Ahh….the roasting of hot dogs over the fire, the crackle of the Cheetos bag, the long satisfying belch after a can of Coke, followed by the zing of tooth decay in that molar after biting into your ooey-gooey marshmallow (and the ubiquitous unmelted Hershey’s bar!). Not to mention that tub of red vines and the bag of trail mix (you know…to increase your energy as you read your book in the lawn chair).
This was the camp food I grew up with. But when I was planning a family camping vacation for my own young family, I was suddenly horrified at the amount of junk I used to eat! Could I really check my “healthy food mom conscience” at the tent flap door? Certainly not! Of course, I also didn’t want to endure rolled eyes and whining that generally accompany the “healthy mom freak” I desired to be. Could there be a happy medium?
Actually, with a little planning ahead there are many tasty choices out there.
1. GET OUT YOUR KNIFE! It’s time to chop and slice. Bring along some favorite veggies. Have your family eat a few at lunch and dinner. It will lessen your guilt when you see them munching on some Doritos later and it’ll provide some much needed fiber to counteract all that sugar (nobody wants constipated kids when camping).
~~”Baby” carrots (or slice up some “grown-up” carrots—they still sell them regular size–and for cheaper)
~~Sugar snap peas
~~Sweet red (orange or yellow) peppers, sliced into strips
~~Cucumber wheels, peeled if you like
2. PREPARE SOME TRAVELING SALADS. If the word “salad” conjures up images of iceberg lettuce and Ranch dressing, you’re in for a surprising treat. Two great salads to make ahead of time are:
~~Jicama Orange Salad (borrowed from the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook)
~~Lemon Garlic Quinoa Salad (borrowed from Cynthia Lair’s cookbook “Feeding the Whole Family”)
I’ll post these recipes next.
3. FORGOE THE NITRATES. Honestly, my son loves hot dogs more than anything in the world. With that in mind, I reserve them for a special treat. And I only buy Uncured Nitrite/Nitrate-Free Hot Dogs. If that title sounds unappetizing, never fear. These are not soy dogs or some other tricky bean impersonating a hot dog. They are actually meaty and delicious (to hot dog connosieurs like my son)–they just lack all those terrible-for-you added chemicals. Check out your local health food store–or even Trader Joes where you can also buy Nitrate-Free lunch meat (my daughter’s favorite lunch is a ham sandwich).
4. DITCH THE SODA. We all know we should drink more water. Bring a refillable 5 gallon water dispenser in lieu of all those landfill-clogging bottles. Bring along a water bottle for each family member. Kids love to fill their own.
And, honestly, wouldn’t you rather spend your empty calories on a cold beer when you’re camping?
5. DESSERT–TO SMORE OR NOT TO SMORE. Mmmmm…smores are good, but I’m always disappointed by the unmelted chocolate chunk. Instead, peel a banana almost all the way down, stuff in your marshmallow and chocolate chunks, refold up the peel and wrap everything in a bunch of foil. Throw it in the hot coals for a few minutes and let everything melt into delicious goodness. Hey, you get some potassium out of the deal!
Have a delicious and healthier vacation. Your intestines will thank you.