Fuel For Thought

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.

Make sure your campers are getting good fuel.

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.

Food Facts

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.

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