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6 Healthy Foods to Bring to the Beach

July 08, 2024

When you’re packing the car for a day at the beach, don’t forget a cooler loaded with food that will keep you fueled and hydrated.

“It’s always a good idea to bring your own foods to the beach or lake for the day so you can avoid the snack bar. The foods there are typically fried or sugary,” says Shannon Haynes, a registered dietitian with Hartford HealthCare at Backus Hospital.

Not sure where to start? Start with these 6 dietitian-approved beach foods.

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1. Yogurt parfait cups

For a refreshing breakfast or mid-morning snack, try making homemade parfait cups.

Start with Greek or low-fat yogurt, layer in some of your favorite fruit and a little bit of granola for some crunch. The mix of protein and carbohydrates will keep you feeling energized and full for a day of activities.

2. Salad skewers

If you love salads, but always forget the fork, try making salad skewers.

Using bamboo sticks, make Caprese skewers with fresh mozzarella, basil, tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic or olive oil for an easy-to-eat take on an Italian classic.

Or if Greek is more your style, try using tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and some low-fat feta with a little bit of Greek vinaigrette.

3. Pasta salad

Another refreshing, but hearty, option for a beach lunch is pasta salad. The key to making it healthy is in the ingredients.

Add some low-fat cheese, fresh vegetables, turkey pepperoni and a light vinaigrette dressing to keep things tasty and full of protein and other nutrients.

4. Classic beach sandwich

Everybody loves a fresh sandwich on the beach. And like the pasta salad, it’s all about the ingredients.

Opt for low-fat cheese, low-sodium meats and multi-grain bread or rolls, which offer complex carbohydrates that keep you fuller, longer.

And when it comes to picking your condiments, mustard may be the better choice.

“It’s not that you can’t have mayonnaise, but it will spoil if it gets too warm. I usually choose mustard or a balsamic drizzle,” Haynes says.

5. Fresh fruit

A staple for her beach trips, Haynes says, is always fresh fruit. Not only is it tasty and healthy, but it contains electrolytes like potassium to help you stay hydrated in the sun.

“People automatically turn to things like Gatorade for hydration but, in reality, you can replenish lost electrolytes through fresh fruit and salty snacks like popcorn,” she explains.

Refreshing choices include cut watermelon and cantaloupe, grapes (try freezing them the night before!), peaches, plums and nectarines. Pair sliced apples with peanut butter.

6. Non-perishable snacks

In your beach bag, Haynes also suggests tucking other non-perishable snacks as:

  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Layer in cut bananas for added flair.
  • Nuts
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Beef jerky
  • Low-sodium, whole-grain crackers

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Don’t forget to drink up!

Wash meals and snacks down with the basics on the beach, especially water, either plain, flavored or seltzer, Haynes says.

“Soda and Gatorade contain a lot of sugar. If you want flavor in your water, which tends to help us drink more of it, try adding an electrolyte mix or cut up lemon or orange slices. You can also pack 100% fruit juice boxes which contain less sugar than soda or sweetened iced tea,” she says.

And remember to keep your food nice and cool.

No one wants to end their beach day sick from spoiled food, so be sure to break out the trusty old Igloo cooler.

Layer your food with ice or cooling packs and plan to eat the perishable items within the first two hours of your arrival.

“Keeping things cold in the heat can be hard, so try to eat the most perishable stuff first and save non-perishable items for later,” Haynes suggests. “Food should be no warmer than 40 degrees, which only takes about an hour when it’s 90 out. A good rule of thumb is if the ice has melted, you have two hours to eat the food safely.”