Healthy camping

Eating healthy during the outdoor adventures could be tricky. Use these easy tips to have a nourishing, safe and fun food experience during camping.

This warm and wonderful weather means it is time to gather up with family and friends and enjoy the outdoors. Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the summer. Common meals when preparing to go camping tend to include hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, soft drinks and s'mores. Although it is undeniable that these are tasty treats that put a smile on our faces, they are generally full of fat, sugar, sodium and preservatives. These foods will not give you the proper nutrients you need to hike or swim. On the contrary, these foods could negatively affect your outdoors experience. Be careful and smart when choosing camping meals!

Eating healthy during the outdoor adventures could be tricky – there are some easy tips you could follow to have a nourishing and safe food experience during camping:

  • Pack plenty of water – not soft drinks. Engaging in physical activities during hot weather, such as, biking, hiking and swimming, increases the amount of water your body needs. It is essential to stay hydrated, when camping, especially when engaging in exerting activities.
  • Keep your food and water safe. Pack foods in tight, waterproof bags or containers. Keep them in an insulated cooler. Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
  • Don’t forget to bring snacks. Wash, cut and pre-pack fruits and veggies in plastic containers or snack storage bags. If you are using a cooler for storage, you do not want storage containers and bags to fill with water, this is an important consideration to avoid any cross-contamination with raw meats.
  • If you go for a hike or bike ride, pack easy to carry foods, examples include: trail mix, nuts, seeds, nut-based bars or nut butter packs, dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies, energy bars, chews or gels.
  • Wash hands and surfaces often. Use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
  • Cook to proper temperatures. Use a food thermometer to be sure cooked food has reached a safe internal temperature. Choose pre-cooked packaged turkey burgers, hot dogs, bacon and any other pre-cooked meats if you are cooking on the fire and you cannot control the temperature. Make sure they are well cooked before eating!
  • Refrigerate promptly below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not have a refrigerator, pack perishable food, including meat or poultry, with plenty of ice or icepacks in a well-insulated cooler to keep the temperature below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Store leftovers in the cooler only if it still has ice. Keep the cooler in as cool a place as possible. Perishable food cannot be kept out in hot weather (90 degrees Fahrenheit or higher) for more than one hour; in mild weather temperatures, under 90 degrees Fahrenheit , perishable items should not be kept out for more than two hours.
  • Plan your meals to include whole grains, vegetables and fruits. For example: whole wheat pizza sandwich and warm slices of apples with brown sugar and cinnamon. Check the Camping Meal Planner for healthy camping recipes and shopping lists.
  • Enjoy s’mores as “treats,” not as every night desert.
  • Stay active; go for a hike, bike ride, swim or a run. Burn all those s’mores calories!

Following these tips are healthy and easy ways towards a balanced diet. If you would like to learn more about heathy lifestyles, visit My Plate. Michigan State University Extension offers educational programs for adults, families and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating.

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