10 Tips for Healthy Camping Eating

By Heather

It’s a long, TMI story, but the short version is that I have had digestive issues for years. Years. They’ve gotten much worse in the last several years – bloating, inability to lose weight, near-daily vomiting, daily sour stomach, general malaise – so much that I have totally changed what I eat and how I look at food.

Although there are bad days, I have also never felt better. The bloating and/or vomiting episodes are fewer and further between. I have energy again, I look forward to eating again. I’ve lost nearly 40 pounds. It’s all been great.

Because of those issues, however, I’ve cut out a lot of food which could make eating this way while camping a tad challenging. My version of healthy eating these days means:

  • No grains
  • No gluten
  • Little dairy
  • No sugar
  • Low sodium
  • Little fruit
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Lean meats and seafood
  • Little alcohol (one or two drinks per week, max)

You can eat like this – or eat any kind of special diet – and continue to camp. With planning and preparation, plus some good habits, it is completely possible to eat things that work with your lifestyle.

Car camping does not have to mean 48 hours of face stuffing!

Tips for healthy camping eating

1. Control what you can. There’s no way around it: Problematic and/or unhealthy foods are going to be served while you’re camping. I have no control of or say in what other people bring. The nice thing about camping, though, is that if you want to bring an additional side that you can eat, you’re not going to spoil any menus or upset anyone. Just bring it. For example, if you know rice is being served with dinner one night and you don’t want to have it, bring your own brown rice or vegetables that you can grill. Just bring enough to share in case other people like your idea!

2. Split meals. There’s a deli near one of our favorite campgrounds. Oh, this deli. We dream about it. We’re dreaming about it now, except this time, we’re dreaming about splitting a sandwich and having a side of fruit with it. Always look for opportunities to divvy things up. It saves money, you’ll eat less and you won’t even miss the other half.

3. Use the grill like crazy, and have foil. The grill is the best thing for a healthy eater. Throw anything on it. Anything! It will instantly become better, richer, more flavorful. Veggies, meat, fruit, whatever. All you need is some foil or a grill pan, a little olive oil and some seasoning and you’re good to go. (For more control when cooking on the campfire, here’s what we use and it’s awesome and you should also get it).

4. Have a really good cooler. Eating clean and healthy means more perishables, so make sure you’ve got a top-of-the-line cooler (like ours!) that keeps ice from melting so your food stays cold and tasty. (Don’t get this dud, whatever you do).

5. Cast iron all the way. Get some cast iron for your camp cooking. It’s super versatile – put it on the stove, on the fire, it doesn’t matter. It’s indestructible and you can cook anything in it. We always have at least this 12-inch Lodge skillet with us (so amazing, so affordable) and sometimes we bring the Dutch oven, too.

6. Do not bring things that you’ll sit around all day and eat. Do not buy an entire bag of chips thinking that you’ll eat just a few before you sensibly close the bag and walk away. You know you’re not going to. Also avoid foods with extra salt and fat. They will make your food irresistible, which isn’t fun if you’re trying to watch yourself. Go for low-salt, low-fat or unsalted versions of things wherever you can.

7. Prepare, prepare, prepare. You can’t eat healthy and just wing it. You’ve got to plan. To widen your options and make eating well easier, make some stuff before you leave on your trip. Have your veggies cleaned and washed, ingredients chopped, dips made, hamburgers weighed and formed, etc.

8. Portion things out. This ties into number six: Portion things in advance at home instead of just eating the pistachios straight from the bag. It’ll be much easier to control yourself knowing there’s only so much damage you can do.

9. Use good plastic bags that have zippers. Generally, I’m a fan of Target’s Up & Up brand, but their knock-off gallon Ziploc bags have got to go. They are difficult to shut completely, and once you think you have shut them completely, you find out that you didn’t because now your hummus has a layer of dirty cooler water in it. Great. Just go with the name brand on this one and use them to hold anything that could potentially have water seep into it. Ziploc has this stuff figured out. Bonus: Bags will collapse as you use them, so you won’t take up a ton of space with plastic containers.

10. Lighten up the booze. If you’re anything like us, you enjoy your booze while camping. Think of things like:

  • Corona Light
  • Bundaberg’s Diet Ginger Beer for Pimm’s Cups (this one has artificial sweeteners, so take it easy if those give you, uh, “issues”)
  • Diet tonic water for gin and tonics
  • Fresh fruit for mimosas/bellinis
  • Fresh limes for vodka gimlets

In the next post, I’ll share some favorite foods and snacks.

This season, I’m also planning to get some of our favorite camping meals committed to film so I can do proper posts on each, as well as “campifying” some regular indoor recipes and seeing what happens! Woot, woot!

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