Food can make or break a trip when you have kids along – especially in the 3+ years and up range. Especially if you have them hiking hard miles – they need food that fuels them but also that interests them more so. When Ford was younger (he is 12 now) I did a combination of healthy and junk foods, with just enough “junk” food that he thought he was getting a special treat when out hiking. No need to make the kids suffer….you might think that eating chia seed energy balls washed down with wheat grass elixir is fab but most kids will tell you “ewwwwww!” (and I gotta agree with the kids!) Kids that don’t eat enough tend to perform like a neglected car – they sputter, whine and generally shut down. A kid that is well fed doesn’t notice how hot they are, or how heavy the pack is or how whatever they might fixate on.
More so…food is a great way to get your kids involved in the planning! Over the years Ford and I would head to the grocery store to get the essentials, we’d talk meals and he’d help me pack our bags up. Since he had a hand in it he knew what to expect for food. No wheat berry-tofu-cabbage pilaf surprises, instead he knew if he had a bag of gummy worms, chewy granola bars or how many pieces of string cheese – and his dinners for the evening. He had something to look forward to and since he got to pick out his foods (from my preselected options) I knew he would eat everything.
Some kid tested recipes and ideas – Ford is my taste tester often – that most kids will love:
Pancakes 101 – serve with shelf stable bacon slices!
Fattening Coconut Oatmeal – for adventurous eaters.
Bagels and packets of Justin’s Nut Butters.
Freeze dried eggs prepared and served on tortillas with cheese for a breakfast burrito.
For the super picky sandwich bags filled with a favorite cold cereal and 1/3 cup dry milk. Add 1 cup cold water, seal and shake. Open and eat.
See the snacks below for more ideas. I often treat lunch as a multiple course – 3 or 4 snacks or more during the day, each with a short rest but no extended lunch unless we plan on swimming or napping in the heat of the day. This keeps the hike moving along and there is no energy crashes – the kids stay well fed all day.
Cheesy Couscous – think of it as instant mac n’ cheese.
Mini Trail Sliders – for the more adventurous eater who is older (they are messier)
Italian Dinner – if you like to dehydrate and have a big family to feed this is a great meal plan.
Hikers Pantry Fudge. Kids can even make this one at home easily.
Candy De-Lite trail mix. A bit healthy with enough sugar that kids love it.
String cheese in single serving sections.
Hearty crackers with Laughing Cow cheese wedges spread on them – the cheese is shelf stable.
Packs of apple wedges or carrot sticks with dipping sauces – look in your produce department for them.
Justin Nut Butter packets with crackers, tortillas or on bread. PB and Granola Wraps.
Bags of chewy fruit snacks, look for all natural ones.
A candy bar a day (but preferably one with some nutrition or nuts).
Or a favorite energy bar per day.
Applesauce in squeeze packets.
A bag of potato chips per day (great for potassium).
Snack bags of cookies as a treat.
Rocky Road Fudge. It uses PB or nut butter making it a smooth fudge that kids love.
~Sarah (and Ford and Walker)