With spring in the air, it’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy a picnic! April 23rd is officially “National Picnic Day” but I’ll take any chance I can get to dine al fresco in the park.

When preparing for a picnic, it’s important to keep a few things in mind like food safety and ease of packing and clean-up. Remember to keep all refrigerated items cool while out on a picnic by packing foods inside an insulated cooler with ice packs and minimizing the amount of time food sits out.

Many dairy foods are often left out of picnics because people are worried about food safety, but skipping dairy means you will miss out on important nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and protein! Instead, focus on safe ways to store and serve your favorite dairy-filled dishes.

Here are 3 picnic-friendly menu ideas for easy packing and clean-up:

  1. Mason Jar Salads — A light, refreshing salad is perfect for a meal outdoors, but it’s best to have the salad prepared in advance rather than assembling on location. The large, wide-mouth mason jars are great for toting salads on-the-go! Try this Kale & White Bean Panzanella or this New Cobb Salad in a mason jar for your next outing. The dressing for both of these salads can be kept on the side in a separate mason jar until ready to serve.
  2. Bite-Size Desserts — What’s a picnic without a sweet treat to end the meal? Pack bite-size sweets like these Luscious Lemon Tartlets or Mini Blueberry & Raspberry Lemon Chess Pies and you won’t have to worry about packing utensils! For an even simpler sweet treat with no food prep required, try freezing yogurt tubes ahead of time to enjoy at the end of your meal!
  3. Simple Sips — When enjoying the outdoors, it’s important to stay hydrated. To make things easy, have everyone pack their own reusable water bottle filled with water. Have a container with sliced strawberries or sliced citrus available to create an infused beverage. Letting people create their own infused drinks is an easy, but fun, way to keep everyone sipping while picnicking! For the kids, consider packing shelf stable milk boxes. They are delicious when chilled, but do not require refrigeration. Not to mention they pack a ton of nutrition to help kids refuel after playing hard at the park!

Karman Meyer is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and writer in Nashville and has been featured in publications such as US News & World Report Eat, FoodNetwork.com, and Shape.com. As the founder and recipe creator behind TheNutritionAdventure.com, Karman is passionate about sharing the facts about food and nutrition with her readers and works to encourage others to feel more confident about cooking healthy, delicious meals at home.”