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Healthier Meal and Recipe Ideas for Camping

May 31, 2016 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Healthier Meal and Recipe Ideas for Camping

It’s the time of year when many families start planning for camping trips at the amazing parks spread across our province. If you’ve never gone camping maybe this is the year you venture out and give it a try; it’s one of the most affordable travel options. It’s also a great way for families to connect with each other and nature, unplug from digital devices and create lasting memories.

Camp meals are often a highlight of any camping experience. With a little planning and preparation you can make some pretty awesome meals no matter what type of camping you’re doing. I’ll focus on meal planning and recipe ideas for frontcountry (car) camping, as it is the type of camping that most families do.

Frontcountry Camping: Also known as ‘car camping’. This is where you can drive right up to your campsite. Frontcountry campgrounds often have amenities like running water, flush toilets, showers, outdoor kitchens and playgrounds. Check out BC Parks for details on campgrounds. For this type of camping you can bring perishable foods like eggs and yogurt in a cooler, and pack heavy items like cans of beans or cartons of milk.

Backcountry Camping: Also known as ‘wilderness camping’. This is where you hike, boat, snowshoe or ski to your campsite. For this type of camping you’ll need to consider your water purification options and also limit the weight and volume of food and other supplies you’ll be packing into the site.

Camping Meal Planning Tips

  • Plan out every meal and snack before you go, because if you don’t pack it you won’t be eating it. Aim for a balance between meals that require cooking and no-cook meals. No-cook lunches and snacks work well and save camp stove fuel and prep time.
  • Plan for some one-pot meals like chili or rice pilaf. This will make the preparation and clean-up easier.
  • Pre-measure ingredients into meal specific bags or containers, and only pack what you need. Label and store foods in the order that you will use them.
  • Plan to use highly perishable items like fresh bread, milk, meat and cut vegetables and fruit in the first day or two of your trip.
  • Prepare healthy snacks for the road and campsite; bring cut veggies and fruit, whole grain muffins, boiled eggs and trail mix.
  • Pre-cut vegetables, fruit, meats and other meal ingredients you’ll use in cooking to save effort while at camp.
  • Bring a large cooler with ice; it’s your portable fridge. Block ice lasts longer than ice cubes.  Keep meats and dairy foods close to the ice.
  • Prepare and freeze a few frozen meals ahead of time. These will help keep your cooler cold so foods don’t go bad.

Camping Recipe Ideas

If you think camping meals are limited to hot dogs and marshmallows check out this list for some fresh ideas.


BBQ breakfast packets


camping foods lunch

  • Sandwiches like a pumpernickel bread, waxed Gouda cheese and sliced tart apple
  • Sliced vegetables, hummus and pita bread


lentil chili


  • Whole wheat crackers topped with peanut butter and sliced banana
  • Nuts, seeds and dried fruit mixes
  • Homemade popcorn
  • Fresh fruit like apples and bananas
  • Sliced carrots, celery and peppers
  • Hard boiled eggs or frittata to go
  • Cheese and whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain granola bars or fruit and nut bars

Campfire Cooking

If you’re lucky enough to be camping when there isn’t a fire ban you’ll get to experience the pleasure of cooking over a campfire (or better yet hot coals). It’s a great way to slow down and reconnect with the essence of simple cooking. You can use a grill that sits over the fire, roast items on a stick or wrap your meal in foil and sit it by the coals. Here are some ideas.


For many kids, camping drinks typically include fruit punch in drink boxes, cans of pop and powdered fruit flavoured drinks mixed with water. While these options may be exciting for kids, drinking too many of these sugary drinks can take the place of healthier drinks, contribute to weight gain and harm kid’s teeth. To help keep the kids both hydrated and healthy try the following camping drinks instead.

  • Cold water with mashed raspberries or blackberries. You can pack frozen berries or pick some if available at your camp site. Mash the berries against the side of a glass to release the juice then fill the glass with water.
  • Herbal teas like rooibos, chamomile and hibiscus add flavour without caffeine or sugar
  • Shelf stable milk or fortified soy beverage are nourishing drinks that help balance out meals

For adults, camping is often associated with alcoholic drinks like beer, cider, wine and highball cocktails. If you plan to drink alcohol while camping following these low-risk drinking guidelines. In addition to the healthier drinks recommended for kids above, healthier options for adults include:

  • Water steeped with fresh herbs like mint or lemon balm
  • Coffee
  • Tea: green, black or herbal

In addition to planning meals, you’ll also need to pack the kitchen gear required to make your meals. Check out this Parks Canada checklist for gear ideas.

If you have other tried and tested camping meal ideas please share them in the comments section.

Related blogs

Planning - Get Organized. Plan Ahead. Make a List
Wild About Picking BC Berries
Top 6 Outdoor Adventure and Camping Blogs
Best Food and Drinks for Hydration

Recommended resources

BC Parks: Discover Camping
Camping and RVing In BC: How to Camp
Parks Canada: Learn to Camp
Ontario Parks: Camp Food
Eat Right: 5 Food Tips for Camping and Hiking
CDC: Camping Health and Safety Tips

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