Hear the word camping and you are immediately brought back to roasting hot dogs on unwound coat hangers, eating sugary cereal out of a mini cardboard box with a plastic spoon and enjoying smores until your tummy ached. Those are the happy memories of childhood camping most of us remember.
Healthy eating while camping doesn’t really come to mind, but if you are a family that camps or roadtrips often during the summer months, being creative with your menu is a healthy idea.
On a recent camping trip I thought carefully about what I was packing in my cooler. I wanted to create fun food memories for my kids, but not necessarily pack the weekend with unhealthy food. Smores, burgers, chips and special treats certainly made the menu, but I managed to sneak in a few healthy snacks and well balanced meals over the 3 days we were tenting it.
Healthy Camping Meal Ideas
Day 1 – Scrambled Eggs
Take a dozen eggs and scramble 6 the first camp morning with some cheddar and serve with fresh fruit and whole grain toast.
Day 2 – French Toast
Mix the last 6 eggs with some milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon, dip whole grain bread and grill up some French toast. Serve with orange juice.
Day 3 – Oatmeal
These oatmeal packs are perfect. Just add boiling water and enjoy all the health benefits of the oatmeal plus flax, chia, and dried fruit. Serve with yogurt.
That is 3 easy protein, fibre and calcium filled breakfast ideas to get your camping day off to a healthy start.
Day 1 & 3 – Beach Bucket Sandwiches
Pack for a beach day and take your sandwiches with you in an insulated day pack with a Ziploc full of ice and frozen juice boxes to keep it cool at the lake. Lean nitrate free meat slices and canned tuna work well or a little nut butter & banana sandwiches for the kids. Slice up apples, watermelon, cheese and cucumbers ahead of time for easy snacking. Just because you are camping there is no reason you can’t top your sandwich with tomato and avocado slices.
Day 2 – Fire Grilled Sausages
For a non beach day lunch, use your marshmallow roasting sticks to cook up some lean turkey sausages over an open fire and serve with carrot sticks and hummus. Has camping fun written all over it!
If you are going to fire up a bbg or grill anyways, why not throw on a piece of salmon or chicken instead of the usual high fat burger?
Day 1 – Fish
Fish packets are great for the first night of camping – you could even prepare them at home before you go by placing the frozen fish in individual size foil ‘packets’ and top with red peppers, onion, butter, thinly sliced sweet potato, green beans and wrapping and storing in the cooler until dinner. When the tent is set up, pop the foil pack onto the grill or BBQ for a easy meal on the first night. Serve with a side salad.
Day 2 – Chicken
Pack frozen skinless, boneless chicken in the cooler and by day 2 it will be defrosted to grill or BBQ and top with a mango salsa. Combine mango, lime juice, red onion and diced red peppers. A can of corn or corn with silks removed, butter brushed on and husks replaced or wrapped in foil cook up great on an open fire with a grill top.
Day 3 – Beef Kebobs
Pack frozen chunks of stewing beef and the skewers then make your own beef and veggies kebobs for the bbq or grill. Add onion, red pepper, broccoli, and tomato and serve with a side of green beans and quinoa, brown rice or pasta.
Roasting marshmallows and making smores are a camping tradition but what about starting a new tradition of roasting Banana Smores or Ice Cream Cones? Incorporating fruit in these dessert delights makes them just a little bit healthier and leaves room for a stop at the beach ice cream shop for an afternoon treat!
Peel banana and slice length wise down the middle, but not all the way through, the banana. Lay in the centre of a piece of tin foil and fill the inside of the banana with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and slivered almonds. Wrap and place on grill over open fire until banana is warmed and marshmallows melted – about 10 mins.
Roasted Ice Cream Cones
Use any size ice cream cone and fill the middle with mini marshmallows, mint chocolate chips, pieces of oreo cookie (if you want to . . and why wouldn’t you want to?!), sliced bananas, strawberries or raspberries and wrap in foil. Place on grill until marshmallows melted – about 10 mins.
Keeping it Cool
- Ice will typically last 24 hours in a cooler so pack all your perishables with a huge block or bag of ice.
- Freeze some food ahead that will act as “ice” and that you can enjoy once they are defrosted, like meats, juice, some bottles of water.
- Take smaller containers with just the amount of milk, cream, yogurt, eggs, mayonnaise, cheese etc that you will eat so food waste is minimal and cooler space is available.
- If you can, top up your ice at a nearby store, add another full bag at the end of day 2 to hold your food for the 3rd camp day.