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What to pack for heart health at the lake

What to pack for heart health at the lake

We started our summer, as so many Canadians do, with a week at the lake visiting family. That’s actually my picture above, not a stock photo! (It’s Lower Fishing Lake in Saskatchewan.)

We enjoyed visiting with loved ones that we hadn’t seen for three summers, but my, there were a lot of hot dogs, marshmallows and potato chips consumed!

Those foods may be the stuff of happy summer memories, and they’re a simple solution when you don’t want to spend a lot of time cooking, so bring them if you like! But if you want to keep the systems working their best, from your arteries to your bowels, it doesn’t hurt to have a little fibre too. 😉

This list was inspired by the packing and shopping lists I created for us for the trip, plus an upcoming visit to my sister’s cabin at Lake Windermere. It assumes you’re in a cabin or cottage with a kitchen, but if you’re car camping many of these ideas will work too.

Photo by Grace Wang on Unsplash

When we talked about camping food last month in my Facebook group, one person said she marinates meat and prepares salads ahead of time at home, while another said she’d rather prepare food once she arrives. Whichever approach works best for you, the key is to have a plan, if you’re going to be miles from the nearest grocery store.

Option 1 – prepare at home and pack

  • Grain or bean salad that won’t get soggy in the cooler. Examples:
    • Barley, Lentil & Spinach Salad from Julie van Rosendaal (About which someone on our Saskatchewan trip remarked “I don’t even know what a lentil salad IS” before eating and “Can you send me the recipe?” after.) Note that the grains can absorb the dressing when stored, so add more olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar, plus salt or feta cheese if needed.
    • Corn Salsa Salad from dietitian Kristyn Hall. This fresh, summery crowd-pleaser is HUGE. Make half unless you’re feeding an army.
      Corn Salsa Salad

      Corn Salsa Salad

    • Electric Chickpeas from my blog. These are great if you want to turn a salad into a full-fledged vegetarian meal.
  • Glory Bowl Dressing. Mix this addictive sauce in a jar before you go, to add to rice, vegetables and tofu (or chicken if you prefer).
  • Marinated chicken or meat. Best to cook the first day or two (here’s why). If that doesn’t work, freeze the meat in marinade before you go, and it will help chill your cooler. Or just bring the marinade. Examples:
    • Garlic herb steaks from Heart & Stroke. Red meat is controversial for heart health, but it is included in small amounts in Mediterranean diet studies, and no question a heart-healthier choice than processed meat like hot dogs. Plus for some, summer means steaks! This recipe features a bold garlic marinade that’s actually quite low in sodium.
    • Vietnamese Chicken Satay from Dinner with Julie. This one is a bit higher in sodium, but if you do that marinade with two pounds of chicken, it’s not bad. (Or cut the marinade in half for one pound of chicken.) Either way, certainly lower than a hot dog! Only do this one if you have easy access to running water, because you’ll need to wash your hands after threading the chicken on skewers.
    • Grilled Shish Tawook from The Mediterranean Dish, which is chicken in a beautiful yogurt-based marinade. (I wouldn’t freeze this marinade, due to the yogurt.) Similarly, best if you have running water.
  • Spice rub for fish. If you’re like our Saskatchewan family, you hope to catch supper in the lake, an easy option is to have a spice rub ready to go. I like to combine 1-½ tablespoons chili powder, ½ teaspoon dried oregano, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in a ziplock bag. Good for chicken or pork too.

Fishing for dinner, Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan

Option 2 – cook it there

We want to eat well, but not spend all day cooking, right? Plus we don’t want to have to pack the whole kitchen! Most of these use less than five ingredients (plus staples), no special equipment, and less than 20 minutes in the kitchen.

… to make
Pack or buy locally
Porridge Oats or other grains, nuts and seeds, fresh fruit.
Eggs Eggs! Easy. Plus spinach, mushrooms, or tomatoes, cheese, and bread for toast if you like.
Chia pudding Milk of choice (cow’s milk works, or a plant-based beverage), chia seeds, fruit. Sweeten to taste with sugar if that’s what you have on hand (vs the maple syrup). Skip the vanilla for simplicity. You can always use a vanilla-flavoured milk if you prefer it.
Peanut Butter, Strawberry, & Banana Quesadillas Peanut butter, strawberries or banana, whole grain tortillas. Our kids love these.
Raw veggies Carrots, snap peas, sliced peppers, etc with hummus to take the edge off your appetite before dinner. Ranch dip is okay too if you prefer it.
Fresh fruit Watermelon is a relatively affordable summertime crowd-pleaser. Or grapes or cherries, for even less fuss.
Chips and dip This may not seem like a heart-healthy snack, but if you go with tortilla chips and guacamole or salsa, especially if homemade and/or lower sodium, it’s a step up from potato chips and dip. It’s all relative!
Lunch / dinner Many of these pair nicely with whatever you have on the grill, or stand alone.
Black bean quesadillas  Black beans, cheddar cheese, whole grain tortillas, salsa. Cook in skillet or oven. I brought these to the second “weiner roast” on our lake trip, sliced them up, and watched them disappear before the hot dogs were even cooked.
Arugula Pasta Salad Bowties or similar pasta, arugula, parmesan, lemon. No recipe needed. Aim for less pasta than arugula, add other ingredients, olive oil, and salt to taste. (From this New York Times article.)
Campbell River Salmon I don’t know where I clipped this recipe from years ago, but it’s a great way to cook salmon. Top each fillet with 2 teaspoons of non-hydrogenated margarine, then a sliced tomato, chopped green onions if you have them, fresh grated parmesan cheese, and bread crumbs. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until done. (Or wrap in foil for the grill.)
Bean burritos, bowls or taco salad Depending on your appetite, you can combine similar ingredients in a whole-grain tortilla (burrito), with brown rice (bowl) or on their own (salad). Lettuce, tomato, canned (no-salt-added) black beans, salsa, and cheddar cheese.
Pasta with Roasted Vegetables and Goat Cheese Rotini or similar pasta, goat cheese, veggies (zucchini, peppers, eggplant, onion, mushrooms, etc.), and dried Italian seasoning.
Salads and veggies
Bagged salad Easy peasy. Not shame in that.
Spinach salad Chicken (cooked or raw to grill), avocado, spinach, lime. No recipe needed. Add olive oil and salt to taste.
Veggies to grill Bell peppers, corn, and portobello mushrooms are delicious from the grill. (Giant stalks of broccoli, I learned on this trip, are NOT.) Just brush with oil and salt and pepper if desired.

Staples: Olive oil, garlic, salt, sugar, butter or (non-hydrogenated) margarine.

Fruit and vegetables are fresh and plentiful in the summer, so whatever is on the menu, round it out by hitting a roadside stand or farmers market for whatever is in season, in addition to regular grocery store offerings.

What heart-healthy foods do you like to take to the lake? Join the conversation in our Facebook group.

Cold Lake, Alberta