Here in the south bay, mommas and daddies love it when the May gray and June gloom days subside and we are able to pack all the kids into the car (or onto the bikes, wagons and scooters) and head to the beach for a fun day splashing in the waves, building sandcastles and swinging on the swings. All that fun is bound to make a kid and their parents hungry! Not to mention, kids have special needs for certain nutrients at different ages, and snacks are a good way for parents to help meet those nutritional needs.
Eating at the beach can be tricky, though. It’s hot, windy, and sand gets everywhere! Be sure to bring wet wipes to keep hands clean and a large blanket that can maybe stay clear of all that salty sand. If you are bringing anything perishable, keep it in the shade in an insulated bag or cooler with an ice pack to reduce food-borne illness, and throw out any perishable food that has been sitting in the sun for more than an hour (or 2 hours at room temperature).
For fun times at the beach, be sure to pack these easy, nutritious and beach-friendly snacks:
- Banana. It’s easy to peel little by little, diminishing sand accumulation. Plus, it’s fun for kids to hold and peel. Bananas are a key source of potassium for kids. Add some sunflower butter or almond butter (sometimes found in convenient squeeze tubes) for extra protein and vitamin E, a nutrient that is sometimes lacking in kids’ diets.
- Frozen Greek Yogurt tubes. These come in all different flavors. Be sure to look for ones with less added sugar (3 grams usually occur naturally in the tubes) and full fat dairy for little ones under age 2. Toss these in the freezer and bring them to the beach; they can be eaten thawed or frozen like ice cream! Plus, you don’t need to bring spoons and the trash is easy to pack out if trash cans are far away.
- Cut veggies with white bean or garbanzo bean hummus. Varieties of hummus can be found in mini to-go containers either on grocery shelves or the refrigerated aisle, and the veggies are easy to dip and eat without utensils or plates. My daughter loves bell peppers, cucumber sticks, thinly sliced carrots and celery. Apple slices are also yummy with hummus. The veggies and hummus are high in vitamin C, E and B vitamins, while the hummus boasts iron and potassium, key nutrients for children.
- Berries! And other fruit. Strawberries and blueberries are easy and delish; just make sure to wash them before you leave the house. Fruits like berries and grapes (cut in half for kids under 3) are also great candidates for freezing and taking to the beach. Sliced apples, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon and sliced pears are also great options. If you don’t have anything fresh, bring dried fruit like apricots, dates, raisins or dried cherries.
- Crackers and cheese sticks. The quintessential snack, am I right? There’s something about crackers and cheese that just hits the spot when you are hungry from swimming and running around on the beach. Look for options that have whole grains as a first ingredient and contain at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving (most kids don’t get enough). The Kashi company and Trader Joe’s have some good options for kids. Cheese sticks can be found in a variety of flavors like cheddar, mozzarella, Colby and Colby Jack, etc. Look for low-fat cheese to maximize satiety from protein in hungry older kids.
- Homemade snack mixes made with iron-fortified cereals. Mix together fortified cereals (check the label for added vitamins and minerals like iron), popcorn, dried fruit and nuts for a crunchy and sweet treat that doesn’t need to be kept cold. All the ingredients pack a nutritional punch for little ones, including vitamin D, potassium, fiber and iron.
- Granola bars. Check the label for fiber and calories. A good rule for kids’ granola bars is that they be less than 150 calories and have at least 2 g of fiber. They can be a good way to combine food groups like grains (oats), fruit (raisins) and fun food (chocolate chips).
- Half a sandwich made with whole grain pita pockets. Backpacks can tend to smoosh sandwiches, so why not bring one that’s already flat? Peanut butter, sunflower seed butter or almond butter sandwiches with 100% fruit spread are a classic choice for summer days at the beach. You can serve smaller kids ¼ pita pocket with veggies for a well-rounded snack.
Along with your snacks, bring some water for kids and be sure to stay hydrated. Water is the best choice at the beach because it doesn’t need to be kept cold like milk. Some families find it’s best to make water the default choice with snacks while serving milk with meals. If you serve your child juice, remember that 4 ounces per day of 100% fruit juice is the recommended daily allowance for kids over 12 months. Sometimes adding just a splash of juice to water is enough to satisfy their taste and ensure they are drinking enough water on hot days. If your child is a heavy sweater and needs electrolytes, using a sports drink may be appropriate, depending on their age.
Sarah Pruett Soufl, MS, RD is a non-diet Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is passionate about helping families develop feeding and eating habits that help children cultivate life-giving relationships with food long-term. Learn more: souflnutrition.com