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Eating Alfresco With Children

Janet Aylott

Janet Aylott

EYNP Nutritionist

family picnic outside

Fennies are proud to be accredited by the Early Years Nutrition Partnership (EYNP) for our menus and contribution to supporting good nutrition in the early years. As part of our subscription we are delighted to bring you regular nutrition updates and evidence-based articles written by our Registered Nutrition Professionals from EYNP, Janet Aylott and Catherine Lippe.

This months’ topic: Eating Alfresco with children

With the summer in full flow (well mostly!) what better time to think about exploring the great outdoors with your little ones? Spending time outdoors is such a treat and loved by all the family. Whether it’s a trip to the farm, the beach, the park or just out in the garden being outside is great for both physical and mental health. Making the most of the good weather often means moving mealtimes ‘al fresco’ and this can be a great time to introduce new and exciting foods into your toddler’s diet. If eating out of the house is a bit daunting here are some top tips to make sure the whole family can enjoy the experience:

1. Plan ahead

Fond memories of picnics as a child can often be hard to live up to! But don’t worry you don’t need to make a gourmet hamper. Stick with what you know your child likes and what you know they will eat to take the stress out of the day. Plan ahead so if you’re going out for the day prep your picnic the day before.

2. Involve your little Chefs

Children love being involved in deciding what to eat, and helping with the prepping. If time allows let your little one choose what sandwich they might like, or to help put chopped up veggies into a pot just for them. They are more likely to eat food that they have chosen themselves, or that they have helped to prepare or serve.

parent and toddler cooking

3. Have some variety

Aim for as much variety as possible. Include a starchy carbohydrate (bread, wraps, pasta, rice), a source of protein (ham, chicken, tuna, egg, houmous), fruits and vegetables and a source of dairy (cheese, milk or yoghurt). Think about how food is presented and whether there are any special lunchboxes that will make the food even more appealing?

4. Make a rainbow

Fruit and veggies always taste so much nicer when you eat them outdoors! Prepare mini pots of sliced carrots, peppers, cucumber making the most of all the different colours available. Cherry tomatoes (cut in half for safety) are the perfect size for little ones. Do the same with a variety of in-season fruits such as strawberries, cherries, raspberries, grapes – whatever you know that they like. Always remember to chop fruit and vegetables to the appropriate size.

chopped vegetables

5. Mix it up

Having a new environment for a meal can be a good opportunity to try new things and introduce new tastes. Why not add in a new vegetable your little one hasn’t had before, or experiment with a tasty dip? Introducing new foods can be particularly successful if there are a group of children all trying it together and can particularly work if someone else brings along the food. Children always want to try food from someone else’s picnic!

6. Snack attack

Snacks are a must on a day out – the fresh air and exercise will always build up an appetite. Pack healthy snacks to keep the kids going before and after lunch. Breadsticks, rice cakes, popcorn, mini cheeses, yoghurt tubes and of course fruit or vegetables are all great choices.

7. Stay hydrated

Keep fluid levels topped up for the kids and adults! Pack plenty of drinks for the whole day, especially if you know there won’t be any opportunities to fill up water bottles on the way.

children at picnic

8. Garden picnic:

If you don’t fancy a long trip to the beach or park then why not just have a garden picnic –toddlers can get just as excited about the prospect of eating their lunch outside as going on a journey! Set up the picnic rug, lay out the food and let them dig in! There’s even less clearing up so it’s a winner for everyone!

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