by Cindy Spratt, R.H.N. (www.cindyspratt.com)
Getting packed up for a weekend away can feel like a LOT of effort. It’s one thing to try to remember the necessities: clothes, toiletries, beach stuff, water, first aid kit, etc., but a whole other thing looking after the food. Packing the camping food can be a BIG job (especially if you have teenagers! 😂). I know, we camp frequently throughout the summer (never as much as I would like!), and I’ve grown accustomed to the list making, the packing, the loading, the unloading, and ofcourse, the meal managing & constant feeding. What would be the easiest? To load up on a bunch of quick & easy, grab’n go foods, some sugar drinks, chips, hot dogs, marshmallows, and away you go!
That’s one way to do it.
However, if you’re looking to up your nutritional game in life, making good food a priority (EVEN when camping) is a choice worth making and a little effort can truly go a long way.
My approach, throughout the years of gearing up for camping, has been that: if I bring as much real food as I can manage, the desire for packaged food becomes relatively non-existent. Think about the basics of nourishment: if you feed the body real food, it will receive loads of nutrients, feeling nourished and satisfied, and won’t ask you to add more calories; if you feed the body processed foods that are tasty, but don’t contain much actual nutrition or any beneficial vitamins or minerals, the body will continue to ask for more caloric intake. This is the hamster wheel that so often traps us in a cycle of eating too much, but not actually “feeding” the body anything beneficial. The same rules are true at the beach.
Ultimately, by choosing whole, real food meals & snacks, you are winning in all areas.
But it doesn’t have to take you a week to prepare!
A LITTLE EFFORT CAN REALLY GET YOU ALL THE BENEFITS YOU NEED TO BRING BETTER FOOD TO YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE AND FEEL GOOD ABOUT FEEDING YOUR FAMILY WHILE YOU’RE THERE.
Easy Tips on REAL Food Camping:
Plan Ahead: Always, always, always, make a plan – plan your meals, make your shopping list, then prepare ahead any sauces or chopping etc. Having a plan ensures the follow through; without one, you are sure to grab for lesser quality, packaged, convenient foods, that have far less value to the body.
Bring a Frozen Meal: Every time we camp, I pull something from the freezer that I’ve made a season or two prior, that we likely haven’t had in a while, and that I can simply throw in a pot and heat. My freezer is often stocked with soups, stews, curries, and pasta sauces, etc. from my Batch Cooking Classes and from making larger batches throughout the year for easy meals. What’s great about the frozen meal, is that if I save this meal for the 2nd day of camping, it behaves like an ice pack and keeps the cooler cold 😉
Add in Veggies: I am a veggie cheerleader, there’s no doubt. I believe in adding in as many different vegetables, varying in colour & variety, as much as possible, to up your health game. During the summer, many of us are surrounded by amazing farmers and a thriving garden, and are blessed with abundance in vegetables. No matter where you live, seek out the freshest vegetables and load up on those throughout the summer and all the other seasons as well. What we love to do camping is bring a bag of fresh beans or asparagus. I’ll clean & prep them ahead, then steam them on site and season with some cashew butter and salt & pepper. If I’m making pasta, I’ll prep some broccoli and throw it right into the pasta pot to gently steam. Fresh greens are also a great add in veggie, as you can throw a handful of kale, chard, or spinach, into just about any warm meal: soups, curries, stews, etc. In as many creative ways as you can, you will never go wrong adding in extra fresh veggies!
Snack on Fresh Fruit & Vegetables: A no brainer really, bringing fresh fruit & veg, having them cleaned & prepped & readily available, will ensure consumption! Generally, I’ll bring a dip of some kind, usually hummus or a cashew tzatziki or our local saltspring dip, and we’ll have fresh veggies & dip during snack windows or sometimes for lunch. We’ll have some fruit available also, whatever is in season and travels well. There’s nothing better than a fresh peach or plum or a handful of cherries with the sun on your face and your toes in the sand.
Bring a Grain or Bean Based Salad: A quinoa, rice, buckwheat, or lentil salad can go a LONG WAY when camping or travelling, especially if you have many hungry bellies to feed. I will often make a hearty Quinoa or Bean Salad ahead of time and we will serve it up at lunch or even for some afternoon snacks throughout the following day or 2 camping. These kinds of salads keep well, can be loaded up with fiber & protein, and are hearty, so you don’t need to eat a large amount to feel satiated. We love my Lemon-Dill Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets and the Yam & Quinoa Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing, Yum!
Bring Nutrient Dense Treats: For those sweet cravings or high energy days, having some energy balls, cookies, or granola bars on hand, is a great way to look after someone who may be having a blood sugar dip from all the swimming and not enough eating, or to satisfy a sweet seeking kiddo. I’ll often make a batch of Energy Balls, Cookies, or Muffins, freeze them ahead of time, then pack them into a hard container so they don’t get smushed. I will also often pack extras, as once our friends get a whiff of a sweet treat on the beach, they generally start wondering if there are any extras to share 😉
Reduce Sugary Drinks: This can be a tricky thing to do as so many of us have grown accustomed to sipping on a delicious bevvy while sitting on the beach. Luckily, there are now many options out there that aren’t as laden with refined sugar and weird additives, so we can easily make some better choices. Some of our favourites are the organic carbonated drinks that use more natural flavourings like La Croix. We also really love the Sap Sucker, sweetened with maple water, these are subtle in flavour, but really satisfying. Important to note however, is that it is ALWAYS ideal to be consuming regular, good quality water, and in higher volumes at the beach, when exposed to lots of sun & heat. Be careful not to replace water intake with fizzy beverages as the hydration level is not at all comparable.
Make Popcorn: Ah yes, the salty cravings seem to be intensified at the beach. It’s fun to munch & crunch on some salty snacks while lazing around with some friends, for sure. Creative ways to replace the good old chip are harder and harder to call upon as manufacturers continue to bang out increasingly delicious flavours of chips in delightful packaging and at a low cost to eager consumers. First of all, there are smarter ways to buy chips: choose simple ingredient chips without the long list of chemical flavourings (like regular salted or a malt vinegar), read the ingredients and look for a stable high heat oil like avocado or coconut, and buy organic to reduce herbicide & pesticide intake. And don’t buy 10 bags!!! Then, have some popcorn kernels on hand, some salt & coconut oil and maybe your favourite homemade seasoning, and make a big bowl for the beach for all to share. This is an extremely cheap & easy way to make a beach snack that isn’t deep fried or packaged, and is maybe not the healthiest thing for you to eat all the time, as corn is tough on the digestive system, but makes for a great chip replacement while camping.
Moving into this last month of summer, be sure to make REAL FOOD a priority and FEEL GOOD about what you are eating & feeding your family 🌱