If there is an "official" beginning to vacation season, then Memorial Day weekend surely must be the kickoff event. Whether traveling to celebrate a college graduation, or just getting away for some well-deserved rest and relaxation, millions of Americans will soon be heading to the beach, the mountains, Disney World, or perhaps the Caribbean for a pirate adventure. Regardless of the destination, a little more luggage around the middle always seems to accompany us back from vacation.
For the heart conscious, eating heart healthy while on vacation can be particularly challenging. Fortunately, with a little careful planning and advanced preparation, you can still manage to enjoy your vacation without stressing over your diet.
Method of Travel:
In planning your heart healthy vacation diet, consider what how you’re going to get to your destination. Some methods of travel naturally lend themselves to the opportunity for healthy diets while others present more challenges. For example, if you’re traveling by car or RV, maintaining a heart healthy diet is much easier since you can carry a wider variety of food with you in the refrigerator or ice chest. On the other hand, if you’re traveling by airplane, bus or train, your choices are more limited to food items that you can readily carry with you.
Accommodations can make a huge difference in maintaining a heart healthy diet while on vacation. Look for hotel rooms that provide a free coffee maker and refrigerator. The hot water from a coffee maker can be used to make soups, rehydrate dehydrated food, instant oatmeal, and more. Access to a refrigerator also provides the opportunity to stock up on heart healthy foods and snacks once you arrive at your destination. If you are staying in one location for several days or weeks, then consider obtaining rooms with a small kitchenette which will enable keep you to not only keep heart healthy foods on hand but prepare simple meals as well.
A cruise can also be a great way to maintain a heart healthy diet during vacation. Heart healthy on a cruise? Yes! While it’s true that food on a cruise is outstanding, plentiful, and available 24 hours a day, it’s also true that you have a wide variety of food. If you’re trying to maintain a heart healthy diet while on a cruise, simply continue to say “no” and avoid the foods that you already know are bad for your heart.
As with a cruise, there are some resorts where meals are inclusive with the total costs. This can be a real benefit to those who need to maintain a heart healthy diet. There is usually a wide variety of foods available that will indulge your taste buds while still being kind to your heart. It’s all a question of choice.
Dealing with Fast Food and Restaurants:
No matter how you well you plan, there will be times when you’ll be faced with needing to eat out. Let’s face it, a vacation is just that and sometimes that includes time away from the kitchen!
• Keep an eye on portions. Some restaurant portions come super-sized. Ask about portion size and if it’s large, split it with someone else or take part of it with you for a snack or meal later in the day. Also check out senior or children’s meals which often have more realistic portion sizes.
• Dining at the hotel. Many hotels offer a complimentary breakfast with a variety of fruits, whole grain cereals and more. Take advantage of the offer!
• Look for grocery stores with an in-store deli. Many grocery stores now offer full service deli departments. Not only are the choices generally better for the heart conscious, but you just may find the meal less expensive as well.
• If you don’t find what you need to be heart healthy, ask if they’ll consider a special order or make substitutions. For example, if the entree is chicken breast with French fries, ask if they’ll substitute a salad, broccoli or baked potato instead of the fries. For breakfast, many restaurants are willing to make egg white omelets even if they aren’t on the menu – all you have to do is ask.
Heart Healthy Snacks:
Despite planning, it won’t always be possible to eat heart healthy all time. Look for heart healthy snacks that are easy to pack and take with you to tide you over. Depending on your method of travel, consider snacks such as dried fruits, seeds, nuts, and beef jerky. Veggies such as carrot sticks and celery packs easily can be carried outside of an ice chest for short periods of time. Apples also pack well and are less prone to bruising than other fruits such as bananas or apricots. Try to avoid alcohol, sodas, and fruit drinks with added sugars. As an alternative, carry a water bottle which can be refilled.
Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations, American Heart Association, 21 May 2010, http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp
Reviewed May 25, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton