Going to the beach is an amazing summer pastime. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, the beach can end up being an unhealthy outing. Many beach shops serve the usual suspects: pies, hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream, chips, soda, chocolates and the list goes on. In addition to being highly processed, most of the foods are high in calories, sugar and fat. After eating these foods you might find yourself and your kids feeling fatigued from the effects of all the refined carbohydrates and excess fats. Do your kids and yourself a favour by packing healthy beach snacks, lunches, and beverages to keep everyone satisfied and energized for a fun-filled day.
An insulated cooler bag with ice packs is a beach must-have to keep your meals and snacks fresh and items that need to be refrigerated cold to prevent food borne illness. As are small food storage containers or resalable baggies (the snack-sized kind are perfect for portion control) to keep finger foods ready to go. Make smart food choices when packing your beach cooler bag.
By now you’ve noted that individually packed snacks are the way to go if you’re beach bound. All-time favourites are cereal bars. All you have to do is pack them, dole the bars out and throw away the wrappers. These tasty snack bars don’t need to be chilled. And if you pay close attention to the nutrition information on the box, they’re good for you, too. Safari Fruit Break Bars or Safari Just Fruit Bars is a fibre-filled way to satisfy a sweet craving. Futurelife high protein or protein LITE bars are also great options. In terms of nutritional composition choose cereal bars that contain less than 180 kcal (750kJ), less than 25g carbohydrates, fat less than 10g and fibre more than 2g per snack bar.
Chicken strips, mini bobotie bites, mini quiches (made without the cream and buttery short crust pastry), laughing Cow cheese triangles are beach-friendly finger foods.
Biltong: this practically fat free protein source will keep your mouth busy and fuller for longer.
Nuts: pack 30g portions that can be eaten as a snack. The combination of healthy fat and protein can help keep you fuller for longer.
Small yogurt tubs also can provide yummy, protein-rich snacks, but you’ll need to pack spoons.
Make a big batch of your own trail mix or snack mix. You can make it as nutritious as you want, and tailor the ingredients to your taste. Mix up almonds and other nuts; dried cranberries, raisins and other dried fruits; pumpkin seeds and shelled sunflower seeds; pretzels, dry cereal, smarties – anything you like.
Choose Pretzels instead of crisps. Pretzels are rich in carbohydrates and make the perfect fuel for an energy-consuming day at the beach.
You can pack pieces of whole fruit or alternatively to make things more interesting make a fruit salad. Mix up slices or chunks of pineapple, kiwi, mango, some seedless grapes or whatever else you find. Cherries can be good, too. Then stir in some frozen fruits – frozen grapes or strawberries work well. All you have to do is wash them, pick off any bits of stem, put them in a plastic bag and pop them in the freezer. Pack the salad into small containers and keep those in the cooler or an insulated bag. Remember the spoons, and enjoy!
Sand (less) sandwiches
Sandwiches are always a popular choice. Choose homemade sandwiches, wraps, pita breads or provitas with a lean protein filling. For a day at the beach, you may need to be a little creative since regular bread can get soggy before it’s eaten. Also, smaller is better, so there’s no time for the sandwich to fill up with sand as you’re eating it. Instead of using loaf bread, make sandwiches on mini-bagels or on wraps. If wraps are big, cut them in half after you’ve rolled them.
Keep the fillings simple. Peanut butter and jam is a good choice. So is ham with mustard. 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 jam or honey is an old-time favourite with kids, but why not skip the jam and add sliced banana instead? If you want tomato slices, package them separately and add them just before eating. Gherkins also should wait until the last minute to avoid making the bread soggy.
Popcorn isn’t just fun to eat, it’s also healthy. Homemade popcorn is a filling and a high fibre snack option to satisfy a crunchy craving. It’s also naturally low in fat. If you pop and season the popcorn yourself, you can make sure that it’s tasty and stays healthy. Be careful of ‘flavoured microwave popcorn’ – it could be very high in fat and salt. To keep it from entering the “bad for you” category, cook it in a small amount of canola or other healthy oil such as avocado oil.
Pop the popcorn the night before and pack individual portions of popcorn in plastic bags or containers with lids. You don’t want a big container of popcorn open and vulnerable to sand or damp air. Three cups of air-popped popcorn (hold the salt and butter) equals 100 calories (420 kilojoules), so munch away.
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 most probably already dehydrated. 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 flavour of what you add to it and will taste very refreshing.
Sparkling waters are great if you like a little fizz to your drinks. Be careful of flavoured waters or Vitamin waters since they are loaded with sugar. Make your own flavoured water by adding a splash of juice or lemonade.
If your kids are big juice fans, try keeping the portion to 125ml and filling the rest of the cup with water. They will still get the flavour 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.