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How To Eat Healthy While Camping (Plus 5 Delicious Recipes)

Don't rely on packaged foods full of sugar or salt to keep you going in the outdoors.

By: Emily Nielson + Save to a List

Camping trips are wonderful times for our bodies and minds. We usually plan activity-packed days to get the most out of the trip and enjoy the satisfying feeling of being legitimately worn out. We take the chance to unplug and disconnect to give our multi-tasking minds a break and just focus on the birds chirping. When it comes to food, though, it can be difficult to think about how to be healthful in a camping environment. Many of us lean on packaged foods and snacks full of sugar or salt to keep us going outdoors.

Here are a few tips for allowing food to be a healthy, beneficial part of your camping experience.

Prep at home.

You can create delicious and healthy foods for your trip if you do most of the work at home first. Chop vegetables, measure out seasonings, and  parboil pasta and rice, so that all you need to think about when you get to camp is dumping ingredients into a pot to make a meal.

Making homemade snacks ahead of time will keep you from reaching for bags of chips when you realize you’re “hangry” on your hike. Dehydrated fruit leather, dips for crackers, and baked seasoned nuts are all healthy snacks that are perfect to stuff into your backpack for a day trip.

Photo: Emily Nielson

Keep things simple.

When meal planning for your trip, keep your recipes simple. Remember that you’ll be hiking and climbing all day, and won’t have the energy to build a complex recipe when you arrive back at camp for dinner. Limit the number of ingredients you need for your recipe so that you can execute the technique well and get the most flavor out of what you have.  Allow the smokiness from the campfire to be your main seasoning, and cook in cast iron so you don’t need a ton of oil.  A foil packet of campfire vegetables, a pot of beans, and some crusty grilled bread is all it takes to impress your co-campers and satisfy your hunger for the evening.

Vegetarian protein sources.

Many of us are moving towards a more plant-based diet these days. Vegetarian cooking actually lends itself quite well to the backcountry. It eliminates a lot of concern around perishability and proper cleaning/handling when refrigeration and soap are hard to come by. Some great vegetarian protein sources are beans, quinoa, and nuts. These items can easily replace the meat in any of your favorite recipes. Any of the three can be used in chili, pasta or sprinkled on salads. Replace rice with quinoa for a vegetable curry, and pureed cashews can even make a creamy pasta sauce without cream.

Photo: Emily Nielson

Don’t forget the good stuff.

Desserts and drinks are always the fun part of vacation food, so don’t leave these out. Again, prepping at home will help keep tabs on what’s going into these indulgences. For dessert, think fruit over s’mores. Cobblers are an iconic campfire treat that are perfect for keeping people happy around the campfire. For happy hour, make a mocktail mix that you’ll enjoy drinking while watching the sunset from your camp chair, and bring sparkling water instead of soda for hanging out during the day.

Favorite Recipes:

  1. Summer Fruit Salsa
  2. Blueberry Coconut Almond Bars
  3. Red Lentil Sweet Potato Dal
  4. Tomato Cream Sauce
  5. Dutch Oven Apple Cranberry Crisp

Photo: Emily Nielson

Photo: Emily Nielson

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn more at LNT.org.

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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