day 18: backpacking with kids – our 200 mile summer: What to eat

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Day 18: a 0 day at Evolution basin
The creative, red-cheeked vibrancy that Cade and Bekah have is energizing to be around.  Their curiosity propels them around the next switchback and fosters mornings like this-chasing trout with a willow branch and fishing line until it’s dark.  Observing kids that are fueled by organic green drinks and veggie packed dehydrated dinners, I am convinced that nutrition out here is paramount.
Jim, at VVR, showed me some packaged Honey Bun donut like pastries that he said JMT through hikers buy up like crazy.  “See here,” he said as he flipped it over, “each one has 580 calories and hikers love the bulk calories in a small package.”
I suppose that’s one way to do it; cheaper for sure, but does it work?  Between the gallons of pure mountain water flushing through the body and the perfectly clean air surging through the lungs, I find my body gets stronger and heals any of the nuances that built up during the rest of the year as the days on the trail add up.  We’d like to aid the body’s restoration with vitamin packed food and not lose this huge advantage in this athletic pursuit by feeding it chemically laden, corn syrup sweetened calories.  After all, I am asking it to hike 200 miles.
The quick sugar energy might feel good but the inevitable crash is sure to happen just as the body needs to surge up a steep hill.  It might seem like a good idea to bribe kids up the mountain with sugary treats, but we have found that moods and energy levels stay more consistent with a protein rich, dried fruit/nut, and veggie arsenal. 
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
Snacks
Homemade granola with various nuts and seeds
Dehydrated hummus and dehydrated salsa with chips (we dehydrate these before the trip)
Dehydrated dinners made ahead of time stocked with meats and organic veggies
Dried fruit and nuts

Newman’s dairy free Oreo

Dark Chocolate bars

Oatmeal
Cream of wheat
Sausage and cheese
Nitrite and nitrate free sausages are cheap at Trader Joes
Freeze dried meals
Gorp – nuts, seeds. Raisins, dried fruit, and a touch of dark chocholate chips
Protein drinks – we like the Hemp protein mix from Trader Joes and ProZone, a balanced mix of carbs, protein, and fats without the use of soy
PB & J, crackers, and bread
Power bars – we try to avoid soy based ones
Fuel to move out here is a huge component of a successful trip.  Good calories and nutrition is a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat (40%, 30%, 30%).
We have to be careful not to choose food based just on calories but instead choose nourishing food.  The rule of thumb is that each person on the trip will eat about 1 ½ to 2 pounds of food per day.  If you are going to lug it up the mountain, make sure that those pounds of food pack some good nutrition.  Kids fueled by balanced nutrition have the components they need to HAPPILY scale a pass, hop over boulders, and set up their tent.  We whine because we are uncomfortable.  Whiney, complainy trail kids might just be a product of poor nutrition.  We see it in our classrooms all the time.  We need to set our kids up for success, not failure.
This morning as the kids fish, Cade suddenly popped away from the shoreline and came bounding over to us, “Would the fish like a grasshopper on my hook instead of this plastic fly?”
“Oh, yeah.  They love that!” we said. 
That is all it took for both kids to lay their poles aside and set off on a grasshopper hunt.  In no time at all, desperate grasshoppers hung on their lines, tempting the wise fish that swam below. 
“Daddy, my grasshopper died!” wailed Bekah. 
“Oh Bekah, you can never catch a fish with a dead grasshopper.”
So off she went to get a new, fresh, happy bug. 
We should take advice from these thriving Golden Trout as we plan our meals out here.  The goal is not to fill up the stomach with dead food.  The goal is to fill the body with real nutrition.  It’s a good idea to practice this same principle during the year as families prepare their bodies for a summer of action.
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