A weekend in the woods is a great opportunity to get moving. In fact, hiking on a flat trail is equivalent to walking on the treadmill at a three percent incline (and we all know that walking is good for our health). Exercising (or just hanging out) outside has mental health benefits, as well: Several studies suggest humans are inherently drawn to nature and experience reduced stress when exposed to it. Being in the great outdoors also gives our lungs a break from the inflammation caused by cities' traffic congestion, construction, and other pollutants.
But while time spent outdoors can improve our health in several ways, it may make it harder to choose healthy options at mealtime. Whether it's camping out of the back of your car, cramming a canoe with as much gear as possible, or heaving the bare minimum onto your shoulders and hiking a stretch of the Appalachian Trail, packing food to keep campers healthy and energized takes a little planning.
Photo by Flickr user cruzinbye
The Challenges of Camp Food - and How to Surmount Them
Hot dogs and s'mores over the open fire. Sports drinks, candy bars, salami sticks, and chili pie - all foods people have been eating in the great outdoors since the dawn of recreational camping. These treats are pretty tasty (we admit it), but they also tend to be packed with sugar, sodium, and preservatives, which can fall short of fueling days filled with physical activity and (in the case of refined sugars) might set you up for an energy crash later in the day. Luckily, it is possible to avoid nutritional pitfalls on the trail with some common-sense strategies.
Plan It Out
Before going on a trip, it's important to write out a menu for each and every meal you'll be eating, including snack time! These choices are final once you hit the trail, so it's crucial to be prepared ahead of time. A good menu also serves as a packing list and ensures food is allocated to meals correctly so no one ends up with a dinner of canned peas on the last night. Be sure to take into account the number of campers on the trip as well as their personal appetites and the number of days and nights you'll be out in the woods. Remember to pack the correct cooking tools. And always bring along at least one extra day's worth of food, just in case.