Navigating the joys of not home-cooked meals: camping edition
First and for all, I think eating out/away from home is a treat! It’ one of the simple joys of life. Although, as a person with diabetes, it can often feel very different. I know!
I can see it this way, I think, because I come out of a period where I was unable to enjoy this experience due to a very strict diet. Before I had insulin to cover my meals, I used to eat very low carb/keto and eating out was a struggle. I checked the menu beforehand (if possible) and sometimes ended up not eating or just having soup or a salad.
Nowadays I can order anything I like. It’s not always easy! But I can :D
Although I technically can (and will!) order anything of the menu, I try to eat a balanced diet when I am away from home for a longer period of time. So to help you out, here are some of my ‘healthy habits’ and tips & tricks when traveling.
Since this highly depends on how you travel, how long etc.. I decided to make this a series of posts instead of just one post giving you some vague advice.
Today I share with you some of my camping tips
One of the perks of camping is that you mostly bring and consume your own food. With a little preparation time and some smart shopping you can make it very easy to count carbs or at least have a very educated guess at the carb content.
If possible I like to compose my meals similar to my meals at home. I’ve noticed both my blood sugars and my gastro-intestinal tract don’t do well when changing things too much!
Tip 1: Dry foods (prep at home or shop locally)
I like to bring a bunch of dry foods when camping close to home (meaning I don’t have to take a plane to get there :p ). All these things are also easily found in supermarkets in most countries. Staples in my foodbox are:
Oats. When camping out of the car, I bring a small food scale. Otherwise you can make your own individual sized portions at home before leaving. When backpacking I make bags of: oats, raisings, nuts, protein powder. All I have to do is add some water and heat it up J
Wraps: easy as hell, just read the label ;)
Cereal/granola/protein bars. I very much like the Nakd bars
Precooked (wholegrain) rice. These packages can be either microwaved or heated on the hub. It’s a quick and easy way to include some whole grains into your meals. I’ve recently discovered even some mixed grain/quinoa options too!
Tip 2: Include enough fiber
Including enough fiber is crucial for healthy gut and will keep you comfortable while traveling. There’s nothing worse than having gastro-intestinal problems when spending all day in the outdoors! So this is an important one :p
Including fiber is also a great way to stabilize your blood sugars. It slows down digestion, therefore reducing a possible spike. Most higher fiber foods have therefore a lower glycemic index (GI) and a lower glycemic load.
A great source of fiber are oats and whole grains (see above), but also fruits, vegetables and pulses. Here are some ways I like to include them into my camping meals.
Add fruit to your breakfast. Fresh fruit is best since it still has all its fiber and vitamins. Dried fruits are a good alternative when you travel for longer periods without a shop/fridge or in hot weather. Keep in mind that dried fruits are much higher in carbs and have a high GI value.
Bring a salad/fresh veg for the first (two) days. I like to start of my trip healthy. The first day is most likely a ‘travel’ day. It’s easy to bring a salad or some raw veg to snack on during that first day.
We like to grill or BBQ on the campsite (if allowed, always check !). Grilled vegetables are a quick and delicious way to add some fibre and vitamins to your meals. I love grilled peppers, zucchini, eggplant and mushroom. For dessert you can make fruit packages in tin foil to put in the coals or throw in a banana (skin still on). Delicious combined with some Greek yoghurt or mascarpone.
Canned veg and soup. This is an obvious one. I like to add an extra can of veg or legumes to other canned camping classics. For example adding extra carrots to a can of chili con carne.
Avocado. This one keeps for a couple of days and is one of my favourite additions to a meal on the go. I usually take some avo’s and hard boiled eggs with me on day hikes to. Fat, fibre and protein. Check!
Tip 3: Don’t be afraid of carbs.
You are likely much more active on a camping trip than you would be on a normal day. You’re muscles need those carbs to function! You’ll probably notice you need less insulin on those active days too. Your muscles are screaming for the extra carbs and will be much more sensitive for insulin to get those carbs in! Enjoy ;)
Tip 4: Don’t forget the protein
Same story. You are more active and will need the protein to recover properly from those active days. Good sources are:
If you’re able to get it/store it: fresh meat or fish (chicken, burgers, salmon,..)
Tinned fish. I love sardines. I know, not for everyone.
Legumes (beans, lentils, peas,..)
Tip 5: Drink enough.
Both increased activity and eating more will increase your body’s need for hydration. A dehydrated state can cause higher blood sugars and has a negative impact on performance.
I think those tips cover the basics of healthy camping meals. With a bit of preparation you can enjoy healthy and delicious meals while camping, just like any person without diabetes.
Please let me know if you go camping or have been camping and what your top tips are for healthy meals!
P.S. And do watch out for animals trying to steal your delicious food!