My daughter is a Cub Scout.
In addition to weekly meetings, monthly hikes and quarterly bottle drives, Cub Scouts also go camping. A lot. And because Cubs are typically between the ages of 8 and 11, the parents of Cub Scouts regularly accompany them to camp.
As both the ‘accompanying parent’ and the volunteer food coordinator for three of this year’s camps, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned about fitness and nutrition at Cub camp.
- You don’t need to go to the gym to get a great workout in. Hauling tents and sleeping bags and bin after bin of food is equivalent to a rigorous strength training workout. Hiking uphill in heavy, wet snow burns more calories than an hour of step class; especially if you have to drag a tired, resistant child much of the way.
- When cooking for a large group in a foreign kitchen, simple foods are best. Providing the un-assembled ingredients for morning oats, lunchtime wraps or dinner pizzas allows everyone to enjoy a healthy, nutritious meal without the cook having to cater to specific dietary needs (or diners to go without because they weren’t sure what type of sauce was used on the chicken or because they simply have a ‘non-adventurous palate’)
- Resist the ‘weekends are for splurging’ mindset. Dessert doesn’t need to be served with every meal. Excess sugar and empty calories ultimately put a damper on weekend fun by making us too tired and cranky to enjoy our time with family and friends.
- Graze on healthy snacks when meal times are spaced irregularly. At Cub Camps, we set up a ‘grazing table’, laden with fruit, nuts, cheese and cereal bars and have found this practice to greatly reduce pre-dinner melt downs (by children and parents, alike 😉 ).
- Choose a room (or set up your tent) as far from the centre of activity as possible. You’ll not only sleep better, but you’ll also have to walk more throughout the day. Note, however, that snorers also tend to frequent the periphery so remember to pack ear plugs.
- When food is served buffet style and you didn’t have a hand in it’s preparation, choose raw over cooked. Fill your plate up with salad (go easy on the toppings and dressing if you’re watching your calories or fat intake) and raw vegetables, rather than the cheaper, and nutritionally impoverished white rice, pasta, mashed potatoes and french fries that typically accompany meals prepared for large groups. Your digestion will thank you in the days ahead (if you do indulge, see point #8 below).
- Plan an activity that requires big muscle movement between dinner and bedtime. At camp, dinner tends to be the largest meal of the day. Thankfully, a rousing campfire, replete with action songs, skits and cheers is a tradition with Cubs and Scouts. Don’t be that parent who sits in their chair watching the activity. My kids love it when I’m stomping and clapping and dancing with them!
- Learn how to operate the coffee machine. Institutional coffee is often weak and watery. On a weekend when your fibre intake is lower than usual, a good strong cup of joe can help kick-start a sluggish bowel and return you to regularity.
- Get back to your regular routine ASAP. Because food and fellowship often go hand in hand, it’s unlikely that you’ll make it home without having sampled something sugary, salty, fried or processed (s’mores and brownies are my achilles heel). Ditch the guilt and get back to your routine. Immediately.
- Processed food is for the birds. Even seemingly healthy processed snacks can be laden with sugar, fat and salt, not to mention unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives. Take a page from the Cub’s handbook and feed them to the birds!
Do you have a favourite indulgent camp food?
How do you ‘get back on track’ after a weekend of missed workouts and nutritional missteps?