Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bring healthy snacks when hiking with kids

Among the many wonderful things about hiking, at least for the kids, is that snacking between meals isn’t frowned upon. Unless going on an all-day hike in which you’ll picnic along the way, you want to keep them fed, as hungry children can lead to lethargy and whininess. It’ll also keep young kids from snacking on the local flora or dirt.

Before hitting the trail, you’ll want to repackage as much of the food as possible as products sold at grocery stores tend to come in bulky packages that take up space and add a little weight to your backpack. Place the food in re-sealable plastic bags.

Bring a variety of small snacks for rest stops. You don’t want kids filling up on snacks, but you do need them to maintain their energy levels if they’re walking or to ensure they don’t turn fussy if riding in a baby carrier. Go for complex carbohydrates and proteins for maintaining energy. Good options include dried fruits, jerky, nuts, peanut butter, prepared energy bars, candy bars with a high protein content (nuts, peanut butter), crackers, raisins and trail mix (called “gorp”). A number of trail mix recipes are available online; you and your children may want to try them out at home to see which ones you collectively like most.

Salty treats rehydrate better than sweet treats do. Chocolate and other sweets are fine if they’re not all that’s exclusively served, but remember they also tend to lead to thirst and to make sticky messes. Whichever snacks you choose, don’t experiment with food on the trail. Bring what you know kids will like.

Give the first snack within a half-hour of leaving the trailhead or you risk children becoming tired and whiny from low energy levels. If kids start asking for them every few steps even after having something to eat at the last rest stop, consider timing snacks to reaching a visible landmark, such as, “We’ll get out the trail mix when we reach that bend up ahead.”

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.