What’s in Your Cooler?


Mr. E and I are avid beachgoers, which is one of the reasons we chose to live within walking distance to the beach. And while our boardwalk offers some food options, most are either fried or high fat foods. Not to mention the long lines and cost – almost $4 for a slice of pizza is insane! Don’t let the hard work you did all winter be compromised by the foods you eat while wearing your bathing suit. It’s time to invest and a cooler and pack it with beach-friendly treats!

Whether you’re a pool or a beach person, packing up a cooler to take with you will ensure that you’re watching portion sizes and unwanted additional calories. The more control you have over your meals and snacks, the more you’ll avoid hidden calories. And maybe even have some calories to spare at the end of the day for some tasty homemade ice cream!

The Basics

Investing in a good quality insulated cooler is your starting point. In my years of beach-going experience, I’ve found nothing beats a hard cooler when it comes tocooler_Keerati keeping things cold. Consider what your travel situation is and how much stuff you’ll be carrying. If you need more hands, consider looking into something with straps. Or if you plan on bringing a lot, maybe a cooler with wheels is more your speed. Never underestimate the handiness of a beach caddy- I’ll take looking like a dork over sore arms and shoulders from carrying a heavy cooler several blocks any day.

beach caddy
Don’t mock it! Added bonus- it’s a great upper body workout!

Ice packs are next on the list. Buy them in various sizes and just keep them in the Ice-Pack-Can-Cooler freez pakfreezer at all times so they’re ready to go. Ice cubes can melt, create a soggy mess, and make coolers heavier for carrying, which is why I am in favor of ice packs.

Finally, a good quality water bottle will keep your hydrated. Over 50 billion plastic water bottles are used each year, while only 20% are recycled. And many can wind swellup in the ocean, adding to pollution. A refillable water bottle can not only stay colder longer on a hot day, but also helps to reduce unwanted waste and pollution. My absolute favorite water bottles are from S’well and Hydro Flask. Both are sweat-resistant and will keep ice cubes in the bottle longer than other bottles. Visit your local dollar store for water bottle ice cube molds so your bottle will be cold from the inside out.

Lunch Time

Don’t be fooled by the ads- subs from your local sub shop are not the way to success when it comes to watching calories. A Subway 6-in sub roll has 200 calories, 2g fat, 38g of carbs, and 1g fiber. Oh, you got it on wheat, you say? Well then that’s 210 calories, 2g fat, 40g carbs and 4g of fiber. Not a big difference, right? Here’s some tips for packing a healthy beach lunch:

  • For sandwiches, start with whole grain bread that offers ≥3g of fiber per slice. Add on 3-4oz (approx 1 oz = 1 slice) of a low sodium meat (turkey, chicken, or roast beef are best bets) and pile up the veggies- tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, you name it! Use a low cal condiment such as mustard in place of mayo to avoid added calories. If lunch meat isn’t your thing, roast or grill veggies the night before and turn them into a sandwich. And never underestimate how delicious your favorite nut butter and jelly can be!
  • Pack a reusable container with your favorite salad greens and toppings. Don’t forget a good source of protein- chopped chicken, tuna chunks, portobello mushroom, hardboiled egg, or tofu cubes. Use a small container to pack a light vinegar-based dressing separately. Because nobody wants soggy greens!
  • Make a low-cal tuna, chicken, or shrimp salad using yogurt or vinegar in place of mayo. Place a scoop on to greens or get a little fancy and place into a scooped out tomato or avocado.
  • Yogurt isn’t only for breakfast. Just make sure you’re doing more than eating that little container. Mix into a reusable container with 1 cup of fruit, ½ cup granola (or unsweetened cereal), and sprinkle with some sliced almonds or 2TB walnuts. Tired of yogurt? Swap it out with low-fat cottage cheese for a high-protein alternative.

Snack Time

Tempting as it may be to get a snack of boardwalk fries or ice cream, save calories and pack snacks that are more satisfying. Use snacks to sneak in some extra hydration, which can be especially refreshing on those sweaty days. Which means those salty potato chips are doing more harm than good when it comes to added calories and dehydration. Healthy beach-friendly snacks include:

  • Fresh fruit, cut and ready to go. There is no wrong option here. High fiber, high water content, and sweet flavor to satisfy any sugar cravings that may pop up are the benefit here.
  • Fresh cut veggies along with a small container of hummus, peanut butter, or yogurt dip have similar benefits to fresh fruit with their water and fiber content.
  • Frozen grapes are a healthy alternative to a sugary ice pops. And because it can take a while to eat each grape, it slows down intake and allows the brain time to decide when it’s full.
  • Prep a chia seed pudding in the morning as you’re packing the cooler. Throw in some fresh, frozen, or pureed fruit as well for added flavor. By the time you’re ready for a snack, the pudding will be ready to go.
  • Create a healthy trail mix of nuts, dried fruits, and seeds for healthy sources of fiber, fats, and protein. Need some more sweetness in there? Add in 1-2 TB semi-sweet chocolate, peanut butter, or yogurt chips into the mix – just make sure you put your mix into the cooler so the chips don’t melt!

However you decide to enjoy your fun in the sun, make sure you and your significant other plan ahead to bring those healthy lunches, snacks, and plenty of water.  And don’t forget the sunscreen!

What food do you pack when you’re spending the day in the sun?  Do you have a favorite travel buddy you use when packing your food and drinks for the beach or pool?  Share in the Comments below!

Don’t forget to share your beach and pool snacks using #NutritionNuptials for a chance to be shared on my social media sites or featured in a future post. 

DISCLAIMER: All opinions are my own and are not influenced or biased by any third parties. I am not compensated for mentioning any specific brands or retailers on this blog.
Images courtesy of Apolonia, Keerati, Mister GC, KEKO64, antpkr, suphakit73, and Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net