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Is your Heart in your Summer Vacation Plans?
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By Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, and Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD,

Department of Nutritional Sciences, Pennsylvania State University

Summer is when many people take a vacation. But don't forget to include your healthy eating habits as part of your summer fun and adventures! Whether you're heading to the beach, mountain, ballpark, camp ground, to visit family and friends, or wherever the road takes you, here are some healthy nutrition tips for summer vacation.

Be Prepared

Beachside cafes, amusement parks and hot dog stands typically do not have healthy food options. Save money and eat right by bringing snacks with you! Treat yourself to healthy, on-the-go snacks, such as vegetables, whole-grain crackers, nut butters, hummus, trail mix and raw or dry-roasted nuts. Fresh fruit including bananas, apples, pears, and even boxes raisins or cranberries are also good on-the-go snacks. You can also add fresh fruit or summer vegetables, e.g., cucumber slices, to water that you drink throughout the day.

If you do purchase food from a vendor, look for tasty food choices such as grilled corn-on-the-cob, drizzled with hot sauce or rub instead of butter; real fruit popsicles; low-fat frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit; baked chips; grilled chicken salads; sandwiches on whole grain bread; and low-calorie, low-fat fruit smoothies.

If you are in a location for several days or weeks, consider booking a room with a refrigerator or a small kitchenette. Access to a refrigerator provides an opportunity to stock up on heart healthy foods and snacks once you arrive at your destination. A kitchenette enables you to keep heart healthy foods on hand and to prepare simple meals as well. Stock up on foods at local farmers' markets - you'll eat healthy, save money, and enjoy local fare!

Many hotels offer complimentary breakfast with a variety of fruits, whole grain cereals, and more. Take advantage of these foods. However, skip the croissants and pastries, which will add simple sugars and unhealthy fats to your diet.

Eating Out

Remember to be realistic. No matter how well you plan, there will be times where you will want to eat out. Let's face it, a vacation should be relaxing and for some that may include time away from the kitchen!

Order fruits and veggies every chance you get when you eat out. Look for opportunities to order side dishes that include high-nutrient, high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Entrée salads or side salads made with spinach or Romaine lettuce and fruit salads are tasty ways to include vegetables and fruits in your meal when you eat out. Also ask the restaurant if they can  add steamed or grilled vegetables to your meal. High fiber vegetables and fruits will keep your gut healthy. High nutrient foods over high energy food will also make you feel more energized!

Part of being on vacation is enjoying life, and part of enjoying life is ordering dessert on occasion. If you think you might like to have dessert on a special occasion, eat a lighter dinner and save room -- and calories -- for dessert. You can also order one dessert and share it with someone else instead of each ordering a dessert. Often the first few bites are the most enjoyable.

Most important of all, make sure to enjoy your meal, even when making healthy choices! This is important because, if you don't eat meals that appeal to you, you sill feel deprived, and this could lead to over-indulgence later on.


If you are vacationing at the beach, make it a point to enjoy seafood when you eat out. Eating seafood is a great way to get your weekly dose of fish and their heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. But avoid battered and fried fish. Instead, look for grilled and non-buttered seafood selections. If the seafood dish comes with a sauce, skip it, or ask for it on the side. Use fresh lemon as a seasoning instead.


Buffets are popular but with so much to choose from it is hard to know when to stop eating and easy to become vulnerable to over-eating. Even small amounts of a variety of energy-dense foods can increase overall calorie intake very quickly.

It's Not All or Nothing

Don't let one setback snowball into a week-long splurge. You do not have to deprive yourself of an enjoyable meal. The key is to keep moderation in mind. After all, how can you resist good old fashioned funnel cake or ice cream when you are on vacation? The answer is: you don't have to. Just remember that these foods are treats to be enjoyed and savored on occasion. With this in mind, you'll have fun on your guilt-free summer vacation, enjoy special and tasty treats on occasion and in moderation, and still maintain your heart-healthy dietary pattern!

Try these summer recipes:

Cucumber & black-eyed pea salad

Blueberry & feta bulgur salad with mint dressing


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