Nutrition on the Trail: The Lunchtime Saga


Of course they’re tired on the trail. 
It was the third week of peanut butter and jelly.

Many times we camp as a family for three weeks, visiting national and state parks, hiking across mountains, through forests and deserts during the day.  Being on that “tent” budget and purchasing a few new experiences once in a while, we tend to brown-bag our mid-day meals.  

No big deal, right?  We pack lunches most of the year.  However for some reason when we camp, the children balk at our trail time lunches. 
My father always told me if the children are hungry, they’ll eat. 
Maybe.  But not just anything.
When hiking on a trail, you need to pack non-perishable, portable food that offers nourishment and stamina for each hiker.  Our hikes usually take hours.  It is imperative that young children eat foods while on the trail that offer energy.  Children have fewer reserves than adults.  They need to eat more often to keep their energy levels up. 
Where we got our children to drink water on the trail, they still won’t eat just anything.  I try to mix it up a bit.  Peanut butter and grape jelly on white bread.  Peanut butter and strawberry jam on wheat bread.  Only peanut butter on one slice of bread folded—not cut.  Peanut butter on celery, “ants on a log” for me and my husband [peanut butter on celery with raisins], and peanut butter only or with a choice of jellies on saltines, club crackers, or Ritz crackers.
            After one week on the road, the children scatter when I ask what their lunchtime choice of the day is and reach for the peanut butter jar.  
            We’ve tried the packaged cheese and crackers and peanut butter crackers.  The children will only eat “freshly spread” peanut butter on “crisp” crackers.  They won’t eat cashews, almonds, or even peanuts.  Only peanut butter.  We’ve tried the various protein or trail mix bars, but no matter how many chocolate chips are inside or chocolate on the bottom, the children think they take too long to chew. 
Fresh fruit doesn’t keep but a day or two when camping in the summer.  That’s what made the fresh watermelon such a treat after we entertained fellow campers setting up camp.  Our children don’t want apples, and grapes become juice by lunchtime in the backpack.  And the grapes that don’t are too “squishy,” according to the children, to eat.  They won’t eat dried fruit. 
            I’m reduced to pretzels, Wheat Thins, and Cheerios on the trail.  Sugar is not helpful in a summertime hike.  The body requires salt because of moisture lost through sweat.  Cheerios are a concession because we know our son will eat them.    
            Therefore, I suggest you start offering nutritious packaged protein bars to your young children now, before you hit the trails.  Cut them up on a plate as a snack.  Get the children used to a variety of more sturdy fruit and perhaps add dried fruit to your menus.  Feed them “ants on the log” at home and mix some granola into your jellies in peanut butter sandwiches or try the Nutella, which our children hate.  Try baby carrots or apple slices with peanut butter or Nutella. 
Picky eating shall pass, my husband assures me.  I still try all these suggestions every once in a while, hoping the children’s taste buds will change.  Who knows?  Maybe this summer the children won’t run from the sight of the peanut butter jar.  Unless you can think of another way to dress up peanut butter that my children may like.  Any suggestions are welcome.

9 thoughts on “Nutrition on the Trail: The Lunchtime Saga”

  1. Yes it is, Lynda. I was a picky eater too, at one time. [But I'll deny that should the children find out.] Limitations allow the creative side of people to shine. It's only that nutrition is so important when hiking for any body.

    Thank you so much for visiting my Camping with Kids blog and leaving a comment. It is greatly appreciated.

  2. My daughter was able to get one of the boys to stop being so fussy by having them cook a meal. Joshua is now eating vegetables because he loves cooking Japanese, but I don't know if this helps with camping

  3. I think every child gets tired of peanut butter once in awhile. I know I did last summer while working at a summer camp. Of course, peanut butter is the best and quick form of protein. I've also tried almond butter. It is pretty good, but all gets tiresome after a while. Protein bars are definitely a must as well as granola. I eat both regularly at school.

  4. Letting children help prepare a meal is a wonderful idea, Marie. I've let the children help prepare meals at home. Of course, it takes much longer to do. And when the children help cook at camp it's a wonder we don't starve in the interim.

    Thanks so much for visiting my Camping with Kids blog and leaving a comment. It is greatly appreciated.

  5. Thank you so much for visiting Camping with Kids, Michelle. Yes, peanut butter is a good source of protein for energy and keeps well in the heat of summer on the trail. Almond butter. I haven't thought of that one yet. Thanks! I'll need to sneak that one in, of course, to get them to try it. Granola. The children don't like the gravel-y-ness of it yet. But I'll keep trying. Thanks, Michelle, for leaving a comment on my Camping with Kids blog.

  6. Although agreeing that children need nourishment on walks, on a personal basis I eat very little but drink a lot of fluids. When my grandson walks with me he is constantly eating and drinking, which of course is a good thing.

    So you eat Ritz crackers too Victoria Marie, I love them, especially the cheese variety. When I do eat on the trail it is usually a nutrition bar or chocolate.


  7. Yes, Bill, the younger the child the more often he needs to eat to maintain energy–especially on the trail. Luckily, our children drink constantly on the trail. No problem there.

    Normally, my husband and I don't eat much on the trail. I'm not sure if it's the heat or the concern for our children. However, nutritious food needs to be brought for every member in the hiking expedition just in case. Ritz crackers are a dream because our son, our pickiest eater, likes them…even plain.

    How old is your grandson, or rather, how old was he when you started taking him on your walks?

    Thanks so much for visiting my Camping with Kids blog, Bill, and leaving a comment. Always interested in your thoughts.


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