Camp Food 101: 5 Recipes for eating healthy while camping / by lee tilghman

Eating healthy is a full time job for me. I put it first and foremost in my life, because I know that is when I feel my best and feel most confident to take on any task or bump life throws at me.

Before traveling, often times the first thing I think about is, “how can I maintain my healthy eating regime while away from home?”

Often times, our habits tend to slip when we are removed from the comfort of our own kitchen. However, for someone like me who has been eating "wholesomely" and mindfully for 10+ years, I find time to plan, prepare, and carry out habits on my trip. Not only do I feel better while traveling, but it is that much easier to pick up where I left off when I return home. I am constantly searching for new ways to eat healthy in any sort of adventure I embark on- whether it be visiting my family's home in Connecticut or traveling down to Nicaragua. I wanted to challenge myself to bring an aspect of healthy, plant based, and vibrant foods on our camping trip to Big Sur.

I have compiled 5 easy, plant based recipes for those who love to camp, get outside, and be in nature.  They are all vegan and gluten free. Know that you do not need to be in a tent in the middle of the forest to enjoy the following recipes. These recipes will also come in handy for anyone who is traveling or away from their home kitchen with limited supplies and time. Perhaps you are staying at a hotel, road tripping north to a friend's house, or renting an Air BNB in another part of the country. Below each recipe, I add a bit on what is required to prep beforehand. They recipes are simple to prepare, easy to make, and the clean up is minimal and fairly waste-free. I also include a list of tips that I found useful for eating healthy in the middle of the woods. 

 

chocolate chip Almond Butter Bliss Balls

These perfect little bite sized energy balls are perfect for hikes, road trips, and post dinner treats. Make these the day before you leave on your trip - can stay refrigerated for up to 1 month or thawed for up to 3 days! *vegan **gluten free

makes 8-10 balls, depending on size

time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pitted medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 1/3 cup coconut shreds
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1/3 cup almond butter
  • 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs

Steps:

  1. Place dates, oats, coconut shreds and almond butter in a food processer or high speed blender, such as a Vitamix. 
  2. Blend until a dough-like consistency is reached. 
  3. Pour cacao nibs on a plate.
  4. Roll dough into bite sized balls.
  5. Roll through cacao nibs.
  6. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

Sweet Potato Curry

This is a perfect dinner to make while camping. Legume heavy and full of healthy proteins and fats, this meal also stores extremely well in 18 oz. Hydroflask food containers for lunch leftovers. Curry always tastes better the longer it sits and marinates in my opinion! Stuff it in pitas and fold it in tacos for a more exciting, variation of this thick curry stew. If you want, pre-mix the spices at home and store in a plastic bag for easy cooking. *vegan **gluten free

makes 6 cups of curry

time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa
  • 1 cup Food to Live Organic French Lentils
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained + rinsed
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Cook quinoa, set aside.
  2. Cook lentils, set aside.
  3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chopped onions to pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Add red bell peppers and cook for 4 more minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add sweet potatoes and let cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until tender to the touch. Add kale and cook for 5 minutes, covered
  5. In a large pot, add cooked quinoa, lentils, coconut milk, and spice mixture to a bowl. Let sit under low heat for 20 minutes, until everything has cooked through.
  6. Add onions, sweet potato, red pepper and kale, and rinsed chickpeas. Stir well and let cook another 5 minutes over low heat.
  7. Spoon into bowls and garnish with cashews, avocado, parsley, whatever you have on hand.

 

Banana Whip Oats

There's a reason oats are one of the most popular camp foods. Extremely versatile, easy to pack, and full of heart-healthy fiber, oats are an easy way to jump-start your day exploring the trails. On the morning we made this particular breakfast, we had run out of honey. However- all was not lost! We had 2 very ripe bananas. Presenting: banana whip oats! The bananas add a delightful sweetness and creaminess with no added dairy or sugar. This was a favorite of mine! Leftovers are also great for lunch and the following day's breakfast as oats stay up to 3 days in the fridge or a cooler. *vegan **gluten free

makes 6 cups

time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3.5 cups oats
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • toppings: chia seeds, peanut butter, strawberry compote (recipe below), granola, pomegranate seeds, nuts, trail mix, shredded coconut, buckwheat groats, cacao nibs
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add oats to boiled water. Pour in almond milk and stir gently.  
  2. Let cook for 3 minutes over medium heat or until oats are cooked 'al dente'. Cover.
  3. Mash your bananas in a separate, clean bowl. Add mashed bananas to the oat pot and stir quickly, folding in air to give them a whipped effect. Set aside.
  4. Strawberry Compote: In a separate pan, mix 1 cup sliced strawberries and 2 tbsp honey over high heat. Let cook for 6 minutes until a syrup-y texture is achieved.
  5. Add your toppings to the bowl and enjoy!

Fall Harvest Sweet Potato Parfait

Quite possibly one of the prettiest breakfasts you could eat in the middle of the woods- or in the comfort of your own home! This breakfast is best saved for a day when you have a bit more time to spend making breakfast. I love setting the picnic table up with different bowls of toppings and ingredients so people can make their own parfaits and layer to their heart's content! *vegan **gluten free

makes 4 parfaits

time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup coconut yogurt (or any non-dairy yogurt of your choice)
  • 2 cups oats
  • 3/4 cup white chia seeds (I use Salba Chia)
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1/2 cup berries of your choice (apples would also make a good substitute here if you do not have access to berries)
  • toppings: chia seeds, peanut butter, bliss balls, trail mix, shredded coconut, pomegranate seeds

Instructions:

  1. First, submerge your sweet potatoes under 3" water. Bring water to a boil. Peel your sweet potatoes, mash with a fork, set aside.
  2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add oats and chia seeds. Once boiled, bring to medium-low heat, add the mashed sweet potatoes and let cook another 3-5 minutes.
  3. While the oats are cooking, set up your parfait station. I like to put my toppings on a picnic table or flat surface for easy parfait-making. Place the yogurt, bananas, berries, coconut shreds, pomegranate seeds, chia seeds, granola, chopped bliss balls and trail mix in small bowls or jars for your friends to build their own jars. 
  4. Once the station is set up, you can begin. Begin with a layer of sweet potato oats, and then you can really get creative and build your parfait any way you like.

 

Bear Toast

I made this tasty toast treat on our last day of camp, and my friend Erin said, "This is bear toast. It contains bear's favorite ingredients all on one piece of bread." This, dubbing it, Bear Toast. *vegan

makes 4 pieces of toast

time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 pieces bread
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • optional: toppings such as bee pollen, hemp seed, cacao nibs

Instructions:

  1. Lay bread face down on a pan over high heat.
  2. Let bread toast until golden brown, then flip to the other side.
  3. Remove toast from pan.
  4. Spread peanut butter, then add blackberries and honey. Voila!


Other tips for eating healthy while camping:

Think in Bulk

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know how much I love the bulk bins! On your healthy food journey, the bulk bin is your friend. Not only will your food be cheaper when you buy in bulk, but you minimize the environmental impact of serious packaging when you buy in bulk. The bulk section is also great for traveling since it allows you to purchase just what you need to keep your food bag as light as possible. Visit your local health food store or order from Nuts.com, they offer a great selection of bulk food options. Some bulk items that I recommend for trips:

Nuts

  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Macadamia Nuts

Fruit

  • Golden Raisins
  • Medjool Dates
  • Mulberries
  • Goji Berries

Grains

  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Freekeh
  • Granola 
  • Old Fashioned Rolled Oats

Legumes

  • French Lentils
  • Split Peas
  • Black Beans
  • Navy Beans
  • Chickpeas

Once you have the bulk items on lock, you can do an unlimited amount of things. Make your own granola, muesli mix, nut seed bars, quinoa bowls, trail mix, the possibilities are endless. These staples are also great to have on hand for quick snacks by the handful. 

Plan Ahead

Another important aspect of eating healthy while camping is making sure that you plan ahead. Do as much prep work as possible is vital in order to have a healthy, happy, camping trip.

  • Shop for your food a week in advance if possible, that way you can make sure you have everything you need. Doing your shopping a week or so in advance will also make it easier for you to prepare anything you need to before you leave your kitchen.
  • Meal plan. Write each meal down on a piece of paper before you leave so you know what you will be having for each meal. This can be a loose plan and totally subject to change, but it is helpful to use it as a guide.
  • The more you plan, the easier your food preparations will be on the campsite, and the more time you will have hanging out with friends by the campfire, exploring mystical new waterfalls, and chasing the sunsets. 

I always prepare a batch of my peanut butter granola bars before I leave for a trip of any kind. These are perfect for road trips, plane rides, long waits in the doctor's office. They are also perfect for camping as they are extremely nutrient dense and really portable. 

Simplify

Do your best to pack everything neatly and bring only what you need.  If you aren't sure you will use it, don't bring it.

Bon voyage!