When I was eight years old, my parents packed my bug spray, favourite blankets, and bathing suits into a duffel bag and shipped me off to the beautiful Ontario countryside for six weeks of sleeping under the stars, swimming, and hiking. I haven't looked back since; fourteen years later, summer camp is something I look forward to annually. But unfortunately, camp food doesn't always cut it.

As I get older and my eating habits change, a diet consisting solely of pizza and stolen chocolate bars from the canteen isn't exactly sustainable for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Over the years, I've had to get pretty creative in the dining hall to come up with healthy choices in a less-than-healthy place.

1) Condiments, condiments, condiments

hot sauce, ketchup, condiment, beer, russian dressing, sauce
Jocelyn Hsu

I'm a firm believer that a good dose of Sriracha or hummus makes everything better. Adding a condiment to a salad, chicken dish, or scrambled eggs makes them much tastier and helps get in necessary protein (i.e. hummus, avocado) to keep energy levels high in the hot weather, and make camp food a bit more bearable.

2) Get in vegetables however you can

vegetable, pasture, cucumber, courgette
Kristine Mahan

Salad bars are a godsend for getting those necessary 5-10 servings of veggies and fruit every day. Grabbing two plates is honestly the call, with one for pizza/grilled cheese/fries etc, and the other to pile high with veggies, grains, and proteins. Cause a girl's got to have balance, ya know? If you can convince your camp to participate in Meatless Monday, all the better because vegetables are honestly the bomb.

3) Get into plant-based proteins

cereal, coffee, black beans, beans, vegetable, azuki bean, pasture, legume, kidney bean
Zoe Malin

Veganism has become an increasingly popular trend in the last decade, with more and more people using food choices as personal and political statements. Being kind to your body and to the animals is also kind to your wallet, as beans, chickpeas, and other legumes are often super cheap, and easy to snag from lunch to pile onto your plate or to buy dried and roasted as a snack to keep in your cabin.

4) Be open about your dietary restrictions

ice, coffee, tea, milk, cream
Alex Frank

I have a pretty severe intolerance to dairy, and in my efforts to be accommodating, I ended up eating a lot of pizza with real cheese as so not to burden anyone with having to buy me soy milk or non-dairy cheese. But my body quickly let me know that it wasn't going to take it anymore. The head chef at my camp was super understanding and began making me all the camp food classics with adjustments to suit my needs.

5) Don't be afraid to indulge every so often

chocolate, brownie, caramel
Julia Gilman

What would life be without a big piece of chocolate every once in a while? I'm all for healthy eating, but I think the best rule to follow is everything in moderation. It is important to get servings of fruits, veggies, and protein in, but treating yourself to sweets or your indulgence of choice is important as well. With camp food, there is definitely plenty of those to choose from. 

Camp is my favourite place on earth, and it has taught me so much about myself and provided me with so much of who I am today, but the food leaves some to be desired. Throughout my many years in Ontario's north, I've figured out how to best hack the dining hall.