Healthy Summer Picnic Ideas to Pack Up for Dinner Tonight

By: Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D., Digital Meal Plan Editor

Follow this formula to create a healthy picnic dinner using easy-to-prep items that pack up well. Try our menu suggestions for kid-friendly, budget, romantic, vegan and allergy-friendly picnic spreads.

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.

Related: Healthy Summer Picnic Recipes

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.

Related: The Best Reusable Products for Outdoor BBQ Parties & Picnics

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

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.

Fruit:

  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Plums
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon wedges
  • Honeydew melon cubes
  • Cantaloupe cubes
  • Apple slices
  • Orange slices

Vegetables:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery sticks
  • Cucumber slices
  • Sliced peppers or mini bell peppers
  • Snap peas
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Baby radishes

2. Add in Healthy Protein

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.

Hummus & Bean Dips:

  • Garlic hummus
  • Beet hummus
  • White bean & basil hummus

Cheese:

  • Sharp Cheddar
  • Mozzarella pearls
  • Parmesan
  • Monterey Jack
  • Brie

Sliced meats:

  • Thinly sliced prosciutto
  • Lower-sodium turkey
  • Uncured ham
  • Roast beef

Related: Browse our Healthy Hummus Recipes

3. Choose a Whole Grain

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

Healthy Fats

Add in healthy fats in the form of nuts, seeds, olives and avocado.

Nuts & Seeds:

  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pistachios
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • Sunflower seeds

Olives:

  • 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

Beverage

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!

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Cider
  • Spiked seltzer
  • 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!

Cookies

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
  • Cookies
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate-covered strawberries

Related: Healthy Cookie Recipes and Easy No-Bake Dessert Recipes

5 Summer Picnic Dinner Spreads to Try

Kid-Approved Family Picnic

Family picnic

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.

Romantic Spread for Two

Romantic picnic

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.

Plant-Based Vegan Picnic

Vegan spread

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.

Allergy-Friendly Picnic That Everyone Can Enjoy

Allergy-Friendly Picnic

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.

Budget Picnic Plan That Won't Break the Bank

Budget Picnic

This healthy Fruit, Veggie & Cheese Plate is easy and affordable to pull together for a fun snack-style dinner.

More Summer Picnic Inspiration:

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