Saturday, April 18, 2009

Camping with the Beavers - Part 3 - The Menu

Planning a menu for a weekend with a 5 year-old is not really that complicated. You figure out how many meals and snacks are required while you will be away and place your child's favourite meals as appropriate. Expanding that menu to cover 13 kids and their parents is relatively simple math. However, like most 5 year-olds I've met, Andrew is somewhat particular about what he eats. I mean that comment outside the world of food allergies; he's five. All five year-olds are picky eaters.

"I want the crusts cut off my sandwich!"

"My carrots are touching my potatoes!"

"That's the wrong cereal!" You know how it goes...

Scouts Canada likes the leaders to set an example for the children. One example we can set is to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Basically, we're not having "Sugar Frosted Cocoa Bombs" and a can of pop for breakfast, followed by that memorable lunch Ally Sheedy had in The Breakfast Club.

I tried to augment a couple of Andrew's preferred meals with sides that rounded out the meal. If he didn't want the added side dishes, that was fine, I knew what he was eating.

Here's what we had:

Saturday Lunch
Bring your own lunch - unlike this week's trip to the aquarium, all the parents understood and respected my warnings about nuts.

Saturday PM Snack
apples, mandarin oranges, bananas, OJ, apple juice, 2% milk, water, coffee, tea.

Saturday Dinner
M & M Chicken strips (dairy and egg free, with an egg warning) and fries with bagged salad, a couple of dressings (Ranch and Italian I think) with the fruit and drinks from snack time also available.

Saturday Mugup (after the campfire)
s'mores and hot chocolate

Sunday Breakfast
Waffles, syrup and drinks and fruit from snack time

Sunday Snack
same as Saturday's snack

Sunday Lunch - we broke camp before lunch, so for most kids, it was a piece of fruit before they passed out in the car on the 1/2 hour drive home.

Probably some raised eyebrows around items on that list. Please let me explain.

I brought a small cooler with substitute foods for Andrew. When something on the menu was not safe, I substituted from the cooler. These substitutions were more on the side than the main dish, although I must confess, I did bring some of Andrew's instant oatmeal (which he will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner if allowed) as "plan B". Here's a run down of the main ingredients and any substitutes.

Milk - most kids drink milk, outside of allergies, it's good for growing kids. For kids with allergies, we try to provide the nutritional equivalent. We had to serve milk at the camp.

I don't have a problem with people eating/drinking dairy in Andrew's immediate vicinity. They just need to keep it out of his food ("say it, don't spray it"). His reaction to milk is to hive up and vomit. Peanuts and nuts are the really scary reactions. Andrew likes to drink rice milk in situations where most kids would drink cow's milk, so I substitued rice milk from my cooler.

Chicken Strips and fries. I know, it's not the best dinner, but most kids will eat it, and Andrew can and will too. M & M makes some pretty good chicken strips and fries. They also "get" the allergy thing. Here's a quote from their website:

NEW! We've added Nutrition & Allergen Information to our product catalogue. Simply click on the category and then the product that you want to see, and look for the Nutrition & Allergen Information heading. source

They'll even go one step further. They can email you a filtered list of what they sell. If you tell them to remove all items with nuts, peanuts and dairy allergens, they'll send you the entire list of what they sell. How cool is that?!

Andrew doesn't really "do" salad yet, so I was certain to barge to the front of the line and get his food before anyone had a chance to spill ranch dressing on the chicken strips by using salad tongs for the chicken strips. Not one parent objected to me cutting in line, particularly when they saw I was feeding Andrew and not myself.

Mugup was the big one. The kids and parents would be tired, and I just couldn't bring myself to say no to s'mores and hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was an easy substitute. I microwave chocolate So-Good and put it into Andrew's cup. The s'mores are another simple substitution. I deliberately chose graham crackers and marshmallows without any dairy or nuts, not too much difficulty there. The chocolate is easy too. We used the little chocolate coins for most of the kids, and the two kids with nut allergies were over with me sprinkling No Nuttin' chocolate chips on their s'mores. I will always remember the light in that other boy's eyes when I showed him the chocolate chips and told him they were okay. His dad even had to smile when he saw the brand name and knew they were safe. I've been to the No Nuttin' factory in Duncan, BC. They're good folks with a good product.

Breakfast the next morning was Eggo waffles with another waffle substitute (Eggo's have dairy in them). I made certain Andrew's waffles were toasted first to avoid contamination.

That's basically the menu and the substitutes. By choosing main ingredients I knew were safe, and substituting around the dishes that weren't, we had a reaction free camp. Andrew had fun in spite of the weather. My big concern was that he would react to something, and then be in paranoid mode (rightfully so) for the rest of the camp.

The last real concern of plates, cups etc. is relatively easy too. Each camper brings their own knife/fork/spoon, plate, bowl. They are all put in a mesh bag called a "dippy bag". You do your own dishes (more like you do your dishes and your kid's dishes), then hang them in the mesh bag to dry. I simply made certain to change the water before doing dishes, and it is not common to share dishes.

So, there's the menu and the substitutes. The camp was reaction free and Andrew even managed to stay awake on the ride home. He did fall asleep about 90 seconds after taking off his shoes at home though.

We went camping again over the Easter long weekend, and this time for two nights. The menu was considerably more elaborate, and there were more kids. I'll talk about that menu next in Part 4.

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