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Celebrate Labor Day with a MyPlate Picnic

Posted by Robert Post, Acting Executive Director, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Food and Nutrition
Aug 29, 2013
Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus
Kid-Friendly, Classic American and Foodie Fare MyPlate Picnic Menus

A picnic is an easy and relaxing holiday activity. USDA's MyPlate resources can help take the “labor” out of your Labor Day picnic. You can enjoy an easy, healthy meal by following this simple MyPlate formula: 5 food groups + family and friends = fun! When planning your picnic, be sure to include more healthful choices of menu items from each food group (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy) and water or 100% juice to drink.

Celebrate the end of summer by enjoying seasonal fruits. You can make an easy (and portable) fruit salad by dicing up fresh fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, kiwi, and strawberries. If you choose to include apples, bananas, or pears, just add a splash of citrus (like orange juice) to prevent browning. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try this refreshing MyPlate watermelon gazpacho recipe. You can bring it in a lidded container, or divide into jars for individual portions.


When it comes to vegetables, there are many fun ways to include them in your picnic. You could simply chop up veggies like carrots, celery, and cucumber to serve with hummus or lowfat yogurt dip. Or make an easy bean dish like garden cannellini bean salad or crispy edamame. For kids, try fun snacks that include veggies like ants on a log. Just spread celery stalks with reduced-fat peanut butter and sprinkle with raisins.


There are many easy grain choices for your MyPlate picnic. Make sandwiches on whole wheat bread, in a whole wheat pita, or a whole grain wrap. You could also bring along whole grain crackers or make your own snack mix. For example, mix salt-free pretzels with whole grain cereal and nuts and then add some seasoning like a dash of chili powder for a savory snack mix or cinnamon sugar for sweet!

Protein Foods

Sandwiches are a great way to pack your protein foods to-go. Sandwiches like tuna apple salad or chicken-arugula focaccia can be packed in baggies or individually wrapped in parchment. You could even tie them up with string and add name tags for each person if you’re feeling creative. If you won’t be eating your picnic right away, bring peanut butter to spread on whole wheat crackers, celery sticks, or apple slices. Or make your own peanut butter and banana sandwiches when you get to your picnic spot!


When packing dairy for a picnic, be sure to include an ice pack or frozen water bottles to keep low-fat milk and yogurt products cool. Try a red, white, and blue parfait made with low-fat yogurt, fresh strawberries and blueberries. Or low-fat cheese cubes go great with crackers, apple or pear slices, and sliced veggies.


For a healthy and refreshing beverage choice, bring water and add flavor with fruit, such as lemon, lime, or orange wedges or herbs from the garden like mint or basil. Juice boxes that are 100% fruit juice are another good choice and are easy to pack in your picnic basket.

Family, Friends & Fun

There’s one more thing you’ll need to make your MyPlate picnic complete. Don’t forget to pack the fun! Balance your meal and snacks with lots of activity. Bring along a game like horseshoes or charades, or pack a Frisbee or football, or just bring your sneakers to go for a nature walk with family and friends.

This Labor Day, give our sample MyPlate picnic menus a try. We have something for everyone whether you’re looking for kid-friendly, classic American, or foodie fare. Or you can design your own. For more recipes and ideas visit the MyPlate Recipes Pinterest page or

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition