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How to plan a healthy summer picnic (+ recipe)

With warmer weather in your near future (fingers crossed), you may be looking to enjoy a meal or two outside. Whether it's a family backyard cookout or a picnic with a friend at the local park, here are a few tips to keep your picnic meal nutritious and safe.
  1. If you plan to be outside for several hours, choose foods that won't melt or spoil easily. Good options include raw or cooked firm vegetables, chopped fruit, cooked grains, cold pasta salad, beans, popcorn, pretzels, hummus and trail mix. 
  2. Consider going meatless with plant proteins that hold up well in hot conditions. Options include beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh. You can mix into a beautiful salad or your go-to grain dishes. 
  3. For a savory-sweet dessert, consider cheese alongside dried and fresh fruit.
  4. Don't forget to hydrate. To limit individual plastic water bottles, have everyone at your picnic bring/carry their own reusable insulated water bottle. 
  5. When grilling, consider heart-healthy options like fish, lean meat, veggie burgers, and a range of veggies. A marinade may reduce the production of carcinogens and adds great flavor to your dish due to all the herbs and spices. 
  6. Be sure to wash hands before serving or eating food and bring hand sanitizer to use before and after eating, handling pets, changing baby diapers or using the bathroom. 
  7. Perishable foods - like dairy, mayo, eggs or meat - should not be left in room temperature for more than two hours (one hour if the temperature is higher than 90 degrees F). Make sure you have plenty of ice if using a cooler. 
  8. Minimize waste by bringing disposable paperware and utensils. Products made of glass, bamboo, cloth, cermaic or stainless steel are environmentally friendly and can be washed and reused.
"Dinner and a movie, forget that, I’d rather have a picnic and a waterfall."
– Amanda Grace

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

By Joey Mock, RD, LD, CLT

This Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad makes a deliciously refreshing side for your picnic in the park or backyard cookout. Leftovers will make a perfect addition to a lunch on-the-go or to enjoy as a satisfying afternoon snack.


For the vinaigrette:

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 medium lemon)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil
For the pasta salad:
  • 3 cups cooked orzo, cooled
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • ¼ cup black olives, quartered
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried minced onions
  • Couple of dashes black pepper
  • Dash dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. In a 16-ounce mason jar, combine all ingredients for the vinaigrette. Seal the jar with a lid and shake vigorously until combined.
  2. In a large bowl, combine pasta, tomato, cucumber, black olives, parsley, feta cheese, oregano, minced onions, black pepper, thyme, and lemon juice and toss.
  3. Give the vinaigrette another good shake and pour up to 6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette over the pasta salad and toss to evenly distribute.
  4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Enjoy!
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