By Gina O’Toole, clinical dietitian at CHOC
Beach days are a great way to spend an active day with your kids and enjoy the great weather of Southern California. With just a bit of pre-planning, you will be on your way to a healthy, hydrating and energy-packed meal plan so your kids will have the nutrients they need to spend an active day at the beach. Avoid the hot and long lines at the beach food stand, which typically serve highly processed foods that are overpriced and can leave you feeling fatigued and dehydrated. So besides bringing the essential sunscreen, towel, umbrella and swim suit, here are a few tips to optimize your day, as well as a few kid-friendly recipes for beach days.
Food safety at the beach
Food safety is key. Make sure you pack food in a cooler to prevent any foodborne illness for items like meat, cheeses and yogurts. You can freeze water bottles to provide ice for the food and a cold drink for later in the day or the drive home. Dust baby powder on sand-caked hands for easy removal, then follow with an antibacterial wipe before your kids dig into their beach eats.
Plan ahead the night before. Decide what healthy kid-friendly meals and snacks you will prepare. When packing your picnic, utilize foods that are pre-packaged or easy to pre-pack and do not easily melt. Bring along an empty plastic grocery bag for trash and paper towels and plastic utensils for easy disposal.
How to keep hydrated at the beach
Focus on rehydrating with water, and avoid juices and sodas that contribute unnecessary calories and sugar to your diet.
Consider adding fruit, veggies and/or herbs to spice up plain water and make it more appealing to your kids. Try lime-mint, strawberry-basil, cucumber-blackberry or just plain orange or lemon slices. Avoid juices and sodas that contribute unnecessary calories and sugar
Or, try sparkling waters with no added sugars
Healthy kid-friendly meals for beach days
- Peanut butter with sliced bananas and cinnamon on whole grain bread
- Pasta salad:
- Combine whole wheat pasta, diced tomato, bell peppers, shredded carrots and zucchini. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. To allow the flavors to soak in, it’s best to prepare this dish the night before.
- Wrap it up with a whole grain tortilla
- Rainbow wrap: Cream cheese, spinach and your child’s favorite crisp veggies (Carrots, cucumber, peppers, zucchini or summer squash)
- Bean and guacamole wrap: Guacamole, black or pinto beans, cooked brown rice and shredded jack or cheddar cheese
- Eggs for lunch: Sautee peppers, onions and scramble eggs, top with a sprinkle of cheddar or jack cheese
- Herby turkey: Herbed cream cheese, nitrate free turkey, spinach or romaine lettuce, thin sliced tomato)
- Pair your main meal with additional sliced and refreshing veggies like jicama, cucumber, celery or cherry tomatoes
- For desert, try some ripe and sweet summer produce. Sliced watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew and cherries are all refreshing on a hot day. Although nectarines, peaches and apricots are at their prime during beach season, they bruise easily and need to be packed carefully.
Easy snack ideas for kids on beach days
Pair food groups (Protein, fat, carbohydrate) to give you energy and keep you full longer:
- Pre-cut cucumbers and peppers with a single-serving hummus pack
- Pre-cut apples or celery and single-serving peanut, almond or cashew butter
- String cheese and grapes
- Single-serving cottage cheese and fresh cut strawberries
- Single-serving plain Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries
- Pre-packaged nuts
- Fresh or dried edamame
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program