When planning a trip, you might see it as a reason to splurge or indulge. After all, you’re on vacation! While takeout and your favorite chipotle hack can certainly be included in your meal plans, some trips—such as camping or bike touring—require healthy eating habits to maintain proper energy levels.
Not only that, but your options are usually far more limited. Fear not: this lack of options can actually enrich your experience. Roughing it under the stars goes well with roughing it at the picnic table.
For those embarking on long adventures, making your own meals and choosing your fuel wisely isn’t just wise: it’s a necessity, one that becomes more crucial, the further off the beaten path you venture.
Equipment You’ll Need for Healthy Eating on the Go
Camping Stove and Pot
Preparing hot meals on the road is as easy as investing in a small camping stove and pot. Additionally, in the long run, it’s much cheaper than paying for cooked food.
The gas canisters on which the Olicamp runs are lightweight, and easy to find in stores. One container will provide you with weeks of daily hot meals.
When it does run out, many gas stations and hardware/outdoor supply stores will carry similar canisters. That accessibility is critical for long hiking trips or tours, since populated areas can be few and far between.
Alcohol-powered stoves are another great option, and are generally more lightweight than gas stoves: the latter requires you to carry sizable fuel canisters, whereas an alcohol stove—though slower to cook—is far more portable.
If you’re not sure which to choose, consider your priorities. Do you need to keep your load light, or is time of the essence?
Optional—but Helpful—Extras to Pack
Aluminum is widely accepted as the best material for on-the-go cookware, since it allows heat to travel uniformly throughout the vessel. This, in turn, leads to less burning and sticking.
If you’re mostly going to be traveling by car, your options are more far-reaching.
You could pack an entire grill, if you wanted to, even a cooler, mini-fridge, and a blender for smoothies.
However, if you’re taking a more self-contained approach (bikes or walking), look for collapsible, multi-functional cookware designed for durability.
Grocery Shopping Before Your Trip: The Staples
Carrying a few bulk staples will ensure you’re always covered for delicious and nutritious fuel, no matter what’s open or nearby.
Easy-to-use, nonperishable items include pasta, rice meals, nut butters, crackers, dry fruit oil, oatmeal, beans, and spices.
Canned fish can be an emergency protein source, along with any form of jerky.
If you’re going to be on the move, either on foot or by bike, have those essentials on hand when you depart, and stock up on perishable items along the way.
It’s always a plus to have canned vegetables available, too, in case you make a pasta or rice meal. Or, if you can, purchase fresh vegetables at produce stands, grocery stores, or farmer’s markets during your trip.
Topped with olive oil or pesto, this can make for a quick but delicious tent-side dinner.
For breakfast, oatmeal is a classic go-to because of its versatility.
Fresh or dried fruit, peanut butter, or even savory additions can liven up any bowl, and provide steadily-releasing fuel for the longest of excursions.
The simple thrill of sparking your own flame is even better when you pair it with the classic snack-on-a-stick, whatever the ingredients entail.
Though delicious, the standard marshmallows aren’t exactly healthy. For more filling options, try hot dogs, sausage, peppers, or corn on the cob.
Keep Ingredients in Mind
Many portable snacks and staples out there claim to be healthy…but are they?
Granola bars are one excellent example of this: while they contain nutritious, whole ingredients like nuts and berries, many also boast a shocking amount of sugar, guaranteeing a mid-trail crash.
Some tips to help you choose the best products:
- Go for whole wheat, rather than white. For rice, choose brown over white whenever possible. Whole grain goods are less processed, and therefore retain more nutrients than their refined counterparts. They also satisfy hunger better.
- Keep sugar and sodium to a minimum. Granted, you’ll be exercising quite a bit while camping or bike touring but eating healthy isn’t just about caloric intake and output. Sugar and sodium, in excess, can still increase blood pressure and wreak havoc on energy levels. Read labels carefully before purchasing, as many “healthy” foods contain more salt or sugar than you’d never expect. Tomato sauce and certain breads are one sneaky example.
- Eat fresh as often as possible. This is extremely difficult when on the move, especially if you don’t have a cooler handy, but some careful route planning can ensure you encounter a fresh food source every day, or close to it. That said, the right canned or dehydrated products can be healthful, too. Since eating healthy while camping or bike touring ultimately comes down to convenience, the adage “some is better than nothing” holds pretty true here.
Eating (and cooking) healthy meals while camping or traveling isn’t easy, by any stretch. Then again, neither is blazing a new trail, or riding a bike across an entire state!
Remember that the better you eat, the better you can hike or ride…and the more enjoyable your trip will be, as a result.
Lastly, plan your first bike tour. You wouldn’t want to get going somewhere without some sort of direction. Failing to plan is planning to fail!