Help Kids Eat Right, Even at Summer Camp!

Even from a distance, you can make sure your child eats well. But it requires a little knowledge and planning.

By FamilyTime


Junior is so excited about sleep-away summer camp he can barely contain himself. You've packed his shorts, shirts, and bathing suits in his duffel, provided a supply of toothpaste and sunscreen, and tucked in a few pre-addressed, stamped postcards (if the camp is old school). Ready? Not quite.

Talk to your child about eating right while he or she is away. No one expects a youngster to pay much attention to healthful eating, but a few pointers could make the difference between a great summer and a super-duper great summer!

Long Distance Monitoring
You can't control what your child eats at camp, but if you send him off with good eating habits and a few gentle reminders, he will do fine.

Active kids need at least 2,000 calories a day, and 30 percent of those should come from fat. This means you don't have to worry too much about your child over-eating at camp.

If you arm her with good advice -- and then gently remind her of it in your emails and postcards -- she will be just fine.

Make sure your child, his counselors and the camp nurse know about any food allergies your child has.

Three Squares - and Then Some
Summer camps provide breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for campers. The choices offered at these meals may overwhelm some kids, particularly the younger ones and those who have never been away from home.

Impress upon your child the importance of eating a good meal at every opportunity. Encourage him to choose cereal and fruit in the morning rather than going for the eggs and bacon every day.

She may not want to eat the cooked broccoli or green beans, but raw veggies and salads are healthful, too. Remind your child to eat the carrot and celery sticks offered at lunch and supper.

Make sure your child knows to eat meat, fish, and cheese. These important sources of protein provide energy and stamina.

Equally important is calcium, so remind your camper to drink milk (and add it to cereal) as well as eat yogurt and, yes!, ice cream.

When it comes to dessert, suggest she try fruit instead of or in addition to the chocolate pudding or cookies.

Drink Water!
Remind the camper to drink water. This sounds elementary, but during warm weather and when kids are active, water is especially crucial. Warding off even mild dehydration reduces the risk of headaches, irritability, and rumbling stomachs.

Explain to your children that fruit is a good source of liquid. Watermelon is great!

Ice pops are terrific cool-downs and hydrators on hot days, so tell your kids to grab any opportunities to indulge in them -- they aren't "junk food."

Candy and Other Goodies
Many camps have camp stores where kids can buy candy bars, ice cream sandwiches, and salty snacks. While there's no need to forbid access to these, you can limit the amount of snacks by limiting the amount of spending money your child has.

Many camps don't permit parents and others to send food to campers.

If food is permitted, resist the temptation to send boxes of candy bars or huge bags of chips. Instead, send oatmeal cookies, granola bars, crackers, rice cakes, and pretzels. Better yet, forget the food and send comic books and art supplies!

Kids need to know why they should do something. Tell them a well-rounded diet will help them achieve in sports and feel good. And then explain what a well-rounded diet is.

Don't overdo the advice. Encourage the kids to have fun -- and you can stop worrying!