Healthy Eating on the Trail
Eating simply while out on the trail doesn’t have to mean bland and boring, nor does it have to consist of commercially pre-packaged everything. With some prep ahead of time you can fuel your outing with hiking meals as tasty as you’d have at home. Check out these healthy camping recipes to create fuel for the trail that gives you energy without unnecessary additives.
Hiking recipes for dehydrated food
Dehydrated food is the primary choice for hikers looking for a lightweight, fast and easy-to-prepare meal option. You simply don’t want the weight in your pack, nor do you want the smell of cooking to attract the bears. But pre-packaged meals are often loaded with sodium and other not-so-good-for-you ingredients. A terrific option for making healthy camping meals on the trail is to pack foods you dehydrate at home. Dehydrating food in an electric dehydrator is a surefire way to create foods you’ll love to eat that can be packed to go pretty much anywhere. Dried food is lightweight and compact, stable at room temperature, and doesn’t require any additives or preservatives. You can pack a wide variety of meals in tiny packages. Some meals can be made by just adding water and heat, and many don’t even need heat. Dehydrating your own food lets you choose your favorite foods, you can shop locally and in-season to prep ahead and you know you’re only getting natural ingredients that you want to eat.
Along with the obvious fruits and vegetables, you can dry meats, fish, yogurt, cottage cheese, cooked beans and whole grains, cooked pasta and even sauces made into leathers. Drying individual ingredients rather than mixed cooked dishes is more efficient and provides optimal food safety. Plus it means you’re not stuck with one big batch of dried chili to eat for days on end. With a variety of individually-dried ingredients, you can mix and match terrific hiking meals.
Planning your hiking meals
Depending on the type of trip you’re taking, you may want to pack a combination of fresh and dehydrated food – eating the fresh for the first day or two and saving the dried for later in the trip. Variety is definitely key on longer trips and so is flavor. We’ve all been on those hikes where you can’t face another pot of boring beans by the end. Pungent spices, dried herbs and other zesty seasonings make meals on the trail much more interesting. To spice up those beans, try our hiking recipe for power- and flavor-packed Chipotle Beef Chili.
Plan your meals based on your activity levels for each day. For those full days of hiking or paddling you’ll need more frequent, smaller meals with plenty of nutrient density. Think slow-release carbohydrates and protein in combination for each meal: whole grains, high-fiber vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes and meat or fish jerky. Just-Add-Water Hummus will go a long way as a satisfying snack. For days of rest, pack three regular-size meals and snacks to fuel up for the next day. This is the time for the comforting Almost-Instant Mac and Cheese camping recipe.
Have a backup plan
Preparing healthy camping meals is important, but sometimes you can’t cook – maybe the stove won’t light, you’re low on water, or it’s late and you don’t want to attract bears. Whatever the case, it’s wise to have a backup option in case of adversity. Make sure you have some no-heat-required and no-water-required foods – just in case. Pack along some jerky, dried legumes and vegetables, fruit leathers, power bars, and GORP with a Twist.
Don’t forget about sweet treats. A balanced, nutrient-packed diet is important, especially for longer trips, but satisfaction is important, too! If you typically eat a bit of chocolate every day at home, then make sure you pack a little something to get your fix on the trail such as Berry Chocolate Pudding.