A weekend camping in the countryside or in the woods is a great opportunity to get into nature and forget about our everyday worries and stresses. It takes us back to slow living; fetching water, gathering wood and making fire, are actions which help bring us into the present moment, connecting out mind and body.  Simply being outdoors has been scientifically proven to have mental health benefits, as well as being beneficial for reducing stress and increasing our happy hormones – serotonin. It’s also a great opportunity to give our lungs a break from the inflammation caused by cities’ pollutants and give our bodies a chance to recharge by lying on the grass and feeling the sun on our skin. Going for walks and hikes is excellent exercise and a good time to spend quality time with family and friends. If you’re lucky you might even get to have a wild swim in a lake or the sea!

While time spent outdoors is greatly beneficial for our health, the foods that go hand in hand with such leisure activities such as camping are not always as beneficial for our health. Processed, pre-packed foods as we well know are loaded with sugar, sodium, and preservatives. When it comes to fuelling our bodies for days filled with physical activity you may well find that these foods will leave you feeling even more hungry and craving carbs and sugars, perpetuating energy crashes throughout the day. All it takes is a little planning and you’ll be good to go on a healthy camping break!

Here are some tips for making sure campers have healthy choices at each meal.

  • Write out a menu for each meal you’ll be eating. This also doubles up as a packing list! Remember to pack the correct cooking tools for the meals you’ll be making.
  • Bring along at least one extra day’s worth of food, just in case there are very hungry campers in your group.
  • If you’re able to drive your car right up to your tent site, then you have the luxury of taking a cool box. This makes it much easier to bring along perishable foods, which will give you access to important vitamins, minerals, and fiber while camping out.
  • Pack mainly fruit and veg which lasts and don’t bruise easily, such as oranges, apples, carrots, and celery. I love bringing bananas, but make sure you place these in hard-sided containers so they don’t turn to mush.
  • Plain yogurt or coconut yoghurt and fresh eggs are good sources of protein, as long as they’re consumed early in the trip, before the cool box loses its cool.
  • Cooked quinoa or rice, salad bags, hummus, and roasted veggies can also be stored in the cool box as long as they’re eaten within a few days.
  • Pack olive oil, tined beans, home made crackers and protein bars.
  • Pack the cool box with ice packs. You can also freeze drinks such as water bottles or almond milk and any freeze-able foods several days in advance of a trip so they can act as additional ice packs in the cooler before they’re consumed.
  • During the trip, open the lid as infrequently as possible and don’t lift it the whole way up whenever you reach in to grab something.
  • Pack the foods that you’ll eat early in the trip at the top of the cool box; this will cut down on time spent rummaging around with the lid open.
  • There are lots of healthy options for outdoor living even if you can’t bring a cool box.

Breakfast

  • A great breakfast option is pre-measured bags full of rolled oats cooked over a camp stove topped with dried fruit and nuts and a dash of honey.
  • Make overnight oats by adding some milk of your choice (dairy/ non dairy), berries and a dash of honey. You can also top with some nuts for a slower release of energy in particular if you’re planning a hike.
  • Pre-cooked hard boiled eggs will last for a couple of days in a cool box and are a great quick breakfast. Have a couple of pieces of fruit such as a banana and an apple and 2 hard boiled eggs and you’re good to go.
  • Pre-cook some savoury muffins to enjoy for breakfast. They can be a filling, protein rich option to keep you going.
  • Fried eggs are also a great breakfast camping staple if you have a cooker with you.

Fried Egg on Flaxseed bun with cucumber slices. Roibush tea with coconut milk.

Snacks

  • If you’re hiking or swimming during the day, or simply being in the fresh air, you’re likely to get hungry between meals. Kids in particular I find will want snacks. Plan ahead to have healthy options on hand. 
  • Fruits and veggies such as apples, carrots, and celery sticks — will last a few days in a pack and are great for snacking (and sneaking some vitamins and minerals into your diet).
  • Trail mix — divided up into zip lock bags for each camper. A healthy homemade granola or the classic nuts and dried fruit combo
  • Homemade protein and granola bars or oat cookies are also options for easy snacking on the move.

Lunch

Leafy Salad, Hummus, Olives, Cherry Tomatoes with Grilled Asparagus and Courgette

Foods that can be assembled without heat are a great idea for lunchtime:

  • Hummus and home made flaxseed crackers with a big leafy salad.
  • Flaxseed buns with chopped avocado and salad, or nut butter and veggies.
  • Bean salad which can be quickly assembled – tin of black beans, red onion and chopped tomatoes. Tined fish (or pouches if you can find them) are a great source of protein and easy to add to a quick salad or flaxseed buns.
  • Miso soup individual pouches are also great, just add some boiling water which you can have in a flask if you’re out hiking.

Big bowl of leafy salad with fresh herbs and sprouted broccoli seeds.

Home made chilli Flaxseed crackers with a pot of shop bought hummus.

Dinner

Dinner can be a fun time to get creative – get out the cooking equipment or even better, cook on an open fire. Packing different spices from home in separate bags can make for a more tasty meal and add some nutritional benefits, such as antioxidants or improved digestion.

Black bean salad with red onion, cherry tomatoes, ground cumin and sea salt. Green leafy salad, grilled corn on the cob and a home made flaxseed bun.

  • Corn on the cob over an open fire is delicious!
  • Cook some fresh fish over the open fire.
  • Grill courgettes
  • Cook some brown rice noodles – really quick to cook and you can add some pesto, a favourite with the kids. 
  • Wrap sweet potatoes in foil and cook in the ashes of the fire. Add some beans or hummus.

Baked sweet potato, grilled courgette, hummus, boiled eggs and leafy green salad.

For dessert, roast peaches over the open fire, then add a little yoghurt, honey and nuts.

Drinks

While for most, camping means all day drinking sessions, a healthy camp means –  remember to stay hydrated!

  • Bring lots of herbal teas, especially nice in the evening or early morning when the temperature drops. 
  • Drink plenty of water while living outdoors. As a general rule allow 2 litres per person per day. Know in advance what your water sources will be and whether you’ll have to bring your own, or treat the water available to ensure it’s safe to consume.
  • Coconut water is full of electrolytes so another great addition to the camping holiday. Plus, if you freeze it in advance it can help keep your goods fresh longer in the cool box.

Sticking to a healthy diet while enjoying the great outdoors will ensure you’re properly fuelling your body for your adventures. Go wild!!!!