Jet-Set With Your Picnic Basket! Fun Theme Ideas for Lunch
7 mins read

Jet-Set With Your Picnic Basket! Fun Theme Ideas for Lunch

The following is a guest post from Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE and Mom,

Have you planned a big, fun, family picnic to celebrate summer?  I love the sun and heat. And while yes, we may be braving temperatures in the high 90’s here in New York City, the rising mercury hasn’t driven us indoors just yet. 

Themed picnics are a great way to incorporate entertainment, flavor, and even education into a family outing. Add a clever theme to your picnic by incorporating foods from another city or, better yet, from around the world.

Here are five favorite picnic picks that will not only teach your kids about worldly traditions, but help us mamas imagine we’re on an exotic vacation abroad as well. After all, what better way to educate our children about different cultures than through healthy foods and a day spent in the great outdoors?

Manhattan, New York

The American Family Picnic – Whether it be Central Park or the green lawns of Battery Park City, New Yorkers are known to hit the grocery store en route to their destination, thanks to too-small kitchens and fast-paced lives. Where do we shop? The streets of Manhattan are teeming with fancy food stores, from Citarella and Agata and Valentina to my personal favorite, Whole Foods. While city-dwellers may sport canvas eco totes in place of old-school wicker baskets, we nevertheless know how to pack them up right.

As any New Yorker knows, simplicity is key. Inside, you’ll find Perrier to stay hydrated and cool, 100% juice boxes for the kids, camelbacks filled with water, and maybe even an Honest Ade Limeade. In terms of food, we like to keep it light with grilled chicken, fresh fruit, a cheese round, and something salty like spelt pretzels to share. Parents are fully equipped with personal pre-made sandwiches from the deli counter, or a few individual salads to share for a simple spread that allows for an easy clean-up, a hands-free walk home, and true rest and relaxation for all. Well, as much as any parent can get. Don’t forget your books to read as you sprawl across the lawn.

Sao Paulo, Brazil

The Brazilian Family Picnic – Dreaming of a Brazilian-bound holiday? Imagine you are there with this inspired basket of goodies. First, find yourself a delicious loaf of cheese bread, a staple in the Brazilian diet. If you can’t find a Brazilian grocery store, you can make your own homemade cheese bread (we put the recipe at the bottom of this post) in your kitchen. Cook with your kids for a great way to let them in on the preparation process.

Top off your Brazilian feast with seasonal fruits, turkey and cheese sandwiches, and of course, wine (for the mamas and the papas). My Brazilian friends tell me that cake would be appropriate too, but as a mom and dietitian, I think the cheese bread is enough to satisfy any picnicker’s tastes buds on an especially warm afternoon.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Dutch Family Picnic – Do it up Dutch with your dearest friends and family by grabbing a soccer ball and heading to the nearest pitch. (If you were in Amsterdam, you might find yourselves in VondelPark. Take out a map, and show your kids where this is!)

Include fresh pasta salads, preferably olive oil-based to keep the picnic as healthy as can be. Borrowed from the Italians, Dutch natives love a good pasta salad topped with mozzarella, tomato, and red peppers. For the kids, add cheese and low-salt ham or turkey to whole-wheat bread, or spread hazelnut butter or jam onto a baguette for tykes with picky palates. Need something sweet? Bring along fresh melon and ripe strawberries to snack on after the family soccer match. Both kinds of fruit aren’t just packed with nutrients – they’re also an excellent way to rehydrate!

Digby, Nova Scotia

The Canadian Family Picnic – Hop on a local bike trail and cycle out for a Canadian picnic with fresh produce from your local farmers’ market that’ll have your family praising our northern neighbors in no time! Opt for summer corn and fiddlehead salad, salmon jerky, and a heaping berry bowl of strawberries, blackberries, saskatoon, haskap (or blue honeysuckle), and sea buckhorn.

If you live near the beach, do like the Digby locals and bike on over to the fish market or a nearby fishing boat to pick up fresh oysters, mussels, or clams. Sit down with the kids and teach them how to shuck the clams as you discuss fascinating topics like sea life and the role of fishermen in society.

Paris, France

The French Family Picnic – Oui, oui! Practice your French with the kiddies by grabbing some language-specific flashcards and venturing off to the Jardin Des Tuileries just north of the Seine – also known as your backyard for the purpose of this imaginary getaway. Pack up seasonal veggies like radishes, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes. Next, stop by the patisserie for a fresh baguette, followed by a café for some ready-made food and wine.

When dining like the French, explore rich flavors like country duck and rabbit pate, a ripe camembert, a small wedge of Brie, a sliver of Roquefort, and of course, fresh chevre (goat cheese). Just remember that, although options like these are high in saturated fat, they can be quite tasty; find satisfaction in smaller portions.

For a lighter fare, seek out – or make your own – cornichons, or pickled baby cucumbers – a traditional French side dish for cold cuts that goes perfectly with a baguette or sandwich.

From Europe to South America and back home again, picnics are a fantastic way to spend a summer afternoon enjoying far-off flavors while teaching your family about nutrition and food. Simply gather a healthy picnic basket, grab a bottle of sunscreen, and find yourself a nice spot to enjoy the summer sun!

And we promised we would teach you how to make that delicious Brazillian cheese bread, so here is the recipe.  It’s absolutely divine!

Pao De Qeuijo

Ingredients (Makes ~15)

  • 1 cup of skim milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 3 cups of tapioca flour
  • 1 cup of grated farmer’s cheese, or any firm, fresh cows milk cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of salt



Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix milk, water, and oil in a small pot and bring to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, combine tapioca flour, salt, egg and grated cheese. Pour the liquid from pot over the ingredients in the bowl. With a large spoon, stir until you have a smooth batter. For easier handling, allow mixture to cool for 15-30 minutes. (I like to chill it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.)

With floured hands, shape dough into balls, about one inch in diameter. Place them on baking sheet. Bake rolls for about 20 minutes, or until they are puffed up and golden. Serve warm.

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