Camp meals fit for a nutritionist

Most of us leave our diets and healthy eating habits in the kitchen when we head out on a hike, campout or other outdoor adventure. But needing more calories to fuel your fun doesn’t mean you should eat like a teenager. On your next outdoor outing, act like a chef and eat like an athlete with these tasty recipes.

Backpacker’s Chocolate Chip Banana Oatmeal

A little at-home preparation adds substance and flavor to lightweight instant oatmeal.

You’ll need:

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened instant oatmeal
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. powdered milk
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup freeze-dried bananas
  • 2 chocolate chip cookies, crumbled

Do this at home: Combine oatmeal, cocoa powder, powdered milk, brown sugar and dried bananas in a zippered plastic bag. Keep cookies separate. On the trail, pour mixture into a cup and add one cup of boiling water. Stir well. Allow the oats to absorb the hot water. Top with crumbled cookies. Makes one serving.

PB&J Overnight Oats

Prepare this carbohydrate- and protein-rich meal the night before and you’ll have a no-cook breakfast to get an early start with a full belly.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 3 tbsp. peanut butter powder (or peanut butter)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened or sweetened
  • 1/4 cup fresh strawberries (or half of a banana)

Mix oats, chia seeds, peanut butter, protein powder and almond milk in a large zippered plastic bag. Place strawberries or banana in a small plastic bag; close the bag and mash with fingers. In a small jar or camp cup with a cover, layer the mashed fruit and the peanut butter oats. Cover and let sit overnight. Eat cold. Makes two servings.

Breakfast in a Bag

Protein from eggs will stick with you longer than any cereal breakfast. This morning meal is ideal for backpacking, because it uses freeze-dried eggs and cooks up quickly in its own “bowl.”

You’ll need:

  • 1 3/4 cup instant mashed potatoes   
  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. dry milk
  • Cheddar cheese (optional)

At home, mix all the dry ingredients in a zippered freezer bag. At camp, boil water in a pot, and then pour into the freezer bag and stir. Seal bag and shake to mix some more. Then let your breakfast-in-a-bag sit for three minutes before eating. Makes one serving.

Gourmet Gorp

Good ol’ raisins and peanuts — gorp for short — is a classic homemade snack for backpacking. You’ve probably made your own, adding your favorite tasty bits like candy-coated chocolate and cereal. Here, we’ve upgraded gorp to gourmet status with a kick of curry and cayenne. Make this at home a day or two before your hike. It feeds an entire troop.

You’ll need:

  • 6 oz. raw cashews
  • 6 oz. raw almonds
  • 6 oz. raw pecan or walnut halves
  • 3 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
  • 5 tsp. curry powder
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 6 oz. dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients (except dried cranberries) in a crockpot. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high until golden brown for one and a half to two hours, stirring occasionally. Dump onto a large baking sheet and spread into an even layer to cool overnight. Add dried cranberries for a bit of sweetness, if desired.

Once cool, store in large zippered plastic bags.

Seafood Spaghetti

You’ll need:

  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • One 8-oz. package angel hair pasta
  • One 6-oz. can or packet of tuna in oil
  • Eight dried tomatoes, sliced

At home, create a spice bag by combining the basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese and garlic powder in a zippered bag. At camp, soak tomatoes in four cups of water to rehydrate. Remove the tomatoes and bring the water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain water. Add tomatoes, tuna and the spices to the noodles in the pot and stir well. Makes two servings.

Car Camping Chicken Fajitas

When you can keep meat on ice, thrill your family with a Tex-Mex feast. Tip: Cook the chicken at home to make camp cooking quicker.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • Nonstick spray
  • One medium red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • Two green and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into 1⁄2-inch-wide strips
  • Eight flour tortillas (6-inch diameter)
  • 2 cups finely shredded green leaf lettuce
  • 1/2 cup shredded low-fat cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

At home: In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, broth, garlic, oregano and salt. Add the chicken. Toss to coat evenly. Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 20 minutes. Coat a skillet with nonstick spray. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Place in the skillet. Discard the marinade. Cook, stirring, for three to four minutes until the juices run clear. When the meat is cool, place in a large freezer bag and refrigerate until you can transfer to a cooler.

At camp: Coat a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray. Add the onion and bell peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat for six to eight minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove to a bowl. Cover loosely with foil.

Coat the same skillet with nonstick spray. Add the cooked chicken and cook over medium heat until heated through. Return the onion and peppers to the pan with the chicken and toss for one minute to heat through. Spoon the chicken, onions and peppers into each tortilla. Top with lettuce, cheese, salsa and sour cream. Makes four servings.

JEFF CSATARI is the executive editor of Eat This, Not That! magazine.


    • Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, roasted edamame, and roasted chickpeas are good alternative sources for protein. I’ve also used cheerios, dried cranberries, banana chips, pretzels, mini marshmallows, and my favorite, M&Ms.

  1. our troop is also nut free and usually the trail mix or other recipes, include nuts! what are good alternatives? Also the hot water in ziploc bag – we do it as do tons of other scouting units but lots of people have remarked on the leeching of materials from the bags, into the food, due to the boiling hot water ….. hmmmm

    • For a nut free trail mix, I use raw pumpkin seeds and add raisins or dried cranberries or freeze dried fruit. I use a few cheerios, pretzel or m&m’s

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