Make A Healthy Plate

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Res_Art

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Res_Art

Whether conquering a fear of heights by trying the high ropes, swimming in a lake for the first time, or tasting a new food, camp is a place for kids to learn, grow, and experience new adventures. At Camp Ho Mita Koda in Newbury, Ohio, campers do all those things, plus learn how to count carbohydrates, check their own blood sugar, and give themselves their own shot of insulin. Camp Ho Mita Koda is the oldest camp in the nation for children with diabetes.

Campers can’t eat peanut butter sandwiches all week here, but with a little help, they can enjoy good food combined with a learning experience. That’s a recipe all kids can take home.

“We have to make sure the menu is adequate for calories, carbohydrates, proteins, fat—basically their nutritional adequacy,” says Lisa Beaudis, registered dietitian and a Certified Diabetes Educator for the Diabetes Partnership of Cleveland. “You also have to make sure that it has foods the kids want to eat. If we make something that’s healthy and they’re not going to eat it, then they’re going to have the low blood sugar.”

Beaudis and Mary Ann Nicolay, a dietetic technician, registered (DTR) and health educator for the Diabetes Partnership, begin planning menus for camp sessions in January.

“It’s not something we can do in just one day. We work on these menus for probably a good two months,” Beaudis says. “We look at them and then look at them again, finding new things. We also have to make sure the foods we are choosing fit into our budget. It is a big challenge.”

It helps that the camp’s food distributor has a website with extensive nutritional analysis. An added challenge is accommodating children with celiac disease or allergies that also have to be factored into the menus.

“It’s not just eating healthy for kids with diabetes, but we also had a lot of children with other health concerns besides just diabetes. Incorporating that and trying to make a menu that would work for everyone is a challenge,” Beaudis says.

Nicolay says the access to nutritional information is the key.

“It’s got to be at our fingertips, and that’s why we use the company that we use because I can go online, or the chefs can go online and get immediate nutrition information for the product,” Nicolay says. “By having all that information on the website, we look at ingredients and make appropriate choices. That, to me, is crucial not just for kids with diabetes but kids with allergies … you’ve got to have that nutrition information.”

Keeping Costs Down

Except for certain gluten-free foods, Nicolay and Beaudis agree that the food costs they incur are not necessarily higher than average.

“I don’t think our food costs are higher because we are not buying special foods, we’re buying normal foods,” Nicolay says. “I’d rather show a child how to eat something than tell them, ‘you can’t have it.’”

They plan to reduce the costs of even those more-expensive specialty foods.

“If we had reviewed the menus a little bit better and then used different products or changed it slightly, it would be better,” Beaudis

Photos Courtesy of Camp Ho Mita Koda

Photos Courtesy of Camp Ho Mita Koda

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