Enjoying the great outdoors with kids is a wonderful family activity. Backpacking introduces children to the surrounding areas of their cities or vacation spots without having to rely on a car. Of course, backpacking is an activity that is sure to build up a grown-up-sized hunger, but even though children who are old enough to go hiking are old enough to carry their own packs, you do not want to overload them. Fortunately, there are plenty of backpacking foods for kids that they can carry themselves and that are both lightweight and nutritious. Read on for some great tips on breakfasts, lunches and snacks.
Pack Instant Foods for Quick, Hot Meals
Choose hearty foods that may be cooked with just the addition of piping hot water. This includes packets of oatmeal, premeasured packs of couscous, and even instant grits. Add a couple of packets of instant hot chocolate. Backpacking trips may start early in the morning, when a lot of kids don't feel like eating a hearty breakfast. Within an hour on the trail, however, they will be hungry and thirsty. If it is cold outside, a warm bowl of oatmeal with a steaming hot mug of hot chocolate will be more than welcomed. Best of all, these backpacking foods come in small packs that resemble envelopes that are easy to carry; put them in the child's backpack until they are ready to eat. Depending on the age and strength of the child, he may even be able to carry the thermos containing the hot water.
Buy or Prepare a Trail Mix
Put some trail mix into your child's backpack. You may choose to buy the prepackaged kind or you may mix your own. The goal of the trail mix is to offer some quick calories, and shelled nuts, seeds and dried raisins offer that little bit of energy that allows kids to snack while backpacking and keep up their strength. Premeasure a couple of bags to allow the child to have a snack between breakfast and lunch, and also in the afternoon. Other great options are nutrition bars; they are filling and provide the needed energy for continuous enjoyment of the backpacking experience.
Offer a Heartier Version of a Packed School Lunch
Remember that the physical exertion is sure to make your child hungrier than usual. If you normally pack a school lunch consisting of a sandwich, fruit, and juice box, go ahead and pack a heartier version of this lunch. Instead of thinly sliced white bread, go for thicker slices of sourdough. Substitute a thin spreading of peanut butter with a thicker spreading of honey peanut butter that is followed with a second spreading of crunchy peanut butter. Finish up with some jelly of your choice. Switch the fruit from an apricot or other small fruit to a larger-sized banana or orange. Encourage the child to drink water for lunch rather than sugary juice. Chocolate milk prepackaged in a box that does not require refrigeration is another good choice.
Avoid Empty Calories
Check the child's backpack for empty-calorie foods, such as donuts, chips and other junk food. While it is easy to rationalize that your child will burn off the calories while backpacking, the sugar and fat-laden fare will do little more than make your child tired. Opt for healthy snacks, meals and drinks. The Backpacking Light website suggests bringing along a few treats, such as licorice or Jolly Ranchers, as rewards for their great spirits during the backpacking trip; of course, these need to be in your backpack, to be meted out judiciously.