Camping trips are full of healthy fun.
We hike, swim and paddle. We run until we are out of breath.
We get closer to nature, breathe the fresh air and gaze at the stars.
All of these outdoor activities require fuel. And with a little planning, the campsite menu can be just as healthy and fun as a day at the beach, says Angela Fobar, RDN, a Spectrum Health Dietitian.
A mother of three young children, Fobar spent many nights in campsites with her family, both in a tent and in a motorhome. They roast marshmallows on the campfire and eat their share of s’mores.
But as a dietitian with Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital, Fobar is also looking for ways to eat healthy while on vacation. In her pre-trip grocery store, she chooses child-friendly foods that provide good nutrition.
And simplicity is the key.
“It’s camping,” she said. “You want to spend your time relaxing, going out and doing activities, not spending an hour preparing an elaborate meal.
She shared three tips for keeping nutrition on track, even when sleeping in a tent or RV.
Meal in one pan (or in bags)
“We love to cook a lot of our meals over the fire,” said Fobar. “To do that, I think, takes a little planning.”
She creates foil pouches that combine some form of protein – chicken or shrimp, for example – with an assortment of vegetables, olive oil and spices.
A favorite packet dinner combines turkey sausage with potatoes and green beans. You can vary the spices, adding Italian seasonings or a fajita flavor.
“I think it’s fun,” she said. “You can mix and match anything you want.”
The ingredients can be cut and prepared at home before the trip. You can assemble the packages at home or at the campsite. (Combinations suggested below.)
And if you don’t want to make individual portions, you can combine the ingredients in a cast iron skillet and cook dinner over a fire.
If it uses a motorhome and has an electrical hookup, Fobar often makes soups and stews in a pot.
This recipe for Six-Can Tortilla Soup, found on allrecipes.com, works particularly well for a camping trip because the ingredients do not require refrigeration. The savory soup combines canned chicken with beans and other ingredients.
Because some canned products are high in sodium, she advises looking for salt-free or low-sodium options.
Using a cast iron pizza pan over a campfire, Fobar makes pizzas his family calls “Hobo Pies”.
Using bread as a crust, they layer pizza sauce, cheese, and a variety of toppings. She usually does hers without meat, but the toppings available may vary depending on a family’s taste.
“It’s fun because the kids get involved,” she says. “They can choose the ingredients they want to add.”
Fruits and vegetables
Even when camping, you can still get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, Fobar says.
“I like to cut the fruit ahead of time, so I have fruit bins on hand,” she says.
She also keeps a jar of vegetables on hand. Often she chooses those that do not require any preparation – carrots, baby tomatoes, snow peas.
Having a stock in the cooler or motorhome refrigerator makes it easy to add fruits and vegetables to every meal.
Package meal recipe
Use any of these combinations for a one-pot or foil-pack meal. Or don’t hesitate to vary them and concoct your own.
—Turkey or kielbasa sausage, red-skinned potatoes, onions and green beans. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary.
—Chicken sausage with apples, sweet potatoes, red onions and Brussels sprouts. Season with salt, garlic, thyme and cinnamon.
—Chicken, onion, and red, yellow and green peppers. Add the fajita seasoning.
—All vegetables: broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, onion and summer squash. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary or thyme.
Packing can be done while camping or at home and taken to the campsite in your cooler or refrigerator.
Consider the size when cutting your items. Items that take longer to cook may be cut smaller than items that cook faster.
Assemble the packages. You will need a square of foil, 12 by 12 inches, for the top and bottom of each package.
Build with the desired chopped ingredients.
Add olive oil – 2 tablespoons per sachet, to avoid sticking.
Fold each side of the package two or three times to make sure they are secure when you turn the fire over.
Bake on a wire rack or grill over a bed of hot coals for about 40 minutes. Check the temperature of all meats with a meat thermometer before serving.