Healthy Travel 104: Camping and Eating Well

by Leanne Vogel (Healthful Pursuit) on July 12, 2012

For more on the healthy travel series, check out packing for success and staying on track away from home, backpacking essentials, camping and eating well.

The days of camping trips filled with pop tarts for breakfast, bologna sandwiches for lunch, and canned veggie chili for dinner are long gone. This girl is a clean eating camping machine, and she’s here to stay.

Over the years I’ve been surprised to learn that it’s not that challenging to eat well while camping. With a little bit of preparation, you can leave for your camping trip confident that you have the tools necessary to make smart choices and come home feeling proud of how well you feel. There’s nothing worse than coming home from a camping trip bloated, sugar-high, and sleep deprived and that’s exactly how one feels when they live on toaster strudels and marshmallows for a week!

So, how do we ensure we’re eating well on our camping trips? The best place to start is to come up with a meal plan.

The basics

  • List the days you’ll be gone
  • Plan for activities like hiking, swimming, and biking
  • Make sure to bring along baggies and containers for portable lunches and snacks
  • List off a couple of recipe ideas you feel would be easy to assemble while camping (ideas below)
  • Brainstorm meals you could make ahead of time, freeze, and bring along like pasta sauce, turkey chili or casseroles

Next, pull everything together into a day by day, meal by meal plan that will help you figure out what to pack and prepare ahead of time.

Breakfast

  • Fruit. Apples and oranges are great because they don’t need to be refrigerated and bananas or pears are good – when they get bruised, cook them and you’re good to go!
  • Homemade granola. Prepare a batch before you go. Eat for snack, breakfast, whenever!
  • Millet, rice, and quinoa can be used in place of oats for a lighter variation of porridge. Cook on the camping stove or on the fire when you need them. Any leftover grains can be used for lunch, or added to yogurt the next morning.
  • Eggs and veggies. Are a great breakfast and can be whipped up quickly and easily. Go for onions, peppers, eggplant, parsnips, carrots, radishes, potatoes, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, and other veggies that do well in warmer temperatures so you don’t have to worry about them going bad like you would spinach or lettuce.
  • Pudding. I made a huge batch of this breakfast pudding the morning we left, slapped it in a mason jar and enjoyed it every day. Omegas, fiber, and calcium all in one!
  • Leftovers. If you made burgers the night before by the fire, serve them up with eggs and veggies the morning after. Use up your leftovers quickly and get creative!

Lunch

  • Quick proteins. We’re often out and about during the day and stop by the campsite for a quick bite in between activities. Quick proteins such as canned tuna, pre-cooked and frozen beans, uncooked tempeh, nuts/seeds, hard boiled eggs, or jerky won’t require a lot of prep work and will get you back to the days’ activities in a flash!
  • Veggie plate. Again, go for the veggies that are easy to travel with – greens, not so much. Carrots? YES!
  • Rice cakes instead of bread. Rice cakes travel well and make great make-shift sandwiches. Fill with a fried egg, hummus and veggies, or nut butter.
  • Baked potato chips. Easy carbs and a nice camping treat… alongside some protein and veggies, of course!
  • Big salads. Bring along lettuce for your first day but don’t plan for it to last much longer than that. It’ll do well in the cooler for the first 24 hours so use it up by making a large salad!
  • Gluten-free soups. Campbell has a great list of gluten-free soups that I like to rely on when I’m camping. Paired with some veggies, cooked beans, or rice cakes makes for the perfect, satisfying camping lunch.

Dinner

  • Meat. Freeze the ground or fillet meat you plan to bring with you so that it takes time to defrost in the cooler. Even if your cooler isn’t functioning that well, your meat will be safe to eat! Make patties out of ground meat and some spices and pair with a homemade gluten-free bun, bring along some gluten-free sausages, or cook some juicy steaks on the open flame!
  • Vegetable medley. Wrap up your veggies in tin foil with a bit of coconut oil and cook on the campfire for 45 minutes or so. Add nuts, seeds, or cooked beans for protein and leftover grains for extra carbohydrates.
  • Pasta sauce. Bring along your favorite jar of pasta sauce – I like looking for a primivera as they have a variety of veggies already in it and cook with cooked beans, ground meat, sweet potatoes, and extra veggies. Have as is, or pair with some gluten-free rice pasta.
  • Prepared meals. If you know you’re going to find it challenging to cook and prepare healthful meals when you’re away, try making a couple of casseroles. No fuss jambalaya and paleo picadillo are my favorites. Once cooked, portion out into small containers and freeze.

Snacks

  • Homemade protein bars. Like these ones.
  • Nuts and seeds. Snacks with shells like pistachios and sunflower seeds take longer to eat and will naturally result in you eating less of them.
  • Dried fruit. Add to nut and seed mix, sprinkle over cereal, or eat on it’s own!
  • Marshmallows. Like I said yesterday, a couple wont kill ya!
  • Hot cup of tea with a couple homemade cookies. We go through a lot of tea when we’re camping. It’s easy, sweet and warming! Paired with a couple of vegan maple flax cookies, and you have a healthy homemade camping treat!

Once you’ve figured out what you want to eat, pull together a quick shopping list, packing list, and you’ll be ready to go in no time!

For more details on what to pack on a camping trip, check out this post and my printable packing guide.

What are your favorite camping meals?

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat

You’ve got this down to a science Leanne!! All of your suggestions are great. I think one smart thing to do for camping (which I did for the one and only camping trip I went on with friends in university) was to invest in a nice big cooler. Since a lot of clean snacks and other foods have to be kept cold (or just taste better cold) there’s no point in trying to cram a small cooler with just the things that absolutely must be kept on ice. My fave camping snacks are the same as some of yours – canned tuna, rice cakes, fruit, and lots of veggies!

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

Such a good point, Angela! We need a bigger cooler. We have the standard size and I find I’m always trying to stuff things into it!

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Erica { EricaDHouse.com }

These are such wonderful ideas! We usually sustain our 2-3 day trips on protein bars, instant oatmeal and fruit but I will definitely be coming back to this post before our next trip for culinary inspiration!

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Janae @ Bring-Joy

Leann, couldn’t have been a better time for you to post this.

We’re going on a *3* day extended trip (we’ve never gone this long with all our kids, come to think of it, ever, since we’ve been married), getting everything ready today, & hopefully leaving this afternoon (all the packing is a lot of work!). Last weekend we went, there was no planning involved since we were just gone for a day & a half. You are definitely experienced with this–great suggestions.

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katie @KatieDid

wo organized! I can’t plan this well in advanced for meals I’m more of a fly by the seat kinda gal haha. And although I haven’t been camping in a while, when I hike I grill a bunch of chicken and boil a bunch of eggs and I’m good to go :)

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Andrea

Such a good post… made me feel the urge to go on my camping trip soooner!!! Don’t you just love summer? :)

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Averie @ Averie Cooks

great food…not just for camping…hello marshmallows and great drizzle shot with the maple :)

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Michelle

I can’t get my husband into a tent to save my life, but I was delighted to find that we could go on longer trips away from home without resorting to fast food by doing similar plan-ahead preparation. Since we have two little boys tagging along on our adventures, it’s paramount that I have things that are VERY easy to grab and go since they’re really not going to just sit quietly by with their hands folded while I putter around a cooler. My best trick is to shred / slice / dice whatever veggies I can the night before we leave: onions, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots, celery. I made hummus and tzatziki then bought some lavash flatbread last time and everything made it all the way through our five-day trip. Yes, we had a refrigerator, but I think you’d be just fine if you refilled a cooler with ice each day. Perfect for stopping at rest stops or picnic areas. Grapes are an absolute must for us – food and hydration in a neat little package that can also be frozen ahead of time. As someone else pointed out, hard-boiled eggs are also a savior!

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Lisa

Ohh I really do love your camping posts, I get so jealous though, haha it sounds so nice, fun and cosy! You’ve got really great tips too, thank you for sharing! :)

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A Table in the Sun

I learned my best ever camping strategy this year. Buy a trailer! I know, it’s cheating (trust me…I’ve done my time with backpacking and tent camping)……but wow…..it was so great to whip out nice home cooked meals 3x a day. This is extra important for me since I have many food sensitivities. I loved reading about your camping meals and adventures.

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Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner

What an amazing post! Thank you SO much for putting this together! I have a camping trip coming up that I have to plan my foods for. Thank you SO MUCH! :D

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Leanne (Healthful Pursuit)

I’m glad you liked it, Kathleen. Where are you going camping?

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Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner

It’s a family camp, but it has a kitchen and everything, which should be helpful. I know I can bring some things and I’ll be alright for the week. :)

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