Keeping kids healthy at camp

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Heel slide: Camps' fast-paced, high-activity level requires constant energy. Therefore, the Chicago Jewish Teens’ Extreme Teens Camp serves kosher meals on-site prepared by a professionally trained kosher chef. | SUPPLIED PHOTO

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Good nutrition and adequate sleep are probably not the first thing on your child’s mind while he’s at camp. Luckily, camps have their ways of making sure he and his fellow campers stay healthy.

One of the biggest concerns at summer camps is hydration.

“Staying hydrated, while not only warding off dehydration, also helps the homesick tummy aches and headaches which take away from a positive camp experience,” said Heidi Mabie, associate program director at Camp Anokijig in Plymouth, Wis.

“During time spent outdoors we require a water break every 30 minutes ensuring that the children remain well hydrated throughout the day,” said Zalman Notik, director of the Chicago Jewish Teens’ Extreme Teens camp.

Mabie said a fun trick her camp does to ensure kids stay hydrated is having water glasses filled when campers come to the dining hall for a meal.

“That way, they need to drink the water first and then refill with either milk or juice or more water. We have very few kids who try to beat the system,” she said.

She also recommended kids never skip a meal.

“The fast-paced, high-activity level of many camps require put energy demands on campers that they may not be used to,” she said.

Camps catering to food restrictions, such as a kosher diet, also take steps to ensure nutrition. The Chicago Jewish Teens’ Extreme Teens Camp serves kosher meals on-site prepared by a professionally trained kosher chef.

“We offer whole grain starch, protein and a salad with every meal,” Zalman said.

Other campers could have food allergies, so families should contact the camp’s director or food service manager to make arrangements in advance.

“Parents are requested to let us know of specific dietary restrictions for their children several weeks before the start of the summer so that our chef can prepare separate meal options for children with specific needs,” Zalman said.

In addition to healthy eating, campers need their sleep.

“While staying up late is the tradition, as the long, hot days wear on, irritability, fatigue, and general unpleasantness can spike due to a lack of sleep,” Mabie said. Most summer camps are activity-driven, so creating good sleep habits with your child beforehand can help them sleep better once they hit the sack at camp.

Refrain from packing that trail mix. Many outdoor camps, such as Camp Anokijig, will prohibit outside food because it can attract animals and insects, especially sugary snacks and nuts.

Though Extreme Teens doesn’t regulate against outside food, Notik said, “We strongly encourage the children to choose an apple or banana over snacks which create an instant sugar rush.”

Mabie agreed.

“Choose healthy snacks (fruits, nuts, whole grains) when hungry and not at a mealtime,” she said. “But, let’s be real. It’s camp. An ice cream snack is just fine.”