I absolutely LOVE the beach! My happiest place is sitting in the sand playing with my kids while listening to the waves roll in the background. Luckily I have three children that love it too. One thing that caught me off guard the first few times we went to the beach was how often someone asked for something to eat. The fresh air and extra activity seems to take their already fast metabolisms off the charts! By trial and error, I have come up with a strategy that seems to work really well so I thought I would share it.
- Plan ahead and pack lots of food the night before. I find that kids can be put into two categories…this with big appetites in the fresh air and those who are distracted by playing at the beach and eat very little. Be ready for both with healthy snacks for the car ride there and back, as well as lots of food for at the beach. I make up two individual snacks per child…one for the car ride there and one for the car ride back. Then I prepare the rest of the food in bulk. This way I know that they are arriving well fueled, they can access as much or as little as they want throughout the day, and then they can refuel up on the way home. I also find that having food ready for the trip home limits the melt downs about leaving…at least it does for my kids as they love to eat. Here are a few tips for the food you pack:
- Take only healthy foods so that they fill up on good energy while their appetites are high. If you take chips and apples, then they are likely to just choose the chips. If the chips are not there, they will eat the apples.
- Think about how hot things will get and try to prioritize the options you pull out earlier in the day based on what will survive the heat least to best.
- Take an empty container for each child that you can portion their food into when they are ready to eat. Do so in small quantities though. That way if it gets dumped into the sand, you have not lost a whole meal.
Here are some ideas of food combinations to pack for the car:
- trail mix: dry cereal (ie. cheerios) with dried fruit, and sliced almonds.
- apple slices and raisins
- cheese and crackers
- muffin chunks with apple and cheese
- cucumber slices, baby carrots, and pita slices
- Things I avoid: dips and peanut butter (too messy/sticky), berries (can be mushy if dropped and stain the car seat), watermelon (super juicy), and whole grapes for children that have just graduated from sliced to whole (choking hazard at a time when your children are not easily accessible).
Here are some foods to take in bulk:
- Whole apples or apple slices (these are best eaten earlier in the day before going brown)
- Fresh fruit medley: grapes (halved for anyone under three years age), strawberries (cut into bite size pieces), melon chunks, blueberries, and blackberries…these can all be together or have their own container.
- Tupperware with veggies in it: cucumber slices, pepper spears of chunks, baby carrots, snap peas, and baby tomatoes cut in half with a container of hummus for dipping
- Pita triangles (these can be whole grain pitas and/or breakfast pitas) and /or Bagel chunks (cut a bagel in half and then into 6 or 7 pieces)…these can both be dipped into hummus as well or into natural peanut or almond butter.
- whole grain crackers
- cheese strings or cheese chunks
- yogurt tubes
- smoothies put into the re-usable pouch or store bought fruit puree pouches
- whole grain wraps spread with peanut butter, rolled, and cut into three of four pieces
- sandwich fixings: wraps of bread on their own and small containers of mayo, mustard, leftover chicken or turkey, lettuce, diced tomato, etc. that you can assemble at the beach)
- raisins or other dried fruit
- dried chickpeas
- pretzels (save these for later in the day ideally)
For anything that needs to stay cold, take a cooler pack and ensure that those foods are prioritized to be eaten first.
The next step is preventing everything from getting sand into it or being eaten by seagulls. I find a specific spot that food can be and insist that lids stay on all containers other than when the kids are ready to eat. I ask them to wipe their hands as best possible on the towel (this is hit or miss) and then offer small amounts in their container when they ask. As I mentioned above, this prevents you from losing your whole container of apples if they accidentally dump what they are eating into the sand. I also remind them to watch for birds and never feed the bird or throw food to the birds. Once a bird has been fed, it will likely not leave you alone. Wes had a bird take a piece of food from his hand last year, so since then, they have been pretty compliant with this request!
Remember that no matter how preapred you are, things will happen. Clay got ahold of the apples yesterday and as glad as I am that he enjoyed a healthy snack, they did get sandy. I just rinsed them off though and it was fine. No one seemed to mind as they were all eaten by the end of the day. A few pita triangles hit the sand as well. Those were not as easy to rescue. Such is life at the beach!
Also remember when you are packing food for the day that you need to eat too! Pack enough for you to have access to all the healthy things you are packing for your children.
Water is another important thing to take extra of. Dehydration at the beach on a hot day can happen quite quickly as children may not think to ask for water. Ensure that each child (and you too) have a water bottle that is out and visible. Don’t be afraid to remind your children to take a drink every once in a while. Setting a timer can work well for this too.
2. The next thing to ensure is that everyone has a hearty breakfast for everyone leaving. This way everyone is nourished and ready for whatever the day may hold.
3. When coming home from the beach, everyone tends to be quite tired. Beach days are amazing, but take a toll on the energy level of everyone involved. You will likely all be hungry for supper when arriving home. Have a healthy and easy supper that can be easily prepared and offered to your family. I try to choose something that I know my kids will enjoy to ensure that they will eat quickly and be ready to move on to bedtime in a decent amount of time. Don’t feel that it needs to be a hot meal either as a cold meal is sometimes easiest and even more enjoyable for children. One of my favourite oiptions is to have chicken breasts already cooked in the fridge that I can dice up and serve to my kids with pita wedges and cold veggies, and to myself and my husband on a simple spinach salad. This creates a complete and healthy supper and can be ready within minutes of walking in the door.
4. Last but not least…early to bed for all! Your kids could need up to an extra hour of sleep from a full day at the beach. Don’t be afraid to encourage an earlier bed time for them (and yourself too) to prevent tired melt downs that evening or the following day. Remember food offers children nourishment to grow, but most of the actual growing (both physically and mentally) happens when they are sleeping!
Well, this list could go on and on and but hopefully these ideas get you started. Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and happy summer full of family fun at the beach, parks, and pools!
Until next time…stay healthy!