Summer is in full swing and many families (mine included) are looking for ways to spend quality time outdoors. For me, that means camping! Sure, there's the occasional bug bites, sunburns and scratches that come with the territory. But there's just something about setting up a tent, taking in the fresh air, and preparing a good meal over the campfire that feels so comforting.
When packing camping food, this dietitian likes to focus on keeping it fun, simple and nutritious. Camping doesn't mean eating hot dogs and chips all of the time. I like a good spider dog as much anyone (if you know, you know), but not everyday! It's important to strike a balance and include things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein foods on the list, too.
So if you need food inspiration for your next camping trip, here are some dietitian-approved tips and camping meal ideas to feed you and your family!
Step number one is having a plan! Set some time aside to plan out your meals and snacks before you leave. Preparing a menu in advance can help you save time, money, and ensure you'll have enough food to feed everyone on the trip.
Include proper cooking equipment in your camping "kit", such as a cooler, camping stove, pots, pans, can opener, cooking and eating utensils, plates, and cups. Bring napkins, wipes, dishcloths and dish soap. Make sure to bring containers to store leftovers and snacks. Tinfoil is also super useful for cooking and storage!
Healthy Camping Food Ideas
When planning meals and snacks for your camping trip, follow the 80/20 rule. Pack mainly nutritious foods, with a sprinkle of fun foods, too! Here are some ideas.
Protein foods: Try fresh or canned meat, poultry or fish, nitrate-free deli meats, eggs, canned beans, chickpeas or lentils, nuts and seeds, nut butters, milk, cheese, yogurt, or tofu.
Vegetables and fruit: Any vegetables and fruit are great choices! Try fresh whole fruit like apples, oranges or bananas, dried fruit, bagged salad mixes, ready-to-eat vegetables like cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, baby carrots or mini cucumbers.
Whole grains and starches: Try quick cooking oats, whole grain breads, tortillas or pitas, minute-rice, quinoa, couscous, corn on the cob or potatoes.
Fun foods: This is where chips, cookies, s'mores and hot dogs come into play! Pack indulgent foods in small amounts, choosing ones that you love and can’t live without (for me, it's chips!), and enjoy them mindfully.
Instant oatmeal. Use store-bought packets or make your own by combining quick cooking oats, chia seeds, nuts/seeds, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a mason jar. Add boiling water and complete with nut butter, fruit, milk and/or yogurt.
High fiber breakfast cereal with milk and fruit.
Pancakes, waffles or French toasts. Make them ahead of time at home, store in tinfoil and reheat over the campfire. Serve with fruit, yogurt and maple syrup.
Eggs. Scrambled, omelet-style, made into a breakfast sandwich or make my Breakfast Hash Skillet recipe below!
Sandwiches or wraps. Use whole grain bread, tortilla, or pita and stuff with turkey, cheese and lettuce. Serve with fruit or vegetables on the side.
Tuna or egg salad. Serve sandwich-style, or with whole grain crackers, vegetables and dip.
Snack plates. I like this combo: hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, crackers, fruit and ready-to-eat vegetables.
Burgers. Pre-make your hamburger patties and freeze them at home. Pro tip: put them at the bottom of your cooler to keep your food cold. Once cooked, serve on a bun with all the fixings, and a side of salad or raw veggies.
BBQ chicken or steak with a bagged salad mix and a whole grain bun.
Pasta. There's nothing easier than combining cooked whole wheat pasta with your favorite store-bought pasta sauce, lots of cooked vegetables and a can of drained and rinsed lentils. Top with cheese you've got a delicious and filling meal!
Foil packets. Pair protein, chopped potatoes and vegetables with oil and your favorite seasoning in a foil packet. Cook on the grill or campfire. I like this combo: sausage, baby potato, onion, mushrooms, green beans.
Prepared meals. Try making a casserole or chili at home. Once cooked, portion out into small containers and freeze. Defrost in the cooler and reheat over the stove or campfire.
Trail mix. Make your own by mixing nuts, seeds, dried fruit and whole grain cereal or popcorn.
Bars that are higher in protein and fiber, and lower in added sugars, such as Lara bars, KIND bars or Made with Local real food bars.
Raw vegetables and hummus packs.
Fresh whole fruit that doesn't require refrigeration - like apples, bananas and oranges - with nut butter packs or cheese.
Whole grain crackers and cheese or a hard-boiled egg.
Ready-made tuna and cracker snacks.
Instant oatmeal packets with nuts and seeds.
Homemade energy bites.
Keep it Safe
The last thing you want is for you or a loved one to get sick while you're out on vacation! Follow these tips to keep your food safe and protect your family from food borne illness.
Keep hot food hot, and cold food cold. Perishable foods like meat, dairy, and certain fruits and vegetables don't like the heat! Don't let food sit out for more than 1 hour on hot days, and no longer than 2 hours on cooler days. Make sure to keep them in a well insulated cooler throughout your trip. Replace ice daily, or use an electric cooler. Pack meat in leak-proof containers or Ziploc bags to prevent contamination of other foods in the cooler.
Don't stock up for your entire trip. Only pack meat and dairy foods for the first couple of days, and restock throughout your trip to prevent spoilage. Eat fresh meat and dairy within a couple of days of purchasing, and frozen within about 3 days maximum.
Wash everything! Wash fruits and vegetables, utensils, cooking equipment, prepping surfaces and your hands with warm, potable, soapy water. Don't wash meat or poultry, though, as this can lead to food borne illness.
Keep it separate. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw meats and vegetables. Never put cooked food on a dish that previously held raw food. If space permits, use a separate cooler for meats/dairy and fruits/veggies.
Breakfast Hash Skillet Recipe
Servings: Makes 2 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
4 slices of bacon
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium Russet potato, diced small
1 medium onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 spears asparagus, diced small
1 medium tomato, diced small
1 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh herbs, such as parsley
Cheese, such as Parmesan or Feta
In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Set aside and drain bacon fat. Once bacon has slightly cooled, chop into small pieces.
In the same pan, add diced potatoes and cook until potatoes start to brown, about 8-10 minutes.
To the potatoes, add diced onion, asparagus, tomatoes and garlic. Season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables start to become fork tender, about 3-5 minutes.
Add your bacon pieces to the vegetables and stir to combine.
Make a well in the center of the pan, then crack open your eggs into the center. Cook until eggs are done to your liking. You can also cover the skillet to cook the eggs faster.
Serve hot. Optional: top with fresh herbs and cheese.
Did you make this recipe?
Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think! Be sure to take a photo and tag me @vguitard.nutrition so I can see!