Summer is fast approaching, and family camping trips are a big part of the fun! It can be challenging enough to feed your family nutritious meals and snacks at home, let alone when you’re on the road, or in a campground! Here are my top tips and tricks to help you keep your family well-nourished while camping.
This post was made possible by my friends at Mann’s Veggies, KIND bars and California Almonds. As always, opinions are my own!
Here are dietitian-approved tips on what foods to pack and serve on a family camping trip!
Set aside some time to plan out your meals and snacks before you leave – jot down a rough menu plan so that you aren’t left scrambling at the last minute. A menu plan can help to ensure that you have enough food for everyone, and that you’re not over-packing. Gather proper camping cooking equipment such as stove, plates, utensils, napkins, wipes, and soap, and prepare whatever you can in advance such as homemade trailmix, homemade baking, no-bake energy balls, etc. Make sure to bring containers to store leftovers and use for portable meals and snacks. Tinfoil is also really handy for cooking things like fish or baked potatoes over the fire!
Healthy, easy camping meal ideas:
Keep meals simple, making sure to include these three meal components:
- Protein-rich food: fresh meat/poultry/fish, nitrate-free deli meat, eggs, beans, lentils, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk, cheese, tofu
- Veggie or fruit: Any fresh raw vegetables or fruit, unsweetened dry fruit, pre-made salad mixes, fresh pre-washed and chopped veggies (Mann’s has a great line up of pre-washed and ready-to-eat veggies – their stringless sugar snap peas are my fave!)
- Whole grain: oats, whole grain bread, whole grain wrap or pita, brown rice, quinoa, corn on the cob, yam/sweet potato etc.
When it comes to camping foods, you want a nice balance between convenience, fun and nutrition. You want to enjoy your those delicious camping foods like hamburgers, hotdogs and smores, but not go overboard and completely neglect your health. I follow the 80/20 rule while camping, making sure to reserve one or two meals for my not-so-healthy faves like hotdogs, and then striking a balance by serving raw veggies with dip alongside it, and making more nutritious meal choices the rest of the time. Here are some ideas:
- Overnight oats, complete with greek yogurt, berries, milk and almonds (I use small mason jars for individual portions).
- Yogurt parfaits (with almond slivers)
- Eggs (frittatas over the fire)
- High fibre breakfast cereal with milk and fruit
- Pre-homemade whole grain pancakes, french toast or waffles that you just have to reheat in tinfoil over the fire!
- Tuna salad or egg salad with whole wheat crackers and veggies with dip
- Whole grain wrap with turkey, cheese and lettuce or spinach, with a piece of fruit on the side
- Snack plate: hardboiled egg, cheese, almonds, crackers, fruit, raw veggies like Mann’s stringless sugar snap peas and hummus and low-sugar granola bars like KIND bars (this is great for in the car too – little individual bento boxes full of various snacks for balance)
- Leftover hamburgers and salad from the night before
- BBQ chicken or steak with pre-made salad mix and whole grain buns
- Thawed homemade casserole or chilli that you brought from home + raw veggies and dip
- Homemade hamburgers (pre-make the patties and freeze them at home, and bring them in the cooler) + salad or raw veggies.
- Baked sweet potato, cooked in tinfoil over the fire + canned and drained black beans, cheese and salsa
- Vegetables: pre-packaged salads/veggies (so that you don’t have to rinse) with grilled chicken or sausage
- Loaded Baked potatoes/yams- wrap in foil and cook over the fire or on a camp stove (add cheese, black beans, salsa).
- Prepared meals: Try making a casserole or chili before leaving for your trip. Once cooked, portion out into small containers and freeze. Defrost in cooler.
Tip: Freeze your meat (chicken, steak, hamburgers etc.), and seal in freezer bags, before you go, so that it keeps the cooler cool (along with the foods inside) and is ready to grill when you are.
Be strategic about your snacks:
For snacks, make sure to include a protein-rich food, paired with either a fruit or vegetable OR a whole grain (see examples below). Buy and pack pre-packaged chopped/raw veggies like snap peas, carrots and mini cucumbers (with dips like hummus or tzaziki), as well as hearty fruits that won’t bruise easily or take up cooler space such as apples, pears, melons that you can cut up when you’ve reached your destination. Stock up on non-perishable nutritious snacks such as low-sugar granola bars (my favourite is KIND bars), nuts like almonds, seeds, homemade trailmix, unsweetened dried fruit, and unsweetened fruit and veggie sauces or pouches. Pack your cooler full with nutritious perishable snack foods like individual yogurts and cheeses, no-bake energy balls, cut up fruits and veggies and dips, and hardboiled eggs.
My favourite camping snacks:
- Homemade trail mix: raw almonds, unsweetened dried fruit and whole grain cereal
- Greek yogurt + fruit
- Low sugar, higher protein and fibre bars such as KIND bars
- Raw veggies + hummus
- Fruit + cheese, almond/peanut butter or hardboiled egg
- Whole grain crackers and cheese
Try to limit the amount of less nutritious “typical camping snacks” such as potato chips, pretzels, candy, pop etc. not only because they’re not very nutritious and high calorie, but also because they don’t really fill you up, so you can eat a lot without really noticing. Instead, pack indulgent foods mindfully, choosing ones that you love and can’t live without (for me, this is smores!) and enjoy it.