Healthy Camping — Food and Safety Checklist 

Many Americans are choosing to take car trips this summer, and Michigan offers great opportunities for camping. Even if a trip isn’t in the stars, families can make their backyard a campground on June 26, Great American Backyard Campout Day, or any day for that matter. Either way, being prepared is the key to a successful adventure.   

Banana S'more

Camping and days of exploring are exciting but can be exhausting, making the need for healthy and energy-boosting foods a must. Unfortunately, many go-to camping meals are highly processed and offer little nutrients, such as hot dogs and burgers along with salty condiments.  

Fueling foods should contain complex carbohydrates for long-lasting energy and protein to keep you full.  

Fueling foods for camping 

Here are some excellent foods to bring or prepare ahead of time: 

Sandwiches. Peanut/almond butter and banana on whole wheat are convenient, shelf-stable and healthy. 

Veggies in foil. Cut zucchini, yellow squash, mushrooms, onions and peppers ahead of time and wrap in aluminum foil. It’s best to avoid acidic veggies like tomatoes and lemons as these react with the foil. Grill the foil wrap over the campfire and top with an Italian vinaigrette.  

Overnight oats. This excellent breakfast made with chia seeds, milk, nut butter, fruit and oats packs in all the nutrients needed for a day of adventure. Make it at the campsite or ahead of time as it keeps well for 1-2 days in a cooler. 

Bars. Granola or protein bars containing less than 6 grams of added sugar are great choices. Look for nuts and whole grains at the top of the ingredient list. 

Nuts and seeds. Nuts and seeds, along with dried fruits, are shelf-stable and easy to store. 

Easy-to-store fruit. Bring along fruit that requires minimal preparation and isn’t subject to easy bruising including bananas, apples, pears, kiwis and oranges. 

Salad in a jar. The goal is to avoid mixing veggies with high water content — like lettuce— with dressing. Prepare a Mason jar with hard veggies — such as peppers and onions — at the bottom and cover with a dressing of choice. Next, add protein — such as beans or grilled chicken — then watery veggies, such as cucumber, and cheese and nuts. Finally, fill the jar with lettuce and store it in a cooler for a fresh meal that just needs a good shake for your first full day of camping.  

Banana s’mores. If you ask me, it’s not a proper camping trip if s’mores aren’t involved. Substitute a 1-inch-thick banana slice for the marshmallow and dark chocolate for the milk chocolate. Avoid 80% dark or more as it may have trouble melting — 60% is ideal. 

Keep Safety in Mind 

Less-than-ideal situations can happen in the wilderness, making it important to keep safety in mind. Be sure to keep these items handy on your camping trip: 

  • First-aid kit that includes bandages, gauze, hydrogen peroxide, skin-care ointment, etc. 
  • Insect repellent registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and a veterinarian-approved flea-and-tick regimen for your furry friend if they’re tagging along. 
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. 
  • Plenty of water.
  • Flashlights with extra batteries. 
  • Trash bags to keep wildlife and nature safe. 
  • A whistle in case a member or members of your party get separated, or other worst-case scenarios. 

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Photo credit: Shanthi Appelo

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