Going on a family camping trip is a great family activity. But just because you are away from home does not mean you should eat unhealthy foods. Follow these ten tips to eat healthy and delicious food while camping.
Camping is one of my family’s favorite activities. It is so wonderful to get out in the woods, to enjoy nature and all of its beauty and wildness and to be able to spend time together as a family getting lost in the woods, catching fish and drowning worms, canoeing down rivers and creeks, fending off over-fed raccoons and squirrels, roasting marshmallows while trying to avoid roasting ourselves and making memories which will last a lifetime. The two things we don’t like to do while camping is to eat so much junk food we ruin our trip by feeling bad and to spend much time preparing our healthier food. Below are ten tips we’ve gathered through years of camping which help us spend our time outdoors doing what we love while properly fueling our bodies.
1. Plan ahead – Prepare a simple menu with fruits and veggies at every meal. Without planning, I am tempted to fall back on junk food and fast food. A little planning in advance allows me to take only what we will need.
2. Take lots of fruit – Apples, oranges, pineapples, bananas and cantaloupe travel well. A sharp knife provides all the tools you need to prepare them.
3.Freeze meals ahead of time – In the weeks prior to our camping trip, we make a little extra of some main courses and freeze the leftovers. Placed in our cooler, the frozen entrees can take the place of ice for the first few days. Once defrosted, heat and serve.
4. Take frozen vegetables – Bags of frozen vegetables also take the place of ice in our cooler. Once defrosted, they will keep their shape and texture for a few days in the cooler. A small pan of boiling water is an easy way to prepare them once defrosted.
5. Take homemade muffins and/or sweet breads for breakfast and snacks – The day before we leave to go camping, I take a few extra minutes in my kitchen and prepare some whole wheat muffins and/or breads. We love them for breakfast and for snacks. No refrigeration or toasting is required.
6. Take along some shelf stable meat replacements – We love to take Soy Curls with us camping. (Soy Curls are a delicious,d ehydrated, delicately textured soy bean which we use a substitute for meat.) I just premeasure the soy curls into a baggie along with the dry seasonings that we like best. Once again, a small pot of boiling water to rehydrate the Soy Curls and we have a filling main course. With the addition of some barbecue sauce, we have another entree. Any leftovers are great stored in the cooler and when reheated, we serve them over bread.
7. Keep a lookout for produce markets along the way or once you’ve arrived – There is nothing like fresh, locally grown produce to fill out our meals while camping. We love to find neighborhood markets to explore the local treasures we may not find at home.
8. Freeze gallons of water ahead of time – Often while camping we are tempted to indulge in sugary soft drinks when what we really desire is a nice cold glass of liquid. By freezing gallons of water ahead of time, we have cold water to drink for days and ice for our cooler. As the water starts to defrost, we use it and refill it with fresh room temperature water. By our next meal, we once again have a cold beverage.
9. Take along sweet potatoes, squashes and baking potatoes – All of these vegetables do not need refrigeration and are quite easy to prepare. With the addition of some onions and a cast iron skillet, these core vegetables can take on a wide variety of flavors.
10. Relax and enjoy the margin you have built in to your family’s health – By providing healthy and tasty meals the vast majority of the time, we go ahead and indulge our cravings when the mood strikes. When my kids were very little, I remember the advice to examine their eating habits over a week or month, not just one meal at a time. (This was especially handy advice when my son would go through his phases of only eating brown rice, or bananas, or avocados for a day or two.) So, I look at our week as a whole. If the vast majority of food our family has eaten has been healthy and life-giving, then I go ahead and indulge in an occasional treat. A local ice cream store or boiled peanut stand might just be what everyone needs.