As I am writing this, outside my window it is a beautiful crisp clear Wellington morning – the perfect day for an outdoor adventure with the family.  If the weather allows, or you decide that the elements aren’t going to stop you, it is a good idea to plan ahead and take some food with you. This way you have food on hand when the kids get hungry, you won’t have to rely on finding a shop close by and you have more control over what the family is eating. Food from outside the home generally has less nutritional value, higher fat content and higher energy (kilojoules/calories). It also usually works out a lot more expensive.

Children, especially younger ones, require snacks to be able to keep going. If they do get hungry they will often become grumpy and uncooperative. This can quickly turn a fun family day out into a trial. Our family has been known to stop in at the local supermarket, if caught out and grab some rolls, ham, cheese and tomato (if in season) to make a lunch on the go. We keep a small pocketknife in the glove box for just such emergencies.

The food you take can depend on the activity you are doing. If you are going for a bush walk then you may not want to carry the whole pantry with you – but some sandwiches, fruit and biscuits could be all you need. Whereas if you are heading out for the day you will need to think of snacks as well as lunch. Depending on where you are going a picnic blanket stashed in the car could be an essential. When going on a picnic our family takes sandwich ingredients such as half a loaf of bread, a chunk of cheese, pottle of hummus, jar of peanut butter etc.  Then we make the sandwiches as we want them – somehow freshly made sandwiches always taste so much better than pre-made.  Just don’t forget a knife! Another favourite is to make a pasta salad the night before, grab some forks and share that. See my recipe below for inspiration.

If your child is playing sport then it is important that they eat a sustaining meal before playing. If the game is in the morning then muesli, cereal or porridge with milk is a great option. If they are not big breakfast eaters consider making them a milk drink. A warm chocolate drink on a cold winter morning can be very enticing. Take some snacks with you for after the game.

Fruit is a great snack option as it is convenient as well as being highly nutritious. Unfortunately a study of high school students in 2007 found that only 22% ate the recommended two servings of fruit. Other snack options could be sandwiches, dried fruit, cheese and crackers, nuts, vegetable sticks with cottage cheese or hummus, yoghurt, pikelets or fruit loaf.

Remembering to drink is important, even in the colder months. Carrying water bottles and prompting your kids to drink throughout the day will help keep them hydrated and is particularly important if they are playing sport or doing a lot of running around.

Often when our family goes for a walk we like to have a destination, even if the kids can’t make it all the way to the end of the track. We find somewhere nice to sit along the way and have something to eat before heading back. This way my husband and I get to decide a suitable turning point rather than the kids begging to keep going only to run out of steam half way back. Carrying bikes and kids is not my ideal end to a walk.

With a little thought and preparation it is easy to take food with you for your family. Keep it simple and enjoy.

Pasta Salad Recipe (serves 4)

Ingredients:

250g pasta

1 Tbsp oil

1 carrot

2 mushrooms

broccoli and/or cauliflower

2 spring onions

handful of spinach

4 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

2  Tbsp sweet thai chili sauce

Method:

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add pasta and cook until still firm to the bite. Approximately 12 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl.

Decide if you want raw or cooked vegetables. If choosing raw I would suggest cutting the vegetables finely.

To cook vegetables heat a pan with the oil.

Add the vegetables to the pan in the order they are listed with about 30-60 secs between each one. Cook to your preference but I like them when they still have a bit of crunch.

Add the sauces and seeds to the vegetables.

Stir the vegetables through the pasta. You may need to add a little more oil to ensure the pasta doesn’t stick together.

If you have chosen raw vegetables simply mix the sauces and oil together then combine with the cooked pasta and vegetables.

Put a lid on your bowl and refrigerate until required.

This recipe can also be made with couscous, vegetables can be substituted with what you have in the fridge and sauces be changed to your preference.  Make it your own, and have fun!

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Andrea has a passion for food and health and has turned her passion into a profession. As a qualified dietitian and chef Andrea wants to help others feel the same way, which is why she started her own business Food Habits based in Lower Hutt. To find out more go to www.foodhabits.co.nz.

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