Relishing their break from school, many kids thrive during summer vacation. Just as kids are flourishing in the summer heat, so is the bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. At adult family-style picnics, often things like potato salad can be the culprit when someone gets an upset stomach after the celebration. While potato salad and similar items may be your favorites, they most likely won’t be on top of your kids ‘wish list’ for their picnic at the park. Lunch with the kids often means a main dish served between slices of bread, so you may not realize that extra diligence may be required when sandwiches are served in the summer heat. These suggestions compiled both from the Federal Food and Drug Administration and from my own years of packing outdoor lunches will help you overcome this challenge.
First, keeping cold foods cold is important. Packing several smaller containers rather than one large cooler can help with this. This means that if the kids are reaching for a granola bar or a handful of chips, they are not opening the cooler and exposing things like sandwiches and fruit to the warm summer air before you’re ready for lunch. Having several reusable ice packs helps with proper temperature, yet you should also think outside of the box for ways to cool your lunch. Frozen drinks such as 100% juice boxes can act as ice packs and help the cold food stay that way. By the time you are ready to eat lunch, the juice is a slushy, refreshing drink.
Second, according to the FDA, cleaning produce beforehand is another must! The Norwex Fruit and Veggie cloth is a must-have before packing any picnic! Scrubbing up your fruits and veggies, such as cherries, apples, carrots and other harder produce, will ensure serving safety. Drying them afterwards with a Norwex BacLock™ Kitchen Towel is also recommended. Damp fruit in a dark picnic bag is not a good idea!
Third, help expand your kids’ palette by thinking beyond regular peanut butter & jelly. Spread on almond butter and sprinkle in Craisins. Use various kinds of jelly with your deli meats instead of using mayo; jalepeno jelly with ham is a favorite around our house. You could even wrap a piece of cheese and ham around a breadstick instead of inside of the bread. No matter how you prepare them, the best way to package these sandwich masterpieces is the Norwex “Out to Lunch” sandwich wraps and snack bags. These reusable sandwich bags are free of BPA, phtalates, PVC and lead – all those items that you do not want touching your child’s food!
Fourth, creative presentation always goes a long way with kids. Make fruit kabobs, or antipasto kabobs using chunks of meat, cheese and vegetables. Prepare tortilla pinwheel sandwiches. You could even be creative with shapes. For instance, serve a circle sandwich snowman. By topping a piece of 100% whole wheat white bread with turkey, then using cherry tomatoes for the eyes, raisins for the mouth and of course a carrot for the nose, you can dine with Frosty this summer.
Finally, a little preparation can go a long way. If you prepare your vegetables when you get home from the store, you are ready to go for an outing anytime. Keep several of reusable snack bags filled with GORP mix on hand for ready-to-go, healthy snacks. (Evidently GORP stands for Good Old Raisins & Peanuts!) For some more creative variations, check out these recipes from Walking About. Wanting to go on a last-minute picnic? Just a grab a loaf of bread, some meat and cheese. Most of all, just enjoy the picnic possibilities this summer with your children!
What are your favorite ways to “lunch with the kids” this summer?