With summer upon us and the promise of sunshine filled days, picnics become one of our favourite ways to enjoy food. There’s nothing better than al fresco dining. Who doesn’t agree that food always tastes better outdoors? We thought we'd put together a guide of healthy eating with the kids, so this summer you can get outdoors, eat healthily, and keep the kids entertained!
Tami Skelton, full-time mum of two from Food is Fun CIC, is here to help. Food is Fun is a great not-for-profit initiative based in the South West, encouraging everyone to enjoy cooking and create affordable healthy food. Find out more at www.foodisfun.org.uk and on the Food is Fun Facebook page.
So how do we put a picnic together that's not too time consuming but also not unhealthy?
Picnic food doesn’t have to be challenging, or indeed boring, so much can be prepared in advance ready to pack on the day. Try to use a range of colourful fruits that won’t discolour or go soft throughout the day to make fruit kebabs. Our favourite is pineapple, grapes, strawberries and a variety of melons.
If you’ve had a pasta dish the night before, why not let some go cold and mix with fresh salad leaves or rocket for an extra colourful pasta salad?
Rather than traditional sandwiches, take a selection of salad and cheeses, or cured meats to stuff into pitta breads. Homemade houmous makes a tasty alternative to mayonnaise; cut carrot and cucumber sticks or baby sweetcorn to dip into it. Hard-boiled eggs can be cooked the night before and kept in the fridge.
Don’t forget that all foods should be placed into a suitable cool-box or cool-bag with plenty of icepacks to keep them cool on those hot sunny days. Make sure you place the bag in some shade and make sure it’s kept closed at all times.
For nearly 9 years, Food is Fun have been working with people of all ages, ranging from pre-school children and families, to older people, teaching them the benefits of healthy eating in a fun and exciting way. Food is a part of life, without it we cannot survive, so we need to find a way to enjoy it. Sharing food is a great opportunity for getting together with family and friends, as well as giving us vitamins and nutrients; essential for optimum health. We are often asked by parents for advice on how to get children to eat their fruit and veg. With daily battles occurring in so many households, here are my top tips to give you a helping hand.
Take children food shopping from a young age and encourage them to get involved in choosing and weighing fruit and vegetables. You may find this easier if you make a special trip, rather than trying to do a full week’s shop at the same time!
Sit down and plan your meals for the week ahead. Invite the family to have an input so everyone has a chance to offer a meal suggestion. Encourage young children to try new foods by introducing reward stickers.
Let children help in the kitchen. It’s so easy with busy lives to do everything for them to speed things up, but take time to let children prepare and cook food with you. Even younger children can tear herbs, wash vegetables and mix ingredients together. This can play an essential part in breaking down barriers with food textures. Don’t forget to let them try raw veg before it’s cooked as well as tasting as they go. Tell them it’s a “chef’s treat”!
Eat a rainbow! Kids loves bright colours, so keep it fun by seeing how many different coloured foods they can eat in one meal. Have a competition to see who can make the best face from salad ingredients. Don’t forget a prize!
Set a good example. Children learn from their parents, if they see us regularly eating healthier food, they will be more likely to do the same. Be honest and if it’s a new food for you too then encourage each other to have a try.
Keep it simple. Don’t pressure children too much or make a big deal out of trying something new. Make healthy eating the norm by having a plate of healthy snacks such as raw veg sticks and humous or dried fruit on the table when playing games. If they see you dipping in they’re more likely to as well. Don’t comment when they do though as this draws attention to the situation and could cause the child to stop.
One recipe that all children, and adults love, is our Rainbow Couscous. Ideal for a main meal, packed lunches and picnics. You can add any cold meats, feta cheese, or Greek yoghurt dressing if you wish, but we suggest our favourite vegan option. It is also a fantastic recipe for the kids to help to prepare. Let them choose their own additions or substitutes.”
100ml vegetable stock
2 x tomatoes chopped
¼ cucumber chopped
2 tbsp tinned sweetcorn
Red or green grapes
1 x spring onion
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
For the dressing
4 tbsp lemon juice
70g low fat Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp fresh mint
Place the sultanas and couscous in a large bowl and pour in the vegetable stock.
After 5 minutes fluff up the grains with a fork.
Stir in the tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, sweetcorn, feta, onion and parsley.
Combine the yoghurt, lemon juice and mint in a bowl.
Serve the couscous alone or with meatballs, with a spoonful of the yoghurt mixture on top.
So what are you waiting for? Get ready to head make up a picnic full of healthy goodness and head down to the beach or to the park with the kids this Summer!