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Healthy Picnic Meals

Recipes for the perfect outdoor meal, plus tips to keep your food safe.

From the WebMD Archives

It's the perfect way to spend a sunny summer day: gathering with friends and family for a picnic under the shade of leafy trees. A few smart safety tips will ensure everyone avoids a stomachache or worse. First off, keep your hands clean, says Angela M. Fraser, PhD, associate professor and food safety education specialist at Clemson University.

"Hands can be a source of harmful pathogens," Fraser says. If you're in the middle of a meadow without warm water and soap, she recommends hand-sanitizing wipes and gel. Complete all food prep-- such as shaping hamburger patties and slicing watermelon -- at home before you arrive. Also, pack lots of serving utensils, such as spoons and tongs, to avoid bare-hand contact with food and cross-contamination between dishes.

Another tip: Keep foods cold, no warmer than 41ºF. Chill perishables in sealed containers in your fridge until just before you leave, then pack them in coolers surrounded by ice cubes. (Ice packs only chill the surfaces they touch, Fraser says.) Return leftover food to the cooler within an hour of eating, she says.

Summer Confetti Salad

This colorful salad features farro, a chewy ancient grain popular in Italian cooking. If you can't find farro, you can use wheat berries, barley, or quinoa instead.

Makes 6 servings


1½ cups farro

1 cup fresh corn, husked

1 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup chopped English cucumber

1 red bell pepper, chopped

½ cup finely chopped parsley

1 tbsp lemon zest

3 oz crumbled feta cheese

¼ tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar


1. Place farro in a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan with enough water to cover 2-3 inches above the grain. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain farro and place in a large mixing bowl to cool.

2. Use a sharp knife to cut corn off cob. Combine corn, tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, parsley, lemon zest, and feta with farro.

3. Whisk together salt, pepper, olive oil, and vinegar. Pour over salad and toss thoroughly to combine. Cover salad and refrigerate at least one hour or overnight before packing it in the cooler.

Per serving

285 calories, 9 g protein, 37 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 7 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 202 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 36%


Oven-Fried Chicken Strips With Sriracha Dipping Sauce

This family favorite involves a kicky dipping sauce made with sriracha, a tangy hot sauce often used in Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Find it in the Asian food section of large grocery stores. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, use the substitute described in the Best Broccoli Salad Ever recipe, available in the app.

Makes 6 servings


Chicken strips

½ cup low-fat buttermilk

1 cup panko bread crumbs

½ tsp sea salt

½ cup finely chopped walnuts

1½ lbs boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

Dipping sauce

3 tbsp light mayonnaise

1 tsp rice vinegar

1 tsp lime juice

2 tsp sriracha sauce

1 tsp low-sodium soy sauce


1. Preheat oven to 425 F.

2. Pour buttermilk in a shallow bowl. In a second shallow bowl, combine panko, salt, and walnuts.

3. Place chicken strips in buttermilk and flip to coat both sides, then dredge chicken in panko mixture. Arrange chicken strips on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 6–7 minutes on each side until golden brown. Cool strips and then refrigerate.

4. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, rice vinegar, lime juice, sriracha sauce, and soy sauce.

5. Serve chicken strips with dipping sauce.

Per serving

245 calories, 29 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 68 mg cholesterol, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 297 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 37%

Bigeye Tuna, Avocado, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwich

Makes 6 servings


64-oz bigeye tuna pieces, center cut

kosher salt

black pepper

1 tbsp grapeseed oil

6 whole wheat pitas

½ cup rice vinegar

1 tbsp mirin

1 tsp ginger, grated

2 tbsp orange juice

1 cup sesame oil

¼ lb spicy mixed lettuces (mustard greens, mizuna, or arugula)

2 avocados, sliced thin

3 tomatoes, core removed and sliced thin


1. Season both sides of tuna with salt and one side with pepper. Place grapeseed oil in a sauté pan on high heat. Once the pan is hot, add tuna and turn the heat down slightly, searing both sides. Remove from pan and set aside.


2. Slice pitas in half lengthwise and toast.

3. To make vinaigrette, mix vinegar, mirin, ginger, and orange juice together. Whisk in the sesame oil.

4. Toss greens with a little of the sesame vinaigrette and place on bottom of each pita. Toss avocados and tomatoes with dressing and place on top of greens. Slice tuna on an extreme bias and place on top of tomatoes and avocados. Season tuna with kosher salt.

Per serving

441 calories, 33 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 29 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 44 mg cholesterol, 8 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 607 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 58%

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WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on June 05, 2014



Angela Fraser, PhD, associate professor and food safety specialist, Clemson University, Clemson, S.C.

Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD, nutrition expert, Atlanta.

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