I loved summer camp. Just about everything about it. I loved the arts and crafts, the plays, the songs, the colour wars and the canoe trips. It was all awesome – except the food. The only thing worse than the food at camp was the food we’d take on our canoe trips. It definitely wasn’t healthy camping food!
It was day after day after day of:
- Instant oatmeal for breakfast (which I ate dry – it was a texture thing)
- Instant hot chocolate
- Lunches of Wasa and Osem crackers with peanut butter, strawberry jam, dried apples and tinned tuna (and after a few days, often all of those would end up on a single fiber cracker together)
- Dinners of tinned tomato sauce stirred into an unevenly cooked pot of rice
- We’d wash it all down with ‘bug juice’ – powdered sweetener and food colouring that helped dilute the taste of the chlorine drops that were added to the lake water to make it potable.
Looking back, I wonder how we even made it through these trips alive. It didn’t need to be so bad, and it still doesn’t!
Why is it that when we rock it out in the woods, we think it’s the best time to disconnect from where we are by eating a whole bunch of ultra- processed foods? As adults, it seems to have only gotten worse. The hot dogs, tinned food, marshmallows, booze, and sugar powders in water are not what the body needs (especially when you’re taking nature poops).
We head to the great outdoors when we’re feeling frazzled and over-stimulated from our teched-out world. We take to the forest to relax, refresh and recharge. The standard camping fare works completely against why we headed out of dodge (aka the smoggy construction zone that is summer in the city).
What Are The Top Foods Everyone Else Takes Camping?
These are the most popular camping foods.
- Ramen noodles
- Instant soup mix (most of which has a fat wallop of MSG)
- “Squeeze butter” (what on Earth is that? No. Really? Turns out, it is pretty much this – but in a tube.)
- Instant oatmeal
- Instant coffee
- Potato chips
- Beef jerky
- Pop (or soda for my American friends)
- Boozy beverages
- Trail mix
- Boxed mac and cheese
The tide is shifting, and in the last several years there has been a movement for cooking at campsites to create healthy camping meals. Yet there are some who still cling to the classic camping foods because of convenience and cost – but there are many easy, fresher options.
Whenever I take a vacation or break, the goal is to come back feeling better than when I left. What I eat is a big part of that.
healthy camping food and recipes can be simple and delicious
Eating well while out in the woods isn’t hard. It’s totally doable and just needs a little prep, planning, creativity (which we’ve hopefully helped with) and a simple good intention. The benefits are plentiful. Beyond just the health reasons, you’ll also leave your camping trip with a much smaller bag of garbage with you – and we all like that a whole lot!
I have put together my top-of-the-charts healthy camping meal ideas and healthy camping recipes.
These are all camping trip-friendly, although whether certain recipes will work for your particular trip will depend on just how many appliances you plan on bringing with you to the wilderness. Those relying on a pot over a campfire may have to do a little more advance planning than those renting an RV and bringing the ol’ Vitamix along.
Make-Ahead healthy Camping Snacks
These goodies can be prepped at home, stored in air-tight containers and then munched on throughout your trip — no refrigeration needed.
- Apple Chips
- Healthy Fruit Roll-Ups
- Roasted Chickpeas
- Coconut Crisp Cookies
- Kale Chips
- Keto Coconut Chips
- The Best Crispy Gluten-Free Crackers
- Grain-Free Almond Bread
- Oat Bran Muffins
- Trail mix (toss together your favourite nuts, seeds and dried fruit)
- Never Say Never Energy Balls
healthy camping food for Breakfast
Depending on how long your stay is in the great outdoors (and whether you’re operating out of a decked-out RV or teensy tent), your breakfasts can involve simple snacks from home, porridge cooked over the campfire or French toast flipped over a hot plate.
- Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes: make these ahead of time
- Paleo Zucchini Muffins: another good one to bring from home
- Long Weekend French Toast: grind your chia seeds ahead of time – none of these ingredients require refrigeration. Like the porridge, swap the almond milk for canned coconut milk if needed.
- Summer Muesli: Soak this one in coconut milk and add the contents of a probiotic capsule for that yogurt vibe. Store in a sealed mason jar overnight and it will be ready come morning. Can also swap out the probiotic with a little squeeze of lemon juice.
- Granola: Make ahead of time and enjoy with coconut milk.
- The Best Banana Pancakes: You can make these by hand and cook them on a skillet or cast iron on the fire.
- Scrambled eggs and veggies: A great way to use seasonal produce. Or make a frittata in a skillet (use this recipe and skip the crust).
- Dairy-Free Elixirs: This is easiest if you’re able to bring along a blender, but you could whisk them up in a pot over the stovetop too.
Healthy camping meals for lunch and dinner
When it comes to lunch and dinner, having a cooler available can be super handy so you can bring some fresh veggies along. But if your storage options are limited, feel free to simplify recipes as needed to meet your wilderness-cooking needs. Be sure to store your healthy camping food packs in the shade, or hang from a tree if animals are around. Also, know that most fruits and veggies can easily last outside the fridge for 3-4 days if prepped and packed well.
- Simple Kale Salad: Add more protein with beans or your animal protein of choice.
- Curried Chickpeas and Rice: Make this all in one pot instead of cooking the rice separately (you’ll just need to add more liquid so the rice can cook well).
- Adzuki Bean Patties: These can be cooked over a hot plate or skillet instead of baking in the oven, or can be made at home and then stored in a cooler.
- Vegetable Bean Burgers: Again, cook these on a skillet instead of in the oven.
- Yellow Split Pea Dahl: So delicious for those cooler evenings!
- Corn Salsa Salad: Roast those non-GMO cobs over the fire and slice off to make this salad, or just love the corn on the cob
- Grilled Guacamole: Next-level guac and veggies cooked over a grill.
- Bean Chili: nothing like a pot of chili cooking over the open fire! Toss everything in the pot and let it simmer.
- Kebabs: Prep tofu or tempeh kebabs before you leave and celebrate your first night by BBQ-ing them, or roasting them over the campfire!
- Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: Wrap them in foil and toss them on the fire – fill with beans, greens, tahini and hot sauce.
- Veggie Stir Fry: Bring hardier veggies that last a few days without refrigeration like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic.
Also, remember you can go recipe-free to make a number of healthy camping meals. Tacos, veggie hashes, power bowls, grilled protein and veg, soups and stews, and stir-fries are all fairly simple to make freestyle.
healthy camping Condiments
- BBQ Sauce + Ketchup
- Small bottle of olive oil
- Sea salt
- Ready-made spice mix of choice
- A sweetener (honey or maple syrup)
Sweet Treats and Healthy Camping Desserts
- Apples: Chop into pieces and roast over the fire. Can also do this with pineapple and peaches too. So good!
- Easy Baked Apples: A nice one if you have a camping stove
- Banana Cacao Boats: You’ll want to start bonfires in the city just to indulge in this special treat. The most delicious healthy camping food to have for dessert!
- Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Make ahead and store in an airtight container
- Gluten-Free Banana Bread: This one can also make a great trail snack too!
Other Things You Don’t Want To Forget for a healthy camping experience
- Non-toxic sunscreen (learn more about healthy sun protection here)
- All-natural pest repellent
- A few great books
- Instant Chaga for your morning warm sipper
What are your favourite healthy camping food or recipes – and how do you take your healthful lifestyle into the great outdoors?