Packing the Perfect Cooler for the Beach

Family on beach, father carrying coolbox
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Before you head off to the beach this summer, take the time to think about how to make the most of the foods you toss into your cooler. There is nothing worse than sitting on the hot sand, feeling sweaty and thirsty, with nothing to satisfy your thirst or hunger. Rather than grabbing one of your friend's snacks or buying something from the concession stand, pack a nutritious bag perfect for any beach day.

Keep in mind that those with food allergies, often carry their own foods, but when it comes to the beach it is truly healthier for everyone to pack a bag. Food allergies are often problematic at concessions where there may be limited options or cross contamination. Not to mention, most beaches are not fully equipped to carry a large variety of options or particularly healthy fare. So whether you have an allergy or not, set up your summer beach cooler and be prepared for any trip to the beach.

Try some of these great cooler ideas:

  • Frozen blueberries or frozen orange segments  - Keep your freezer stocked with a container of frozen blueberries and frozen orange segments at all times. These fruits are not only nutritious but they are super refreshing. As the sun beats down on you, you will enjoy the hydrating taste of frozen fruit. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and fiber, both perfect additions to enhance your diet. By peeling, separating and freezing orange segments and taking them to the beach, you'll have a snack that satisfies taste and thirst.  Biting into the orange segments, loaded with vitamin C and fiber, will provide you with refreshing burst of juice as well.   
  • Edamame - Keep a container of shelled cold edamame in your refrigerator perfect for snacking at the beach. Edamame, loaded with protein, will help to feed your hunger and keep you busy rather than picking at chips. Feel free to sprinkle with kosher salt, parmesan cheese or salt and pepper for a variety of tastes. Those with soy allergies cannot have edamame which is a soybean.
  • Guacamole and jicama -  Sitting on the beach with friends often leads to snacking as part of the social setting. This time snack on a dish of guacamole made with a dose of healthy fat and protein.  But rather than dip in with chips, opt for jicama instead. Jicama is one very under-rated vegetable, as it is loaded in fiber, low in calories and contains inulin. Inulin is known to aid the bodies ability to absorb calcium and also acts as a probiotic in the intestines.  With a texture similar to that of an apple or a white potato, it will provide the perfect crunch, while its mellow taste will leave you to enjoy the guacamole as well. Those allergic to legumes cannot enjoy Jicama, which is from the same legume root family.
  • Diced or skewered food - Nothing ruins a meal more at the beach then biting into your food to find sand in your mouth. Yuck! To avoid sandy food put your food on skewers. Dice up some grilled chicken, with avocado or cucumbers, or even add mozzarella balls. Then put them on skewers so that they can wind up in your mouth with no gritty sand. You can even try this with fruit kebobs as well to avoid little hands from getting into a big bowl of fruit. Everyone will enjoy the food much better this way.
  • Pinwheel it - Quite often sandwiches get soggy after sitting in a cooler and then no one even wants to eat it. Or often you are looking for a few bites at a time and suddenly the half-eaten sandwich doesn't look appealing anymore. Instead use wraps and fill with varied meats and cheeses, but limit the spreads and tomatoes so that they don’t get too messy. (You can always bring a small container with dips to add once you are ready to eat.) Then slice up the wrap into small bite size pinwheels to bring to the beach. This way you can easily eat it at your leisure, small portions at a time.  The wraps also stay fresher and firmer, not to mention that they are less messier and more fun to eat. This can be achieved with gluten free wraps as well and the contents can fit the dietary and allergy needs of those who are eating.
  • Frozen coconut water - Looking for something refreshing for that hot day at the beach? Freezing coconut water overnight and throwing it in your cooler will certainly be a thirst quenching option. In fact, it is perfect when it is half thawed but still chilled. It will hit the spot as it is loaded with electrolytes, has more potassium than a banana and tastes great. While it is called a coconut, it is technically not a nut but a fruit. However, for those with allergies be certain you can eat coconut before opting for this drink.
  • Trail mix- Making your own trail mix will give you something to hit the spot when you are looking to munch. And rather then snacking on greasy chips or sugary snacks, a trail mix can provide a satisfying snack packed with good nutrition. Pick out your favorite snacks and make your own mix. This can include peanuts, dried berries, raisins, a crunchy cereal, and dried chick peas among other things. Involve the kids in preparing custom tailored trail mix to meet everyone’s allergy needs and food preferences. Perhaps some mixes are salty with things like goldfish crackers or mini pretzels, while others prefer sweet with chocolatey flavored cereal or cinnamon roasted nuts or chick peas. Have fun with it but be sure to divide it into individual bags so that it is portion controlled.

After enjoying the amazing foods and snacks you packed, your friends and family will be begging you to go back to the beach time and time again.  And the best thing is, you will feel great knowing that your cooler is healthy and yummy all at the same time!

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