The warm weather and long days are just begging you to lay out a blanket and do dinner outside. No-cook picnic dinners are perfect when it's too hot to turn on the stove. And there's relatively little cleanup. If you've got kids, packing up a quick picnic dinner means you can get out of the kitchen and outside to enjoy the sunshine with your family. Pack up a bottle of prosecco and some chocolate-covered strawberries, for a romantic dinner for two.
To keep it healthy, look to your vegetable garden for inspiration—or whatever fresh fruits and veggies you have right now in your kitchen. Then round out your meal with easy-to-eat ingredients like assorted nuts, cheese, whole-grain crackers and healthy store-bought convenience items (like hummus and deli turkey). We came up with five different picnic variations to choose from, including a kid-friendly picnic and a vegan picnic spread (scroll down to see them all). Or use our simple formula to help you create a balanced meal that best suits your style.
Don't forget to pack the picnic essentials, like a blanket (of course), utensils, plates, a bottle opener and bug spray.
Simple Formula to Pack a Healthy Picnic Dinner
Choose at least one item from each category to create a healthy and balanced meal.
1. Load Up on Produce
Get your fill of fruits and veggies in with your cheese and crackers. Here are some easy options that can be easily prepped in advance and pack up well. Plan to wash and cut what you can in advance, or bring a knife and small cutting board and do the prep on the picnic blanket.
- Watermelon wedges
- Honeydew melon cubes
- Cantaloupe cubes
- Apple slices
- Orange slices
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Cucumber slices
- Sliced peppers or mini bell peppers
- Snap peas
- Cherry tomatoes
- Baby radishes
2. Add in Healthy Protein
For satisfying staying power, add some protein to your picnic platter. Choose sliced meats and cheese, or go with a hummus or bean dip to help keep sodium and saturated fat levels in check. For ease, grab a prepared hummus or dip from the grocery store or, if you have time, make your own in advance. For cheese and sliced meat, plan to serve about 1 ounce of each per person, which is about 1 slice of cheese + 1 slice of protein each.
Hummus & Bean Dips:
- Garlic hummus
- Beet hummus
- White bean & basil hummus
- Sharp Cheddar
- Mozzarella pearls
- Monterey Jack
- Thinly sliced prosciutto
- Lower-sodium turkey
- Uncured ham
- Roast beef
Related: Browse our Healthy Hummus Recipes
3. Choose a Whole Grain
Look for breads and crackers made with whole wheat or other whole grains for extra fiber and for more staying power. You could also go with a prepared grain salad from the grocery store, or you can make your own ahead of time.
Whole-Grain Breads & Crackers:
- Seeded crackers
- Whole-grain crackers
- Whole-wheat baguette
- Whole-wheat pita bread
Healthy Grain Salads:
- Quinoa salad
- Whole-wheat pasta salad
- Tabbouleh salad
- Wild-rice salad
Related: Healthy Grain Salad Recipes
4. Include Healthy Fats
Add in healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, olives and avocado.
Nuts & Seeds:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- Sunflower seeds
- Kalamata olives
- Stuffed olives (try blue cheese stuffed or garlic stuffed)
- Castelvetrano olives
- Herb-marinated olives
Other Healthy Fats:
- Guacamole (buy it premade or make one of these Guacamole Dip Recipes)
- Avocado hummus (try this recipe)
- Flavored-infused olive oil for dipping baguette slices or pita bread
Related: The Best Wine & Nut Pairings
5. Select Your Drink of Choice
Pick out a nice bottle of wine, a specialty beer, cider or whatever your drink of choice may be. Don't forget to pack a bottle opener!
- Spiked seltzer
- 100% fruit juice
- Unsweetened iced tea
- Infused water
- Feeling fancy? Mix up a batch of your favorite cocktail or iced tea to bring on-the-go. Try this recipe for Red Sangria or this Green Jasmine-Mint Iced Tea with Lemon.
6. Don't Forget Something Sweet!
Add in a little something sweet to finish off the meal. Pick up something from the store or a local bakery or plan to make something in advance.
- Dark chocolate squares
- Coconut date rolls
- Chocolate-covered strawberries
5 Summer Picnic Dinner Spreads to Try
This kid-friendly Turkey, Cheese & Veggie Plate is one that kids and adults alike will love. We kept the flavors mild so everyone can enjoy the spread.
This Prosciutto, Mozzarella & Melon Plate is great for an outdoor date night or even just a quick, romantic dinner at home. The fresh melon, prosciutto and cheese combo pairs perfectly with prosecco for sipping. Chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert make the meal extra-special.
This Mediterranean-inspired Tabbouleh, Hummus & Pita Plate features healthy and delicious vegan items like beet hummus, parsley tabbouleh and whole-wheat pita bread. Check to see if your local grocery store sells prepared tabbouleh and beet hummus or plan to make your own.
This allergy-friendly Sweet & Savory Hummus Plate excludes the top allergens and food intolerances, so just about everyone should be able to enjoy it without worrying. This picnic is free of tree nuts, peanuts, dairy, soy, eggs and gluten.
This healthy Fruit, Veggie & Cheese Plate is easy and affordable to pull together for a fun snack-style dinner.
More Summer Picnic Inspiration:
Healthy Summer Picnic Recipes
Food & Drink Hacks for Your Summer Pool Party
The Best Reusable Products for Outdoor BBQ Parties & Picnics
How Long Can Picnic Foods Stay Unrefrigerated?
The Healthy Summer Survival Guide