Picnics are back.

With our current need to stay physically distanced from one another, al fresco dining is a great option. Old fashioned picnics can be a fun way to bring a small group together in the fresh air, and still enjoy each other’s company while distancing and staying healthy.

Socializing is part of our overall health. A lack of social contact can interfere with our mindset, and even have a physiologic impact on our bodies. A bring-your-own-picnic party is one solution!

Check your local area’s pandemic guidelines for holding social gatherings (be sure the group size is reasonable for your area). As host, you can invite a few friends over and enjoy a casual meal outdoors in your backyard, on the patio or porch. You can also meet at a park or a beach, if they’re open.

Always keep food safety in mind too. Check out this resource and follow these basic food safety tips:

  1. Keep everything clean! Clean hands, clean surfaces, clean utensils, clean cutting boards.
  2. Keep cold foods cold (40°F), and hot foods hot (140°F). You can use separate coolers for hot and cold foods. A cooler will hold hot temp too.
  3. Separate, don’t cross contaminate! Use clean cutting boards and surfaces. One for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry and seafood.

How-Tos For a Bring-Your-Own-Picnic Gathering

  1. Invite a few people over, limiting guests to a total of 10.
  2. Use blankets for each family or set up chairs with individual small tables in the yard or on the patio.
  3. Ask everyone to bring their own side dishes, unbreakable glassware, and eating utensils.
  4. The host will provide beverages, napkins, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizing gel.
  5. The host can also provide an entree – Grilled meats or a main dish salad. Baked and breaded chicken can be made ahead and served cold for a picnic. In lieu of that, each guest can provide their own wrapped sandwich, or hey, you can also just do healthy take-out food.
  6. Be sure there are serving utensils for everyone, so that serving utensils aren’t shared.
  7. Of course be sure to include fruits and veggies. My Very Veggie Pasta Salad packs up well for a picnic. Sliced watermelon wedges can be easily picked up and eaten without cross-contamination. Snip grapes into easy to grab small clusters so nobody touches others’ portion. Place fresh cherries into small cups for everyone to grab. Or just place out a bowl of fresh nectarines.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!

Print Recipe
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Very Veggie Pasta Salad

This pasta salad is light on pasta and heavy on veggies. Enjoy it at your next picnic.
Prep Time20 mins
Course: Side Dish
Servings: 8 people
Author: Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN


  • 6 oz spring pasta You can use regular, whole wheat, tri-color, or a combination.
  • 1 jar marinated artichokes drained
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers assorted colors
  • 1 small can sliced black olives drained
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 1 cup sliced cucumber halved
  • 1 small can chick peas drained
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese


  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian herb blend
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • freshly ground pepper


  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and let cool
  • Place artichokes through chick peas into a large serving bowl and toss. Add cooled, cooked pasta and mix to combine.
  • To make the dressing, mix olive oil and remaining ingredients in a small bowl or glass jar. Stir to combine.
  • Pour dressing over pasta salad and toss well. Gently fold in the sunflower seeds and feta cheese. Add more freshly ground black pepper if you like.
  • Chill for at least one hour, or up to overnight. Serve.