Summer Picnics

I don’t know about you, but I love being outdoors in the summertime. I especially love al fresco dining. Whether you are planning a backyard barbecue, a deck party, or packing a picnic to go, I encourage you to plan a festive spread that encompasses the basic food groups as well as a dessert or treat, and includes cool beverages to quench the summer heat.

These days, you may read a lot of negative articles on various blogs or websites about sweets and fructose that may scare you into trying to avoid those foods, or worse, you may feel guilty when you do consume them. Don’t feel guilty! And don’t fear food. Foods that contain fructose, like fresh fruit, lemonade, popsicles, or fudge bars, are all fine to enjoy in moderation.

What’s moderation all about? It’s about balancing out healthy foods with the treats. So, no, you don’t want to make a meal out of s’mores and lemonade, but you can include these types of treats into your picnic plan. And, don’t forget to add some fun actives to your day – a game of backyard volleyball or kickball, jump rope for the children, swimming, wiffleball, or frisbee. (A typical ice pop has only 45 calories and 8 grams of sugar – easily run off during a game of kickball!)

Here are a few menu planning ideas for your outdoor summer entertaining that offer good nutrition and will provide a festive, fun table.

Summer Picnic Menu

Turkey Po’Boys – 6 inch crusty roll filled with deli turkey, sliced cheese, sliced tomatoes, cole slaw or lettuce leaves, pickle slices
Watermelon slices
Salad Skewers – skewer grape tomatoes, chunks of Romaine, cucumber slices, olives. Serve with Ranch dressing or your favorite dressing. These are great. Make them ahead, then pack – fun finger food!

Backyard Firepit

All beef hotdogs roasted on a stick over the fire
Whole wheat and white hot dog buns
Spinach salad mixed with sliced strawberries, slivered almonds, brown rice, and sweet and sour vinaigrette
S’mores (marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate squares)
Mint-lemon infused water jug (fill water jug early in day, add fresh mint and lemon slices. Add ice when ready to serve)

Elegant Deck Party

Grilled chicken thighs and drumsticks
Grilled shrimp skewers, with sweet and sour glaze
Vegetable skewers – thread 1-inch slices of zucchini, mushrooms, onion, bell peppers. Brush with olive oil, and a sprinkle of Herbs de Provence. Grill until lightly browned
Rice pilaf
One scoop of Vanilla bean ice cream topped with fresh raspberries
Mint-infused iced tea


Rosanne RustRosanne Rust MS, RDN, LDN is a registered, licensed dietitian-nutritionist with over 25 years experience. As a Nutrition Communications Consultant  she delivers clear messages helping you understand the science of nutrition so you can enjoy eating for better health. Rosanne is the co-author of several books, including DASH Diet For Dummies® and the The Glycemic Index Cookbook For Dummies®. A wife, and mother of 3 boys, she practices what she preaches, enjoying regular exercise, good food and festive entertaining. Follow her on Twitter @RustNutrition.