Picnic Perfection: Tips for Healthy, Safe and Delicious Meals On-The-Go

By LeeAnn Weintraub

family fun magazine


Whether you are headed to the zoo, a park, an amusement park or the beach, day trips provide excellent opportunities to spend time together, create memories and explore the areas surrounding Los Angeles.  These tips from our family fun magazine will keep you fed and maximize the fun.

Bringing meals and snacks along for the ride will give you better control over food choices while helping to save money and time. Plus, you can enjoy a fun picnic outdoors while steering clear of the crowded food stalls and restaurants often found at touristy destinations.

If you plan to bring any perishable foods such as mayonnaise, cheese, prepared salads or deli meats, keep them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs. When foods are not kept at the proper temperature, bacteria can grow quickly to dangerous levels. The golden rule of thumb for food left out at room temperature is two hours – or just one hour if temperatures are 90 degrees or higher. After that, toss it out.

The Right Start

Skipping breakfast is a recipe for disaster. If your day starts early, plan to have a quick and easy breakfast at home or on the go. Include minimal-fuss foods that can be prepared ahead of time. Hard boiled eggs or mini breakfast burritos in whole-wheat tortillas are high in protein and super portable. High-fiber cereal bars, fresh fruit, apple sauce and yogurt drinks are also easy, kid-friendly foods to take along.

Smart Snacking

Be sure to pack nutritious snacks that keep everyone energized. Look for nutrient-dense snacks that contain healthy fats, protein and fiber. Some great day trip snacks include turkey jerky, whole-wheat crackers, pumpkin seeds, dehydrated fruits and vegetables and pistachios.

family fun magazine


The Perfect Picnic

Plan for an easy lunch that is quick to assemble and incorporates some vegetables. Tuna sandwiches on whole-grain bread with a side of baby carrots and cucumbers make an ideal for a summer picnic. If you won’t have access to a cooler, consider packing individual pre-sealed pouches of tuna or salmon that don’t require refrigeration and can be opened and enjoyed at meal time. Some other tasty and nutritious lunch ideas include pasta salad with beans and vegetables, nut butter sandwiches, turkey and cheese pita wraps, and cheese and veggie quesadillas.

Stay Cool

Finally, don’t forget to stay hydrated. Keep in mind that children get overheated much faster than adults do. Consider how much fluid everyone will need for the day and pack bottles of water and other favorite beverages accordingly. It is best to keep a separate easily accessible cooler for drinks, and leave perishable foods in their own cooler at the correct temperature until eaten.

From the mountains to the ocean, Southern California boasts many family-friendly attractions. Having a plan for eating well will help ensure that your mini vacay is a big success. Stocking nutritious snacks, a cooler with refreshing drinks and a delicious picnic lunch is a recipe for good nutrition and sustained energy during a long day on the road.

LeeAnn Weintraub, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and food and nutrition writer based in Los Angeles. Her family, which includes two small children, lives in Sherman Oaks. LeeAnn is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Dietetics Practice-Based Research Network, and the Nutrition Entrepreneurs Practice Group, and provides nutrition consultation to companies and organizations including the National Fisheries Institute and Wonderful Pistachios. She’s also the author of the “Everything Glycemic Index Cookbook” and writes a nutrition column for the LA Daily Breeze.

Check out LeeAnn’s Instagram campaign, halfpintchefs, where she features kid-friendly videos, photos and recipes for meals and snacks that kids can make on their own. Each recipe features a “super ingredient,” one star ingredient known for its health properties. 

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