Healthy Meals and Snacks for Camping

fruit-standMy family and I are just wrapping up a three-and-a-half-week road trip. We took our pop-up camper from Florida across the country to South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado to visit Badlands, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. We’ve had a great trip, not without some spirited discussions between my husband and me about whether the kids really did need a shower that night, whether or not we were driving the right way, and whether we really needed to hike another mile. And, while my kids have eaten more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Cheerios than they normally do, for the most part we cooked healthy, balanced meals at our campsite. Unlike us, if you’re going camping you’ll probably only be gone for a few days. While it may seem impossible to prepare healthy meals and snacks while camping, it’s not! If you’re planning a camping trip, follow these tips to help prepare healthy meals and snacks.

1. Prep as much as you can ahead of time.

If you’re like me and you’re already used to prepping your meals for the week ahead of time, then this should be easy. However, if this is new to you, schedule some time close to the start of your trip to grocery shop and prep as many meals and snacks as you can. Before we left for our trip I made a lot of granola (you can find some good recipes in 9 Healthy Granola Recipes Dietitians Actually Approve) and a dry whole wheat pancake mix that just needed water before cooking. I also made my own trail mix from unsalted nuts and dried fruit that we already had at our house. Prepping one-pot meals in gallon size bags also helps. Before mealtime, just dump the contents in to the pot and cook, using the bag for leftovers. EatingWell has some good Easy One-Pot Recipes. Pre-measure and portion what you can ahead of time. If you’re making something with rice, measure out the amount of rice and put it in a labeled bag. This also cuts down on needing to bring measuring cups and other utensils. Buying pre-cut fruits and veggies will also ensure you have more time to spend enjoying yourself rather than preparing food while you’re camping.

2. Shop the bulk bins before your trip to portion out just what you’ll need.

This will cut down on the amount of extra ingredients you need to carry around when you’re finished with them. The Good Food Store in Missoula, Montana had maple syrup in bulk where I could pump out just what I needed for three mornings of pancakes while in Glacier. My kids dipped their pancakes in the container each morning and on the third day we ate the last of it and recycled the container instead of hauling it around.

3. Frequent road-side stands and local stores for cheaper and fresher produce.

While some fruits and vegetables may need to be prepped ahead of time, for instance dicing onions or slicing tomatoes, leave room for picking up some fresh snacks on the way. In Flat He ad Lake, Montana we stopped to pick cherries for $3 a pound and they were the most delicious cherries I’ve ever had. At the locally owned Orange Street Food Farm in Missoula my kids tried huckleberry ice cream, a local favorite made from scratch with real huckleberries. It was a real treat since it was not only delicious, but they’d never before had hackberries.

4. If eating out while camping, pile on the vegetables where you can.

While eating at a restaurant one night near Yellowstone, Ibuffalo opted for the salad bar instead of french fries with my buffalo burger (no, not from the park), although I did feel guilty after seeing this guy the next day. It’s not every day you come face to face with the animals you’re eating (which could be the subject of an entirely different blog post).

5. Assign a reusable water bottle for each person

and keep it filled up to save time and calories from having to make pit-stops at a soda machine.

Ove the course of our trip I found that easy, healthy breakfast foods included oatmeal, whole grain cereal, and whole wheat pancakes. Similarly, lunches that worked for us were usually peanut, almond or pecan butter sandwiches with jelly, honey or banana, apple and hummus sandwiches, or tuna packs. For dinner, we ate a lot of whole grain pasta with sauce (I found that mixing the sauce directly into each person’s bowl instead of all together in the pot gave each person the amount of sauce they wanted without getting the pot dirty). We also added a canned, no salt added vegetable to the pasta during each meal. Hearty vegetables for grilling worked well too, such as asparagus, carrots, onions, and zucchini. And lastly for snacks, the dried fruit and unsalted nut mix that I made before we left was a favorite, as well as granola, shredded wheat, Cheerios, bananas, apples, pears, hard cheeses, carrots and hummus.
While I think it’ll be a while before I eat another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and I am relishing in not having to wear shoes in the shower anymore, we had such a great trip and I can’t wait to do it again.
Do you have tips for preparing healthy meals and snacks for camping? Share your tips, below!