Healthy eating in the great outdoors

For many, camping is also the perfect way to stray from healthy eating. But it doesn't have to be.

Question: I was just looking up a few recipes because I’m going camping this weekend. I was just wondering if you had any camping food ideas that are healthy?  -Lisa, Chilliwack, BC.

Answer: We are very lucky to live in a part of the world with so many fantastic places to go camping.  Camping is a great way to spend time with the family, unwind, distress and explore this beautiful province!  For many, however, camping is also the perfect way to stray from healthy eating.  When we think of camping food we often think of junk food: all the foods we normally don’t buy, but end up in our grocery cart before a camping trip:  hot dogs, marshmallows, cans of pop and chips.  With a shift in attitude and some planning, however, you can most definitely stick to a healthy eating plan and still enjoy the great outdoors!

The first step is to stick to your eating plan when camping is to simply change your attitude about camping food.  Camping is not an excuse to eat whatever you want.  Instead, stick to the basic guidelines of healthy eating: Eat 5-6 small meals per day, eat protein at each meal, limit or avoid the white stuff (sugar, white flour, etc) and stick to proper portions.

Remember that while eating healthy is important, ‘splurge-worthy’ treats can be part of a healthy diet.  Try to keep your portions under control.  For example, if you fancy a few chips in the afternoon, portion out a serving in a bowl rather than eating uncontrollably from the bag.

The food you pack will depend on the amenities you have when camping.  If you are backpacking, your food choices will be fewerthan if you were staying in a trailer with a fridge, freezer and toaster oven.  Assuming you have at least a cooler and ice, below are some suggestions of simple, easy to prepare foods to pack with you on your trip.


Great options while camping include whole grain cereal, yogurt and milk, eggs with fruit salad, whole grain bread with peanut butter or other nut butter, a homemade, cottage cheese and fruit, and oatmeal.


Some healthy lunch options are homemade or canned soups  (while canned soups may not be the best option on a regular basis, a can of Minestrone or other vegetable-based soup is convenient and a healthier option, homemade or canned chili, cheese and crackers or a healthy sandwich or wrap.  Peanut butter and banana in a whole grain wrap is a simple lunch to pack for backpacking.


Aim for protein and veggies for dinner, just like you would at home.  If fishing ispart of your camping adventure, fresh trout would be your first choice!  If you have a BBQ, chicken, steak or veggie burgers are great options.  Serve your BBQ-ableswith a side salad (you can easily prepare your salad at home).


Camping often means endless opportunities to nibble in between meals.  If your cooler is stocked with healthy snacks, sticking to your eating plan will be easier.   Pack plenty of fruits and veggies with a light dip such as hummus.  A small version of breakfast or lunch (such as some yogurt and fruit) also makes a great snack.   If chips are on the picnic table, grab a bowl and portion out a serving so you can enjoy without going overboard.


As always, it’s best to keep hydrated with water when camping.  Limit caloric beverages such as juice and pop.  Enjoy your alcohol in moderation.

Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologistand Fitness Coach, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs.  She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, home to Ascend Fitness Boot Camp, Stroller Boot Camp, and personal training programs.  For more fitness tips go to

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