Summertime food on-the-go

Lazy summer days? Ha! Many parents know that once school lets out, the hustle and bustle really begins. With amped up schedules to keep the kids entertained, it’s easy to get stuck in a food rut for the sake of convenience. Take a look at these snack and meal ideas to keep things fresh, healthy, and interesting. (Includes some great recipes!)

Summertime conjures up images of lazy days filled with smiling kids running through sprinklers, juicy Popsicles on front porches, and bright fireflies filling up Mason jars.

However, in reality, the rush of daily life is still around once school lets out, and we have the not-so-dreamy additions of heat, humidity, bored kids, and busy social schedules to juggle. The heat quickly zaps both my enthusiasm for cooking and my creativity for feeding my family.

Despite the hot days, we are always on the go in summer, often eating both lunch and dinner out at a park, pool, Maymont, or any available picnic table. Determined to not feed my son a honey sandwich every day this summer — but lacking creative ideas about what else he might eat — I turned to my friends for help and inspiration. I decided to poll my favorite mom-chefs near and far, asking them for their best ideas for simple but healthy (and kid-friendly) food-on-the-go.

As soon as the responses starting coming in, my family started eating better. I have started packing up more fruits and veggies; we’ve tried new recipes (a few of them are included below) and been more innovative both on-the-go and at home. Hopefully these ideas will help you get out of your summertime food rut as well!


  • Honey on bread or crackers
  • Cream cheese and jelly on bread or mini-bagels
  • Deli sandwiches (try in a wrap for a change)
  • Pinwheel wraps — fill with cream cheese, deli meats, and veggies; roll and slice
  • Avocado wrap: cream cheese, avocado, diced tomato, onion and prosciutto
  • Deli roll ups without bread — spear the meat and cheese together with a pretzel stick and don’t forget honey mustard or ranch for dipping!

Main dishes

  • Grilled chicken strips or slices of rotisserie chicken, plain or made into chicken salad (plain dipped in ketchup for kid, over lettuce for adult)
  • Tuna or salmon salad: mayo, diced cucumber, celery, and carrots; serve with crackers or put on bread
  • Spanish egg tortilla, cut into wedges
  • Cold quesadillas cut into wedges, with salsa
  • Cold soups (gazpacho, chilled roasted red pepper)
  • Nicoise salad
  • Hard boiled eggs or egg salad
  • Seven layer dip and tortilla chips
  • Pasta and seafood salads
  • Boboli pizzas (bring warm, eat cold or remember for a quick meal when home)
  • Taco salad
  • Chinese chicken salad (keep dressing on the side until you toss)


  • Tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil (drizzle with balsamic reduction)
  • Cooked, cold roasted veggies like asparagus, squash, and zucchini
  • Diced fruit or fruit salads (bring toothpicks to spear the fruit)
  • Curry couscous salad (see recipe below)
  • Potato salad (try olive oil versions… yum!)
  • Coleslaw
  • Corn on the cob
  • Pasta salads
  • Three bean salads
  • Wheatberry salad (see recipe below)
  • Corn salad (see recipe below)
  • Shepherd’s salad: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, and olive oil


  • Veggies (raw or steamed/cold) and ranch dip
  • Hummus served with veggies or pita chips
  • Ants on a Log: peanut butter (or cream cheese) on celery with raisins on top
  • Whole grain muffins
  • Corn muffins (add blueberries to keep in interesting)
  • Frozen cubed fruit l(mango, watermelon, grapes, cantaloupe, etc.)
  • Frozen yogurt tubes
  • Cereal bars
  • Dried fruit or freeze dried fruit


Curry couscous salad

For the salad:

  • 1 (10 ounce) package couscous
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup minced sweet onion
  • 1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup dark raisins
  • 3/4 cup toasted almonds with skins

For the salad, cook the couscous using the package directions. Combine with the celery, onion, beans, raisins, and almonds in a large bowl. Add the dressing and mix gently. Chill until serving time.

For the dressing:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, curry powder, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.

Wheatberry salad

For the salad:

  • 1 cup hard wheatberries
  • 3 cups water
  • Veggies of your choice: shredded carrots, chopped red pepper, chopped fresh spinach, scallion, etc.

Combine wheatberries and water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and chill. Note: wheatberries stay al dente and do not get mushy like rice.

Add veggies and top with dressing.

For the dressing:

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon

Combine ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.

Corn salad

  • 2 cups fresh/ frozen whole kernel corn
  • 3/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 scallions, chopped into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup salad oil
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Combine corn, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, and scallions in salad bowl. In a separate bowl, blend sour cream with salt, pepper, vinegar, oil and chopped cilantro. Add sour cream mixture to corn and toss gently to coat. Chill and serve in large bowl, family style.

How about you? I’d love to hear some of your own favorite on-the-go meals that are brightening your summer days…

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Sarah Birckhead

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