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Healthy Picnic Meals

Recipes for the perfect outdoor meal, plus tips to keep your food safe.
By Erin O'Donnell
WebMD Magazine - Feature

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%

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