It's possible to eat healthfully while on the road to summer fun. Really. Just plan ahead.
Illustration: Eddie Thomas Star Tribune
Lazy summers, while sounding nice in theory, are rarely the reality for a busy family. Days and nights filled with baseball games, swim meets and sports camps leave little time to kick back and relax. Even vacations can seem harried as your crew plans, packs and piles in the car to get to wherever you’re going.
With all the hustle and bustle, summer can be the most challenging season of all to fit in a healthful meal. The iconic image of a family leisurely enjoying a picnic by the lake is replaced with a car, packed full of kids, driving up to a take-out window.
While lakeside picnics may be rare, the idea of enjoying a mouthwatering meal on the go is certainly not out of reach. A little planning and a few quick and easy recipes in your repertoire can have you and your family munching on salads, sandwiches and other fresh and flavorful picnic fare, filled with the fruits and vegetables that only summer can provide. Faced with the alternative of grabbing another hot dog and bag of chips at the ballpark, well, the choice seems obvious.
When deciding what to pack for your on-the-go picnic, form should follow function. Choose foods that are easy to eat — that means nothing that requires cutting. After all, you may be juggling a plate while sitting in the stands of a Little League ballpark, a challenging feat that doesn’t need to be made more challenging with the addition of a steak knife. Foods that can be handheld or easily eaten with a fork will help keep your food on your plate and off your clothes.
Also, think about foods that can be safely served at room temperature to round out your menu. Uncut fruits and vegetables, pita chips or pretzels, cookies, granola and trail mix are all good standbys that won’t take up valuable cooler space.
Sandwiches travel much better when made with sturdy breads such as a baguette or ciabatta. Using regular sandwich bread often results in squashed and soggy sandwiches. Wraps can be another good alternative. Roll them up tightly and enclose them in plastic or parchment paper to help keep them intact.
Of course, the most important rule of all is to relax and have fun. Kids think a picnic is special no matter what you serve and where you serve it. You don’t have to have a whole day free to enjoy a delicious bite in the fresh air with your family. A soccer sideline or a rest stop on your way to visit relatives will do the trick. Packing a picnic will make you feel good about what you’re eating, and let you enjoy every minute of summer you can with your family. It never lasts long enough.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.