Pack a Perfect, Healthy Picnic

Simple rules to keep your alfresco dining experience safe, healthy, and delicious

Summer is the ideal time to bring lunch out of your kitchen (or the takeout place around the corner) and into the great outdoors. Picnics make a great date or a fun afternoon with friends; but no matter your plans, there are a few important steps to make sure your alfresco meal is healthy and safe. Bacteria are guests you don’t want at your summertime party!

Stay cool: Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or lower in a cooler, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Keep drinks separate from other cold foods so you can just reach into the drinks section and pull out a beverage without opening the food cooler and exposing it to warm air.

Know thy appetite: Eat perishable food within two hours of being outside, or within one hour if the temperature is topping 90 degrees, the FDA advises. It’s also helpful to keep everyone’s appetites in mind and only pack what you know you’ll eat. That potato salad won’t be good later — we promise!

Bring smart sides: Watermelon is a picnic favorite, but unlike most fruits, it’s not acidic so it doesn’t ward off bacteria. Keep it and other melons in the cooler. And if you spread mayonnaise on your sandwich or potato salad, be sure to keep those in the cooler as well, as mayo also spoils.

Keep it green: Besides cleaning up after your meal, of course, there are a few eco-friendly products that can make your meal more Earth-friendly. Try toting a stainless steel food carrier from To-Go Ware ($24.95, In the style of picnic supplies used in India, these totally reusable containers even have lids that detach into plates. And eat up with reusable utensils also from To-Go Ware, which are made of bamboo and come in a holder created from recycled plastic bags ($16.95,

— Nancy Ryerson, HellaWella


More From HellaWella:

• Fiber facts: Why it’s essential for weight loss and health

• Beat the heat with something sweet: Top 5 ice pop recipes

• Media mash: Produce prescriptions, sexist videos & healthy potato salad

• Top 10 annoyingly stubborn nutrition myths debunked

• Green market glossary: Farmers market labels demystified