The 9 Worst Picnic Foods


Genetically Modified Corn Chips

Nearly 90 percent of the corn grown in the United States is genetically modified, designed to either resist herbicides or create bacteria that kill insects. A new kind of genetically modified corn is even being developed to resist one of the chemicals used in Agent Orange, the Vietnam-era defoliant that continues to sicken thousands of veterans.

Stick with brands made from organic corn, such as Garden of Eatin', or go for something completely unique. Beanitos are chips made with black beans, and contain the same calories (140) and fat (7 g) but way more protein than corn chips. Or shave off 30 calories by eating Late July Organics Mild Green Mojo chips, made with green chiles. At 110 calories per serving and 3 g fat, they're even made with flax and chia seeds, both chock-full of healthy omega-3s. Go a step further and make your own chips using healthy vegetables.

Poisonous Potato Salad

When was the last time you ate a potato salad that wasn't drowning in mayonnaise? In addition to being gut-busting, mayo-based sides are a food-safety nightmare, particularly in hot weather, when any foods containing mayo need to be in a cooler that maintains a temperature of 40ºF.

Swap out your mayo-based potato salad for a recipe that uses vinegar, like this recipe for New Potato and Snap Pea Salad. Lower in calories than mayonnaise, vinegar isn't going to curdle in the heat. Plus, vinegar slows your body's conversion of starches into sugar, and reduces blood sugar spikes. Ergo, you won't need to end your picnic early so you can head home for an afternoon nap.

Candy Coleslaw

Another mayo-heavy side, coleslaws you buy at grocery stores are usually made with tons of added sugar. Even if you buy the bagged coleslaw mix in the produce aisle and a separate dressing, you're still adding unhealthy amounts of sugar to otherwise healthy cabbage and carrots.

Here again, whip out the vinegar. It gives your coleslaw a nice tang without the added calories and food-safety risk. Give your picnic an Asian flair with something like this Thai Coleslaw with Napa Cabbage that uses fish sauce and rice vinegar, instead of fatty mayo, and has just a hint of sugar.

Porky Pasta Salad

Like any carb-heavy dish, pasta salads can pile on the calories faster than you can unpack your picnic basket. A single cup-size serving can dole out up to 350 calories, accompanied by an unhealthy dose of refined carbs.

Your body doesn't really crave heavy carbs in the summer time anyway (you've probably noticed that restaurants switch from marketing sandwiches to salads in the summer). Take along a regular salad of leafy greens with an oil-and-vinegar dressing. Need hints?

Cancer-Causing Cold Cuts

Think replacing your hotdogs with cold cuts will leave you with a healthier lunch? Think again.

Cold cuts are preserved with the same chemicals, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrate, used in hotdogs, chemicals that have the potential to cause various types of cancers if eaten in large amounts. Another reason to leave them behind: listeria. Deli meats are commonly contaminated with the bacterium, which thrives even at refrigerator temperatures.

Enjoy your meat, sans preservatives, by baking or cooking a roast or turkey or chicken cutlets yourself, and slicing or shredding the meat to bring it along on your picnic.


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