Since we all have kids that tend to burn a lot of energy while out exploring, we’ve gathered our favorite kid-friendly snacks for all your adventures.
Inevitable Hunger on the Trail
“Mommy, I’m hungry” “When do we get a snack?” “Do you have any treats?” Do these phrases sound familiar to you? If you have kids, the following is true: no matter what you are doing or where you are going with children, eating is always a part of the plan. Add in adventures such as skiing, hiking, or biking with children, and food becomes a huge part of the equation.
I feel like every time we head outdoors, to the lake, hike, or just biking on the trail, the kids always get hungry within the first 20 minutes. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.
My number one tip for having well-fed outdoor adventurers is simple: always have snacks on hand, ready to go.Rita, TMM Team
Their little internal engines kick in, and by golly, that furnace needs to be fed! To be honest, sometimes I feel like the kids favorite part of the outdoors is the snacks.
It seems like any time we leave the house for an adventure, we forget at least one thing. This can include forgetting the snacks! It is helpful to have a list, even if it is just in your head, of the snacks and foods that work well when kids are on the move.
Favorite Kid-Friendly Trail Snacks
I find that keeping certain foods always stocked and on hand helps us get outdoors a lot faster. Additionally, the kids often help me remember the food, especially if it is something they like.
In this post I’ll give some ideas and tips for keeping the food fun and simple when on the move in the outdoors. We all prefer lunches that are easy to transport, and snacks that are easy for busy kids to eat.
If you want some great ideas for camping recipes, check out this post!
Snacks vs. Meals
One thing about me is that I love cooking and food almost (but not quite) as much as I love the outdoors. I think a lot about what snacks we bring. One important planning step to think about is what time of day you will be adventuring. Is it after breakfast but before lunch? Great! Grab a filling snack and some water.
Is it a longer expedition that will include at least one meal? Time to get creative with food. Recognize that your children (and yourself!) will be burning more calories than normal. I used to forget that, but after a few experiences bringing too few snacks, I always try to bring extra food.
Aim to have 1.5 servings per kid if it is a meal, and at least two hearty snacks per kid if you are going out for a couple hours. More is always better, but it can get heavy!
Meals to Go on the Trail
So, you have planned a great 5 mile hike with your children, but you will be out there during lunch time. What do you do? There are several options. One is just to bring several (for my kids, it would be 4) granola/energy bars per person, plus fruit and water, and hope it was enough.
However, we all know–making a lunch of fancy granola bars can be expensive and they usually are still hungry. Here are a four options that transport well and that my kids like.
Four High Calorie Lunch Options for Adventures with Kids
The Humble Sandwich
Here is what I like to do. Pack a high calorie sandwich. You want to make one that sticks together well so it doesn’t fall apart in your pack. Egg salad sandwiches are a no-go item for this ( I speak from experience!).
One of our favorites are Peanut Butter/Banana/ and Honey Sandwiches. We spread one slice of bread with peanut butter, another slice with honey, and then we sandwich sliced bananas between them. They stick together really well when placed inside a sandwich baggie.
This sandwich is full of high quality carbs, fats, and protein, and the banana even provides potassium that can help achy little muscles. They are so satisfying after a hike or bike ride!
There are many other sandwich options as well. If you put turkey, cheddar, and cranberry sauce inside of wholegrain bread, you’ve made a Vermont Thanksgiving Sandwich. Even a cold grilled cheese tastes fantastic out on the trail. If you have a favorite sandwich combo, share in the comments!
Cheese and Salami
Another favorite trail meal is a portable “charcuterie” meal. We will bring sliced salami or pepperoni, a block of cheddar cheese, and lots of crackers or bread (don’t forget a pocketknife!). We also bring veggies and fruit to go along with it.
Cheese and salami are packed full of calories to give the kids staying power on the trail, and I am happy to not be pumping them full of the sugar in energy bars.
Hot Soup and Chili
Team member Valerie likes to pack Thermos containers with a thick, nourishing soup like chili or chicken and wild rice. This is an especially great idea during the winter, when other food gets cold or even freezes.
Having a hot lunch can really extend the fun in your time outdoors. It is also good for mom to have a hot meal—you know how much fuel you burn having fun with the kids! Having something warm and nourishing is so comforting on a busy day.
Tex-Mex on the Trail
One might not think that Tex-Mex and trails would go together, but I have found a way to make it a winning combination. I make a burrito with our favorite fillings, wrap it up tight, then wrap it with tin foil. Then transport very well in a backpack pocket, and provide a great, balanced meal.
My favorite combination is smashed black beans, rice, cooked pepper and onion, spices, and then cheese. Sometimes we add cooked chicken or ground beef. It is important to heat the burrito up so the cheese can melt and “glue” the whole burrito together. We wrap each burrito in tinfoil, so it becomes quite portable. Just remember to pack out the tin foil!
In addition to eating actual meals on the trail, we also always bring snacks. Some children hike better when they know that after they go a certain distance, there will be a yummy reward or snack. Check out this post on other ways to keep kids enjoying time on the trail!
I like to make our own snacks whenever possible, but often, I just grab something from the shelf in our pantry. Some of our favorite pre-packaged snacks are ones you are likely familiar with. We try to buy those in bulk and keep them on hand to grab for last minute hikes and activities.
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My kids love these because they are almost like a candy bar. They come in all sorts of flavors, and always have healthier sweeteners. Because they have lots of nuts in them, they have healthy fats and protein that help the kids last longer.
I like Lara Bars because they stick together well, and don’t crumble all over the place. They also are made from simple ingredients, and usually don’t have any added sweetener. They can easily be eaten while moving. My kids like them too, although not as much as they like candy bars! One of our favorite flavors is the Cherry Pie.
One of my kids’ all time favorite snacks is beef jerky or pepperoni sticks. We like to carry this for them to eat at the top of the mountain/turn around point on a hike. Yes–it is true–my kids would rather eat jerky than MnMs. My 6 year daughter particularly enjoys jerky sticks. Vermont Smoke and Cure makes a great one that is free of funny chemicals.
Best Kid-Friendly Homemade Snacks
We all know though that being able to make a batch of easy snacks just feels good sometimes. It is usually cheaper, and you can make something that you like all the ingredients of.
In families with dietary restrictions, it can be hard to find prepacked food that works for everyone. I have been experimenting with various snacks that I can make ahead and have on hand for outdoor trips.
Enter the simple muffin! I usually find a recipe using lots of whole grains and oats. I add blueberries, raisins, or dates, depending on what is in the house. I also will add nuts or sunflower seeds for extra calories.
Recently, I experimented with making a version of Costco’s Aussie Bites at home. I made them into bars instead of bites. These bars are loaded with whole grains, dried fruit, and have a tasty crunch.
They work great even for kids wearing mittens. They are also easy to customize for your family’s dietary needs. (Insert recipe here)
Good old GORP
Another great, and super easy, DIY trail snack is….Trail Mix. Trail mix has all the goodies that the fancy bars have, only in a much larger portion size.
We like to make a semi-gourmet trail mix. We always put peanuts, raisins, and a sprinkle of coconut and chocolate. Then we might add cranberries, pumpkin seeds, almonds or walnuts, dried papaya or apples. Dried ginger also adds a nice surprise zing.
If your kids are wearing mittens or gloves, you can pack small cups, and they can use the cup to “pour” the trail mix into their mouths and avoid losing it on the ground! These small stainless steel ones are great because they nest together and don’t take up much space.
Keeping Food on Hand
My number one tip for having well-fed outdoor adventurers is simple: always have snacks on hand, ready to go.
Additionally, keep of list of which easy trail meals your kids enjoy. That way you can shop easily to get what you need. Ultimately, getting outdoors and building memories in nature with our kids is the goal. Planning and prepping for food is just one step towards that goal. Being prepared means you can easily say yes to that perfect sunny hiking day or spontaneous powder day, without the fear of calorie crashes and hungry-angry children.
I’d love to hear you favorite trail meal ideas. Share in the comments!
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