picnicAfter a long, cold winter, we have earned the right to picnic with abandon! ‘Tis the season to get outside, play, eat, and enjoy that vitamin-D-boosting sun. And when it comes to having fun in the great outdoors—which can be as simple as spending time in a nearby park—a little foresight can make the day even brighter. Delicious and portable food? Check. No burns or insect bites? Definitely doable. Plenty of fun activities for everybody? You bet!

  • Parks are great places to host family events and informal outdoor parties—some even have pavilions, grills, and restrooms. If you have a family reunion coming up, browse through your city’s parks and recreation website to see if you can reserve a pavilion in advance. There’s usually a slight fee, but it’s well worth a few bucks to know you’ll have an amazing party venue. Metro parks almost always have facilities you can rent for the day.
  • Bring fun activities to do, like badminton or volleyball nets or croquet sets. Larger parks often incorporate disc golf and crossfit courses. Again, check your city’s park listings to see what’s where.
  • Go natural with insect repellant —stores dedicated to outdoor activities (REI, Moosejaw, Gander Mountain) often stock organic brands like Burt’s Bees.  Make sure to choose one that is DEET-Free.  Or try making your own with essential oils like Citronella, Clove, Lemongrass, Rosemary, and Tea Tree.  No need to coat yourself with harsh chemicals to enjoy your day in the sun!  CLICK HERE for where to find the best quality therapeutic-grade essential oils.
  • For an informal picnic, all you need is a blanket and some grub. But if you want more of an al fresco dining occasion, find a park with picnic tables and bring along a washable tablecloth, some non-breakable plastic stemware, and those disposable plates that look like fine china. It only takes a minute to set a gorgeous outdoor table!
  • Want the ultimate convenience? Shop for a picnic backpack. From basic to designer, these ‘packs come fully equipped with plates, flatware, glasses, napkins, and insulated side sleeves for wine or coffee. Plus, the backpack itself is usually insulated, so you can use it as a cooler, too. It’s an instant picnic—just grab the backpack, toss in some outdoor-friendly grub, and go!
  • Picnicking is easier if you have single-serve condiments—they’re much less messy and much lighter than the full-size versions. Throughout the year, save non-perishable individual pouches of mustard, soy sauce, salt and pepper, etc. to toss into your picnic gear. If you’re taking dressing with you, stow it in a screw-top jar so that you can close it firmly and avoid any spills or drips.
  • You need a cooler! It can be an insulated lunchbox or picnic backpack or a standard box, but it’s easy to forget how long you’ve been in the sun when you’re having fun—be sure to keep perishable foods like cheese, meats, and egg-based dishes in the cooler except when you’re serving or eating them.
  • The KISS principle applies to picnic foods: the simpler, the better. Soups, stews, and lettuce-based salads aren’t the best choices to bring along—they’re far too messy. (Lettuce tends to fly away with the breeze.) Dips, grain-based/pasta-based salads, meat and cheese, and fruit are great choices. Pickles and olives and hard-boiled eggs are classic picnic fare, too. The idea is to choose foods that are easy to eat and won’t spoil easily in warm weather. Try to bring only what you think will actually be eaten—once foods have been in the sun for a few hours, they should be tossed rather than kept as leftovers.
  • Our bodies need cholesterol to convert sunlight to vitamin D, so foods like meat, cheese, and eggs have the added bonus of boosting our sunlight intake. In fact, any animal product (including fish and seafood) contains cholesterol, whereas plant foods do not.
  • Enjoy the day! If someone squirts mustard onto the picnic blanket, shrug it off and wash it later. The best part about picnics is sometimes being messy!

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