a dietitian's guide to beach snacks

Summertime.  

Sunshine.  

Beaches.  

BBQs.  

Ice cream.


Tons of memories are invoked by the heat of the summer; one thing we don’t want to include in our memory bank though is food poisoning.


It’s time to pack up your cooler and get this party started. Here's what you should be packing to the beach this summer.


That brings me to my first point.  The cooler.  The old styrofoam boxes are a thing of the past, along with their ability to keep cold foods fresh. Before you head out on your next beach adventure, do yourself a favor and pick up a quality cooler.  For a day at the beach that means an OtterBox Trooper LT30 Cooler. It’s heavy duty, is solid and heavy duty and has water resistant external pockets for phones, keys, etc. In addition to keeping foods ice cold (for up to 3 days when properly packed), it holds what feels like a ton (or more technically has a 30 qt capacity). But my favorite part is you can throw it on your back like a backpack to make juggling the rest of your beach items a cinch. Because if you’re like me, with kids, the juggling of beach items takes serious effort. 


Bonus for an added leg-workout if you want to do some walking lunges with it on your back.  I digress.


Now that we’ve established that, let’s talk about some favorite foods to pack for a well fueled day at the beach (or in the woods, fishing on a boat – whatever it is you may enjoy).


Here are 8 top beach foods for your next adventure.

  • Carrot sticks & hummus.
  • You want something that’s durable and isn’t going to get squished in your cooler.  Carrots fit the bill.  They’re sweet, they help hydrate you (during a long day in the sun) and they’re easy to grab and stay on the go.  The hummus?  Well, it’s nice to get a little extra filling protein and fiber so snack time at the beach can last you a little longer.  



  • Apples and PB
  • Another durable fruit that’s filled with belly filling fiber and being about 85% water, they’re refreshing as well. Pick up some of the individual serving size packets of nut butter by RX Bar and the added protein and healthy fats will keep you ready for a long day of boogie boarding, playing slam ball or just digging sandcastles with your kids.

    1. Peanut Butter & Fruit Sandwich

    OK, if you have not tried PB & fruit sandwiches, you’re definitely missing out.  You get the sweetness of the fruit, the saltiness of the PB and some quality bread to hold up to both flavors and you’ve got a winning combo without the added sugar of jelly. 

    A favorite in our house is peaches and PB sandwiches, but grapes, blueberries, strawberries are great combos as well. To make it, put a thin layer of PB on either side of the bread (to help hold the fruit in place), then if using a fruit like a peach or strawberry, make thin, slices and layer it on top of that PB.  If using grapes, cut them in half or blueberries can simply be spread on the sandwich itself.

  • Tuna/Salmon Packets & Crackers
  • These packets are great because you don’t need a can opener, they’re non-perishable and of course nutritionally they are at the top of the list with protein and important omega-3 fats.  Pairing these with a solid cracker is a great choice to give you the fuel to spend your day in the water or running around having fun on the beach. 

  • Guac and Mini Bell Peppers
  • You may notice a theme here; healthy fat, quality, durable veggie.  That’s a solid pairing to keep you hydrated, give you some fuel and feed your body with the nutrition it loves.  Pick up some of the premade, mini guacamole cups, grab a bag of those mini bell peppers and snacking is a cinch. 

  •  Frozen Grapes
  • This one might seem strange and does in fact take some planning, since you have to freeze them overnight, but it’s worth it.  Wash and destem the grapes, then put them in a large, gallon size Ziplock bag in the freezer overnight.

    While regular grapes are tasty, they’re likely to get smooshed in your cooler (unless you put them in a Tupperware, which is an option).  But frozen overnight and then put in your cooler, they’re amazingly refreshing on a hot, summer day and since they’re frozen, they are a little more durable than their fresh counterpart.  And the OtterBox cooler has the power to stand up to the heat.

  • Kombucha 
  • Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty.  And being out in the sun all day requires a lot of hydration. We’ve got it well covered with the fruits and veggies, but then some liquid is a wise idea as well and kombucha is the perfect option as it’s refreshing, carbonated for a little flavor and good for you.  A new favorite of ours are a product by Health Ade called Booch Pop, which is a can of deliciousness that is a solid alternative to soft drinks (particularly since our kids love them and feel like they’re a treat).  

  • Kitchen Sink Fried Rice
  • Wait, say what?  Fried rice…at the beach?  Stick with me.  And this recipe is a tried and true one from a fellow dietitian and daily beach goer with her 3 kids and while it sounds weird, it’s awesome cold (and hot). But since we’re at the beach, using a cooler, here’s the cold version.  First, the recipe from Dana White, MS, RD’s, author of Healthy One Pan Dinner. 

    Kitchen Sink Fried Rice

    2 teaspoons sesame oil
    1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce or gluten free tamari
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    2 teaspoons cornstarch

    2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
    2 large eggs, beaten
    8 oz cooked protein (pork, chicken, shrimp, steak, tofu)
    3 cups chopped vegetables (peppers, mushrooms, onions, green beans, carrots)

    4 cups cooked brown rice

    3/4 cup roasted cashews

    In a small bowl whisk sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.

    Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Add eggs and gently scramble; remove from pan and set aside. Heat remaining oil in skillet; add protein and vegetables and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Add rice, cashews and cooked egg. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until all ingredients are heated through, about 5 minutes.

    OK, so that one is more than a “snack on the go” item, but trust me – our kids eat it up cold or hot, so if it seems weird on the beach out of a cooler, make it ahead for when you’re back home and looking for a quick, fan favorite.

    And, no you didn’t see a nice, cold refreshing IPA anywhere on this list. That’s purposeful. It’s not that I don’t love them just like you might, but alcohol and hot sun are a tough combo so stay hydrated throughout the day and if you do drink, save it for later when you’re back in the house and pre-gamed with some of the foods and drinks discussed above.  Pre-gaming had an entirely new definition when I was in college, but fast forward 20+ years and to feel my best and have the energy I want to play with my kids and enjoy the beach, those IPA’s have to take a back seat to a day in the sun.

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