Spending the day on the beach is a lot of fun, but eventually you to come out of the water to eat — and that can be difficult. The sand, seagulls, and sun present specific challenges, but those challenges can be overcome with some careful planning. Try these tips for fuss-free beach snacking.
Resign yourself to the fact that you may end up swallowing a grain of sand or two, particularly if it's a windy day. But, you can minimize the amount of sand you eat with this one trick. Before eating, sprinkle your hands with baby powder made from cornstarch. Goldbond makes one that's widely available, but any brand will do. The powder will dry any wet sand that's on your hands and it will shake off easily so your hands won't be covered in sand when you eat.
Keeping that powder with you on the beach can have other benefits, too. It can help alleviate any chaffing that comes from spending a lot of time in the water, especially for boys who wear loose bathing shorts and get chaffed in some sensitive areas. It can also be used on your legs and feet to remove sand before you hop in the car to go home.
Seagulls have no manners. Once they're aware there is food in the vicinity, they become dive-bombing thieves that will snatch food right out of your hand, perhaps taking a little skin, too.
If seagulls are around when it's time for lunch or a snack on the beach, subterfuge is your best friend. Do not let them know you have food. Here are a few tips to keep them from swiping the sandwich right out of your hand.
- Eat under the cover of a beach towel. Younger kids may find it fun to put the towel completely over them and eat under its cover. For those who don't want to be completely covered, keep the towel over your food and hands on your lap except when you're raising your hand to your mouth.
- Make everything bite-sized. Cut up sandwiches into bite-sized pieces or wraps into pinwheels before you pack them. Chop fruits and veggies beforehand. Divide snacks and crackers into small individual portions instead of having a large bag of chips being passed back and forth between beach chairs. That way, you can keep most of the food under cover and eat a bite or two without your food being discovered.
- Cover any food that falls onto the sand with more sand — and quickly. A piece of food lying out in the open is an invitation for a seagull to join your lunch.
- Above all, do not feed a seagull. You will never get rid of him or his friends for the rest of the day.
This may seem like a hassle, but if your child's peanut butter and jelly sandwich has ever been stolen by seagull who snuck up from behind, you'll understand how one grabby gull can ruin a day at the beach.
Packing your food safely is important because high temperatures on the beach can quickly make some foods unsafe to eat, particularly foods like meats or mayonnaise-based salads. Opting for foods that don't spoil easily can help, but stopping on the way to the beach to grab a hoagie or other sandwich from a convenience store is often part of the going-to-the-beach ritual.
An insulated cooler or a small freezable lunch pack with an added ice pack is a must for foods that can spoil. Fill the cooler with plenty of ice packs. (Loose ice will melt and get everything sopping wet. Nobody wants a soggy hoagie roll.) Freeze any beverages that can be frozen before they go into the cooler. They'll be an extra layer of ice in the cooler for a while. When you do take them out and put them in the cup holder of your chair, they'll stay colder longer in the sun. Do not keep any food that can spoil in your beach bag.
Keep the cooler in the shade as much as possible, using a beach umbrella or even in the shadow of your chair if that's the only shade around. And, if you're in the market for a new cooler, look for one that has a separate top compartment for your non-perishable foods that won't end up touching any of the ice packs, keeping the food from getting soggy.
You can take many foods on the beach, but some hold up better in a cooler than others. These are some of the best foods to pack for a day at the beach.
- Bite-sized, hydrating fruit. Watermelon tops the list of fruits that hydrate. Others are grapes (freeze them before putting the into the cooler for a super cold treat), strawberries, cantaloupe, oranges and apples.
- Bite-sized hydrating vegetables: Throw a few cucumber slices, celery sticks, grape tomatoes and red bell pepper slices in your cooler. If you must have a dairy-based dip, make sure it stays cooled the entire day.
- Wraps cut into pinwheels: Tortillas hold up in a cooler better than bread, so put your PB&J, lunchmeat, or hummus and veggies in a wrap. Cut the wrap into pinwheels, and you'll have bite-sized sandwiches that you can pop in your mouth before the seagulls see them.
- Nuts: You don't have to worry about them staying cold, they're full of nutrition, and you can pop a handful in your mouth quickly.
- Frozen chocolate-chip cookies: Chocolate and the beach don't go very well together, unless you're fond of ooey, gooey messes in your cooler, on your hands and on your face. But, a few chocolate chips surrounded by a protection of cookie, particularly when put into the cooler frozen, can probably stand up to the heat of the day.
- Cheese sticks. The individual wrapping makes them easy to just throw in the cooler. Keep them, and any other cheese products, close to the ice packs.
- Chips, crackers, pretzels and popcorn. They're easy to put into individual containers, and they make quick snacks. But beware, they seem to be seagull magnets. That doesn't mean you shouldn't bring them to the beach, but it does mean you have to outsmart the gulls and never let them catch on that you have them.
- Pack plenty of water and other hydrating beverages. If you're going to be at the beach all day, you're going to need it, even if you have plenty of hydrating fruits and veggies. And, if you want to bring some booze on the beach, remember that alcohol can leave you dehydrated, so keep beer, wine and spirits to a minimum.
None of these beach foods would be considered gourmet, but they make for easy packing and easy snacking while on the beach. They also offer a variety of nutrition and hydration to make sure you don't run out of steam while you're jumping waves.