Gone Camping

Well…Hello Summer!

As the summer season starts, I begin to dream of beach waves, longer days, the smell of bbq’s, pool time, family get-aways, spending more time with friends, and of course CAMPING! We all spend 9 months out of the year with jam packed daily schedules, right? Summer is a great time to take a breather and have some fun!

This year will be our 6th year GONE CAMPING! We began camping as a family when our son was 4 years and our daughter was 6 years old – 2010. This was the year we went to Big Basin in Santa Cruz – our kids love it! My husband and I saw how much our kids enjoyed the outdoors, loved to explore, and saw their personalities flourish; this family was hooked! And from this trip on, we made camping a yearly family tradition.  

Since going to Big Basin, our camping trips have taken us to – Leo Carrillo State Park, Morro Bay, El Capitan State Beach, Sequoia and Yosemite. This summer we plan on beach camping! Did I say “plan on?” Yep, this mama still doesn’t have our camping reservations! Every year, we plan our get-aways last minute because my husband’s work schedule isn’t confirmed until the end of the month.

My husband and I have learned the hard way that if we throw all of our healthy eating habits out the window, we all become cranky, sluggish, unhappy, unmotivated and without saying too much – our bodies become ‘backed up.’ Who wants to feel like this on vacation?


Gone Camping Food List –I save all my past food lists to make future planning easy.

So once we have our camping trip dates confirmed, I go into complete PLANNING & PREPARING mode. This is when my Plan Prepare Portion hat comes out. I have two goals in mind –  1) I’m determined to keep our food intake and activity level pretty close to when we are home. 2) We want to spend less time cooking and preparing at the campsite and more time exploring our surroundings together as a family.

We spend the week before going through our camping totes – replenishing supplies, making sure our sleeping bags are clean, our kids, now almost 10yrs & almost 12yrs, begin packing their clothes, and our food list and grocery shopping begins.


Storage Containers and Candy Too –We use plastic & glass storage containers and Ziplock Bags. Yes, marshmallows and candy get to be apart of our camping experience.

We bring 2 coolers – one for the dry goods and the other for our food items that need to stay cold. My husband packs the cold items in layers of priority. Meaning – food items that we tend to use more often and/or in the beginning of our camping trip are stored at the top. Food items that we will use less often and towards the end of our trip will be stored at the bottom. As a registered dietitian, I’m super strict about keeping our food items at safe temperatures. We make sure we have plenty of ice and if we need to, we will purchase more. Plus, we don’t want the bears to come ‘knocking on our door!’

I want to share with you my  CAMPING COOKING LIST that I use every time we are packing. It’s no fun forgetting an item. I will check off each item as I go to be sure we have all our necessities.

I prepare 2-3 different breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals depending on how long we are going to be camping. It’s all about simple, easy meals to PORTION onto our plates. If you read my Three Essential Components to have when PREPARING MEALS TO-GO! blog post, I talk about my goal of providing 3 Food Groups in every meal and snack. I will plan and prepare the same for our camping meals because we want to feel good, have energy, and be happy!


Good Morning Eggs and Bacon –3 Food Groups – Whole Wheat Sourdough Toast, Hard Boiled Egg, Bacon


Sandwich Anyone? 3 Food Groups – Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread, Dark Leafy Greens, Turkey Slices + a bonus of a healthy fat  – Avocado


Tuna Fish Says Hold The Grains  –4 Food Groups – Dark Leafy Greens\Carrots\Celery, Cheddar Cheese, Tuna Fish, Orange
Stay Active –Exercise is a part of my daily life at home. I love staying active in the beautiful outdoors.


Family -Oops forgot Mom- At the end of our camping trip we take a photo – obviously, I was the photographer.

So, who is ready to go camping with their family this summer? I would love to hear where your family plans on going camping! Please feel free to contact me if you have questions about how to plan and prepare your camping meals. – Paula 🙂


My Family’s Go-To Meals & Snacks at Campsite

Our meals and snacks are super simple! Keeping your meals simple and preparing as much as possible prior to your camping trip makes your trip much more enjoyable.


Oatmeal topped with sliced banana & cinnamon                

Cold Cereals (Cheerios & Granola, we love the cereals from Trader Joe’s)                 

Pre-Made Waffles (I make from scratch at home and then reheat at camp site)

Bacon & Eggs

Whole Wheat Toast & Eggs


PB&J Sandwiches and Deli Meat Sandwiches



No Salt Mixed Nuts (we love the nut container from Costco)


Cheese and Whole Wheat Crackers

Assorted Bagels

Deli Meat Roll Ups


Pre-Made Salads (I prepare at home and package is gallon size ziplock bags)

Hot Dogs

Tuna Salad (I prepare at home contains carrots, celery, fresh dill, & lemon)

Grilled Steak (We usually cook 1 meal on our campfire)

Avocados come along in our cooler too as our healthy fat (Usually eaten in our salads and\or as topping on bread)

Don’t forget to bring PLENTY OF WATER!


For more information on healthy eating on the go, sign up for my Free Real Food Mini Course or check out the full Real Foods Made Easy Program.

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Professionally, I’m a registered dietitian and health coach. Personally, I’m a mom of two kids & a wife who loves to share my enthusiasm & importance of living a healthy lifestyle!

I’ve created a method for living a fun family life that includes healthy, simple meals and daily workouts using my Plan Prepare Portion Method!

My passion is to inspire, motivate and teach others how to integrate the Plan Prepare Portion Method into a crazy-busy, ever changing schedule!


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5 Responses to Gone Camping

  1. Sally says:

    Hi Desi. You’re email caught my eye, because I have yet to take my kids camping- and so desperately want to! Thanks for the food ideas- was unsure how to do that (my husband wants to feed everyone fish- breakfast, lunch & dinner!). As for the concrete back yard: we lived in a neighborhood for a year (we are homesteaders), and I used containers for our vegetable garden there. My little girl (3 then) planted carrots & radishes herself!

    • Desi says:

      HI Sally!
      Your kids will LOVE camping. My little girl just drew on her picture for something that makes her happy a little tree and tent. When I asked her about it she said “camping makes me happy”. I am going to try the vegetable garden in containers. Thanks for the idea. How cute of your little girl. I can just picture how proud she must have been to watch them grow after she had planted them.

  2. Bridget says:

    We go camping every other weekend. One weekend to the lake, the other to the mountains. My boys absolutely love it. We take a whole week during hunting season.

  3. Lara says:

    Paula, how do you get reservations at the campsites if you go last-minute? Walk-up? The Cali campgrounds book up so early, especially Yosemite. We just went to Big Basin and have another trip planned later this summer at Shaver Lake, per a friend’s recommendation. It’s the southern end of Sequoia. Last year was Bass Lake. This is the third year we’ve gone camping with the kids, now 6 and 3. We have so much fun. The kids just love it.

    • Desi says:

      Great question!
      We love Yosemite and have great memories of our first family camping trip at Big Basin! Yes, campsites fill up 3-6 months in advanced. We actually had luck a few times just by going online as soon as we know our get-away dates. I’ll spend some time on Reserve America and luck out on someone’s last minute cancellation.
      We haven’t tried Bass Lake! Any good tips for what to be sure to do where you’re there? Camping memories are like no other and I’m so glad you shared your camping experiences with us! Happy Camping to you and your little ones! Paula 🙂

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