice it lengthwise. Squeeze a single-serve packet of peanut butter onto the cut side. Press the two halves of the banana back together, and your child’s meal will be ready to go.

It’s a classic kid-approved combo, but even adults can get in on the fun with this one.

Side Dishes

Main dishes may form the hub of the meal, but side dishes are often the star of the picnic. Sadly, creamy salads and cheesy casseroles can weigh you down. Opt for lighter sides that will provide the fuel you need for a post-lunch hike or game of bocce ball.

Fruit Skewers

Outdoor dining calls for easy food service. The simpler it is to pass out items to each person in your family, the better. Skewers to the rescue! Besides, kids seem unable to resist food on a stick, making this a great technique for persuading them to eat more produce (and maybe even try new foods).

Health experts recommend eating a wide variety of produce colors. When your diet contains a varied mix of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, you can rest assured that you’re supplying your body with many different phytonutrients. With that in mind, aiming for a rainbow of fruits on each skewer is a smart way to up your color intake.

Lil’ Luna offers fruit suggestions to match each color of the rainbow. The website also gives you tips for using lemon juice to keep cut fruit from turning brown (a win for pickier eaters).

Zoodle Salad

Pasta salad is a picnic staple. But if you’re looking for something with fewer carbs and more greenery, give zoodle salad a try.

Zoodles are made by running fresh zucchini through a spiralizing tool. With each forkful of fresh zucchini, you’ll get a hefty dose of potassium and vitamin C. Plus, zucchini “noodles” are naturally gluten free!

And if you’re looking for another way to use zoodles, Cupcakes and Kale Chips provides instructions for turning spiralized zucchini into an eye-popping Greek salad. The dish includes olives, tomatoes, feta cheese and a light dressing.

Cowboy Caviar

Nothing says summer quite like fresh sweet corn. Toting ears of corn to a family picnic can be a challenge, though. Instead, prepare a batch of Cowboy Caviar using this recipe from Dinner at the Zoo. Serve it as a salad or a dip for baked tortilla chips.

With corn and two types of legumes, this dish is rich in fiber. The corn also provides vitamin B, copper, manganese, lutein and iron. You’ll get beta carotene from the orange pepper and healthy fat from the avocado, too.

There’s a jalapeno pepper in the mix as well, but you can leave that out if you’ve got spice-averse eaters at your picnic.


There’s nothing wrong with ending your picnic with a sweet treat. Of course, you don’t want to spoil your healthy meal by topping it off with a fat- and sugar-laden dessert. Try one of these better-for-you ideas instead.

No-Bake Cookies

Chocolatey cookies may not be the healthiest dish on your picnic list, but the popular no-bake variety has some good things going for it. For one thing, the cookies are made with quick-cooking oats, which are fiber-rich whole grains. Also, they’re loaded with nut butter for a burst of protein.

You may have a family-favorite recipe for these tasty treats, but the one from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe puts a healthier spin on the traditional ingredients. It calls for honey, coconut oil and bittersweet chocolate chips in lieu of more classic pantry staples.

Fruit Salsa

Some of the healthiest desserts are the ones that center around fruit. For a light dessert after a hearty picnic meal, whip up a batch of fruit salsa. The colorful mixture will be a refreshing treat on a hot day.

This recipe from What Molly Made’s includes another good-for-you ingredient: fresh basil. A sprinkle on top of the salad does more than just contribute to the flavor profile. It also provides calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Whole grain pita chips are the perfect tools for scooping this fruit salsa. 

The What Molly Made recipe suggests sprinkling homemade chips with cinnamon. In addition to smelling fabulous, this common baking spice contains valuable antioxidants and may also help regulate blood sugar.


Hydration is an important part of any summer adventure, especially since it’s hot out. Here’s how to satisfy your family’s thirst without overloading them with empty calories.

Infused Water

Good old water is one of the best options for quenching your thirst. Kids and adults alike may find it boring, though. The simple addition of fresh fruit can breathe new life into this drink. Not only will the add-ins contribute flavor, but they’ll also make a great snack when you reach the bottom of your glass.

Eating Bird Food suggests six variations on fruit-infused water. The recipes include ingredients like basil, rosemary, blueberries, cucumber and grapefruit.

For the strongest flavor, prep your infusions at least two hours before you plan to drink them. But you’ll get even better results if you let them sit overnight.

Hibiscus Iced Tea

Sometimes, your kids just can’t resist the allure of a brightly colored, sugary fruit punch. Lucky for them and you, there’s a way to enjoy a fresh summer drink without resorting to a packet of mysterious powder.

Hibiscus tea provides the same rich hue without all the sugar and food dyes. Plus, hibiscus contains vitamin C, and research shows it may have a positive effect on blood pressure.

Martha Stewart has an easy recipe for a hibiscus drink that uses prepared tea bags. Honey and a squirt of lime juice contribute to the flavor profile. If your picnic-goers need a little something extra, add a splash of lemonade.