Pack The Perfect Picnic Basket

Looking for a fun (and inexpensive) weekend activity to do with friends and family?

As the Northern Nevada weather stumbles its way toward something resembling spring, an old-fashioned way can be a great way to spend a sunny weekend afternoon.

Whether you picnic in a park or in your own backyard, packing something tasty and healthful is easier than you might think. Start by following these five tips:

1. Bring what’s in season. From berries to cherries, bell peppers to green beans, many fruits and veggies are freshest in summer. So make a colorful and healthful variety a part of your picnic. Enjoy them raw with a low-fat dip. Fill a container with a fresh-fruit medley. Make a chopped-veggie salad with brown rice and beans. Or top a green salad with sweet berries.

2. Reimagine your sandwich. A PB&J isn’t your only picnic-friendly option. Try a whole-wheat wrap with lean turkey and low-fat cheese. Add lettuce, spinach, avocados and tomatoes for a healthy dose of vegetables. Or how about noshing on a chicken, olive oil, feta and tomato combo?

3. Make it fun to eat. Use cookie cutters to turn your kids’ sandwiches into interesting shapes that even fussy eaters can’t ignore. Kids also love fruit and vegetable kebabs. Serve them with a sweet or savory yogurt dip.

4. Pack a thirst-quencher. Fill a water bottle with 100 percent fruit juice, ice and sparkling water. Add lime, orange or strawberry slices.

5. Don’t spoil your picnic. Hot temperatures can quickly turn good food bad. To help steer clear of food poisoning:

• Place perishable food in a cooler with ice or frozen gel packs. Park the cooler in the shade. If you don’t have a cooler, you can safely bring nonperishables to the picnic like fruits and veggies, hard cheese, canned fish, or peanut butter to pair with bread or crackers.

• If you’re going to grill, keep raw meats separate from other foods. And use a thermometer to make sure meat is thoroughly cooked.

One final tip: Picnickers of all ages will want to do things besides eat. So bring something to play with. Pack a ball to toss or kick. Or pack some paper and colored pencils, and invite everyone to draw nature.

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Sources: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; American Institute for Cancer Research; International Food Information Council; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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