For many of us, we’ve had our babies all safe and snug at home for the last year or so. But, all of a sudden, restaurants, play venues and public spaces are now opening up. Although we’re hopefully excited about this, it might also come with some anxieties about how to feed our babies when we’re out and about.
In our last blog, Sarah Jackson shared her expertise about making choices for young children when eating out at a restaurant. She’s worked in the restaurant industry as a Nutritionist for YEARS and knows what they can and can’t offer. So, check that out if (like me!) you’re a fan of letting someone else do some cooking!
As the weather gets warmer, many of us might also be thinking more about feeding our babies and toddlers out and about at picnics, events, baby groups, play gyms or at friend’s houses – so many options (how exciting!) But, this might be something you’re unsure about.
So, I thought I would put together a guide to eating out and about with your baby or toddler. I wanted to make it practical, easy to follow and reassuring, as well as giving you lots of options for nutritious on the go meals and snacks. Here goes!
1.) What to think about?
First of all, it’s best to consider if you’ll be in a suitable environment for your baby to eat, and to consider any adjustments or preparations that need to be made.
- Is there somewhere you can feed the children safely and easily? Think about whether your baby needs a (portable) highchair or if you’ll need a blanket to sit on, for example.
- Can you carry everything, including lunch, your change bag, the baby, prams, scooters etc or do you need to slim down your list?
- Is there plenty of space around to sit together and eat?
- Will you have plenty of time for food and not be rushed in-between activities?
- Can a mealtime happen at roughly the same time you normally feed your baby/toddler, sticking to a routine can help where possible?
- Will it be noisy and distracting (if so you might find getting baby to eat a little tough, that’s OK if it is as a one off anyway)?
- Are there washing facilities? If not, wash fruits and veggies BEFORE packing.
2.) Prep the night before
Before heading out the next day, I find it’s always best to get some things ready the night before:
- Pack your bag with as much as you can the night before so you don’t forget anything in the wild morning rush!
- Make a checklist of things you need to pack/take the next day.
- Make food now OR defrost frozen options in the fridge so they are ready for the next day.
- Pop an ice pack in the freezer so you can keep food cold.
- Add a cup of water to the fridge so it’s cold to drink on hot days.
- If you’re meeting friends or family, ask them if there is anything you need to know or take the day before too, just in case.
2.) What to pack on the day
- A lunch bag (I actually LOVE Little Dish’s lunch bags that their meals come in and always use this when taking the kids out). They help keep the food nice and cool too.
- Ice packs to keep food cold (you can always freeze a bottle of water too if it’s a hot day. This helps to keep food cold but also acts as a refreshing drink once you’ve eaten AND reduces the weight you have to carry post lunch too!)
- Cutlery – ah, the number of times I forget this! For anyone attending – baby spoons, forks and something for chopping, spreading or slicing, if needed.
- Bibs – another one I forget, but unless you plan to change their clothes post lunch, then a coverall bib can really help!
- Wipes (cheeky wipes can work just as well as standard wipes and they reduce waste!) for the clean up.
- Hand steriliser (hopefully everyone has one of these in their bags these days!)
- Water bottles with straws can be helpful for kids and babies.
- A spare bag for any rubbish or food waste.
- A picnic blanket/something to sit on or maybe a portable highchair if you’re going somewhere with your baby and they need to be sitting up.
- Food for everyone, in reusable bags, boxes or containers. I actually like little lock n stock style containers that come in various sizes. Some flasks can be great too for taking hot foods out with you.
- A little extra food and fluid, just in case (see my healthy snack options)! I tend to always take a little extra just in case I’m out for longer than I expected, get stuck somewhere, the kids drop something or are just in need of a little extra. It’s always worthwhile having a bit more!
4.) On-the-go Food options for babies and toddlers
A super easy option, they can be a great way to give your little one a range of foods, so use a variety of fillings such as:
- Peanut butter
- Cheese salad
- Meat such as chicken
You can choose different types of bread, too – try sliced, sourdough, rolls, English muffins, wraps, pittas or fruit bread.
Pasta salads with a variety of fillings
Pesto pasta has always been a big hit with Raffy, and goes really well with sliced avocado. However, tuna, chicken and tomato work great, too. You could also serve with cheese and a side of fruit for a nutritious, balanced meal. You can find my low-salt pesto recipe here
These have worked well with Ada on the go, too. I offer them cold once defrosted when out and about which is fine! A great finger food for both babies and toddlers, you can serve with veg sticks and yoghurt with banana or orange slices. Find my salmon tot recipe here
Quiche or a frittata
These can have a variety of fillings such as cheese, mushroom, meat, tomato and spinach. They’re super filling and when cut into slices make a tasty and nutritious finger food. Check out my baby-friendly mushroom and spinach frittata recipe.
Crackers and Oatcakes
These work so well with some cream cheese or peanut butter spread on top. You could also dip them in hummus or veggie dips! For early weaning babies, try spreading with some banana. Do keep in mind that shop bought oatcakes can be a little high in salt, so aren’t the best option for babies. However, I have a low salt oatcake recipe.
Another great picnic option, and just as delicious when served cold! Make in advance and keep in your cool bag – no need to heat up when served! You can also use any leftovers as toppings, packing some extra veggies into your child’s meal. Here’s my super easy pitta pizza recipe or, alternatively, you can try my pizza wrap recipe.
Another great out and about option for babies, savoury muffins are both yummy and nutritious, and another great way to pack in some extra veggies. I have a really tasty recipe in my book, but do try my veggie recipe on the blog.
A big hit with babies, you can spread with nut butter or cream cheese, or serve with yoghurt for some extra protein. These also go lovely with strawberries and cream to make a very British picnic choice! Shop bought scones can be fairly high in sugar, but you can try my baby scone recipe for a yummy, low sugar option.
Always a favourite, it’s also a really convenient option, especially if you have some stored in your freezer. You can serve with a yogurt or hummus dip, or spread some nut butter on top. Try my popular pancake sheet recipe for a no sugar version that contains yummy raspberries (but you can choose different fruits such as blueberries if you wish).
Mini Summer rolls
A slightly different option, these delicious mini summer rolls are packed with herbs, vegetables and proteins and are super simple to make! Just wrap your fillings in rice paper, and choose from meat or tofu for a veggie option. They’re perfect for babies with teeth who are confident with finger foods.
Children of all ages can enjoy a curry – if your baby is young, start off with a small amount of spice. It can be a really great on-the-go option if you can keep it nice and cold in a cool bag. Just don’t forget the cutlery! Try this lovely, veg packed Summer Curry that both babies and toddlers will love.
We all went a bit mad for banana bread during lockdown, but it’s a great choice for when you’re out and about, too. A yummy finger food, you can spread with peanut butter and serve with yoghurt and fruit for a really satisfying lunch.
Options for early weaning babies
- If your baby is at an earlier stage of weaning some great on the go options include:
- soft broccoli fingers (or other veggies like cauliflower) with cheese grated on top
- avocado fingers
- pitta or bread fingers with a soft spread
- a boiled egg, cut into quarters
- yoghurt and banana with peanut butter stirred in
- a small pot of cooked peas
- plain fusilli pasta or served with small amount of tomato sauce
- You could also bring along some leftovers of a an early-weaning friendly recipe like my Creamy Lentil and Butternut Squash Mash Recipe for Babies.
Baby food pouches: don’t forget that every now and then food pouches can be a convenient option. Try to go for ones which contain more veggies and have ingredients you would expect to see in them. If your little one is past the puree stage, you can always still use these but spread them on crackers, oatcakes or bread instead.
I have lots more picnic appropriate food ideas here:
I also have lots of great finger food options in my 10 Freezable Recipes for Baby Led Weaning blog.
Try to balance the meals by taking along:
- Starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes.
- Veg and/or fruits
- Protein/iron rich foods like meat, fish, lentils and green leafy vegetables.
- Dairy or alternatives
If you’re taking foods as snacks remember to make them like mini meals so your baby or toddler is still getting lots of nutrients and balance. Here are some snack ideas here that could help!
Bring foods along with you that you know they will eat to offer after the meal and prolong your time to sit and relax from this blog: Tips for Eating out with an older baby
I hope you’ve found this useful, and that it’s helped you prepare and get some meal inspiration for your next outing with your little one! Let me know on Instagram if you tried any of these options.
For those of you with babies who are currently weaning, my book How to Wean Your Baby has over 50 with tasty family-friendly recipes. You can find it here.