Dietitian-Approved Meal Ideas for CampingJul 07, 2021
Camping - whatever that looks like for you - is an incredible way to spend time in nature, stay active, and escape the hustle and bustle of the city. But as any seasoned camper knows, considerate prep and packing can make all the difference. When it comes to what food to pack on your next camping trip, ensuring that your cooler (or backpack) is filled with energizing and tasty meals and snacks can keep your adventure enjoyable and delicious! By taking the time to meal plan for your camping trip ahead of time, you'll be able to optimize space while fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs to embrace the great outdoors!
Whether packing for your next camping trip involves filling the trunk of your car, stuffing dry-bags into a canoe, keeping the bare minimum in your backpack, or stocking up your camper-van fridge, there tends to be a common theme: space is limited.
Camping means that dishes are harder to do, storage space is at a premium, and complicated prep can be both impractical and unwanted! The result? Meal planning for camping trips should involve dishes that are simple, balanced, and satisfying. While each trip may require a unique approach to optimizing space, nutrient needs, and access to kitchen equipment, we hope that these simple recipe ideas can get you started as you plan for healthy and Dietitian-approved camping meals.
When building any meal, our team of Registered Dietitians in Saskatoon always consider the Fundamental Four Formula that we teach inside of our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program. Considering and including each of these food groups ensures that you're providing your body with the fuel it needs to take advantage of active days in the great outdoors. Let's consider each of our 'Fundamental Four' food groups in respect to what they contribute to our bodies while camping:
- PROTEIN: Building most meals with a source of protein ensures that your blood sugars are stabilized. This helps you feel satisfied and energized throughout the day. Protein is especially important for campers whose days involve more active elements, as it supports muscle recovery following activities like hiking, swimming, canoeing, and other strenuous exercise.
- VOLUME: In the Fundamental Four Formula, volume foods are plants like vegetables and berries. While these foods have many benefits, they are also a key food source of natural electrolytes which aid in hydration! Hydration is especially important for campers in hot, windy, or humid weather. While fresh options may be less available when camping, we have some creative solutions to include more of these foods in your meals below.
- CARBOHYDRATE: Carbohydrates are an accessible energy source for our brain and muscles which may be especially important if you find yourself active during the day!
- FATS: Fats provide a source of energy for our body and keep us full for longer. Fats are an important food group for campers and/or hikers because they are a dense source of energy that takes less space in a backpack yet are packed with nutrition!
You'll find these four food groups dispersed through our meal and snack ideas for campers below.
Depending on the equipment you have access to, you may be able to stick with classic meals for breakfast. However, if you find that space and equipment are limited, consider these balanced and protein-rich breakfast ideas:
EGG WHITE SKILLET
A camping hack you might consider is purchasing cartons of egg whites as a protein source. Here's why! Egg whites are less likely to break in your cooler (compared to eggs!) and the cartons can be frozen before your go. The frozen cartons of egg whites serve as an ice-pack for your cooler. By the time you get to your destination they will be thawed and ready for breakfast the next morning!
Try this easy, crowd-pleasing breakfast scrambler on your next camping trip:
- 1 package of Spudler hashbrowns (from Costco)
- 1 carton (500g) egg whites
- 1 cup grated cheese
- Optional: a few handfuls of fresh spinach for extra nutrition and colour!
1. Cook the Spudler hashbrowns in a large frying pan until warm. The hashbrowns have some fats from the bacon, so you won't need to add any oil to prevent burning and sticking (one less ingredient to worry about!)
2. Add the egg whites to the hashbrown mixture and cook until heated through.
3. Mix in the grated cheese. Enjoy!
This recipe makes about 8 servings. Adjust the portions as needed!
Dietitian Thoughts: We love this recipe because the hashbrowns mixture contains both bell pepper and onions -giving you an easy serving of veggies to start your morning! Adding the egg whites and cheese to the skillet adds protein and fat to balance the carbs from the potatoes, ensuring you'll feel satisfied for longer.
Protein oatmeal is a quick breakfast option for those with limited space in their backpack and limited access to kitchen equipment. Here's how to make an individual serving:
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1/4 cup fresh or dried fruit
- 2 tablespoons nuts, seeds, or nut butter
1. Boil the water over the campfire.
2. Combine the boiling water with the serving of old-fashioned rolled oats.
3. When the oats have softened, add the scoop of protein powder. You may need to add 1-2 tablespoons of addition water to get things moving!
4. Top the oatmeal with fresh or fried fruits and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, or nut butter.
Dietitian Tip: Load this protein oatmeal with even more fibre by adding 1 teaspoon of chia seeds to the mixture! Chia seeds have healthy omega-3 fats and are rich in fibre to keep you satisfied for longer.
Depending on the structure of your day, your lunch could be either an assembly of satisfying snacks or a full meal of its own. If you are planning a more structured lunch, consider these upgrades to classic camping recipes!
We of course support the classic approach of preparing homemade chili and freezing it to take on your trip. However, if you are looking for something quick, try picking up a can of pre-made chili. Our go-to canned chili is the Stagg's Silverado Chili! It is a complete meal that is budget friendly, high in fibre, and loaded with protein. While we do recommend adding healthy fats to most meals, we love this particular variety as it is lower in fat with the lean steak. This allows you to add your own tasty fats to the chili, such as a sprinkle of grated cheddar, some sliced avocado, or a dollop of sour cream!
We've heard this classic outdoor sandwich called many things, including a campfire pie, bush pie, or panini. Regardless of the name, it is a delicious recipe that can be made high in both fibre and protein with a few simple ingredient swaps.
Here's how we as Registered Dietitians make pizza-inspired bush pies:
- 2 slices of sprouted grain bread (eg. Silver Hills or Dave's Killer bread)*
- 2 tablespoons pizza sauce
- 1/4 cup grated cheese
- 3 slices deli ham or turkey
- OPTIONAL: vegetables like a handful of spinach, mushrooms, or bell pepper
* we recommend choosing a bread with 3g or more of fibre per serving. You can adjust the bread to your dietary preferences or needs by choosing gluten-free or lower carb bread.
1. Spray the inside of the sandwich iron with non-stick spray or oil
2. Lay a piece of bread on each side of the iron.
3. Place a couple tablespoons of pizza sauce on each side of the bread. Then layer on the cheese, deli meat, and optional spinach or veggies.
4. Connect the two sides of the sandwich iron and place it in the fire for 2-3 minutes.
Dietitian Tip: The flavour options for bush pies are endless, but you can get 'extra fancy' with combinations like brie cheese, turkey, and cranberry sauce or blue cheese with roast beef and onion! Does this mean we're 'glamping'?
While the above lunch ideas can be enjoyed at any time of day, we are including two additional dietitian-approved dinner ideas for camping, helping you wrap up each day with a bang!
UKRANIAN FOIL PACKS
Foil packets are an easy and satisfying recipe to prepare on the campfire or BBQ. This meal is packed with protein, fibre, and volume with the lean turkey sausage, cabbage, and potatoes. Cooking for the whole family or a group of friends? Try prepping each ingredient, then allowing each person to assemble their own custom foil-pack.
Here's how to make it:
- 1 teaspoon of oil or butter
- 1 lean turkey sausage, sliced
- 1/2 cup cabbage, shredded
- 1/2 cup onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup potatoes, cubed
- salt and pepper
1. Prepare a large piece of aluminum foil.
2. Place all of the ingredients in the centre of the foil.
3. Tightly seal the foil around the ingredients.
4. Cook in a campfire or on the BBQ for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and the cabbage is soft.
Dietitian Tip: You can mix up the flavour of these foil packets with Mediterranean ingredients like Feta & Spinach Turkey Sausages, sweet potato, bell pepper, onion, and olive oil.
There are many options on the market for high protein, lower fat smokies and hot dogs. Among our favourites are the Connie's Kitchen Spinach & Feta turkey sausages from Costco. Though any turkey sausage with >15g of protein and <10g of fat per serving will do!
One way to upgrade your hotdog or sausage is by creating a fresh and fibre-rich Greek pita. It's a fresh twist on classic smokies on a bun! Here's how we make it:
- 1 lean turkey sausage (eg. Connie's Kitchen Feta & Spinach sausage)
- 1 whole grain pita
- 2 tablespoon tzatziki or hummus
- Optional: Chopped veggies on top like romaine lettuce, peppers, purple onion, or tomato.
1. Roast the turkey over the fire or on a BBQ
2. Assemble the pita with the turkey sausage, tzatziki, and optional veggies.
Snacks are a great way to stay energized and well-fuelled during an active day of hiking, paddling, or exploring the great outdoors. We recommend choosing snacks with more protein and fibre to help keep you satisfied for longer. Some of our favourite quick-grab, portable, and camping-friendly snack ideas include:
Protein bars make for a wonderful snack as they are loaded with fibre and protein but are also super tasty. Our favourite is the Oatmeal Gold bar in the flavour Natural as it has 20g of protein and 8g of fibre! We recommend choosing a bar with >15g or more of protein and >3g of fibre. Some options include Detour bars, Simply Bars, Rx bars, Grenade Bars, or Built Bars. Be cautious of bars with too much added fibre (ie. >10g!) or sugar alcohols which may cause digestive distress for some.
Beef jerky is a high-protein snack that is perfect for when you are on-the-road or hiking in the great outdoors. We enjoy the Kirkland Steak Strips from Costco but any brand will do! While beef jerky is higher in sodium, this typically isn't a concern when hiking or camping. The reason we're not concerned about the extra sodium is that when we are active we lose sodium through our sweat - replacing sodium losses is actually important for hydration! That said, if you have high blood pressure you may want to be mindful of how much added sodium you consume. We recommend pairing your beef jerky with a piece of fresh fruit or almonds for a more satisfying snack.
Popcorn is a fantastic option to snack on around the fire! Popcorn is higher in volume and fibre than chips or other snack foods. Just make sure you bring enough to share with friends! Our favourite brands include Buddha Bowl (from Superstore) or CanCan (from Costco!). These brands have only a touch of oil added for flavour compared to other popcorn brands which you'll find have a similar fat content to chips.
Fresh fruit like apples, oranges, pears, and bananas are portable snacks that are rich in fibre to keep you satisfied and loaded with natural electrolytes to help maintain hydration status. Trying building a more satisfying snack by pairing your fruit with almonds, beef jerky, turkey sticks, or nut butter. Oftentimes, you can find travel-friendly nut butter packets in the natural food section of the grocery store.
Try preparing homemade muffins as a quick snack or light breakfast. You can test out a few of our favourite dietitian-approved recipes below! Pro tip: Consider making the muffins ahead of time, freezing them, and throw them in your cooler bag! Some of our favourite recipes include:
Often, campers are consuming fewer electrolyte-rich vegetables and fruits than compared to their normal at-home routines. Depending on the weather and your activity level, you may benefit from an electrolyte supplement to stay hydrated while camping. Additionally, if you choose to consume alcohol, you may benefit from the support of an electrolyte supplement (and extra fluids!) to rehydrate. Some symptoms of dehydration to watch for during camping include low energy, muscle cramping, headaches, or even bloating. Our favourite electrolyte brands that are accessible in Canada include Nuun, Biosteel, and Vega Sport. You can find them in the natural food section at most grocery stores. Nuun is typically the best price at London Drugs - you can find it in the pharmacy section!
Taking the time to pre-plan meals and snacks for your next camping trip will ensure that you are well-fed and able to make the most of your time in nature! While the above recipes are intended to spark inspiration, you may require additional support for special circumstances like long hikes, or camping trips with limited supplies and space. If you're looking to plan meals for camping trips, canoe trips, and hiking trips like a pro, the Registered Dietitians at Vitality Nutrition in Saskatoon are here to help! Get started with either our Comprehensive Nutrition Coaching program or our Individualized Nutrition Support, and make the most of every moment out in the woods, on the water, and under the stars.
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