Studies show that people are innately drawn to nature and show reduced stress when exposed to the great outdoors. Though camping can be beneficial to your health in a variety of ways, it can also make it difficult to eat healthfully.
Regardless of whether you are car camping with your family or backpacking solo, eating healthy while camping can be challenging and takes a little planning.
Generally when we think of camping meals they include hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, and s’mores. Though these are tasty treats, they are generally full of fat, sugar, sodium, and preservatives. These foods won’t give you the proper nutrients you need to hike a 14er or go on a long canoe ride on the lake.
So, before heading out on your trip, take the time to write out a healthy menu to ensure that you and your children are getting the nutrients you need to keep you energized for the duration of the camping trip.
Healthy foods you can take with you camping
Car camping gives you the luxury of taking a cooler with you, which makes it easier to bring a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, and food that needs to remain refrigerated. Pack produce that doesn’t bruise and can be eaten easily such as apples, oranges (or clementines), grapes, berries, sugar snap peas, carrots, and pre-cut celery, red peppers, and green peppers. With backpacking, you need to take into account the weight of the food, as well as your inability to take a cooler with you. However, there are still a lot of healthy options you can take with you. See below for examples of food for both car camping and backpacking.
Example foods to take with you camping:
- Breakfast Burrito (Bring the eggs already cooked and mixed with veggies and turkey sausage. Then just put in whole wheat tortilla and serve)
- Ham and Egg Muffins (Pre-make these with a scrambled egg, slice of cheese, and slice of Canadian bacon and wrap in foil. When ready to eat, heat over the grill until warm)
- All in One Skillet Breakfast (Pre-make this by cooking eggs, a variety of vegetables, cheese, and cut up Canadian bacon together before you go. When ready to eat, heat in a skillet over the grill until warm)
Breakfast: Light and Easy
- Oatmeal, Nuts, and Berries (Bring oatmeal packets and add hot water. Add nuts and berries)
- Overnight Oats (see below for recipe)
- Greek Yogurt mixed with berries and nuts
- Fiber One Cereal with Milk
Lunch: Usually Light and Easy
- Salad in Mason Jars
- Whole Grain Bread with Peanut Butter and Grapes on top
- Whole Wheat Pita Bread stuffed with sandwich meat, cheese, and veggies
- Pre-made lentil soup
- Tin Foil Dinners
- Pre-made quinoa mixed with black beans, corn, cilantro, and tomatoes
Dinner: Light and Easy
- Tuna with Salad and Previously Cooked Chickpeas (purchase tuna in pouches, rather than cans to save on weight)
- Veggie Burgers
Snacks: Usually Light and Easy
- Fruits that are easy to eat and won’t bruise easily (clementines, grapes,
- Veggies that are easy to eat or pre-cut (baby carrots, sugar snap peas, celery, red and green pepper slices)
- Hummus (Dip your apples or veggies)
- Greek Yogurt (Dip your fruit or add granola/nuts)
- Previously cooked chickpeas tossed with olive oil, garlic, and sea salt
- Cheese sticks
- Boiled eggs
- Mixed nuts
- Peanut Butter (Dip your apples or carrots)
Desserts: Usually Light and Easy
- Baked Apples
- Campfire Cones (sugar cones filled with bananas, a couple marshmallows, and some chocolate chips. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on top of grill or campfire for 2-3 minutes)
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars (see below for recipe)
- Banana S’mores (Take a banana, cut it in half and place inside aluminum foil. Add some chocolate chips and marshmallows. Wrap in foil and place on top of grill or campfire for 3-5 minutes)
Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars
- 1 1/4 cup of regular or honey-roasted peanut butter (preferably natural peanut butter but use what you’ve got)
- 1/2 of a large banana, mashed
- 3 Tbs Sugar-free maple syrup
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (could go down to 1/3 cup as well)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Combine all ingredients together except for the chocolate chips.
- Add the chocolate chips.
- Lay parchment paper on top of baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
- Let cool before cutting into bars.
Blueberry Strawberry Overnight Refrigerator Oats
- 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup skim, almond, or soy milk
- 1/4 cup Greek yogurt (plain or fruit flavored)
- 1.5 tsp dried chia seeds (optional)
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 cup strawberries and blueberries or any other fruit you like (also works great with raspberries, blackberries, mangos, apples)
- In a mason jar add oats, yogurt, chia seeds, almond extract, and honey.
- Put lid on jar and shake until well combined.
- Add fruit and stir until mixed throughout.
- Cover jar with lid and refrigerate overnight or up to 5 days.
- Eat chilled or nuke in the microwave (with the lid off) until hot.
Michelle Cardel, PhD, RD is a nutrition scientist and registered dietitian at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, University of Colorado Denver. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MichelleCardel for daily nutrition tips!