Oh, Sun Diego, shall I count how many ways I love thee? Well, it’s really just one: I can go to the beach any time of the year. Really, I live and work close to the beach and frequently I’ll just head out for lunch, or in the late afternoon.
What if you wan to spend the whole day at the beach, though? What are the challenges of a day in the sun from a dietary perspective?
First, the most important one: sunshine, surf, and all the activity at the beach makes very thirsty. Drinks are very heavy. Nobody wants to shlep around gallons of fluids. Problem.
Advice: never ever waste fluid space on caloric drinks. Your body is going to demand water primarily, and any calories you add to the mix are empty. They get into your body and stay there, just because you are thirsty. So, despite the attractiveness, avoid the six-pack of beer and the sugary sodas at all costs. Stay away as much as you can from fruit juices, too. You want water, water, water.
The next issue is sweating and the loss of electrolytes. You can help that by taking electrolyte-infused water, but you have to be careful there: the ocean contains lots of sodium, and if you go swimming, you are likely to get a good amount of that sodium into your stomach. Most electrolyte drinks, though, are meant for pure sweating from exercise, so they contain replenishing amounts of sodium.
Next on, foods. There is no reason that you should eat unhealthily just because you are burning more calories than usual. You should get to the beach with a good mix of foods that keeps you energized and stimulated, but at the same time isn’t weighing you down.
For protein, I find that grilled chicken breast is a really good choice (or turkey breast, or any other grilled lean meat). Pack the single breasts in sealable sandwich bags and eat them by themselves – after all, to wash your hands you just have to walk to the water.
The next layer are fruits and vegetables. I find that crunchy produce like carrots, celery, or apples works best. It’s more fun to eat, you get a sense of fullness sooner, and crunchy produce tends to have higher water content. For me, starchy produce is the worst – bananas, boiled potatoes.
Fruit is best when you come out of the water, to get rid of the salty aftertaste. Veggies are a better deal overall, although in some people they may cause indigestion.
Next come complex carbohydrates. I usually have some form of whole wheat with me – maybe whole wheat pita bread or wraps. Pretzels tend to be a good choice, too: crunchy and salty and virtually indestructible. A really bad choice are potato chips: aside from the fat content, they tend to do well at the beach only if you bring them in their sealed bag, which gives you an incentive to eat the whole thing. Avoid.
If your beach is far off any form of vending, make sure you have something to satisfy cravings. I usually bring a small bag of roasted almonds, an energy bar, some trail mix, and a few cookies. If someone says they are feeling peckish, I’ll offer my goodies but leave them untouched otherwise. Obviously, avoid everything that easily melts or creates a mess – ice cream or chocolate, but also yogurt coating come to mind.
Also, make sure that everybody that eats anything also drinks. Make sure nobody ever gets into the water on a full stomach.