With the weather changing and the nights growing longer, take family dinner outside to a nearby park. Try a collection of engaging, real food — skip the predictable sandwiches and juice boxes — to give them fuel to run around in the dwindling evening sun.
When picking out the menu for a healthful picnic, stick with simple things that can be made in advance.
Bring a few of their favorite whole foods to snack on, like mandarin oranges or baby carrots, mixed in with some new recipes. Keep place settings simple, too; choose plain paper plates, compostable cutlery and paper napkins when packing up your supper stash.
Throw in a paper grocery bag alongside your meal for the dirty dishes; toss it in your compost bin before heading inside with the sleepy kids.
1. Mason jar salad
Pick this roasted vegetable orzo salad from Sprouted Kitchen. Pack it in a few jars, then forget about it for a few days. This salad can be served cold or at room temperature, so it’s a perfect choice for packing up and eating on the go.
2. Bean dip
Pair this herb white bean dip from Food52 with healthy veggies and bread.
3. Protein-packed muffins
Here's one tasty recipe: double corn, quinoa and cheddar muffins from Food52. They travel well and keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.
4. Easy spanikopita
The kids will never know they’re eating handfuls of greens when they are easily gobbled up by the slice. Try spanikopita, baked and sliced ahead. Here’s an easy recipe from Martha Stewart.
5. Sandwich on a stick
Take their favorite sandwich and put it on a stick, like this meatball sub from the Food Network. Bonus: It doesn’t need to be cut up for little mouths.
6. Gluten-free cookies
These gluten-free cookies from 101 Cookbooks are sweetened only with bananas, so offer a guilt-free dessert regardless of how much of the meal made it into their bellies.
7. Homemade fruit leather
Try homemade fruit leather, the beef jerky of fruit! This tutorial from Simply Recipes should do the trick.
8. Rhubarb hand pies
Hand pies keep the mess to a minimum when held in tiny hands, and these rhubarb and cream cheese delighters from Smitten Kitchen scream Seattle summer to me!
9. Protein-powered granola bars
I recommend these five-ingredient, no-bake granola bars from the Minimalist Baker.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2018, and updated in May 2019.