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20 Easy, Tasty and Healthy Ideas for Your Next Road/Camping Trip

Originally published June 24, 2015

 

Many people believe that it’s easier to focus on their health and eating in the summer – they’re more likely to be outside and physically active, the markets are teeming with fresh produce, and often there are fewer other commitments so people can focus on themselves and their health.

Still, summer isn’t without its, shall we say, “fun foods”. Beers on the patio, ice cream on hot days, deep-fried foods at Stampede, and camping trips filled with burgers, hot dogs and s’mores are just some of the not-so-nutritious choices often associated with warmer weather. I’m not here to tell you to not enjoy these foods in the summer, but sometimes you just want to switch it up with something that has a little more nutrients, y’know? (Or maybe that’s just the dietitian in me talking.)

Here are ideas for camping and road-tripping that are easy, kid-friendly and delicious, and will still give you the energy to enjoy your holiday!

On the Road

On the Road
Photo via StockSnap.io

When my husband and I went on our first camping trip together, he pulled out an old packing list that included “junk food” under the list of things for the car! It’s not uncommon for people to be snacking on chips, candy and pop in the car, or stopping at fast food restaurants or gas station convenience stores. All of these high-sugar, high-fat foods can leave you feeling sluggish when you arrive at your destination, and your vacation’s just getting started!

My biggest tip for a road trip, whether you are going camping or driving through several urban centres, is to pack a cooler. Even if you’re just packing a few snacks or lunch for the day, it can help you save time because you don’t have to stop for lunch along the way, and it saves you money! As an added bonus, if you see any roadside stands, you can load up on fruit or salmon without having to worry about it going bad.

Load your cooler up with…

  • Water bottles or bottled water. If using your own water bottles, add in lemon, cucumber, mint, frozen berries or strawberry tops for extra flavour.
  • Cut-up raw veggies. Save time by buying a pre-cut vegetable or a veggie tray at the grocery store. For a more filling snack, add a dip with protein, like hummus, tzatziki, cottage cheese, or plain Greek yogurt or skyr
  • Fresh fruit. Fruits like apples, pears, oranges, plums and nectarines travel well and don’t necessarily need to be kept in the cooler.
  • Individual packages of yogurt or cottage cheese. Don’t forget to pack a spoon!
  • Whole grain crackers and cheese.
  • Hard boiled eggs. Great, easy source of protein, but be careful if you don’t like the smell!
  • Edamame. You’ll find these fuzzy green soy bean pods in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Simply let them thaw out in your cooler for a tasty, high-fibre and high-protein snack.
  • Sandwiches and wraps. An easy meal idea that can be enjoyed anywhere on the road. To keep your sandwiches from getting soggy, try keeping the vegetables (lettuce, tomato, etc.) in a separate container or zip lock bag.

Don’t have a cooler? Here are some non-perishable snacks to enjoy.

  • Whole grain crackers with peanut butter or flavoured canned tuna. Be careful of smell from latter!
  • Trail mix. Make your own by heading to the bulk bins at your grocery store and filling up on your favourite nuts, seeds, dried fruit… even cereal!
  • Roasted chickpeas. Store-bought or homemade.
  • Kale chips. Store-bought or homemade.

Around the Campfire

Foil Packets in the Fire

Traditional camping fare, like hot dogs, burgers and canned baked beans are often high in salt and low in nutrients – not the greatest way to fuel a hike or a day of kayaking! Eating healthier doesn’t mean sacrificing fun our flavour – here are some of my favourite campfire recipes:

  • Start your morning with a breakfast hash: Before you leave on your trip, cut up some onions, red peppers, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Pre-boil the potatoes and sweet potatoes until they’re slightly tender, but not completely cooked. Let cool and pack everything up in zip lock bags and put them in your cooler. When you’re ready to cook, Sauté the onions first in a large skillet over the fire or your camp stove (yes, you can fry up some bacon and use the bacon grease left in your pan!) then add the rest of the ingredients. Once everything is almost done, season with your favourite herbs and spices (try chili powder for a little bit of Tex Mex, or rosemary for something a little milder) then crack a few eggs on top. Cover until the eggs are cooked, about 5 minutes.
  • To get your started on a quicker and sweeter note, bring a few packs of instant oatmeal. Bulk it up with fresh or dried fruit (even frozen fruit that you let thaw in your cooler works), nuts and/or seeds.
  • Skewers are a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies! Cut up some of your favourite vegetables, like onions, zucchini, peppers and mushrooms into large chunks. Toss in a zip lock bag with a little bit of oil. If you’d like some meat on your skewers, cut that up too – you can put it in a zip lock bag with some of your favourite BBQ sauce as a marinade, or even just a bit of lemon juice and oil. When you’re ready to eat, lay out all the different options and get everyone to make their own skewers for dinner! If you have a camp grill, use wooden skewers soaked in water; if you’re cooking over the fire, buy a few long metal skewers!
  • Foil packets are a great way to get your meat and veggies all in one go. Wrap your meat or fish with some aromatics, like herbs or lemon, and some vegetables in a double-layer of foil, then place it over the hot embers over your fire until the meat is thoroughly cooked. The lemon and herbs will release all their flavour into your meat and veggies as they steam inside the foil pouch – yum!
  • I just *had to* share this amazing idea from my friend and fellow Calgary dietitian Meghan Barnes. On a recent backcountry trip, Meghan and her friends made curry by mixing curry paste, powdered coconut milk and water to make a quick sauce to top her vegetables and meat.

Sweet Treats

campfire dessert | the both and | shorts and longs | julie rybarczyk
Photo by Julie Rybarczyk, via Flickr

S’mores might be a non-negotiable camping treat for some, but instead of trying to sleep with a sugar-high every night, alternate with some of these other dessert ideas:

  • Who does not love the grilled pineapple at Brazilian churrascarias? It’s easy to re-create your own – cut a pineapple into spears (or buy it pre-cut), then pack it in a large zip lock bag along with ⅓ cup brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. (Add a pinch of cayenne for heat, or a little bit of vanilla for something a little more mellow. I’ve also seen recipes with lime, rum and coconut!) Grill for about 3 minutes a side – yum!
  • Baked apples are a popular camp treat. Core an apple, but not all the way (use a sharp paring knife to cut into the apple, then use a small metal spoon to scoop out the flesh until you get close to the bottom of the apple – feel free to do this before your trip, the apple will brown as it’s cooked anyway!) Alternatively, you can just cut the apple in half and scoop out the core. Throw a mixture of brown sugar, raisins, oats, chopped nuts and a pat of butter into the hole in the apple. Wrap in a double layer of foil and place over hot embers for about 12 minutes. Tip: Baking apples, like Braebarn, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp and Jonagold are best for keeping their shape!
  • Banana boats are another camp classic. Cut a banana open lengthwise, being sure not to cut through the peel on the other side. Stuff in mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and crushed graham crackers. Wrap it up in a double layer of foil and place it over the hot embers for a few minutes, just until the chocolate and marshmallows have melted, and the banana has become soft. Just as good as s’mores, but with some extra fibre and potassium!

See some of these tips in action in this segment from Breakfast Television Calgary! What are some of your favourite healthy road trip or camping hacks?

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