Healthy Road Trips & Camping
Strategies for healthy & delicious road trip/camping meals and snacks.
Written by, Crystal Franck, RDN, CD
Experience Momentum Nutrition
Every summer when I was a kid, we would pack up the car and head out on a family road trip. I've camped in tents, yurts, RVs, campers, and cabins. Here are some of my favorite tips for maintaining healthy habits on the road.
Long hours on the road can equal cranky kiddos. Help keep energy levels and moods stable by aiming for meals and snacks with a combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrate. For example, serve pancakes and syrup with some scrambled eggs, or add a side of bacon or a yogurt when opting for cereal. Many of us typically include more snacks and treats while on the road, so balance out sugary/starchy choices such as crackers, chips, granola bars, and candies with proteins like hardboiled eggs, nuts, nut butters, cheese, jerky, and protein bars/shakes. Include some brightly colored fruits and veggies for fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Dried fruit, fruit leather, and fruit pouches are some of my favorite portable options.
Dehydration can also contribute to fatigue, irritability, and fussiness in children and adults. Therefore, make water your beverage of choice. Bring reusable water bottles and fill them up at rest stops and restaurants – opt for an insulated one to keep your water extra cold. If you plan to include sweetened beverages such as soda, juice, lemonade, or sweet tea, plan to alternate water with each non-water beverage choice. If you're opting for adult beverages, staying hydrated helps you avoid the painful situation that is being hungover on the road.
It also helps to have a meal strategy in mind beforehand. Are you planning to pack breakfasts and lunches but eat out dinners? Will you be bringing snacks or acquiring them en route? How often are you planning to dine out? Do you prefer to reload on supplies or have everything with you? Thinking ahead a bit and developing a strategy helps ensure you'll have what you need to be successful, rather than winging it and hoping everything turns out.
Here are some of my favorite food options while on the road:
Grilled chicken burger with half the bun, salad with added protein, taco with beans and meat, chili, egg/cheese/turkey bacon breakfast sandwiches or burritos, smoothies with added protein powder, egg bites, veggie/bean burger, egg white wraps/flatbread, protein boxes, tuna/egg/chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat bread, fruit cup
Jerky, cheese, hard-boiled eggs, nuts/trail mix, popcorn, protein bars, peanut butter crackers, fresh fruit
Shelf-stable snacks to bring
Peanut butter jelly sandwich fixings, homemade trail mix with nuts and dried fruit, fruit/applesauce pouches, cheese crisps (Moon Cheese, Whisps, and Mrs. Cubbisons are three popular brands found at QFC, Costco, Target, etc.), veggies with individual servings of ranch dip, tuna pouches with your favorite whole grain crackers for dipping, nut butter pouches with apple slices/dried apple chips, roasted chickpeas, whole grain dry cereal, your favorite protein powder/bar/pre-made protein shake, dark chocolate, sunflower/pumpkin seeds, olives
Snacks to bring if you have a cooler/fridge
Hard boiled eggs, yogurt, lunch meat and cream cheese roll ups, individual hummus/guacamole cups, string cheese, premade fruit smoothies with protein (such as Odwalla or Naked brand), mason jar salads
Consider bringing some homemade treats you enjoy, as homemade options will often be more nourishing than baked goods or pastries you'll find on the road. One of my favorite snacks on the road is an energy bite: combine 1 cup dry oats with 1/4 cup peanut/almond butter, 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup, 1/2 cup chopped nuts/seeds, 1/2 cup dried fruit/unsweetened flaked coconut, a dash of salt and a dash of cinnamon. Add all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine well. The mixture should be a bit sticky. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Use a spoon to scoop about a tablespoon of the energy bite mixture into your hand. Roll into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. This should make about 12 energy bite balls. Place balls on cookie sheet and freeze for about an hour to solidify.
Cooking meals in foil pouches is a fun and easy way to create healthy meals while camping. Bonus: no dishes to clean! One of my favorites is a Campfire Tex Mex pouch:
- Combine 1 can of drained kidney or black beans, 1 drained can of diced tomatoes, 1 drained can of corn, 2 TB Taco seasoning, and 4 diced boneless skinless chicken breasts in a large bowl.
- Portion ¼ of the mixture onto a foil square (about 12"x18") making sure to fold up the tinfoil so the mixture won't leak out when you flip it over. Repeat for the remaining mixture.
- Place packet on the grate over your campfire and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning the packets occasionally to help things cook evenly.
- Once chicken has been cooked through, remove packets from the fire, top with cheese and green onions, and enjoy!
Want more ideas and tips? Request a FREE 15-minute Nutrition Goal Assessment to better understand how Experience Momentum Nutrition can address your needs.