What food comes to mind when you’re packing for a camping trip? Do you automatically reach for the easy options, like sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers, and pop tarts?
Do you go with the traditional, often unhealthy, campfire foods because they’re easy to make and don’t require you to bring any bulky equipment?
Perhaps you’ve just started a new paleo, low-carb, or keto diet. You might think it’s impossible to stay on track while camping when pre-packaged convenience foods are so easily accessible.
Actually, eating healthy while camping is easier than you think. Eating wholesome, nutrient-rich food while camping requires minimal gear, and everything can be prepared in advance at home.
Having a meal plan for your camping trip will do more than keep you accountable. Fueling your body with healthy foods while camping will nourish your body and give you more energy to explore the great outdoors.
Breakfast is an often overlooked meal during camping trips. Most people opt for fruit and protein bars, assuming that cooking a nutritious breakfast is too difficult while camping.
In reality, breakfast is extremely simple to make, and you don’t have to resort to packaged foods for the most important meal of the day. These are some easy breakfast ideas, whether you’re on the go or grilling out:
- Breakfast burritos can be prepared at home and heated up the grill when you’re ready to eat. Just roll any combination of scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cheese into a whole wheat tortilla and wrap securely in foil. When your coals are hot, heat the burritos in the foil packets for 10-15 minutes, turning frequently. Make as many as you need for a no-prep and no-mess breakfast for your whole crew.
- If you’re bringing cookware, it’s easy to make a one-pan breakfast, complete with eggs, bacon, and whole wheat muffins. All you need is a well-seasoned cast iron skillet and a spatula. Cook the bacon first, and then use the oil from the bacon to cook your eggs and toast your muffins.
- For a delicious and easy breakfast hash, prep a big batch of diced breakfast potatoes at home. Mix in onions, peppers, spinach, and bacon or sausage, cool, and wrap in extra large pieces of foil. At camp, gently open the foil packets, crack a few eggs on top of the hash and seal the packets back up. Cook on a grate over your campfire, checking frequently until the eggs are done your liking.
- If you’re backpacking or going for an early hike, the easiest healthy camping breakfast is instant oatmeal. Use a flash cooking system to quickly boil some water, mix in your oats, and top with fresh fruit and nuts. This quick and nutritious meal surely beats a granola bar!
There’s more to camping snacks than just trail mix. While trail mix is great for a quick energy burst, you should incorporate more fresh fruits, veggies, and protein to avoid crashing quickly.
- Load up on fresh fruit than doesn’t need to be refrigerated and doesn’t bruise easily, like apples and oranges. If you have room in your cooler, bring berries, sliced bananas, and grapes in a plastic container.
- Hard-boiled eggs and mini Babybel cheese are a great snack combo full of protein and healthy fats to maintain your energy levels.
- Veggies with hummus dip is a light, healthy snack to tide you over between meals. Slice carrots, celery, bell peppers, and cucumbers at home and bring single-serving hummus packs for dipping.
- If you must have trail mix while camping, skip the packaged stuff full of added sugar and unhealthy cooking oils. Make your own from your favorite nuts, dried fruits (unsweetened), coconut flakes, and dark chocolate chips.
Lunch should be your easiest meal. You’ll most likely fire up the grill for breakfast, then head out for a hike or a swim, and come back to cook dinner. There usually isn’t enough time to cook a hearty lunch, so look for nutritious options that can be eaten cold or heated up in a flash cooking system, like a Jetboil.
- Canned soups are a quick option for a lunch at camp or on the go. Look for low-sodium, high protein soups so you don’t feel bloated and sluggish later.
- Tuna pouches are a go-to for health-conscious campers. Tuna can be enjoyed on its own with a splash of olive oil, on a wrap, or with whole-wheat crackers.
- Ham and cheese sandwiches are a camping staple. Make them healthier by opting for a toasted wheat baguette or a whole wheat wrap high in fiber. Skip the mayo, and top your bread with olive oil and Dijon mustard instead.
- Prep quinoa salad at home for a fresh and healthy lunch at camp. Cook the quinoa according to instructions and cool. Add diced cucumber, onion, bell peppers, feta cheese, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pack in Ziploc bags or plastic containers and keep cold until you’re ready to eat.
There’s a misconception that dinners have to be complex dishes with many different ingredients. The key to successful healthy eating while camping is to make your meals easy to execute, which means simplifying every dish, including dinner.
Pick a versatile meat, like chicken or steak, and prep all your veggies at home. You can use any combination of the entrées and sides below to make an easy one-pan meal on a camp stove or directly on a grate.
- Prep shish kebabs at home at least 24 hours before you plan on cooking them. Marinate and season chicken, steak, or pork, and set aside in plastic bags. At camp, skewer the meat, adding mushrooms, peppers, and onions between the meat. Cook directly on a grate over your campfire.
- Sausages are the easiest protein to make while camping. There’s no prep involved. You can cook them directly on a grate, on a skewer roasting over a fire, or in a pan with peppers and onions. Serve over a bed of instant brown rice.
- Make fajita foil packets at home by slicing and seasoning chicken or steak, peppers, and onions and wrapping in heavy duty foil. Cook over a campfire for 20-30 minutes, and serve with corn tortillas and salsa.
- Veggie foil packets make quick and easy dinner sides, with all the prep done beforehand. Make two different foil packets: one with root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, and one with anything else you like, such as cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini. Coat the veggies in olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and parsley, to taste. Cook the packet with the root vegetables for 30-45 minutes, and the other packet for 20-30 minutes over a campfire. Another option is to season and roast your veggies at home and simply heat them up at camp.
- Grilled corn makes a great dinner side because it doesn’t take up any cooler space. Whether you prefer to grill corn in the husk, without the husk, or in foil, it’s one of the easiest and most versatile camping side dishes.
On the Go
If you’re backpacking or hiking in to a camp site, it’s a little tougher to eat fresh, healthy food. Packaged food might be easier to bring, but with a little creativity and a portable camp cooking kit, you can continue to stay healthy on the go.
- Make simple veggies and red sauce for a quick and savory dinner. Bring a bag of your favorite frozen veggies and let them defrost as you hike. Pack a small jar of marinara sauce and hot dogs, and add to your veggies for a simple, balanced meal.
- Bean burritos are a hearty on-the-go meal that doesn’t take up much room in your pack. All you need to bring are tortillas, a can of beans, some chili powder, and a small Ziploc bag filled with your favorite toppings, like cheese, onions, and tomatoes.
- Soup is always a go-to when it comes to portable healthy eating. Look for gluten-free soups high in protein, like chicken and rice or beef and potato.
- Before you leave for your trip, prep and freeze a batch of crock pot chili. The chili will defrost as you hike and be ready to reheat by dinner.
The recipes in this article are designed to be made with minimal equipment. Here’s everything you need to stay on track with healthy eating while camping:
- Camp stove, grill provided by the campground, jetboil, or portable stove kit (depending on what kind of camping you’re doing) or
- Grate (if cooking over a campfire)
- Frying pan
- Cooking oil
- Heavy duty foil
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder
Eating healthy while camping requires dedication, creativity, and a bit of preparation at home. Regardless of whether you’re going on a day trip or planning a week away, try prepping healthy options for each meal of the day. It’s a real treat to finish a camping trip feeling totally in control of your diet, instead of guilty and bloated. Let us know your favorite tips for healthy camping in the comments below.