5 Tips To Keep Your Picnic Food Safe

Cape Town, South Africa

As the days get longer, so does the frequency of outdoor gatherings. While the warmer weather is a perfect reason to dine outside, it also creates the ideal environment for harmful food bugs. Keep your picnic safe by following these simple tips.

  1. Cook foods to the proper temperatures: A food thermometer is the best way to ensure your foods are cooked to a safe temperature. Checking color or texture isn’t a foolproof way to tell if your meat is cooked thoroughly. Grilled chicken should be at cooked to at least 165°F, hamburgers to at least 160°F.
  2. Don’t reuse marinades: After marinating meats, discard any leftover marinade to prevent raw meat juices from mixing with your cooked foods. If you plan on using the marinade sauce for later, set some aside before marinating the meat.
  3. Refrigerate foods promptly below 40°F: Pack food in a well-insulated cooler with ice or ice packs to keep food below the danger zone of 40°F. If driving to the picnic, keep the cooler in the air-conditioned portion of the car instead of the hot trunk.
  4. Don’t keep food above 90°F: Once outside, don’t leave food in hot weather (over 90°F) for more than an hour. Toss out any unrefrigerated food if it exceeds the time limit. 
  5. Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate: Bring extra plates to your picnic or outdoor gathering to prevent cross-contamination – one for raw foods and one for cooked foods.

Since it’s not truly a picnic without a pasta salad, this version relies on eggless, creamy dressing that no one would guess is dairy-free. 

Picnic Perfect Macaroni Salad  Tweet this

Recipe by Alex Caspero, MA, RD


  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup celery, washed, diced
  • ½ cup red bell pepper, washed, finely diced
  • 1 cup plain silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
  2. While the noodles are cooking, prep the vegetables and add to the cooked, rinsed and drained noodles.
  3. Place the tofu, honey, dill, vinegar, mustard, oil and spices in a blender or food processor. Blend until creamy and smooth. Season to taste, then toss with drained noodles and vegetables. Place in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

*To make this salad a meal, add in 1 can of drained and rinsed chickpeas 

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Alexandra Caspero
Alexandra Caspero, MA, RD, CLT, is a registered dietitian and nutrition expert with a passion for health and wellness. Alex is a nationally recognized nutritionist and appears regularly on TV, print and social media. She was most recently featured in Runner's World, Men's Health, Fitness, Shape Magazine & Vogue. As the campus dietitian, director of wellness and adjunct instructor at University of the Pacific, Alex teaches what she preaches. Through innovative programs and services, Alex inspires students to become their healthiest selves. Her blog, DelishKnowledge, focuses on making whole-food eating deliciously simple. Alex also dishes out delicious tips to her thousands of social media followers.