There are certain things you assume when you spend a day at the beach. For one thing, there will be sand everywhere. You can also assume all that fun in the sun and water will make everybody hungry. Very hungry.
Snacks are a must. If you're at a developed beach, you may be able to buy snacks from a concession stand -- but they're likely to be overpriced and unhealthy.
Beach time is supposed to be fun time, and nobody wants to devote a lot of effort to making snacks. But with a little planning, you can provide food to keep everybody active and happy without spending a fortune. You can even offer snacks that are more or less good for you.
The trick is to keep things simple. Adjust to the reality of beach conditions. That means you don't want snacks that will wilt in the heat, or large containers that let sand infiltrate your treats. And you don't want to have to keep up with a lot of utensils or dishes.
For some easy, tasty and handy beach snack ideas, keep reading.
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; bagel chips, Goldfish crackers (for the beach theme), dry cereal -- anything you like.
Keep in mind that everyone's going to be thirsty as well as hungry at the beach, so don't overdo the salt in your snack mix. The dried fruits will add a bit of sweetness.
Once you have your big batch ready, package it in small, single-serving containers. Small plastic bags that can be resealed are ideal. The individual servings are good for two reasons. They help keep you from mindlessly pigging out. And they keep wind or careless people from adding unwelcome sand to the whole batch of snack mix.
Want something even simpler than a mix? Try the next page.
Rich in carbohydrates but low in fat, pretzels make the perfect fuel for an energy-consuming day at the beach. Soft pretzels are good, too, but the harder ones are just easier to find. Buy twists, sticks, nuggets or whatever shapes and sizes suit your fancy. If you're concerned about nutrition, look for the whole-grain variety, which will have more fiber.
As with other beach snacks, divide your pretzel stash into individual servings. Use plastic bags that you can reseal or small containers with lids; you don't want sand or water in the pretzels you're saving for later. And for an added treat, take small containers of hummus or mustard for dipping.
For more crunchy ideas, try the next page.
Popcorn isn't just fun to eat, it's also healthy. Popcorn is a natural whole-grain food that's high in fiber. 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. Corn popped in an air popper is good. Lower-fat microwave popcorn is also fine. Corn popped in a pot or popper gets a little tricky. To keep it from entering the "bad for you" category, cook it in a small amount of canola or other healthy oil.
You might be tempted to add butter. Don't. Butter would only make the popcorn sticky and messy at the beach, in addition to adding fat and calories. Instead, add a little Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, chili seasoning mix or other dry spices. Don't overdo the salt, because everyone's going to be thirsty at the beach anyway.
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.
Nothing can be easier to prepare and serve than the simplest of fresh fruits. As a bonus, fresh fruit is about the healthiest snack can get. And most fruits won't make you thirsty.
You don't want to have to deal with much preparation once you're at the beach, so stick to the basics. Apples are great -- they come in their own package, after all. Just wash them before you stow them in the beach bag. Bananas are almost as easy. Just make sure to dispose of the peels properly.
Seedless grapes -- washed ahead of time and packed into a bag or other container -- also work well. And you can freeze them for an extra cool, refreshing treat.
If you have picky eaters in your party who don't want whole apples, slice the apples ahead of time and pack the slices with a little lemon juice so they won't turn brown.
If you're not taking a cooler to the beach, pack small plastic bags of ice to keep your grapes or apple slices cool and refreshing.
Want more snack ideas? Keep reading.
By now you've noted that individually packed snacks are the way to go if you're beach bound. Two of our favorites in this category are prepackaged granola and breakfast bars. All you have to do is buy a box or two, pack them, dole the bars out and throw away the wrappers. These tasty energy boosters 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.
Want some more crunchy ideas? Try the next page.
That staple of parties and receptions, raw veggies with dip -- crudités, if you want to get fancy -- can easily move to the beach. Raw vegetables are, of course, good for you. They're loaded with vitamins, high in fiber and low in fat. But they're also cool, crunchy and refreshing.
Try celery sticks, whole baby carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets, slices or sticks of raw cucumber, zucchini or yellow squash, cherry or grape tomatoes -- whatever's available in the store or your garden. Wash ahead of time. A mild solution of vinegar and water should do the trick. Pack in plastic bags or containers, and if you won't be using a cooler, adding small bags of ice can help keep the veggies cool and crisp.
Add small containers of hummus or low-fat dressing for dipping, and you're all set.
If you want a filling snack, sandwiches are always a popular choice. But for a day at the beach, you need to be a little creative. 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, English muffins or on wraps made with whole-wheat, spinach or sun-dried tomatoes. If wraps are big, cut them in half after you've rolled them.
Keep the fillings simple. If you want tomato slices, package them separately and add them just before eating. Pickles also should wait until the last minute to avoid making the bread soggy. Unless you're using a cooler, avoid mayonnaise and other ingredients that might spoil in the heat. Peanut butter and jelly is a good choice. So is ham with mustard. Save your fancy sandwiches for other days. Simplicity rules at the beach.
Want a touch of south of the border? Check the next page.
Cool little burritos can be a great snack at the beach. They're tasty, easy to eat, good for you and fun.
Just take your favorite tortillas -- wheat, corn, whatever. Make sure they're soft. Mash up some canned beans or beans you've cooked ahead of time. Black beans or pinto beans can work fine. Bean dip can even work in a pinch. Spread the beans on the tortillas. If you like, add a little chopped onion, chopped green chilies, a touch of salsa or a little grated cheese. Roll the tortillas up, slice them in half and wrap them individually in foil. Just pass them around when you're ready to snack.
No, ice cream isn't a good snack choice for a day at the beach. But if you're taking a cooler to the beach, or at least an insulated bag packed with frozen bottles of water, you don't have to avoid dairy products. Cheese can be a great beach snack because it's tasty and loaded with protein -- great for refueling after sand-and-surf play..
As with any beach snacks, go for individual servings. That helps minimize the amount of sand in your food and discourages over-indulging. Low-fat string cheese and baby cheese rounds are good choices. Cheese cubes packed in individual bags or small containers also work well. For an added treat, pack some breadsticks to munch with the cheese. Or enjoy it with some apple or pear slices.
Small low-fat yogurt packages also can provide yummy, protein-rich snacks, but you'll need to pack spoons.
Feeling fancy? Check the next page for a cool, delicious snack that takes just a little more effort.
You've probably already figured that we like to keep beach snacks simple. Nobody wants to put in a lot of work in advance, and nobody wants to deal with containers of food that are going to be magnets for the ever-present sand.
But a fruit salad doesn't have to require a lot of work, and it sure provides a refreshing and healthy treat.
Mix up slices or chunks of pineapple, kiwi, mango, some seedless grapes or whatever else you find. Sweet cherries can be good, too. Then stir in some frozen fruits. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and slices of peach work well here. You may luck into finding some of these fruits fresh and in season. You can freeze those easily. With blueberries, for example, 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, if you have one. If not, the frozen fruit you mixed in will help keep the whole salad cool for a while.
Remember the spoons, and enjoy!
Do you know the carbon footprint of that chocolate bar you're craving? Take a look with HowStuffWorks.
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- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Snacks: How they fit into your weight-loss plan."http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/healty-diet/
- Nissenberg, Sandra, Margaret Bogle and Audrey C. Wright. Quick Meals for Healthy Kids and Busy Parents. John Wiley and Sons. New York. 1995.
- "10 Necessities for the Perfect Beach Lunch." Good Housekeeping. (June 21, 2010)http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/activities/perfect-beach-lunch
- Zuckerbrot, Sandra. "Kid-friendly beach snacks." Skinny and the City. (June 19, 2010)http://www.skinnyandthecity.com/kid-friendly-beach-snacks