How to eat well at festivals

Last weekend we rocked it at Glastonbury! We live quite locally and luckily have family who live in Pilton, on the doorstep of the festival, so we were able to stay about 50 metres from the gate, where some of us camped and others of us had the luxury of a comfortable bed.

And after having had an amazing time, I have returned with some ideas about festival food that you or your family can use if you are going to a festival.

The key things to work out for festivals are:

  • Your nutrition needs
  • How to stay well hydrated
  • What can you bring along?
  • What should you look for in commercial food stands?

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Your nutrition needs

The first thing to remember at festivals is that you will probably be a lot more active than usual. We were averaging about 23,000 steps a day, plus dancing. Maybe some of the dance moves counted as steps?! Trackers can be quite variable in their accuracy.

So, you probably need a bit more energy from your food than normal. You can get this from eating more food, more frequently.  You need protein and healthy fats, and what I saw at Glastonbury was far too much carb and sugar, protein often barely there, and low-quality fats. If you eat a meal that is unbalanced with too much carb and too little protein, you’ll probably feel hungry and hangry quite quickly afterwards. At festival prices, that can be a mistake!

You’ll also need to work a little harder if you are gluten-free, or have other dietary needs. This might mean being more organised with prepping food before the festival and bringing along some means of keeping the food cool and fresh.

What can you bring along?

Many festival goers are seasoned campers, but the number of tents left behind after some festivals suggests that many others are not so experienced and could use some tips on what to bring.

A lot depends on your arrangements… let’s assume you don’t have a fridge or cooler box. You’ll want things that won’t perish. These can include bags of homemade trail mix, dark chocolate, nut butter pouches, olives, dates, mixes of oats and chia seeds (just add milk of choice which you can usually get at the festival), fruit, crunchy veg sticks, rice and grain pouches and hard-boiled eggs. Here are more suggestions from the UK Camping & Caravanning Club.

For one tip, I’d recommend nitrite-free chorizo as a great filling source of protein that doesn’t need refrigerating, and tins of organic baked beans can be super easy to eat out of with minimal mess. My husband’s hot tip is fondue. You can find fondue pouches that don’t need refrigerating. All you need is a saucepan to heat it and some stale bread. It’s a really fun and tasty meal.

Generally, you’ll want to plan what meals you can make easily – such as breakfast/brunch, and also have something to snack on when you arrive back to your tent or accommodation ravenous.

How to stay well hydrated

Hydration at the festivals is also key, especially when the weather is hot. Remember to take a refillable water bottle and top this up regularly during the day. Festivals are getting so much better at providing water stations to prevent less single plastic waste.

I always take a stash of coconut water with me that hits the spot after a lot of dancing. I also like to top up with electrolytes in my water which helps to keep my energy on track.

I treat myself to a daily green juice or smoothie, when I am festivaling, as this is a great way to get more fruit and veggies into my system and gives me a good energy boost to enjoy the next act to the full. 

What should you look for in commercial food stands?

Chips are everywhere. Try to stay clear. Tempting as they are, they are generally not very good for you and will not sustain your energy. Look for fresh ingredients and not too much sugar. A lot of sauces are heavy with sugar.

Here are a few of the food stands we ate from. But there is never enough time so many good ones will not be mentioned. Do give me your recommendations in the comments if you can. I’ve left the prices in, but I guess they may vary from festival to festival.

This Vietnamese squid was properly delicious and one of the few dishes on offer without a very sugary sauce.

Rosto produced a delicious steak sandwich based on fire-roasted steak strips. Bavette is a cheaper steak cut that can be tough but is full of flavour. This was very tasty and not tough. A wholesome meal.

I absolutely love fish curries, and this stand, called simply Goan Fish Curries, was great. Not the most generous portions, but it ticked a lot of healthy boxes such as gluten and dairy-free. And the Goan Fish Curry was very tasty too.

Venezuelan Street Food was an interesting and enjoyable take on the gluten-free bun. We tried the Buffalo Beef Arepa, which was totally delicious. Arepas are naturally gluten-free cornmeal cakes traditionally made in South America. They are crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I’ll admit corn is not a very nutritious ingredient, and has around half the protein of wheat, but these are not ultra-processed so they will do! 

The verdict on BBQ Dept was a big thumbs up from two members of the family. They had beef brisket “burger”. Very tasty indeed. Enough protein to keep them going for a while, and other goodies in there! Other people were worried about the blue cheese, but we thought it worked out well.

Jerk Village delivered an excellent spicy jerk chicken dish with salad and rice from a lovely Jamaican team. This was a proper authentic meal, perhaps with a little too much sugar in the sauce.

One of my favourite vans is Dosa Deli serving incredible South Indian food. It reminds me of our time living in Bangalore and I went back three times this year! Masala dosa are gluten-free crispy pancakes made from lentils and rice with potato inside and served with a wonderful coconut chutney and sambhar. The queues to this van always tell a tale of its brilliance!

The Duck Truck was probably the winner. Not only was the Duck Salad Box very tasty with wide appeal, but it was really generous with the duck, and this was a full meal in a box, with far more protein than many meals elsewhere plus some lovely pomegranate seeds which added a lovely antioxidant boost. Sorry. We couldn’t wait to eat it, so there’s no photo!

Round up

Just because you are away from home at a festival doesn’t mean you have to live off junk and ultra-processed offerings. With a little planning before you leave, and not hitting the first chippy you see, you should be able to have a healthy delicious time. Enjoy the festival season this year with extra energy, vitality and have lots of fun!


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