A typical Irish Summer for most of us means a car boot full of everything from togs, to wellies, to buckets & spades, to raincoats. We are well used to taking the weather as it comes here! Whether it’s a trip to the beach or a walk in the woods, you won’t get too far with kids, without the trusty picnic bag full to the seams. You need an endless supply of food to keep them ticking over! ‘I’m hungry’ is all you hear! So what to put in, to make it the fun, easy lunch the kids are hoping for, while keeping it nutritious and healthy? With a little bit of preparation, it can be so much more than sandy ham sandwiches! Here are our top tips for filling the picnic bag:
Kids generally love fruit, pack plenty of their favourites in the bag to keep them snacking throughout the day. So many lovely varieties out during the Summer months like nectarines, peaches, plums and mandarins, apples, bananas are always winners. A punnet of ripe strawberries or cherries always gets a brilliant reaction from kids, they wallop them down in 2 minutes! Over the Summer months, it’s usually easy to find local strawberries for sale in shops or Wexford ones for sale along the roadside.
Veg sticks are a handy, portable snack, that can easily be prepared the night before. A perfect addition to a picnic with a dip like hummus or pesto! Veg is something that is going to be available in most shops, or more and more now you might pass a local producer on your journey. Keep a sharp knife & mini chopping board in the picnic bag for chopping, if you pick some fruit or veg up along the way.
A simple step would be to change their usual sandwiches to a better quality bread like spelt, wholegrain or sourdough. Or simply have their filling inside rice cakes or corn cakes instead. For a bit of novelty, you could try wrapping their usual filling in a lettuce wrap instead of bread. Similarly, rice paper rolls can be used in place of a wrap, but these would need to be prepared the night before. Other ideas would be omelette muffins, made very easily in a muffin tray that morning or the night before, these are so portable and so tasty. A big frittata or omelette filled with all their favourites is another good one, it can easily be divided out and packed in a lunchbox. Or a quiche made with a nice wholegrain/ spelt base and their choice of filling. Even pasta in a lunchbox can go down very well. You’d be surprised what a bit of hunger will do! After running around on the beach all day they will be much more likely to eat what you put in front of them.
Oat crackers, rye crackers, corn cakes and rice cakes are handy to have in the bag, nice with any dips, cheese, meats, even some banana or avocado squeezed in between two! Nuts are such a handy snack for eating out and about, a great source of protein and good fats. Bags of nuts, dried fruit or trail mix are available in most shops now. Popcorn, another winner with smallies, and a better option than a bag of crisps, easily picked up in any shop or make your own the night before and pack in little individual bags. Even throw in a jar of almond or peanut butter for having on apples or crackers.
Homemade treats made the night before are a great addition to a picnic bag. Even get the kids to help with the baking, they are usually more excited to eat them then. Things like flapjacks, oat cookies, date & nut bars or chocolate date balls can be great things to include in the bag. There are loads of recipes out there now for these kinds of things, packed with seeds, nuts, nut butters, oats, etc a great way to get good carbs and fats into them. Small bite size treats in lunch boxes are so handy for picking at throughout the day. For pre-packed healthy treats, health foods shops would obviously have a great selection, but also now Super Valu and Centra stores are really expanding their healthy range, you’ll usually find things like 9bars, Nakd bars, Beond, Meridian bars and many more. You might have to search a little, they are usually in a different aisle with the ‘free-from’ products.
It is so important to keep hydrated, especially on warm days be sure to pack plenty of water. Kids often like sparkling water for the bit of fizz. You could pop a few bits of fruit into the bottle that morning and the flavour will come through during the day. If you have a flask you could make up a juice or smoothie in the morning and take it with you, add a few ice-cubes to keep it cool. A perfect way to get a blast of fruit and veg into them. Usually, things like pak choi and lettuce go undetected with the smallies, in a juice or smoothie!
(Credit: Kara Reilly of www.fooducation.ie)