A weekend in the woods is a great opportunity to get moving. In fact, hiking on a flat trail is equivalent to walking on the treadmill at a three percent incline (and we all know that walking is good for our health). But while time spent outdoors can improve our health in several ways, it may make it harder to choose healthy options at mealtime.
Whether you are going away for 1 night or longer, it's a good idea to have a plan of the meals you will eat when away. You should jot down your breakfast, lunch and dinner meal plan for every day you are away). Include snacks and drinks on this list. These choices are final once you hit the trail, so it’s crucial to be prepared ahead of time. A good menu also serves as a packing list and ensures food is allocated to meals correctly so no one ends up with a dinner of canned peas on the last night.
Whether it’s camping out of the back of your car, cramming a canoe with as much gear as possible, or heaving the bare minimum onto your shoulders and hiking a stretch, packing food to keep campers healthy and energized takes a little planning.
Tips for Car Camping
If you’re able to drive your car or rv right up to your tent site, then you have the luxury of carting in a cooler. This makes it much easier to bring along fruits and veggies, which will give you access to important vitamins, minerals, and fiber while out in the woods. Pack produce that lasts and doesn’t bruise easily, such as oranges, apples, carrots, and celery, and place produce in hard-sided containers so it doesn’t turn to mush. Plain yogurt and fresh eggs are good sources of protein (as long as they’re consumed early in the trip, before the cooler loses its cool).
Tips for Backpacking
Even if you can’t bring along a cooler, there are a lot of healthy options for eating on the trail.
Alternate days with light breakfasts and heavier breakfasts depending on how much physical activity you have planned for each day. A great breakfast option is pre-measured baggies full of rolled oats cooked over a camp stove (or instant oatmeal packets if you’re feeling lazy). Instead of dumping sugar on top, sweeten the oats with dried fruit or honey. If you have a lot of activity planned for the day, mix in a handful of nuts to help those calories last longer
Think smorgasbord. It’s useful to bring foods that can be assembled without heat so you can stay on schedule to get to the next campsite or scale the next rockface. This means more fruits and veggies (at least for the first day or two). It also means whole grains, such as whole grain pita bread or wraps, which pack easily, are a good source of fiber, and will leave you feeling fuller longer than white breads.
Dinner can be a great time to get creative with camping food since you’ll have time to pull out the cooking equipment, start an open fire, and explore some serious flavor profiles. Packing different spices from home in separate baggies can make for a more flavorful meal and may add some nutritional benefits, such as antioxidants (cloves) or improved digestion (cumin and ginger).
Organising your food supplies helps a lot. It might seem overly simple and obvious, but when you are camping in the early days, having food and utensils all jumbled in together, makes cooking more complicated than it needs to be.
First up you have all the goods that need refrigeration - they are going to go into your esky/cooler/fridge, so that's easy enough. You need to probably invest in some strong plastic boxes to store all the food. Think about getting 2-3 if space permits.
Use Box 1 for the staples - the items that get a lot of use or are handy to have, but aren't the core ingredients but are still important. Items such as salt/pepper, olive oil, spices, food wraps (like Alfoil, Clingwrap), coffee, tea, sugar, sauce, non-stick spray, etc.
Box 2 can be the non-perishable core ingredients for your meals (based on your meal plan). The volume of these ingredients really fill-up this box. If you have room, another box is great for all the cooking gear - like necessary pots/pans (and I stress the word necessary!). Only take the cooking gear you actually need to prepare your meals.
Find meals that you like to make at home, and double them. See what meals you enjoy at home can be replicated without too much work at the campsite. Trial and error with camping also applies to food. There will be successful meals and ones where it was not so great. But doing some planning in advance of the trip might help minimise some of the average meals, and let you enjoy some delicious food cooked in the great and beautiful country.