This Saturday my baby niece sat sucking on a stick of capsicum while the grass tickled her toes and the sun danced across her peachy skin. She entertained herself by tapping her chubby fingers across my lunchbox to see what sounds she could make.
A metre away, a group of giggling young girls were sprawled in the grass watching the football.
Wafting towards us was the sweet smell of lollies and the crinkling of bags. There was snakes and starburst, colourful lumps of sugar in bag upon bag. Not an apple in sight.
Every now and then we’d spot a brown paper bag and the smell of pastry drifting our way as supporters wandered around the oval. The soggy bag hiding the traditional footy pie smothered in tomato sauce.
Given these families are at the footy every Saturday, I want to see more picnics! I want to see glass jars full of homemade goodies and baskets full of whole foods. I want to see rainbows of fruit and veg flowing out of car boots when they pull up at the boundary.
I want to see kids taking their lunch boxes to the footy (this applies to any regular event that your kids go to). And I’d rather they weren’t full of convenient packaged food and bland sandwiches.
Our kids are here cheering on their dads and brothers and mothers and sisters, soaking up the sun and the gift of their loved ones role modelling the benefits of an active life and being part of a team and community.
And feeding their faces with junk. Because “it’s footy food!” And traditions can’t be tampered with.
Our little girls playing netball are being fuelled with junk. Our little boys are spending their pocket money on sugar binges, MSG and toxic chemicals. Our husbands are hogging down a hotdog at half time and expecting to play a ripper game.
But it really doesn’t take much prep to organise a ripper meal and snacks for your family on the go.
Set out a heap of jars and containers on a rug and create a nutritious hub for your kids to come and go from as they please, filling their hands with whole food goodies as they float past.
Don’t put any pressure on them about what they need to eat but provide a smorgasbord for them to pick at throughout the day. Get them involved in the shopping and food prep and they’ll be more likely to eat what you pack. Don’t pressure them to eat it but don’t provide money for the canteen. They won’t go hungry. Talk to them about food as fuel.
Here are my meal and snack ideas for your family events:
I often take a large glass jar full of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and grapes when I pack a picnic. Without fail, I have beautiful grubby little hands reaching into my “lolly jar” again and again. I always sit the jar out on the grass or on my rug and leave the lid off. Then I watch for curious eyes that discover the jar so I can encourage the little kids nearby to dig in.
As a kid I played rep basketball. We would travel across the state to get flogged by girls that surely had the blood of giants in them. My mum, because she is the best in the business of being mum, would always make a wicked big fruit salad and usually a homemade muesli slice to rehydrate my sister and I and fuel us for the weekend of games (only once did she put peanuts in the slice because I nearly killed my allergic best friend…sorry Emsie). Always, always we had team mates flocking around us when we reached into our esky bag. My team mates would discard their inevitable bag of red frogs to dive into our container of fruit. Kids know what their bodies need, they crave nourishing foods if they are easily accessible.
Apples and bananas are no-brainers. They travel well and can be held in one hand while your kiddo is running around with a footy in the other hand.
Minus the bread. Split a banana in half and spread it with nut butter. Peanut butter is not a great option but cashew, almond or Brazil butters are tasty and slightly better options for omega 3 to 6 ratio. Add goji berries or sultanas for an extra kick.
Tahini dip with veggie sticks
Pack a small container with carrot, capsicum, celery and cucumber sticks and a another container full of tahini to dip in.
Avo dip with veggie sticks
Mash an avocado with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (and a teaspoon of organic pure chilli in a jar if your kiddo likes a bit of zing) and dip vegetable sticks in.
Just veggie sticks!
Plain ol’ veg sticks are always a winner. Never leave the house without a jar of multicoloured veggie sticks and don’t pressure your kid to eat them but strategically place them on offer wherever you go.
Another no-brainer. Cut the orange into chunks and leave in a container where your kiddo can get easy access. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top for something a little different.
Celery sticks with tahini and sultanas
Almond butter or sunflower seed butter is another good option for celery boats. Spread the nut or seed butter inside the celery sticks and line them with sultanas. These are always a hit when I pack them.
You can make a grain-free muesli slice in a few minutes that doesn’t have sugar or carcinogenic artificial flavours and preservatives. Choose your child’s favourite nuts (macadamia are a great choice with low omega 6) and seeds. Mix them up and roast for five minutes in the oven (e.g. a few cups full of pumpkin seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, macadamias, and Brazil nuts). Add a tablespoon of unrefined chunky sea salt and a cup of dried fruit (try to get preservative-free) – apricots, chopped dates, mango chunks, pears. Heat half a cup or so of locally sourced honey with a cup of coconut oil until it caramelises (when you put a tiny amount into a cup of water it will form a droplet). Mix all ingredients together and press very tightly into a slice tin lined with baking paper. Set in the fridge for a couple of hours and then cut into bar-sized chunks with a hot knife.
Clean eating beauties are obsessed with bliss balls for their convenience and deliciousness. They take minutes to make and can be chucked in a jar and taken anywhere. Use your favourite ingredients and get creative. The only rule is mix enough soggy ingredient (olive oil, melted coconut oil, eggs or nut butters/almond/cashew/Brazil butter) with dry ingredient (maca powder, cacao powder, almond meal, coconut flour) to make a spongey cookie-dough type mixture. Add chunks of your fave super-foods like goji berries, cacao nibs, or blueberries, squish together and set in the fridge and you’re ready to rock and roll.
Boil the eggs. Pack them. Eat them. It’s literally that easy. And eggs are really nutritious for kids and adults that aren’t sensitive to them. Eggs sustain life for baby chicks – why wouldn’t they be full of important nutrients? Boiled eggs travel well.
Halved bananas put onto icy-pole sticks and spread with almond butter then dipped into crushed nuts and cacao nibs. You can dip them in melted coconut oil mixed with cacao powder to create a chocolate and then freeze them if you want them like real ice-creams.
Crack whole eggs into a muffin tin, add bacon chunks, capsicum chunks, mushroom chunks and bake in the oven. Voila! Muffins.
Plenty of things that we eat hot for dinner can be enjoyed as leftovers cold. Cauliflower rice is a great idea to take to the game. It can be wrapped into nori seaweed rolls for extra nutrients and convenience.
Turkey mince and cranberry balls with homemade sugar-free tomato chutney.
Roast lamb salad with root veg
Add leftover lamb roast slices to a container full of various lettuces, chunks of avocado, and roast pumpkin chunks. Drizzle cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil over top and sprinkle some turmeric and ginger powder onto the salad. Add pine nuts for some extra crunch.
Mini cucumbers (especially out of your garden!)
Teach your kids to eat cucumbers like apples and bananas, this way they won’t have to pause in their adventuring while they sit down to eat. Crunch away little nutrient warriors!
Paleo muffins and cookies
Check out The Paleo Mom for awesome ideas.
Raw veg skewers
Thread baby tomatoes, cucumber chunks, radish, and all three coloured capsicums onto wooden skewers. Add chunks of meat that your kid likes to eat raw.
Raw shredded zucchini and carrot
Shred or grate the veg and cover in cold-pressed olive oil and Himalayan salt or unrefined sea salt.
Chunks of avocado spritzed with fresh lemon juice to keep it green not brown. Salt for taste. Let your kid scoop chunks of avo out of the shell with a spoon or a grubby finger as they run past with their buddies.
Oysters in brine, wild-caught salmon, sardines. Tinned fish is super convenient and super healthful. I have tins in my car and my lunchbox every day for those moments when hunger hits and a meal isn’t at my fingertips.
If you are pressed for time, buy Rafferties pure whole food purée packets and squeeze them out into little containers so they don’t know you’re feeding them “baby food”. For years I’ve eaten Rafferties in the moments between seeing patients when I’ve worked back-to-back consults all day.
Thermos foods and drink
Soups and herbal teas are a great idea because winter footy days get freeeeeeezing.
Fry a few eggs into a thick omelet, cool then wrap up some kale or spinach and some meat using the egg as the wrap.
Use organic turkey slices (preservative-free) to wrap up baby carrots and capsicum sticks.
Use bacon or preservative-free ham slices to wrap up lightly-steamed asparagus. Hold with a toothpick until ready to consume.
Rainbow chard or beetroot leaves are great substitutes to bread wraps. Bread is full of sugar and nasty preservatives. Your kidlet can do without all that.
These make amazing snacks. Bake chunks of root vegetables for an hour in the oven in animal fat (grass-fed animal fat is a great source of vitamin D and brain boosting nutrients) or coconut oil and sea salt. These good quality fats are important for your child to have healthy brain and body. They can be eaten cold and drizzled with extra virgin cold pressed olive oil.
Buy organic vegetable chips by macro or bake your own. You can slice up pumpkin, parsnip, zucchini, sweet potato or white potato very thinly and spread with ethically-sourced palm oil and Himalayan salt then bake on low for a couple of hours. Let cool on baking trays until crispy.
Thinly slice Brussel sprouts, onion, garlic and bacon pieces, fry them in coconut oil and maple syrup until they are caramelised and the kid can eat them cold. Don’t assume that your child hates Brussel sprouts just because you do!
Make some meatballs out of mince meat, eggs, lamb fat, herbs and some grated carrot and zucchini. Squeeze them together and roast them until golden brown.
Blend up dates with coconut oil, roll into balls and press desiccated coconut onto the outside. Yummy, super sweet and easy.
Raw Carrot Cake
By The Healthy Chef is incredibly tasty and no baking required. Winning!
Fudgy Wudgy Cookies
Healthy cookies. Say whaaaat? Yup. Make them.
Fermented carrots and cucumbers
Homemade probiotics are a great addition to your picnic.
This recipe is amazeballs. Yummy chocolately deliciousness with none of the nasty chemicals.
Almond Butter Cups
Chocolate peanut butter cups. But the healthy version. Super simple and fun.
Homemade trail mix
Dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Be wary about dried fruit as it is a concentrated source of sugar and often contains nasty preservatives on the outside.
Raw or lightly steamed.
Lightly steamed broccoli with diced bacon, chives or spring onions, paleo mayo and some pecans or slivered almonds or sunflower seeds.
Puréed pumpkin, carrot and sweet potato with maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon and nutmeg. Yummbo.
Coconut water and “vitamin waters”
I get so sad watching all the kids running around with Gatorade and worse – coke cans – at the footy. So sad. Their little growing brains and bodies being fuelled with substances we know are causing cancer, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, learning problems, obesity. Pack the coconut water “juice boxes” that you can buy from the supermarket – these have a better electrolyte profile than artificially coloured sports drinks. Use a soda stream machine to zap some bubbles into your kid’s water bottle if they want something special for the weekend then flavour it with a squeeze of fresh lemon or orange juice. Cinnamon or anise make good flavours too. You can add cucumber, mint, kiwi fruit, strawberries to their water to jazz it up. You may be thinking that your kid will never let that fly. But that’s only because we’ve damaged their taste buds with processed foods. It will take a transition period but your family can learn to appreciate real food again.