summertime is a great time to break free of cold-weather food routines and try something new. it’s hot, you’re busy, and everyone’s looking for treats that satisfy, but that also keep the waistline and sweet-tooth in check. with proper planning and a little creativity, you can fill your bags and coolers with healthy foods, and reserve the typical pool and beach fare of burgers, candy and fries for special treats.
to be successful, always have fresh foods along with healthy brand-name snacks at home so that you can easily throw them into your tote when heading to the beach or pool. here are some of my favorite beach-bag necessities that you can find in your mainstream grocery stores:
-frozen grapes – these are a delicious low-calorie and naturally sweet treat that are easy to prepare. just remove red grapes from the stems and place them in a freezer-safe bowl. place the grapes in the freezer and freeze for several hours. take them frozen in a cooler to the pool or beach and they’ll be frozen or very chilled when you’re ready to enjoy.
-fresh fruit – you can’t go wrong with the delicious array of summer fruit. we choose varieties that are portable and don’t spoil – your best choices are cherries, apricots, plums, strawberries, and chunks of pineapple and watermelon.
-fresh veggies – when kids are hungry, they’ll eat most anything, so use pool time to serve favorite veggies like edamame, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, jicama and kale chips. these are great summer options that can be served on their own or with hummus or natural-brand salad dressings as dips.
- popchips – never fried, never baked, just popped and packed with flavor – these naturally delicious chips have less half the fat of regular fried chips. try their new sweet potato, jalapeño and chili lime flavors. kids love these and they’re fun to bring to parties and picnics.
- string cheese – this is a super easy source of protein, and i like that it’s portable and stays fresher longer than cheese on a sandwich. choose the organic brands like horizon.
- stretch island fruit leathers – all natural, 100% dried fruit that satisfies a sweet tooth without all the dyes and sugars of other commercial brands.
- fruit-puree pouches – these contain 100 percent fruit with no added sugar or artificial ingredients and come in fun flavors like mango and banana. my favorite brands are the safeway-brand applesauce varieties , along with the peter rabbit organics and happy tot and happy morning brands that contain real fruit and sometimes veggies and whole grains. i eat these before or after a workout, but they’re great on the run or for a summertime snack.
- kind bars – these are delicious all natural whole nut and fruit bars made from ingredients you can see and pronounce – fun flavors like apple pecan and cranberry almond are my faves, and the new nuts & spice varieties contain only 5 grams of sugar!
- open nature meal and snack foods – i’m really excited about this brand, as the ingredients are all natural and they have a great variety of lunch meats, crackers, yogurt, bread, etc. – go to the website to see all the products that you can get at safeway, von’s and other sister stores.
- stonyfield farms yogurt tubes – there’s way too much sugar in fruit-flavored yogurts ~ in fact some brands contain more sugar than a pack of m&m’s. rather, freeze these yogurt tubes and serve as a replacement to sugar and dye-filled popsicles.
- avoid the enhanced waters, sodas and juices, and stick with the following better beverages: canada dry and lacroix brand seltzer flavored waters; coconut water; honest-brand teas sweetened with honey.
- homemade lemonade made with freshly squeezed lemons and stevia (add to desired taste)
- homemade herbal sun teas sweetened with stevia or honey.
as you make healthier choices this summer, you’ll easily integrate these options into the school year and beyond. remember, plan ahead and store your fresh foods in containers or smaller-serving baggies so that you can just grab and go. serve the fruits & veggies first, then offer up the chips, bars & sweet treats to create more balance and to acclimate palates to fresh food. enjoy the ice cream and bbq fare as celebration, which is easy to do if you’re building healthy habits around food and know the difference between a healthy snack and a treat.