The 9 Worst Picnic Foods

PHOTO: Potato salad needs to be stored in a cooler that maintains a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit
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They're romantic, they're relaxing, they're a perfect way to fill up a weekend afternoon and a good excuse to soak up some extra vitamin D. Who doesn't love a picnic?

But before you pack up that wicker basket, take a survey of your dinner. Dangerous food additives? Check. Pesticides? Check. Food poisoning? Check (maybe).

Some of America's most popular picnic foods harbor all kinds of unwanted junk, in addition to being just plain unhealthy. Whether you're trying to eat healthier, or you just want to avoid food poisoning, we've got healthy alternatives to these unhealthy basket staples.

Sugary Soda

Full of empty calories, those 140-calorie cans of convenience may travel well to a picnic, but they're full of preservatives linked to kidney damage and dyes that may cause liver cancer.

The cans themselves are lined with bisphenol A (aka BPA), a chemical linked to brain cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, and other diseases.

Think fruit juice is any better? It really isn't. While you get some vitamins and minerals, you're still swilling a lot of sugar without the healthy fiber you get eating whole fruit.

Brew a pitcher of iced tea, and pack it in a mason jar. Full of antioxidants and low in calories, tea is a healthy drink without all the toxic food-packaging chemicals. Or try one of our 8 Healthy Sodas.

9 Disturbing Side Effects of Soda Filthy Grilled Shrimp

If your picnic plans include grilling, leave the imported shrimp at home. Between the banned antibiotics, pesticides, bacterial residues, rodent hair, and insect fragments frequently detected in imported shrimp, it's one picnic staple that deserves to get left behind at the seafood counter.

Hunt down wild-caught American shrimp for the cleanest alternative to the stuff imported from South America and Asia, recommends the nonprofit Food & Water Watch. If you can't find any, take along some smaller filets of wild Alaskan salmon for a great dose of omega-3s that can handle the heat of any grill.

Toxic Fruit Salad

Nonorganic fruits can harbor up to 64 different pesticide residues. Summer staples like nectarines, peaches, grapes, and blueberries have some of the highest levels, according to the Environmental Working Group's most recent Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Even with the pesticides, nonorganic fruit salad is still healthier than the other mayo-laden sides most people tote to picnics. But use as much organic fruit as possible to lower your exposure to pesticides linked to nerve damage, hormone disruption, and other reproductive problems.

The Worst Summer Fruits

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More from Rodale.com:

8 Healthy Sodas

The Truth About Shrimp

The 21 Best Junkfoods

7 Slim Down Food Swaps

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