all parents, my wife and I initially worried that our first child was not getting enough to
eat because she was such a picky eater when she was young.
There are lots of books on nutrition and food for children. Much of the advice,
when applied to outdoor adventure, can be distilled to a few simple concepts.
Pack plenty of food for everyone. Remember to pack food for yourself and take
time to eat it. Sometimes Mom and Dad are so busy they forget to eat. Once, I took my
kids to the park for a picnic, and I unloaded a feast of kid food: fish crackers, peeled
apple slices, cheese squares, raisins, and peanut butter crackers. Needless to say, I had
packed nothing for myself. I had leftover kiddy food.
Make sure you have several nutritious foods that your child likes. Peanut butter
and jelly sandwiches are a quick, easy, and healthy favorite, but there are lots of other
choices. Cheese is a good source of protein. Milk is loaded with calories. Apples, carrots,
bananas, crackers, trail mix, and granola bars all make great adventure foods. When on an
outdoor adventure, it is probably not the best time to try a new food, unless you are
feeling doubly adventurous.
The basic idea is to keep food simple, nutritious and healthy. It is okay to bring a
treat, so long is it is in limited quantity and healthy. We usually bring some homemade
cookies. We almost always have some emergency chocolate candy like M&Ms for times
when we need a lift: sudden rainstorm when everyone gets cold and wet or when
everyone is tired and we still have another 20 minutes to get back to the car.
Try to keep your eating times more or less the same as when you are at home. But
stay flexible. If you just finished lunch and your child says he or she is hungry, feed him
or her. When you are participating in a hike or bike ride, it is not necessarily the best time
to teach them they need to eat their lunch or go hungry. When adventuring, it is most
important that children eat, less so what, when, and how much. A good rule is to have a
meal or a snack every two hours. Stop BEFORE your kids get hungry.
FLUIDS FOR ADVENTURE
Never go without a water bottle. Keep one handy at all times so your kids can
drink often when on an adventure.
Pay attention to what and how much your child drinks. Constant intake of fluids,
even small amounts, is important with outdoor sports, especially in cold or hot weather
when more water is required. Just like with food, kids tend to forget to take in water and
often they don't realize when they are thirsty until they are quite low on fluids.
Some debate exists as to just what to drink. For most kids, water or water mixed
with juice is the best for hydration. In actually, full strength juice is probably just fine.
Some parents feel it had too much sugar, but when they are outside, kids can usually use
the extra energy. Gatoraid, Tang, Kool-aid or other sweetened drinks for kids are okay,
although I usually don't bring them for our family. They work well to hydrate kids, but
most brands have lots of sugar. The basic benefit behind sport drinks is that they replace
some electrolytes like sodium and potassium, and they may be absorbed by the body
quicker than water. This is especially important when adults sweat because they loose
electrolytes. However, with young kids who drink often and eat snacks, this is less of an
issue. I generally offer my kids sweetened drinks only on special occasions.
You may have to remind your child to drink. Make them take a drink when you
prepare to leave your car, take water breaks regularly, and drink some when you finish