Post written by Zen Family Habits contributor Melanie from Dietriffic.
Does the idea of escaping your usual surroundings and getting out into the open country-side, or having a day at the beach, appeal to you?
The downside can be the challenge of finding decent, healthy food, that everyone in your family can enjoy. And, it’s so expensive to eat out these days.
A picnic is a great idea, and getting your children involved can help ease the burden of the preparation. By giving each child their own task, they will enjoy the day even more having been involved in the preparation.
Here are some suggestions for the tasks:
- Help with the picnic menu — they’re less likely to complain about food they’ve helped choose.
- Assemble the ingredients for the picnic.
- Help with the food preparation.
- Organize supplies — hamper, blankets, cool-box, paper towels, plastic plates and cups, tablecloth, sunscreen, first-aid kit, hats, camera.
- Pack the games equipment — frisbee, beach ball, bucket and spade, or baby toys.
If you’re a bit stuck for food ideas, here are some kid and adult-friendly suggestions that are so simple you’ll be ready to go in no time:
Pizza is a good alternative to sandwiches, being quick to assemble, and they are always popular with kids. If you have a tried and tested pizza base that would be perfect to use. Or, you could go for small baguettes split in half, sliced wholemeal pitta breads, or English muffin half’s as the base.
The ideas for pizza toppings are endless. Here’s one suggestion — pesto sauce spread onto the base, with some button mushroom slices, cherry tomatoes, a little cheese, and some shredded chicken. All you need to do is pop under the grill for around 4 minutes, and they can be eaten cold at the picnic.
Couscous is one of my favorite foods, and it’s perfect for a picnic, since you can prepare it ahead of time.
Put the couscous into a bowl, and pour over low-sodium vegetable stock. When it’s ready, fluff with a fork and add diced red pepper, half a carrot finely diced, 2 finely sliced spring onions, 1 tablespoon of raisins, and some toasted pine nuts to finish.
If your kids aren’t too fond of couscous, wholemeal pasta shells would work well here. Or, you could make a tabouli salad, using cracked wheat.
3. Chicken skewers
Take two chicken breasts and cut into chunks, then marinade for around 2 hours (2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp low-sodium stock, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp soy sauce). Thread the chicken onto bamboo skewers (previously soaked in water), and grill for about 5 minutes on each side. Cool and store in the fridge until needed.
If you’re planning on having a barbecue, just prepare these beforehand, and cook when you get there.
You could make the wraps ahead of time, or just bring all of the ingredients, so that everyone can assemble their own. Some ideas for the wraps include, wholegrain tortilla wraps, hummus, baby cos lettuce, cucumber, red pepper, and the couscous or tabouli salad mentioned above.
If you like to serve potato chips and dip, here is a healthier version.
Make up some salsa using diced tomatoes, diced yellow pepper, a finely sliced onion, a little chopped basil, olive oil, a squeeze of lime juice, and season with freshly milled black pepper. You can serve with potato chips for dipping, or cut wholemeal tortillas into triangles and bake until crisp ahead of time, then serve with your home-made salsa.
6. Last minute ideas
Sometimes you don’t have time to prepare for a picnic, but don’t allow this to put you off. Kids love to pick their own food and assemble it on their own. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hard boiled eggs
- Cherry tomatoes
- Carrot, cucumber, celery batons
- Hummus and avocado dips
- Bread sticks, baguettes or pitta bread
- Selection of lean meats
- Bag of mixed leaf salad
- Apple, peach, and banana slices
- Grapes and berries with natural yogurt
Everyone can simply dig-in and help themselves. Serve with little wooden sticks or colorful plastic forks.
7. Healthy muffins
Muffins are a really handy dessert idea, as they can be made a day or more beforehand, and kept in an airtight container. Here are some of the best healthy recipes I’ve come across:
- Wendy’s Moist Bran Muffins
- Wholewheat Apple Muffins from Smitten Kitchen
- Or, a little more indulgent, Jamie Oliver’s Butternut Squash Muffins with a frosty top
Serve with a fresh fruit salad of strawberries, pineapple and mango to complete your delicious picnic.