Picnics with Food Allergies

Spring is finally here! It is exciting to see all the fresh flowers coming out and bringing new color all around. A great activity to do on these Spring days is to go on a picnic with your family. Even if you don’t live near a park, you can still enjoy eating out in the sun even if its in your back yard!

As you may know, living with food allergies can create challenges for any social activity that involves food. So we wanted to share some picnic ideas to help you and your family have a safe and fun filled time.

  • Bring your own condiments in individual-sized packs. That will help prevent cross-contamination when people share large containers of condiments like mayonnaise and ketchup.
  • Use a plastic tablecloth on public picnic tables so food particles left by previous picnickers won’t cause allergic reactions once your family sits down.
  • Bring separate spoons and other utensils for food items that are shared to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Grill foods for guests with allergies first or cook the items on a fresh piece of aluminum foil or iron skillet to avoid cross contamination.
  • Bring anti-bacterial wipes and gels for easy cleaning.
  • Inform all those in the picnic party not to share food. If the party is larger, well-meaning friends could offer the wrong foods to your little ones. Food allergy awareness clothing works well in these scenarios.
  • Allow guests with allergies to dig into the food first, before cross-contamination of the items can occur.
  • Make sure you have emergency phone numbers handy. If you are in a state park, jot down the rangers station or visitor centers number before starting your fun day.
  • As always, bring emergency medication and keep it safely stored while you are outside.

What is a picnic without delicious foods? Here are a few picnic allergy-friendly recipes to get some meal ideas going!

As always ensure each ingredient is tolerated by your child before serving.

Allergy-Safe Quinoa Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 2 C water or vegetable broth
  • 1 C quinoa (you may also substitute with rice)
  • salt
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 small or 1 large cucumber
  • 1 T fresh parsley
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 T raspberry vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • salt and pepper


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring water or vegetable broth to a boil. While liquid is heating, rinse quinoa in a mesh strainer or chinois several times to remove any traces of saponin. (If you don’t have a fine strainer to rinse your quinoa, use a coffee filter.)
  2. When liquid has come to a boil, add quinoa, stirring constantly. Immediately reduce to a bare simmer and cover. Cook for 15 minutes or until quinoa is tender and almost all the liquid is absorbed. Remove quinoa from heat, stir, and let quinoa or rice sit, uncovered, for about five minutes.
  3. While quinoa is cooking, peel and finely mince the shallots. If cucumbers are covered with wax, peel; if not, you may peel or not as you prefer. Seed and dice cucumbers. Finely mince parsley or cilantro.
  4. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, stirring rapidly until dressing is blended. Combine quinoa or rice, vegetables, and dressing. Chill all ingredients in refrigerator for at least one hour (overnight is ideal). Serve cold.

Serves four as a main dish, or eight as an appetizer salad.

Fruit Salad with Allergy-Safe Champagne-Lime Dressing

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 4 bananas, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 3 apples, cored and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3 kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced
  • 2 mangoes, peeled, cored, and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 small bunch seedless grapes (about 1 pound), stems removed
  • 1/2 C champagne (you can also use sparkling apple cider or any non-alcoholic sparkling beverage)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 C sugar, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg


  1. Mix all fruit in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, mix champagne, limes, sugar, and nutmeg. Taste, then increase sugar as necessary until dressing is only slightly tart.
  3. Toss dressing with fruit and refrigerate until serving.

Serves 4 to 6 as a centerpiece dish of a breakfast or brunch, or up to 12 as one of many party snacks. Will keep for about one week in sealed containers in the refrigerator.

Hopefully these tips and recipe ideas will help by making picnics less worrisome and more relaxing and fun. It’s always great to get out of the house and breathe in some fresh air and get some sun (not to mention free Vitamin D to help your bones)! Don’t forget to bring some fun games to play while you are out or take an adventurous hike and enjoy the outdoors.

Have you had a picnic with a person with food allergies before? How did it go? What picnic tips could you share? What foods were a hit?

— Christine Graham-Garo

Published: 04/26/2011
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