Make A Healthy Plate

says. “One day I bought ten gluten-free burritos, and it was $50. If we had the gluten-free wrap, then we could have made them ourselves, and that would have been a lot better. I know that’s something I want to work on for next year.”

The camp doesn’t serve any soda, except for an occasional ice-cream float. Even powdered sugar-free drink mixes were eliminated for cost savings.

“We try to make sure they get in their milk every day. Between meals we used to use a lot of the powdered drink mixes so they would have a little variety, but we tried to cut back on that this year because it is so expensive. We don’t want them to have all the sugar substitutes so we made our own flavored water,” Nicolay says. “We had a big water container that we would fill. We would put sliced cucumbers in it. We’d put sliced citrus fruit or something like that. I got the cooks to use herbs and things from the garden; we played around with our own flavored waters, and it was a huge success so we will do that again next year. Plus, we were able to show the kids something they could do at home and they liked it.”

A Typical Menu

The kitchen staff incorporated several whole grains into the menu this past camp season with brown rice instead of white, whole-grain pastas, and whole-grain breads. Breakfast lean-protein options included cottage cheese, yogurt parfaits, and string cheese. Those foods helped fill the kids up without elevating their blood sugars, Beaudis says.

Often the kids wanted extra food so the nutrition staff agreed it was a good indication that they liked the food.

“Standing by the trash can is usually what I do when I go out to camp. I keep looking over to see what’s being thrown away. If I see something being tossed, then I really evaluate it. We don’t really have that issue so that’s pretty cool,” Nicolay says.

She adds, “The kids are pretty easy to please. They like chicken, pizza, calzones, mashed potatoes, and gravy to name a few.”

“We tried seafood this year. They didn’t like that,” Nicolay says. “They like things that kids like. We just have to find a way to do it in a heart-healthy, diabetes-friendly way.”

One of the meals campers really liked was mashed potato bowls. Mashed potatoes are topped with vegetables, gravy, and chicken with cheese on top. While it sounds carb-loaded, the cooks use grilled chicken and a low-carb vegetable, such as green beans instead of corn.

Independent Choices

Helping campers become independent with their diabetes is emphasized at Camp Ho Mita Koda, which includes a dry-erase board in the cafeteria line listing the foods on the menu for each meal. After each item, the carbs are listed with portion sizes.

“We won’t buy the bowl-pack cereal or the individual, ready-to-serve cereal because of the cost. We buy cereal in a big box or bag and then put it into containers, and give the kids measuring cups so they can measure out the portions. That’s part of the learning experience,” Nicolay says.

One of the campers’ favorite snacks is the PBG. It’s a graham cracker spread with peanut butter and then frozen. The concoction is used to treat low blood sugars, but the kids, counselors, and staff members love them, Beaudis says. Instead of orange juice that raises their blood sugars quickly, the PBG gives a more gradual increase in blood sugar and stabilizes them for a longer time.

Whether the campers served have diabetes or not, Nicolay recommends a complete meal that teaches kids about nutrition in a positive way.

“This year we would like to go with an overall theme of health and nutrition so that we can get messages across in easy and fun ways. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but we always concentrate on carbs at camp, which is important for kids with diabetes, but sometimes we get so caught up in counting the carbs that we don’t look at the whole plate,” Nicolay says.

Nicolay hopes to use the “My Plate” meal-planning system that utilizes a 9-inch plate divided in half, with vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch plus fruit and milk.

“It’s kind of a fun game for kids to see how the food fits on the plate. What if you have a casserole? How do you figure that one out? So we will plan some fun things around that,” she says.

With a kitchen staff that is capable of cooking from scratch, they plan to use much more home-cooking, getting away from pre-prepared, heat-and-serve foods.

“I think what’s exciting for me for next year is to come up with a nutrition theme that’s not going to shove it down kids’ throats, but it’s going to provide some ideas for decoration, some accidental learning. Something fun,” Nicolay says.

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