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Make Your Own Family-Style Picnic 

Published June 9, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.

click to enlarge Plate filled with veggies - TRISH VAN VLIET
  • trish van vliet
  • Plate filled with veggies

Summer is right around the corner. What better way to celebrate than with a healthy dose of vitamin D and a family-style picnic? Fill a picnic basket with a variety of food to satisfy diverse palates, and encourage your kids to help out. Registered South Burlington dietitian Hope Seggelink notes that "kids are much more likely to try new foods when they have been involved in making the meal."

To cut down on prep time, divide food into containers based on the following categories: savory, sweet, grains, spreadables/dippables and snacks. Seggelink suggests "filling half of your plate with fruits and veggies in order to show how much you enjoy eating them. Your child will follow your lead!"

Family-Style Picnic

click to enlarge Sophie carrying her family's picnic basket - TRISH VAN VLIET
  • trish van vliet
  • Sophie carrying her family's picnic basket

Choose a few options from each category

Savory Container

Proteins: Vermont Smoke & Cure uncured smoked pepperoni slices or meat sticks, leftover chicken or tofu, beans, roasted chickpeas, sliced hard-boiled eggs, nitrate-free bacon, thinly sliced Cabot cheddar cheese, or other crumbled cheeses like feta, goat and cotija

Veggies: Spinach, chard or kale; sliced avocado; cucumber; tomato; shredded carrots; pickles; or peppers. For a hearty dose of probiotics and an immune-system boost, try Vermont-made Sunja's White Kimchi as a topper. This mild kimchi tastes great with peanut sauce!

Spreadables/Dippables: Red pepper hummus, pesto, Greek yogurt mixed with sriracha hot sauce, salsa, guacamole or tahini

Grains: O Bread baguette, Vermont Tortilla Company corn tortillas, brown rice cakes, tortilla chips, or whole-wheat or veggie wraps

Sweet Container

Fruit: Local, seasonal berries; apple slices; or melon

Treats: Dried fruit, graham crackers, mini marshmallows, or dark chocolate

Fruit dip: Mix together Green Mountain Creamery plain Greek yogurt, honey or local maple syrup, cinnamon, vanilla, and a smattering of chia seeds (a source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants)

Nonfood items

Chopsticks, toothpicks, ice cube tray to dole out small portions to young children, and a bag to carry out trash.

Crowd-Pleasing Peanut Noodles

Mix savory items into this vegan, gluten-free dish — perfect for a picnic main course.


Rice noodles, or try lentil or chickpea pasta for a punch of protein

Thai-Style Peanut Sauce

  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 4 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or less, to taste)

Optional Mix-Ins

  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Sesame seeds
  • Grated ginger
  • Crushed garlic
  • Fresh lime juice


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions, then drain.
  2. While noodles cool, whisk together peanut sauce ingredients.
  3. Pour three-quarters of the sauce over the noodles. Reserve the rest.
  4. Mix sauce into noodles and secure in a container with a tight lid.
  5. Add extra sauce and mix-ins to individual servings before eating.
click to enlarge Popped whole grains - TRISH VAN VLIET
  • trish van vliet
  • Popped whole grains

A fun alternative to popcorn is popped whole grains like sorghum, amaranth and quinoa. The hard, inedible kernels have a slightly nutty flavor when cooked and provide magnesium, potassium, iron, and vitamins B and E. There's no need to cook ancient grains in fat, as they cook easier in a dry pan and will clump less when stored. Use them as a crunchy salad topper or mix in seasoning and additional ingredients to turn into a tasty sweet or savory snack.

  1. Heat a medium-high deep pan until almost smoking.
  2. Add a generous handful of grains to the hot pot, leaving room for them to bounce around as they cook.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Cover the pan and shake, shake, shake as the grains pop.
  4. Open the lid (away from your face) a few times to let the steam escape.
  5. These small kernels will explode and burn quickly, so watch them carefully.
  6. Once popped, swiftly transfer to a pan to cool.

Popped Grain Flavors

  • Everything Bagel: Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, salt, onion, pepper. Make your own or buy a premade version.
  • Grandma Patti-Style: Inspired by the toast my mom made me as a little girl, combine butter, sugar, cinnamon and a touch of salt.
  • Maple-Bacon: Mix in pieces of crispy bacon and local maple sugar for a sweet and salty delight!
  • Movie Night: Include M&M's, pretzels, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, bite-size cereal, raisins and chocolate chips.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.

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Trish Van Vliet


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