Have you ever wondered what your child might learn about food and nutrition at the camp? Have you wondered what they might eat while they are there and what goes into the meal planning and food education? Anna, a dietitian from Camp Sure Fire, answers some of our questions.
What food do you use to treat low blood sugars at camp?
We use 4 oz. juice boxes or glucose tabs, usually about 4, to treat a low blood sugar. We also have used samples of gels, but kids seem to prefer juice or tablets. We wait 15 minutes and recheck the blood sugar to ensure it has gone up (usually by 40–60 mg/dl) and the child is safe. We’re careful to wash hands between the initial treatment and rechecking the blood sugar.
What is the general “favorite snack” served at camp?
We have lots of snacks including fresh fruit, low fat granola bars, low fat cheese sticks, and low fat yogurt. We also have fun treats such as camp made cookies, “dirt and worms,” and “chocolate smunchies”!
Do kids have the opportunity to create any food, perhaps during a cooking class or something along those lines?
Absolutely! With the younger kids we have a cookie bake-off contest. They come up with the recipe, calculate the carbohydrates per serving, bake it, and have it judged. In our winter program, we will teach the teens to “cook” a main entrée such as chili, lentil soup, or meatballs with tomato sauce.
What are some of the big changes you see when kids come to camp and their eating habits are altered?
When kids are together in a group they become more adventurous and are willing to try new foods. For instance, they see their camp mates eating salad and they give it a try.
We try to introduce new foods into the camper’s diets. Edamame was a hit one year. I told everyone they were better than green M&Ms. We have also tried eggplant meatballs, and brownies made with black beans. Yummy!
Eating healthy foods is all about good role modeling and kids will do that for each other.
How do you design the menu and nutritional make up of each meal?
We serve three meals and three snacks a day. We use My Plate and Guide to Good Eating to incorporate all food groups including low fat milk, vegetables, whole fruits, grains, and lean meat/protein.
We ensure variety, using many different vegetables, fruits, and whole grains whenever possible. We incorporate new foods the children may not have tried before like lentils, mangoes, and tofu.
What is the general messaging you give to campers about food that you hope they take home with them?
The message we try to create is that one can pretty much eat all foods but to make healthy food choices most of the time. We all like our treats and people with diabetes can have these as well. That’s why we have cookies, ice cream, and cake planned during week. We want kids to know no food is “bad.” Even these treats can be made healthier by using whole grains, low fat milk, and fruits.
What is the meal schedule like?
Breakfast is usually around 8:00 am
Snack, if needed, is 10:00 am
Lunch is at 12:30 pm
Snack, if needed, is 3:00 pm
Dinner is at 5:30 pm
Bedtime snack is around 8–8:3 0pm
We try to be as structured with meals and snack times for a smooth schedule. Even in our daily lives, we should have regular meals and snack times.
How strict is the diet at camp?
I try to avoid words like strict, restricted, diet, good, or bad when it comes to food. Instead, I like to talk about eating healthy meals and snacks and planning our food. We need food to nurture our bodies and provide it with the energy, nutrients, and health it needs. Food provides our basic needs and it should not be viewed negatively.
We should respect our food. Relax, sit down, enjoy and be mindful of our eating. Start when we are hungry and end when we are full. Take a good 20–30 minutes to eat a meal and at least 10–15 minutes to enjoy a snack. Children need to come to the table many, many times; we try to always make it a pleasurable experience.
By Anna Bertorelli
Dietitian, Camp Surefire
Diabetes Program Coordinator/Senior Dietitian
Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital