By Carmen Staicer - Chief Mom at DietsInReview.com
Sleeping under the stars, cooking on a fire, taking in the beauty of the great outdoors - what's not to love about camping? Camping is the quintessential family- and budget-friendly activity; both inexpensive and offering plenty of quality time together. While supplies like a tent, sleeping bag, and flash light are obvious, what will you eat? It doesn't take long to realize being outdoors works up a tremendous appetite, but most of the traditional camping foods aren't healthy enough to give you the fuel you need, especially perennial favorites like hot dogs, hamburgers, and gooey S'mores. So, is there a way to enjoy a traditional camping trip without resorting to those quick-fix food staples?
No different than any other time, one of the main secrets to eating healthy on a camping trip is planning. It's much easier to grab a pack of hot dogs and some buns and leave town, but a little bit of thinking ahead will help you avoid resorting to bags of chips and cold fried chicken.
We've talked to camping enthusiasts who just happen to know a thing or two about health and fitness, too, and what we've come up with is a must-have list for your upcoming summer camping trip. Just because you're sleeping in the woods, doesn't mean you have to eat rabbit food; but who would pass on an opportunity to do a little yoga while communing with nature?
Go Dutch - "With a Dutch oven or a grill cover for the fire, you can cook just about anything," says our managing editor at DietsInReview, Brandi Koskie. Herb-citrus stuffed cornish game hens, grilled lemon rosemary chicken, seared pork loin with sauteed apples, and blueberry pancakes with scrambled eggs are just some of the inspired meals she's enjoyed just outside her tent.
Fix it in Foil - In a foil packet place veggies, potatoes, lean protein like a chicken breast or fish fillet, olive oil, garlic, and any preferred spices. Nestle it in the coals and in no time at all you have a healthy dinner that can be customized for each camper.
Pick Fresh Produce - Tanya Zuckerbrot, RD raves about the fresh in-season produce that is available during camping season. She says the more colorful produce you serve, the healthier the meal is. "There is nothing quite like a juicy watermelon to finish the meal," she says, adding that "sliced apples, berries, and dried fruit like raisins, and dried apricots are perfect travel snacks."
Go Prepared - Mix a salad in a sealed baggy and keep it chilled. Take with you hard boiled eggs, grated cheese, chopped fruits and vegetables, and even marinated meats. All of this reduces the campsite muss and fuss. One such meal is J.J. Kunkle's, an ACE certified personal trainer, favorite camping dinner, the veggie burrito.
- Combine black beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and salsa in a sealed container. Pack tortillas, shredded cheese, avocado, and a lime.
- Once at camp, heat the filling, roll it in the tortillas, and top with the extras, with a squeeze of lime juice on top.
Stay Hydrated - The exertion of of a camping trip on top of hiking, swimming or other activities, plus the heat, can zap your body quickly. Keep plenty of clean water and juicy fresh fruit (like watermelon or grapes) on hand to help quench thirst.
Think Small - Pack several smaller coolers to avoid cross contamination and the possibility of food borne illnesses. Keep meats in one, fruits and vegetables in another, and a third for drinks. This also makes it easier to transport than one large, heavy cooler.
Have S'Mores - When you're eating this well, the gold standard of camping dessert cannot be sacrificed. It's OK to splurge once in a while, so go ahead and toast the marshmallows and nestle them between graham crackers and chocolate. Other healthier, but just as indulgent, options include melting dark chocolate on the fire and dipping fresh summer strawberries, or making my family's favorite - the banana boat.
- Lay a banana on foil and pull back the top of the peel. Run a knife down the center of the banana and fill the crevice with a few chocolate chips.
- Close the peel back over, wrap in foil, and bury the banana in the coals.
- Ten minutes later, you have a delicious, gooey treat.
Learn more about celebrating a guilt-free Memorial Day:
Celebrate Grilling Season with Healthy Substitutions
Get Fit with Memorial Day Weekend Activities
11 Healthy Recipes for Memorial Day Parties