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You’re headed to the beach and you need to pack beach food. Snacks and meals will keep friends and family energized, but what are the best beach-friendly food options? I’ll share the best beach-friendly foods plus one helpful tip to keep snacks cool.
Family beach trips are often the highlight of the summer. You rarely see unhappy people at the beach.
There’s a reason they call it “fun in the sun”. The beach offers fresh air, warmth, swimming, sandcastles, snorkeling, and wildlife (people included). There’s little not to be excited about.
One thing families tend to forget is the ever-important meal (more time is spent planning for fun than eating). Food is essential for energy, and liquids will help reduce the chance of dehydration or heat stroke.
Of course, you can purchase food at the beach but it will cost you. It’s usually expensive and unhealthy.
Beaches and Eating – My Experience
I grew up near the beach and some of my best memories were summer days spent riding the waves, reading, or sleeping on the beach. I have my fair share of sunburn stories that weren’t as enjoyable.
Food was always part of the day and it was important to pack enough food to get through the day. I found that snacks, rather than a single meal, were best for long days in the sun.
Small breaks from swimming and sports required a quick snack and drink, then I’d return to the ocean to swim or snorkel.
As I grew older, I often went to the beach alone and packed a minimal amount of things to reduce the load (for carrying to/from the beach). I rarely took a cooler so I’d pack snacks like dried fruit and nuts that didn’t require cooling (definitely not chocolate).
I’ve also learned a few lessons. Occasionally my food was stolen….not by people, but by crafty seagulls.
They’re known to take entire bags (be careful). I’ve learned what to take and what not to take to the beach. Let’s take a look at things you should consider.
Beach Food and Snacks Considerations:
There are a few things to consider before selecting and packing your bags. This is a list we came up with but there may be more!
Keep Food Cool
Food at the beach tends to get hot. It can also make wet food “sweat”, which will make things soggy and less appetizing.
If you’re taking food that contains moisture, consider using a cooler to control the temperature and keep food tasting fresh. If you want to forego the cooler, take dry snacks like granola bars, and nuts.
Time of day
If you’re going to the beach for a few hours you won’t need a lot of food. Most people go to the beach from late morning until late afternoon.
If you’re planning on being at the beach all day you’ll definitely want to keep food cool and pack plenty of drinks to stay hydrated.
Cooler or Ice Chest
A cooler or ice chest will be a big asset during a beach day. A cooler is generally smaller, can fold down, and has a strap that can be carried over the shoulder.
An ice chest is perfect for a larger group and will take a little more effort. It has more insulation and should keep things cool for a whole day – sometimes for a whole weekend.
Beach Tent Or Umbrella
A beach tent or umbrella will help keep food and snacks from melting in the hot sun. These provide shade, which reduces temperature significantly.
The shade won’t keep moist food from becoming soggy. A tent and umbrella also provide a great spot to eat your food and rest away from the sun (shade is hard to find on the beach).
Related: Best Pop Up Tent for the Beach
Beach Blanket or Mat
Where will you be eating your meal or snack? We mentioned above that having a shady place is perfect to rest and eat, but you’ll also want a place to sit. Towels are commonly used to sit and lay down yet they’re for an individual, not a family or group.
We really like lightweight beach blankets that are huge and fit into a tiny bag (much smaller than a towel). They’re made from parachute material (nylon) and are great for 5-6 people.
Consider the type of food you want at the beach. A watermelon sounds like the perfect beach snack but who wants to carry that from the car to the beach?
I believe packing lightweight but filling foods is your best bet. Your hands and bags will be full, no reason to weigh yourself down.
Fluid-filled items like drinks and fresh fruit will be the heaviest. It’s extremely important to take drinks, so don’t skimp, but remember they will also make for a heavier load.
Your meals and snacks will need protection. From what you ask? Seagulls! Seagulls are pesky and curious. Although they look beautiful flying in the air, once they’re on land they can become a nuisance.
They’re clever and will hang around until you stray far enough from your stuff then they’ll wander over to look for food (not just food, they steal all kinds of things).
To ensure this doesn’t happen, pack food in a zippered bag that has an anchor to the ground (somethings heavy will work). Whether it’s sunglasses, your wallet or keys, make sure they are hidden or in a larger bag.
For Kids or Adults
Are your meals for kids or adults? Adults might want to pack a salad or healthy snacks. You should do likewise for kids, however, they’ll prefer sweeter snacks like PB and J and chips.
What drinks will be best for your family? Maybe Gatorade, water, or protein shakes?
Other Options For Beach Snacks
Also consider food that will be available at the beach. If you’re spending time at a busy tourist beach there will be plenty of options but they won’t be cheap.
In California there will be beach-side taco stands, Coney Island will have some of the best hot dogs, and in Miami, you likely find authentic Cuban or Caribbean cuisine. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
Whether you plan to eat at a beach stand or not, it’s always wise to pack a few snacks and drinks to minimize trips away from your designated beach spot.
Lastly, think about what you’ll do with the trash at the beach. Does the food you’re packing contain plastic? If so, you’ll want to carry it out and find a trashcan on the way to the car.
If you pack fruits and nuts like bananas and peanuts, you can bury the peel and shells in the sand and let nature take its course. Maybe you’re wondering, are we advocating littering?
The answer is no, however, if you have pure organic waste it should be ok to dig a deep hole (e.g. 2 feet) and dispose of fruit and vegetable waste. The organic waste will quickly break down in the salty sand and become food for microbes.
It’s much better for the environment than filling our landfills.
Never leave any type of food waste on the beach surface. It will attract seagulls, flies, and other pests and will ruin the aesthetics of the beach.
The 12 Best Beach Food and Snacks For Your Trip To The Beach
No. 1 Peanut Butter and Jelly
A timeless classic, PB and J works for kids and adults alike. It’s an easy beach snack option that requires ingredients you already have around the house.
To make the sandwiches more like a snack, you can apply PB and J to a flour tortilla and roll it up. There will be less chance for the tortilla to get soggy and they look cool as a quick snack.
Make a bunch of these, put in a zip lock bag.
No. 2 Cheese and Crackers
Cheese and crackers work great for the beach. Just make sure you don’t pack a “soft cheese” because it could melt if not cool.
Cheese and crackers are a healthy (somewhat) option and delicious. I’d go for sharp cheddar and baked Ritz crackers. They pack light and won’t take up much space.
No. 3 Trail Mix
Trail mix is a given for the beach. It’s easy beach snack – a handful can keep you from getting “hangry”.
There are different types of trail mix so pick one to your liking. If you don’t have chocolate pieces in your mix then there’s no need to keep cool.
If you have chocolate pieces then cooling is required otherwise the chocolate will become a melted mess.
No. 4 Granola Bars or Protein/Energy Bars
Granola bars are another easy pick. They’re lightweight and taste great.
If you’re a gym rat or health nut, you can add a few protein or energy bars. Many bars include chocolate so be careful with it melting.
No. 5 Mixed Fruit
No, you won’t want to take a whole watermelon to the beach, but many small pieces are perfect. Cut up a melon, add berries and grapes, place then in a plastic container and you’ve got yourself a fresh snack perfect for the beach.
Grapes will hold up ok in the sun, but berries and melons will get soggy in the heat. If you have a cooler you’ll be in great shape.
No. 6 Meal Replacement Shakes
These days most people think of protein shakes for weight training however there are also meal replacements for people on the go. These shakes work great for the beach because they will provide liquid and nutrients quickly.
Adding a few bottles of Ensure is a great way to supplement your snacks on the beach and make sure your children are eating enough.
No. 7 Dried Fruit
Dried fruit might be the perfect snack for the beach. You don’t have to worry about it becoming soggy from the heat.
Dried fruit can be chewy or crunchy, it tolerates hot weather, and is tasty for kids and adults. Best of all it’s cheap and easy.
My personal favorites are dried apricots, dried mango, dried banana chips, and dried blueberries.
No. 8 Veggies and Hummus
Veggies and hummus will take a little more effort than dried fruit but if you don’t want to sacrifice your diet when visiting the beach, it’s a good option. I’ve taken hummus on a few occasions but always when it’s in a cooler.
Warm hummus and veggies sound unappetizing and hummus in the sun will spoil quickly.
Packed in a cooler, hummus and veggies will provide a cool snack for a warm day at the beach.
No. 9 Chips and Hummus
Similar to our number 8 food, you can also take chips and hummus. Hummus can be used with many dipping options and chips are the most common.
Just know that chips are a favorite of seagulls and packing a bag of chips isn’t always easy. Chips likely won’t fit inside your cooler if there are other items.
Chips have a tendency to break if the bag is smashed. Suffice to say, chips require a little more effort!
No. 10 Avocado and Bread
Avocado and bread, avocado and tortillas, or avocado and crackers are healthy options for the beach. My word of advice, don’t open the avocado until you’re at the beach.
Once you’re ready to eat you can use a knife to cut the avocado and spread it on. Avocado contains plenty of moisture and will make the bread, tortilla, or cracker soggy if applied too early.
Related: What To Bring For A Beach BBQ
No. 11 Greek Salad
I’m thinking of a “Greek salad” with Romaine lettuce, feta, fresh tomatoes, grapes, olives. How good does that sound?
If you’re will adults this will impress them and is the perfect snack for the beach. If you’re with kids you might have it all to yourself.
Either way, it’s a win-win situation for you. Keep the salad in a plastic container and in your cooler for a refreshing and light snack.
No. 12 In Shell Peanuts
You won’t be at a ballgame but peanuts in-shell are fun to eat and healthy. Make a small hole next to your beach chair and drop in the shells as you eat them.
This may attract curious seagulls so make sure to thoroughly bury all the remnants. Peanuts are an easy beach snack for the whole family given no one has an allergy to them.
No. 13 Sunflower Seeds
At the beach you’ll be able to spit your sunflower seeds on the sand without having to pick them up. Of course, it would be more civilized to spit the shells into a cup and dispose of it somewhere else but we don’t judge.
Sunflower seeds are a great beach snack and healthy for you too. If you’re want to be really healthy just make sure to get low sodium seeds without too much flavoring.
The Best Tip For Keeping Meals and Snacks Cold At The Beach
Wait no longer, we’ve got a great tip for you to keep your cooler or ice chest cold at the beach.
Choose your beverages carefully. We suggest water bottles, Gatorade, Capri Sun, or other fluids that freeze.
The evening before your beach trip, freeze the drinks. Why? Because you’ll use these as “ice packs” and as “drinks” (double duty).
When you first arrive at the beach remove your first drinks (to thaw) from the cooler and leave the others inside to keep food cool.
As you eat throughout the day you’ll slowly remove food and require less “ice packs”. Slowly but surely the food and drinks (in the form of ice packs) will reduce.
Instead of using real ice packs, reduce the weight in your cooler or ice chest, and save space by freezing your drinks. If you’re taking Capri Sun drinks consider taking a spoon and scissors. You can eat the drink as a popsicle or slushy and stay cool.
In summary: use your drinks as the ice packs to reduce the weight of your bag and save space.
In this article, we discussed the best meals and snacks for the beach. We shared the main considerations for food at the beach.
These include using a cooler, heat and temperature, weight, food for adults or kids, scavengers, where to eat, other food options at the beach, and trash.
The foods we recommended varied based on ease of preparation and sensitivity to heat. A few of our favorite beach-friendly foods for the beach are:
- PB and J in a tortilla
- Dried fruit
- Trail mix
- Meal replacement shakes
- Greek salad
- Cheese and crackers
- Veggies and hummus
Remember, if you’re taking any items that contain chocolate it can make a mess if it’s not kept cool. You can fix this problem by taking a trail mix without chocolate or granola bars without chocolate.
Fresh fruit can spoil quickly if not kept cool. If you’re taking fresh fruit make sure it’s kept in a cooler or ice chest.
Lastly, make sure all the beach-friendly food you take to the beach can be kept somewhere that seagulls and other beach pests won’t have access. Seagulls not only steal food but also the bags food comes in!
Enjoy your stay and the beach – be safe.