Proper nutrition is directly associated with physical and mental wellness. In fact, the two are so closely related that medical schools require students to have a clinical rotation or at least a short course in human nutrition.
This subject is important for camp directors because it extends far beyond eliminating the formerly standard food pyramid, which was revised only six years ago. In order to convey the importance of proper nutrition to campers, counselors, and staff members, it is important to first understand how food affects a child’s daily performance and participation at camp.
Almost every year at least a handful of campers–and it doesn’t matter their age–appear to be lethargic, uninterested, or uninvolved. This may be the result of improper eating habits, either at home or while at camp.
Food should be viewed as more than a substance to relieve hunger; it is fuel for the body just as gasoline is fuel for an automobile. It can help one feel strong and energetic, and even encourage a desire to participate in group activities.
But it does even more than that: it helps normal growth patterns, and acts as a preventive agent for certain diseases and wrongful body functions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that a dinner plate consist of 50-percent fruits and vegetables, with the remainder made up of whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein offerings. In addition, the department recommends serving seafood for protein at least twice a week, and keeping meat and poultry portions small and especially lean; it also suggests cutting back on foods high in solid fats and added sugars and salt.
There are several ways to add more nutrition to the dining hall:
• Choose 100-percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks.
• Serve fruit desserts instead of sugary desserts more often.
• Add spices or herbs to season food without adding salt.
• Use olive oil instead of hydrogenated oil.
• Encourage counselors to practice and model proper nutrition to campers.
Today people are inundated with advertisements telling us how to lose weight and watch calorie counts, but what is a calorie and how does it affect the body?
Simply stated, a calorie is a unit of measurement for energy produced by the body from food. We can’t buy calories at the grocery store, we can’t see them in a glass, and we can’t exchange them for any source of fuel.
If we consume too much energy produced by non-nutritious foods (like excessive amounts of sugar), we must expend this energy in the form of exercise, or our bodies will store this excess energy in the form of fat.
Here are some additional facts:
• The average 12-ounce soft drink contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.
• Whole-grain breads contain more nutrients than bleached floured breads.
• The average high-school student consumes 3,400 milligrams of salt per day, while the current USDA-recommended amount is 1,500 milligrams per day.
• Excessive sodium intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and energy loss with dehydration.
This information is valuable to camp owners, directors, counselors, parents, and campers because most recreational camps encourage an active lifestyle through swimming, playing ball, etc. These activities require energy to make the body function at peak performance and achieve high endurance.
Consider these facts for hour-long activities:
• A 150-pound camper playing basketball burns an average of 300 calories; while swimming rapidly for one hour, he or she burns 630 calories–swimming slowly, he or she burns 320 calories.
• In a dance exercise, a 120-pound camper burns 289 calories.
• A 10- to 12-year-old camper hiking burns close to 210 calories.
The smaller the camper, of course, the fewer calories one burns. Therefore, the type and variety of food served and consumed at camp can make a critical difference. Since most–if not all campers–want to participate in activities (which is why they go to camp), it is incumbent to supply the proper fuel in order to make happy campers!
Teenagers And Athletes
Although not all campers strive to be top-level athletes, remember that those in their early teenage years–when experiencing their predominant growth spurt–need more energy as well. For instance, teenage girls need about 2,200 calories per day and teenage boys about 2,800 calories.
Unfortunately, many teenagers choose to eat snack-type food with low nutritional value. Their diet often consists of one-fourth snacks for the total calorie intake. So, when serving snacks at camp, be sure to offer items with maximum nutrition, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat cheese, yogurt, whole-wheat and/or oatmeal cookies, perhaps even black bean brownies with raisins.
In the end, young campers and counselors need–and indeed deserve–the best possible wholesome food a camp can provide. It will benefit not only the campers and staff who participate but the camp directors who endorse it.
After all, happy campers are returning campers.
George Hughes, M.B.A., J.D., is executive vice president of Signature Services Corporation. He can be reached via email at email@example.com. For more information, visit www.signatureservices.com.
Black Bean Brownies
6-pound box of commercial brownie mix
10 cups unseasoned pureed black beans
1. Open cans of black beans, and do NOT drain the liquid.
2. Pour black beans in a pot and heat on stove top. (This is critical to get a denser brownie.)
3. Puree black beans with blender or immersion blender until smooth.
4. Add pureed black beans to brownie mix.
5. Lightly coat sheet pans with cooking spray, and pour mix into pans.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.
This makes approximately 64 servings.
One option is to add raisins for added nutrients.
**Note: If making a batch of brownies at home, use one store-bought box of a favorite brownie mix (try sugar-free), and one 15-ounce can of black beans (try low-sodium) to replace eggs and oil (lower fat, less cholesterol). Add fresh strawberries and fat-free whipped topping for an added treat!
Do you have a question regarding food service or nutrition? Call us at (866) 444-4216 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll print the answer in Camp Business!