How to Follow a Nutritious Vegetarian Backpacking Diet

Have you noticed the growing popularity of following a vegetarian diet in 2020?

As a result of life in a pandemic, there is a noted focus on health and wellness. This is due to a number of factors. For instance, you may want to have a more positive impact on the environment, save money on groceries, or a stronger immune system to avoid catching COVID-19.

According to “The Sydney Morning Herald” a vegetarian diet including a higher intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds provides important nutrients that help strengthen the immune system.

There are many benefits to eating a vegetarian diet, but you could be missing important vitamins and minerals typically provided by meat if adequate plant-based alternatives are not consumed.


Here’s a guide to what those nutrients are, and what they mean for your overall health:

Six key nutrients potentially missing in a vegetarian diet and associated risks:

1. Calcium – Fragile bones

2. Iron – Anemia (fatigue, weakness, lightheadedness, headaches)

3. Protein – Weakness, fatigue, and muscle break down

4. Vitamin D – Fragile bones, bone pain, fatigue

5. Zinc – Dry skin, flaky nails, loss of appetite, diarrhea and nausea

6. Vitamin B12 – Tingling and numbness in hands, legs, and feet

By focusing on a few simple tips, you can ensure that your vegetarian diet is covering all of your needs.

Six tips to eating a balanced vegetarian diet:

  1. Focus on whole grains such as oats, brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta.

  2. Include a protein source such as tofu, tempeh, or edamame at every meal.

  3. Consume legumes and seeds such as beans, lentils, trail mixes, and nut butters.

  4. Enjoy plant-based sources of calcium and vitamin D such as fortified non-dairy milks and tofu.

  5. Eat high-iron foods with a source of vitamin C to increase iron absorption (e.g., eat fortified cereal with freeze-dried berries).

  6. Include sources of vitamin B12 (eggs or dairy for vegetarians, nutritional yeast and fortified non-dairy milks for vegans).
As a backpacker, you might be wondering…

Is it possible to follow a vegetarian diet as a backpacker and stay healthy?!?


Many people believe eating meat is necessary in order to stay fit. On the contrary, you are able to meet your nutritional needs as an endurance athlete without animal protein. You may be wondering how difficult it is to cook vegetarian meals in the backcountry. Interestingly enough, you are able to prepare ahead of time and make vegetarian meals that can be cooked using various methods.

Eating a variety of food groups creates an overall healthy diet. Firstly, food is versatile. For whatever reason, if you choose to remove meat from your diet, there are ways to make up the nutrients it provides. Secondly, it is not impossible to have a well-rounded vegetarian diet out on the trails. The best way to do this is simply to translate the food you like to eat at home into a form with a lighter weight and longer shelf-life.


Five tips to eating a balanced vegetarian diet while backpacking:

1. Swap fresh foods for dehydrated or freeze-dried ones.
  • Dried fruit and dehydrated veggies
2. Include a protein at every meal and snack.
  • Milk, cheese, and egg white powders, nuts and seeds, nut butter and hummus
3. Focus on complex carbohydrates.
  • Pack minute brown rice, dried quinoa, and instant oats.
4. Schedule consistent meal and snack times.
  • Eat every 60-90 minutes, even if you are not feeling hungry!
5. Pack supplements.
  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast on top of meals to add a cheesy flavor.
  • Pack Carnation Breakfast Essentials® packets or powdered protein mixes for snacks or meal replacements.
  • Buy fortified energy or granola bars such as Luna® or Clif®.
  • Consider bringing a multivitamin on longer trips.


Alternatively, you may be thinking about packaged food products to store in your backpack.

In this case, ditch the common junk food like candy bars, potato chips, and pop tarts. Without a doubt, these options are easy-to-grab and appealing to the taste buds, but they don’t usually provide long-lasting fuel for your workout. Above all, everything is best in moderation when it comes to these “fast food” options.

Hopefully, this post has provided you with some confidence in your vegetarian diet. Or maybe, you’ll feel empowered to make a change at home or for your next backpacking adventure. But, most importantly…

Embracing a vegetarian diet can provide security that you are eating healthfully and living well.


Ready to take your vegetarian diet backpacking?

Check out our easy-to-follow recipes @

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Want to find out more about backpacking nutrition?

Check out these blog posts…

Health Benefits of Turmeric and a Pumpkin Turmeric Latte

Backpacking Nutrition: Fueling Farther Using the Goldilocks Approach

Dehydrating Canned and Frozen Food for DIY Backpacking Meals

About the Author:
Ashley Napoleon is an aspiring Registered Dietitian, completing her Dietetic Internship through Seattle Pacific University. Some of her favorite hobbies include working out, reading, watching Disney movies, and baking. One thing she really loves about food and nutrition is how it speaks to everyone of various cultures and backgrounds. Follow her love for food, the holidays, and supporting her community through her Instagram at @ashley.napo3.
author, RD to be, PNW
how to follow a nutritious backpacking vegetarian diet backcountry foodie ultralight meal planning

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