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Ever get bored of your usual picnic fare? Sometimes we just need some new ideas. We asked weaning expert Annabel Karmel to answer all your pressing picnic questions. Here’s a round-up of her top tips.

Sandwich alternatives

Easy to pack and store, sandwiches are of course a great lunchtime staple. Deborah asked Annabel about sandwich fillings that would ring the changes from her toddler’s usual lunch.

Annabel suggested using different types of bread, such as bagels, stuffed pitta pockets or wraps, like a honey chicken wrap.

While for Rebecca, whose 18-month-old likes food with plenty of flavour but usually picks out the filling, sweet chilli wraps could be a good option. “My children like it when I mix mayonnaise with a little sweet chilli sauce and spread it over the wrap before adding the filling,” said Annabel. “You can do the same thing with mayonnaise and plum sauce to give it extra flavour.”

Some little ones are too young for sandwiches or just not keen, which is why mum Kate asked Annabel for a fast sandwich-free option that wasn’t too fiddly to make.

Annabel recommended making your own puff pastry pizza. “You can add your child’s favourite toppings,” she said.

Presentation is key

Christina said that her staples are sandwiches, crisps and fruit, and asked Annabel for a way to jazz up her picnic food and make it seem a bit more special.

“Presentation makes a big difference, and children love to eat food off of a stick, or a straw for younger children,” said Annabel. She has a lovely lunch stick recipe.

Eating together

We’d all prefer to bring along food that the whole family can enjoy – it would make packing a picnic a lot easier. With this in mind, mum Vanessa asked Annabel what she could serve that would be suitable for her eight-month-old too.

Annabel suggested munching on sticks of raw vegetables or garlic pitta breadsticks, which kids can eat plain or dunk into dips.

Another option is chicken and apple balls, “They are delicious hot or cold,” said Annabel.

Catering to allergies

Kate said she finds sandwiches a challenge as her daughter is allergic to dairy, eggs and fish. Rather than bread, Annabel suggested serving pasta or couscous salad.

We like this chicken pasta salad — packed with summer vegetables for a tasty, light summer lunch.

A healthy option

Sometimes the easiest things to pop in a picnic basket can also be unhealthiest. Mum Emma asked Annabel for any healthy alternatives to her little one’s favourite – crisps.

“I make amazing sweet potato and parsnip crisps and they are baked rather than fried so are much better for little ones to fill up on,” said Annabel, who went on to give the instructions on how to do this:

  1. Peel thin strips from half a small sweet potato and one medium parsnip using a swivel peeler.
  2. Put the strips in a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, shake the tray and turn around and bake for five minutes. Check and remove from the oven if crisp and browned at the edges.
  4. Otherwise continue to cook for a few more minutes, checking frequently. Parsnips may cook more quickly. Store in a Tupperware container.

“You’ll need to eat them on the same day that they are made or they can go soft,” Annabel added.

Buzz off wasps!

Emily was worried about serving a fruit salad or anything sweet at a picnic in case it attracted wasps, and asked if there was anything she could do.

Annabel suggesting hanging a fake wasps nest, known as a ‘waspinator’, from a tree near your picnic. “And wasps don’t like eucalyptus, so dabbing some eucalyptus oil on your skin can be a good defence,” she added.

Something sweet

Nothing rounds off a picnic better than something homemade and sweet. Mum Frankie asked Annabel to recommend a picnic dessert for a family party – but wanted something that her toddler would also have fun making.

“If you like fairy cakes, a healthier but delicious alternative is a Mini Banana Bran Muffin made with mashed banana, bran flakes soaked in milk, cinnamon, ginger and raisins,” said Annabel.

Jo also asked about picnic dessert options for a 15-month-old with a fondness for fruit and yoghurt.

Flapjacks are a quick option, said Annabel. And because they’re packed with oats, they’re also more nutritious.

For extra vitamin C and flavour, try these fruity flapjacks — loaded with dry fruit, nuts and coconut.

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