Hiking

Jessy Turner, program coordinator at Berkshire Food Co-op in Great Barrington, enjoys an active day out at the strawberry patch with her children Walden, 3, and Josephine, 8. 

Out here in the Berkshires, we’re a little spoiled when it comes to outdoor activities. With plenty of mountain paths to hike, quiet country roads to bike and peaceful ponds to paddle, there’s more than enough family-friendly adventures available to fill a summer vacation.

Regular physical activity is a powerful tool for maintaining overall health, especially for children. According to the CDC, exercise strengthens growing bones and muscles, regulates blood sugar and blood pressure levels, increases aerobic fitness and endurance, and reduces the risk of developing chronic conditions. It’s good for the brain, too: per the CDC, active kids have a lower risk for depression and improved focus and memory, leading to better academic performance.

Enjoying the outdoors as a family has its own additional benefits. Being active together improves family bonds while encouraging and reinforcing healthy habits. It can also be a helpful motivator for the grown-ups to get out and move; physical activity is good for adults, too.

Like a finely-tuned sports car, humans need plenty of high-quality fuel to perform at their best. This is particularly true for children and their growing bodies. Some carefully chosen, healthy snacks can keep the whole family moving as they take advantage of the region’s beautiful outdoors.

For Jessy Turner, Program Coordinator at Berkshire Food Co-op in Great Barrington and mom to Josephine, age 8, and Walden, age 3, roaming the Berkshire hills is a family undertaking.

Co-op

Turner and the kids on a hike around the family farm

“We like to hike in the spring, summer and fall,” she said. “We also live on a farm, so we like to just hike around the farm and go for walks in the woods.”

When it comes to active snacks, she looks for options that are easy to carry and nutritionally dense.

“I try to strike a balance between convenience and not too much sugar, not too many additives, more natural ingredients, which is why it’s great working at the Co-op,” she said.

‘More natural ingredients’ is something the Co-op offers in abundance. “I definitely like high protein things,” Turner said. “My kids really like the cashews we have in the bulk department, and pecans. So that’s something they can eat on the run.”

She’s a fan of granola bars, which can be a good source of fiber and whole grains for long-lasting energy without the sugar rush and crash. From the Co-op, she recommends bars from Made Good, which are organic, free from artificial color and flavors, vegan, gluten-free and available in kid-pleasing varieties like Chocolate Chip and Birthday Cake. Nature’s Bakery Baked-Ins bars, made with organic fruits and vegetables, are another favorite.

Water is widely agreed upon as the healthiest beverage choice for all, but for youngsters who need a little encouragement to stay hydrated, Turner suggests fruit juice without added sugars or artificial sweeteners. “On the run, I like the Honest juice boxes, especially the apple flavor,” she said. “Kids really, really like those, and they’re light and I can throw them in our hiking backpack or leave them in the diaper bag.”

As more people embrace organic eating, finding natural, nutrition-rich snack options is relatively easy. Getting kids to eat them is — something else.

Starting early helps, Turner noted. For her children, “We just started feeding them everything at a really young age,” she said, “so they really do have a broad palate for kids.”

She also suggests looking for alternatives to less desirable ingredients, like sugar, that don’t sacrifice the flavors kids enjoy. “I’m finding that things that are sweetened with stevia are helpful, because you don’t have that much sugar,” she said. “But you don’t have all that fake sugar added, either.”

Ultimately, hearty snacks play just one part in reaching the real goal: getting out and getting active, as a family.

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