Who doesn’t love a picnic? Sitting outside with family and friends and enjoying nature! Unless, like me, holidays were spent in the UK whilst growing up and due to the unpredictable weather, many a picnic ended up in the car shielding from the rain!
Since the dreaded lockdown which we all had to deal with nearly 4 years ago now, I have really appreciated picnics so much more! When we were “allowed out” with other people but in groups again, picnics with my family and friends became common-place.
We discovered so many wonderful places to go and spend time as a family, from local woods to the seaside. Each time, we brought a picnic box with us filled with easy to transport and easy to eat food. And that is what having a picnic to me is all about. Yes, we could be fancy and bring plates, cutlery, napkins, 3 course meals, but I love just having “picky” food which only needs the utensils which God intended – our hands!
There are so many options of foods to take on a picnic but here are my favourites which are all suitable from 6 months of age:
- A good old sandwich or wrap cut up into manageable sizes for smaller hands. The great thing about a sandwich is it is “vehicle” for many delicious and healthy fillings. My favourite are tuna in plain Greek yogurt, cream cheese with cut up peppers, tomatoes and cucumber, egg, cheese and salad, houmous and peppers and peanut butter. Why not cover a whole meal wrap with full fat cream cheese, sprinkle over with chopped up peppers and cucumber and then roll up and cut into small pinwheel shaped pieces.
- Houmous with dipping “utensils” such as breadsticks, steamed carrots, cucumber batons and roasted root veggies. Did you know that the tahini paste used to make houmous contains lots of lovely calcium? Which, is great if your baby has a dairy allergy or you are vegan as calcium is often the mineral which we are concerned about when dairy isn’t part of a diet. A tip however is to make your own as shop-bought is high in salt.
- Savoury muffins or flapjacks – I have devised some recipes for both these and they are available as part of my recipe book which can be ordered via the Your Family Nutritionists website. Both savoury flapjacks and muffins are a really are a lovely way to include vegetables into the meal and are easy for small hands to hold and grasp.
- Fruit pieces – cut up melon, mango or pineapple into wedges or large slices so your baby can grasp easily. Keep the skins on the fruit so you baby can grip the pieces easily.
- Avocado slices – cut avocado up into wedges, you can leave the skin on the bottom of the wedge to give your baby a gripping mechanism. These contain so much goodness for a growing small person!
- Boiled egg -This high protein food is perfect to transport around for a picnic, keep the shell on if easier and remove once you are set up. Cut into quarters for your baby to munch on!
- Portions of cheese! - Cheese is great as it can stay out of the fridge safely for several hours and is a lovely source of protein and calcium.
- Individual Greek yogurt pots - I love how you can now get plain Greek yogurt in individual pots instead of in the large 500g or 1kg ones which used to be the only option. Smaller pots can be taken out easily and your baby can have their own pot to eat from (or smear everywhere!!)
- Falafels - are so easy to make and the spices and herbs which are added are perfect for encouraging a varied palette! The main ingredients which are chickpeas are full of protein, fibre and iron which is ideal for growing and developing babies. They are a perfect food for babies to pick up and manage.
For those at the beginning of their weaning journey, having a picnic “al fresco” is great! It really helps being outside in terms of combating some of that mess! Who doesn’t love the choice of NOT cleaning your floors and tables – I certainly do! And, by eating outside, and sitting together we are together as a family! Our babies are clever beings. They love to mimic and so seeing how you eat, their siblings eat, their friends eat is a great way for them to learn this new skill of popping food into their mouth, moving it around their mouth and learning to swallow. Our busy lives mean we don’t always all sit together at mealtimes but by sharing food picnic style encourages us to sit together, engage with each other and learn from each other.
Another great thing about having a picnic is being in the outdoors and exposing ourselves to the wonder which is vitamin D. We all know that the best source of vitamin D is the sun so allowing our children and ourselves sometime in the sun is a great way of ensuring we are not becoming low in this vital vitamin. Vitamin D is essential for so many things including strong bones and teeth but it is also so important in all aspects of health. More and more research is being published about the benefits of ensuring an adequate vitamin D intake and scientists are now showing how low intakes of the vitamin are seen in many health outcomes from lung conditions through to gestational diabetes.
There is something about being outside and in the sun, which brings out our inner happiness! Personally, I find it helps my mental health as it gives you a feeling of being more carefree. We are away from the house, we don’t have to look at the dishes which are piling up, the toys which need putting away – we can simply just “be”!
Picnics don’t have to just be sitting on a blanket in an open space, they could be part of a nature walk, a bike ride, a boat ride, camping trip, a trip to the zoo or a theme park. We can incorporate a picnic into all sorts of fun activities which bring us together, help us stay active, make us feel happy and enable us to be surrounded by the people we love – what more could we want?!