4 Surprising, Healthy Meals You Can Make While Camping

Dutch oven cooking over a campfire
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My family has enjoyed a summer tradition of camping for many years. We have pitched tents, rented RVs and stayed in climate-controlled cabins, but no matter where we go, evenings at the campsite are always spent around a fire pit and we do most of our cooking there. We all love food and, over time, we have acquired a taste beyond the standard camping fare. We still pack ingredients for hamburgers and s’mores, of course, but we look forward to healthier foods that are more like those we would enjoy eating at home. It requires some extra preparation, but is always worthwhile.

But first, a note about food safety. The foods below are perfect if you’re camping near amenities, but not if you are backpacking in the wilderness. Camp where you will be able to bring a well-insulated cooler that keeps food chilled and where you will have access to more ice when needed. Place any pre-cut foods, prepared items, eggs or meats in leak-proof containers to keep them cool.

Whole-Grain Pancakes and Eggs

For pancakes, pack and label separate containers for dry ingredients, wet ingredients and toppings such as sliced fresh fruit. Use whole-grain flour, spices, powdered egg whites and powdered buttermilk to save time and space. While the griddle warms, add liquids to the dry ingredients and get cooking. Pack eggs in hard plastic to prevent them breaking in the cooler. Consider bringing diced veggies or meat in the cooler to make a breakfast frittata.

Grilled Pizza

If you have a grill at your campground, you can make pizza! For equipment, you’ll need a spatula and tongs. Make sure you have your toppings (shredded cheese, sauce and sliced vegetables) and whole-wheat dough packed in the cooler. Remove the dough, allow it to come to room temperature and roll it out. Then, place the dough on the oiled grill. When the dough begins to brown, flip it and brush the grilled side with olive oil. Then, add sauce or pesto, cheese and vegetables and continue grilling until the cheese is melted and the dough is cooked.

Lentils and Beans

One of the most delicious sandwiches I have ever eaten was made with lentils and veggies. Another of my favorites was a faux-chicken salad sandwich made with mashed chickpeas. Packed into pitas (they take up less room in your camping pack than a loaf of bread) with veggies, legumes can make for a terrific alternative to cold cuts.

Fruit Cobbler

This dessert has earned a reputation as the star dish of our annual camping trip. When cooked over a campfire in a Dutch oven, diced fresh peaches and cinnamon turn into gooey, delicious magic without the need to add much oil or butter. If you have a cooler that can keep items frozen, enjoy it with vanilla ice cream!

No matter what we cook, I’ve learned that how we cook it matters. Cast iron cookware stands alone as the supreme cooking vessel for memorable camping food. Tweet this Whether a skillet, griddle or Dutch oven, cooking food in cast iron makes for some satisfying eats.

Carole Havrila on Twitter
Carole Havrila
Carole Havrila, RD, CSO, is an oncology nutrition specialist at the University of Virginia's Emily Couric Cancer Center. Follow her on Twitter.