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How to Pack Healthy Snacks and Meals for the Beach

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Going to the beach is an amazing summer pastime and a tradition your kids are sure to love! Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, the beach can end up being an unhealthy outing. Many beaches have food stands that serve the usual suspects: hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, chips, soda, and the list goes on. In addition to being highly processed, most of the foods served at these stands are high in calories, sugar, and fat. After eating at one of these stands, you might find yourself feeling fatigued from the effects of all the refined carbohydrates and excess fats. Do your kids and yourself a favor by packing healthy beach snacks, lunches, and beverages to keep everyone satisfied and energized for a fun-filled day.

Tips for Beach-Friendly Nutritious Snacks

  • Plan ahead the night before. Decide what snacks to make and portion them out if needed in reusable plastic containers or snack bags.
  • Bring a cooler filled with ice to keep items that need to be refrigerated cold to prevent food borne illness.
  • When brainstorming snacks, try to pair together a few different nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat) to make a complex snack that will keep you full longer. See Two Simple Steps to Delicious and Nutritious Snacks for more information.
  • A high-fiber snack is good for digestion, the heart, and will also help keep you satisfied for a longer time. Good examples include fruit, vegetables, whole-grains or bean dips.

Healthy Snack Suggestions

  • Nuts and fruit or try nut butter for dipping with a banana or apple
  • Whole wheat crackers (with no added sugar) with low-fat cheese cubes
  • Veggie sticks and hummus
  • Yogurt and granola
  • ½ sandwich: choose whole-wheat bread & add lean meat and veggies
  • Ricotta cheese sprinkled with cinnamon to spread on whole-wheat bread or crackers
  • Veggie sticks with Greek yogurt dip: Add powdered ranch dip mix to plain Greek yogurt for a delicious, high protein dip
  • Grapes and a string cheese
  • If granola bars are what they crave, look for a brand that contains a decent amount of fiber and protein. Lara bars or Kashi TLC bars are an example. Become a granola bar guru and read our guide.
  • Whole grain tortilla chips with black bean dip and/or salsa. Make dips from scratch if time permits
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Check out these Super Snacks for Your Super Kid!

Beach Picnic Lunches

  • Sandwiches: Opt for whole grain bread for added fiber and nutrients.
  • Be careful of deli meats, as they tend to be high in sodium. Opt for a lower sodium turkey or ham if purchasing cold cuts from the deli. More processed meats such as bologna and salami are high in fat and should be avoided. Choose nitrate free whenever possible.
  • Tuna salad and chicken salad can make for great sandwiches if prepared with light mayo. Dice up some celery and onions in the salad for added crunch (and added veggies)!
  • Don’t be afraid to use leftovers as well. That grilled chicken or salmon from last night would taste great on a whole-wheat roll with some veggies and balsamic dressing.
  • Peanut butter and jelly is an old-time favorite with kids, but why not skip the jelly and add sliced banana sprinkled with cinnamon instead?
  • Fruit salad parfaits: Fruit salad is always a picnic favorite. Berries and peaches are a great addition to a summer fruit salad because they are in-season. Try dividing up the fruit salad into plastic containers; add yogurt and granola or nuts for a sweet treat.
  • Pasta salad: Pasta salad is a great picnic choice because it is served cold. Use whole-wheat pasta and add diced tomatoes, onion, red and green bell peppers, and grated carrots. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over it. Grilled chicken would be a great addition to the pasta salad if craving a more filling meal.
  • Snack it up: Pair a couple snacks listed above for a non-traditional lunch. Kids love options and making decisions so try a cheese, cracker, and fruit platter that will give them different options to pick from. The same can be done with a veggie platter. Cut up celery, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers and offer a choice of dips such as hummus, bean dip, and ranch dip.

Cool Healthy Beverages
When you’re at the beach, you’re more likely to get dehydrated because of the heat so make sure to pack plenty of beverages to keep your family hydrated. Remember, if you feel thirsty, you are already a percent dehydrated. So fuel your body with fluids throughout the day to prevent fatigue and dehydration. See below for some beach beverage ideas.

  • Water is always the number #1 choice for hydration. Pack bottles of water or fill your own re-useable canteens with water from home.
  • If water is a little too boring, jazz it up by adding orange slices, lemon slices, berries, or cucumber slices to a pitcher of water the day before. The water will take on the flavor of what you add to it and will taste very refreshing.
  • Sparkling waters are great if you like a little fizz to your drinks. Try a flavored variety or add your own flavor by adding a splash or cranberry juice or lemonade.
  • If your kids are big juice fans, try keeping the portion to 4 oz and filling the rest of the cup with water. They will still get the flavor they crave without the extra sugar and calories.
  • Rule of thumb: Avoid beverages that are packed with added sugar and calories. Calories should come from the food that we eat and not from the beverages we drink.
  • Check out even more reasons to avoid sugar sweetened beverages.


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About the Author

Kara is a registered and licensed dietitian and yoga teacher based in Boston. Currently, Kara runs a private practice and consulting business where she offers nutrition & culinary coaching, consults with corporate wellness clients, and partners with like-minded food brands and organizations on recipe development and nutrition communications and marketing. In her spare time, you can find Kara practicing yoga, taking photos of her food, or cuddling up with her imperial cat, Constantine.


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