During the warmer months of spring, summer and fall, many families are on the move to the great outdoors. During vacations, weekends, and free time during the week- parks, beaches, and hiking trails are popular family get-away destinations. When out and about, it can be expensive and time consuming to eat away from home, it can also be challenging to find healthy options for you and the kids. Packing lunch or snacks is a great way to guarantee access to healthy choices, save some money and make the most of your time as you explore the world. Here are some simple tips to help you get started:
- Veggie sticks and hummus – these pack easily and can provide a variety of tasty vegetable options to eat with it (celery, carrots, broccoli, peppers, pea pods, etc.)
- Fruit cups – you can prepare these in advance. Make individual cups if you have picky eaters or want to involve the kids in making their own. Mix up a container of fruits into a salad or skewer some fruit kabobs.
- Roll-ups – no, not the fruit kind! Grab a tortilla, add some deli meat and veggies. Rolled up, these make great sandwiches.
- Trail mix – this is always a win! You can mix together your favorite snack items, lots of nuts, seeds, dried fruits and veggies and pretzels. This makes a much healthier alternate to chips and candy.
- Granola bars – these can help boost energy while getting some nutritious grains into your system. Just be sure to read the Nutrition Facts Labels since some can be high in fat and sugar. Check the label for fiber as well, some have a little as 2 grams.
- Reusable drink containers – why buy individual packaged drinks? Use an eco-friendly water bottle. This can hold any liquid (juice, milk, Gatorade, water) and then be refilled with water when it runs out. Using a water bottle ensures you won’t dehydrate in the heat!
- Fresh fruit and veggies – throw in some bananas, apples, oranges, grapes, tomatoes. Most fruits will pack and travel easily and these provide essential nutrients, ease hunger, and fill you up faster. Celery sticks, carrots, beans, and other vegetables are easy to pack and take while traveling.
- Salad fixings – these may take bit more preparation on the front end, but what better way to eat a salad than while enjoying nature’s beauty! Enjoy the warm growing seasons by bringing along seasonal fruits and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, berries, melons and/or leafy greens.
- Muffins – muffins are a great way to sneak in all sorts of fruits and veggies, as well as some healthy grains. There are many recipes for healthy muffins with ingredients you could never guess based on taste alone!Bring along a cooler to keep perishable foods cold. Any fruits or vegetables that are peeled or cut need to be refrigerated until ready to eat, just like meat and dairy foods. Trail mix, granola bars and muffins are better choices for long hikes with no cooler.Be sure to pack wet towels to get sticky fingers clean. Sanitizer is a great way to wash up before eating meals as well. Bring along a blanket in with your food and maybe after you are finished eating, you can lean back and take a nap in the warmth of the afternoon!Contributor: Sarah Ransom, University of Tennessee FCS Extension Agent , printed on eXtension