Anyone who travels frequently can tell you that it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits while you’re away from home. In keeping with Heart Month, we are passing along tips from the Harvard Medical School and the American Heart Association that can help road warriors choose heart healthy options when eating out.
It may be tempting to skip breakfast, but this is never a good idea. Your body is coming off of an overnight fast and needs a balanced meal (protein, vitamins and complex carbs) to function properly.
Even if you’re on the run, you can grab and go with:
- A cup of non-fat Greek yogurt
- A meal-replacement bar or shake
- Trail mix or nuts and a piece of fruit
If you have time for a more relaxed, heart healthy breakfast, some good options include: an egg-white veggie omelet or frittata with low-fat cheese or a bowl of oatmeal with walnuts, bananas or other fruit. As for side-items, choose Canadian or turkey bacon over traditional bacon or sausage and whole grain bread over white bread.
Avoid a breakfast that consists solely of white flour and sugar (donuts or Danishes). This wreaks havoc on your blood sugar and insulin levels which can negatively affect how your body metabolizes fats and cholesterol.
Healthy lunch options should include a source of lean protein with vegetables or fruit, such as:
- salads topped with grilled or roasted chicken or turkey, tuna or tofu. Go with a vinegar and oil-based dressing versus a creamy dressing.
- a turkey, tuna or chicken sandwiches on whole grain bread, wrap or pita with a side salad or steamed vegetables. Skip the standard side of potato chips or French fries.
- If you must eat fast food, choose grilled chicken wraps and salads over burgers or anything fried. Also take a pass on high-fat toppings like bacon, cheese, and mayonnaise.
The best entrées are those that:
- are grilled, roasted, steamed, baked or poached
- include fish, chicken or turkey--or a vegetarian protein source such as tofu, nuts or hummus
- are cooked with heart-healthy olive or canola oil rather than butter
- menu items that include butter-, cream- or cheese-based sauces. Red flags are the words: scalloped, smothered, hollandaise, béchamel, gravy, or au gratin.
- anything breaded, fried or sautéed
The same tips apply to side dishes. Good choices include: steamed, roasted or baked vegetables or salads with a vinaigrette dressing (avoid creamy dressings like Ranch or Thousand Island). Limit refined carbohydrates such as: white bread, white rice, or other highly processed starches.
Avoid high-fat desserts like ice cream, cheesecake or brownies or those that contain high amounts of sugar, like fruit or nut pies. Instead choose fresh fruit or sugar-free fruit sorbet. Another option is to split a dessert with a dinner companion.
When you pack for your trip, put some healthy snacks like nuts, trail mix, protein bars or fresh fruit in your carry-on bag. Healthy snacks help you maintain energy and focus throughout the day and keep you from overeating at mealtime. Worst case scenario, a satisfying snack can serve as a meal in an emergency.
Look for the American Heart Association “heart-check” symbol on the menu which means the item is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
And, don’t be shy about asking the waiter to make substitutions or omit high-fat ingredients like, butter, cheese or sauces. Smartphone apps such as, MyFitnessPal can also be helpful as they give you detailed nutritional information for thousands of menu items from hundreds of popular restaurants.
American Heart Association
Harvard Medical School