Don’t you just love eating in the open air, with trees all around? Everything tastes great in the great outdoors!
It just so happens that I’m both a camper and a dietitian. Wearing both my hats, let me share some of my favourite tips for eating well on your next camping trip.
- Make the most of the space in your cooler and in the car (sure fills up fast!).
- Choose food that keeps well.
- Plan to cook with as few ingredients and pieces of equipment as possible.
This is the most important step and the simplest way to eat well once you get to your campsite.
I start my meal planning by assembling all the ingredients, including cooking oil, spices, condiments, maple syrup and so on. I transfer them to smaller jars – no point in carrying big containers.
It makes me really happy when I manage to cook several dishes ahead of time. I freeze my favourites, spaghetti sauce, chili and lentil soup, and pop the frozen dishes into the cooler. They stay cold for several days, and that way I don’t need to use so much ice – which leaves more room for food.
When you cook in advance, you can make dishes that would take too long to prepare at the campground. It also means you don’t have to bring a long list of ingredients. Best of all, it means fewer dishes to wash!
If you make your own jam and preserves, don’t forget to pack a jar or two.
Balanced meals for camping:
It’s just like balancing meals at home, really. Good eating habits don’t take a break in the summer. But there’s no problem when everything’s in season and tastes so good. And of course, marshmallows on the fire are a whole food group!
I make sure that every meal (well, almost every meal) includes three food groups:
- Fruit and veggies (more than one)
- Some kind of grain or starch
- Meat, fish, tofu, legumes or some other kind of protein.
(If that makes you think of the plate illustrations in the new version of Canada’s Food Guide, go to the head of the class!)
Here are my tips on organizing the cooler to make cooking at the campsite easier and reduce waste. I’ve arranged them by food group.
- A variety of fresh local veggies
- A few canned vegetables, such as corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce and mushrooms
- Wash and chop veggies ahead of time and package in “green” (eco-friendly) bags or Ziploc containers in the cooler. Now you’ve got crudités plus veggies that are ready to cook or add to salads, stir-fries, soups, etc.
- Apples, grapes and other fruit that travels well. Pears, peaches and bananas bruise easily unless you protect them en route.
- Dried fruit
- Compotes, such as applesauce
- Find a U-pick farm and enjoy the best local fruit in season — yum!
- Cut up fruit (melon, pineapples, mangoes) ahead of time and stash them in a plastic container.
- Cans of legumes, tuna, salmon or sardines
- Eggs or liquid eggs
- Nuts and seeds… but don’t let the squirrels steal them!
- Powdered milk for making oatmeal and hot chocolate
- Store eggs in a plastic container designed for camping. No use crying over broken eggs!
- Slice meat or tofu, marinate if you like, then pop in the freezer till you’re ready to go.
- Grate cheese at home for dishes that call for grated cheese.
Grains and starches
- Flatbreads (naan, pitas, tortillas) – sliced bread will get squashed in transit anyway!
- Oatmeal (to make porridge)
- To save time and energy, put quick-cooking choices at the top of your list (couscous, pasta, instant brown rice, instant oatmeal, etc.)
- Dried fruit and nut blends
- Soft bars and cookies (homemade if possible)
- Homemade yogurt drinks (plain yogurt + fruit + maple syrup)
- Bake bars and cookies a few days or even a few weeks ahead and stash them in the freezer till you’re ready to go. Don’t leave anything to the last minute if you can help it.
Avoiding waste on your camping trip:
- Use the most perishable foods first (meat, fish and some veggies, for example).
- Toward the end of your trip, plan “use-it-up” meals, such as omelettes, sandwiches, salads or stir-fries with whatever’s left.
- When the cooler’s almost empty, dream up meals made with non-perishable ingredients, such as:
Couscous + black beans + canned corn
Pasta + tomato sauce + canned tuna
I could still write volumes about dishes, equipment, hygiene and so much more, but I’d rather be sitting by the campfire! So here’s a reading suggestion: The Family Camping Cookbook, by Tiff & Jim Easton, complete with recipes.
Have a great summer!
Thanks to our collaborator
A graduate in nutrition and sports nutrition, Stéphanie Côté has worked with media for more than 15 years. Her goal? Convince people that eating well is good and not so complicated!Visit her website