Nutritionist Tips For Healthy Camping Meals Beyond S’mores

Lori Nedescu
by Lori Nedescu
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Nutritionist Tips For Healthy Camping Meals Beyond S’mores

Camping is a great way to get outside, be active and enjoy a little adventure in nature — plus there are few better things than sleeping under the stars. While this activity has a generally healthy foundation — fishing, hiking, climbing, exploring, etc. — night after night of s’mores and day after day of beef jerky and trail mix can lead to cranky campers with low-energy levels. Adding a nutritious menu to your next camping excursion can keep spirits high and bodies energized.

MEAL PLAN FOR CAMPING

When meal planning for your trip, the most important factor to consider is the duration of the camping adventure. The duration of your trip dictates how much food you need to bring. It also influences how much kitchen equipment will be needed to consume that food, how much you can realistically carry and the food safety of your choices.

An overnight trip requires less food in total, but you might be able to carry extra cooking tools and more fresh ingredients to make it a fun outside dining experience. For example, with a small grocery haul, cooler, cutting board, knife, aeropress, pan and camp stove, you can make a gourmet dinner of fish and vegetables and a hearty breakfast of eggs and pancakes with coffee.  

Multi-day adventures require more food, but fresh ingredients become less realistic due to perishability and carrying a large assortment of cooking tools becomes a heavy burden. For these trips, plan fresher ingredients for the first day or two, then utilize energy dense bars, tuna pouches, jerky like Vital Choice salmon sticks, drink mixes, instant coffee and dehydrated camp meals like Good To-Go meals that only need added water from an easy-to-carry Jetboil, eaten from lightweight bowls with sporks.

Writing out a meal plan ensures you are packing enough fuel for your journey and have all the necessary components to consume that food mid-trip (no one wants to be miles away with a can of soup and no can opener).

SAMPLE MEAL IDEAS

Breakfast

  • Make your own oatmeal pouches by putting 1/2 cup quick oats into a baggie with a pinch of salt, cinnamon, coconut flakes, almonds, dried wild blueberries, flaxseed and vanilla protein powder. Dump it into a mug and add boiling water and stir for hot oatmeal or let sit with cold water or milk for an overnight oats-style porridge.
  • Eggs and whole-wheat flatbread make a simple breakfast with staying power. The trick here is to use a hard case for carrying eggs and pack a versatile or favorite seasoning to spice up food’s flavor (think hot sauce or bagel seasoning).  

Lunch

  • Tuna pitas with hummus make a simple, filling lunch. Pair this with some carrot sticks; a heartier vegetable that isn’t as perishable and a milk box.
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a camping stable. These can be packed in advance and paired with an apple for an easy lunch on the move.  

Dinner

  • Dehydrated meals come in very handy for complete dinners with little fuss. Camping food can be simple and bland, so this is a great way to add big flavor to your day.
  • DIY Foil Packet Dinners: Prep these ahead of time by adding protein, vegetables and seasoning to a zip-close bag, and when the time comes, wrap portions in heavy duty foil to throw over the open campfire. Try sausages, peppers, peaches, diced potatoes, basil, salt, pepper and olive oil.  

The focus of your trip should be on enjoying your adventure, and with a little extra planning, you can eat well while away from your kitchen, avoid serious nutritional pitfalls, and most important, avoid running out of energy to fuel your adventure. Remember: It’s never a bad idea to bring extra food in case of higher-than-normal appetites or emergencies.

About the Author

Lori Nedescu
Lori Nedescu

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @CadenceKitchen.

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