Packing for a beach trip requires a keen eye for the essentials: sunscreen for the whole family, clean towels, comfy chairs, books to keep you entertained, a sturdy umbrella, toys for the little ones and a cooler full of hydrating water and refreshing drinks. Adding food into the mix can get tricky — after all, who has room for a full picnic basket these days? You’ll need to choose snacks that keep you energized and ready to play in the sand, all while saving you from having to abandon a coveted beachfront spot for questionable roadside eats.
Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab, says the best snacks for the beach are chock full of protein and fiber to keep you satisfied all afternoon long — and often can even help stay hydrated in the heat. Choosing items that nestle well into an effective, easy-to-pack beverage cooler can save you from having to pack another full bag with cutlery and service items. That’s why the best healthy snacks for the beach are all items you can eat with your hands, and in most cases, can simply be tucked away into a beach tote you already love to use.
We’re spotlighting the best DIY beach snack ideas in our guide below and crowning our favorite ready-to-eat snacks with Sassos’ nutrition expertise, as well as testing feedback generated on hundreds of snacks by our experts and consumer testers just like you. A majority of these healthy snack ideas are vegetarian in nature, and some are perfect fits for those following Keto routines and other popular diets. Read on to learn more about the healthiest beach snacks to pack on your next seaside adventure with the whole family.
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Freezing fresh grapes for a to-go bag you can enjoy at the beach is a must, as there are more than 1,600 natural compounds and nutrients within these sweet, juicy treats to keep you sustained. Polyphenols within grapes help boost brain and heart health over the years; newer research even points to a skin-bolstering effect that grapes may have in protecting you against the full power of the sun. Plus, when frozen, they make for a great DIY ice pack! You can learn more about all the health benefits associated with grapes, but before you ask — any color is just as healthy, and delicious!
Just one of the many pulses that are easily packed up for a snack, chickpeas are extremely high in plant-based protein and manage to pack in a hefty punch of fiber in handful-sized bites. Chickpeas naturally contain prebiotics, helping retain vitamins and minerals more efficiently, a crucial factor for anyone sweating it out at the beach. This handy snack is created by roasting canned chickpeas on a sheet pan; there are four easy ways to dress them up in savory, umami and sweet notes. Think of this chickpea mix as a protein-heavy alternative to popcorn and overly salted nuts!
Get the Chickpea Nuts recipe.
There’s nothing like fresh fruit in the summertime, and these large, seedless mandarin oranges are the juiciest option in most produce sections. Sumo citrus’ unique shape makes them easy to peel, Sassos adds, which makes them perfect for a fuss-free beach snack before taking a refreshing dip. Plus, Sumo citrus oranges are known for their near-double input of Vitamin C.
Marinated Olives and Cheese
Another fabulous option alongside crudité or crackers of your choice, olives and cheese hold up exceptionally well on a hot beach if they’re submerged in this DIY marinade. The goat cheese takes on the citrus zest and garlic that’s steeped in the oil; it transforms veggies into a flavorful explosion of a bite you’ll love beneath the umbrella.
Get the Marinated Olives and Cheese recipe.
Enjoying cold sweet treats at the beach is far from impossible — Nicole Papintoniou, director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Kitchen Appliances Lab, recently named Hydro Flask’s Soft Cooler Tote the best beach cooler for its ability to keep items frosty for hours in a compact tote. Armed with equipment like this, families will enjoy a reprieve from the heat with these naturally sweet ice pops (yes, really, no added sugar!). These fruit-forward options are definitely a treat you can feel good about double-dipping into.
Beef Jerky Meat Snack Sticks
A winner listed in our 2021 Good Housekeeping Healthy Snack Awards, Chomps’ grass-fed and grass-finished beef is among the most delectable jerky you’ll find on grocery shelves. As Sassos highlights, this meat snack is not as high in added salt as many of its cured beef competitors. Plus, this jerky’s unique seasoning blend is free from added sugar as well — making this a high-protein snack that’s a no-brainer for Keto dieters and meat lovers alike.
Whether you prefer a sweet Bing cherry — or the tart notes of a fresh Montmorency cherry — grabbing a handful or two of these juicy fruits for a day on the sand is a good move. Both sweet and tart cherries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, with burgeoning research suggesting that cherries also help the body recover after strenuous exercise. Just as there are plenty of documented health benefits associated with cherries, there are even more associated with tart cherry juice, another option for a refreshing oceanside beverage this summer.
If you’re a sucker for the crunch of a potato chip or carb-heavy crisp, these better-for-you cassava and sweet potato puffs are just as satisfying without a questionable ingredient list. They’re vegan in nature, and grain-free as well for gluten-free dieters, but still have finger-licking-good powder flavorings you’ll love. A 5-ounce bag, available in five different flavors, goes a long way at the beach.
Sliced Avocado Crispbread
Think of these as open-faced sandwiches you can assemble on your beach spread. Start with a pack of low-calorie crispbread, which is the most fiber-rich bread option available to you — a boon for digestion as well as a filling option that’ll power you through any afternoon. Rather than opt for straight cheese, bring some avocado; sliced atop a swipe of cottage cheese, they help up the creamy factor with more heart-healthy fats. Plus, research suggests that regularly working avocado into your meals and snacks works against cholesterol in the long run.
Fruit & Yogurt Smoothie Pouches
A surefire hit with everyone in your family, these shelf-stable smoothie pouches are available in a slew of fruit-forward flavors. Sassos notes that taste test scores for this grab-and-go pouch were exceptional. Outshine’s fruit smoothies are made without added sugar and most flavors are billed under 100 calories per pouch. Little ones will be clamoring for more if you’re able to store these in an ice-cold cooler.
No Sugar Added Strawberry Lemonade Juice Boxes (6.75oz Pack of 32)
Both kids and parents alike will go crazy for these juice boxes, which are shelf-stable and slip into most totes and coolers without bulky can or bottle packaging. The bold flavors of this juice blend are perfectly tart and free of most additives while maintaining a USDA-certified organic label, maintaining a very sweet profile without added sugar. Strawberry lemonade is our favorite, but there’s also a regular lemonade flavor to contend with, too.
Almond, Pecan and Cashew Granola Mix
While granola has become synonymous with lighter snacking, some mixes of nuts and oats can easily be overpowered by added sugar and sweetening agents like honey. Gustola’s granola mix stays true to the natural flavors of its unadulterated ingredients, Sassos says, stressing a lack of additives that makes this bagged option stand out. Packing a bag of this nut-forward granola mix will ensure you have a fiber-rich, protein-heavy snack while you power through a fun-filled afternoon at the beach.
Salami, Mozzarella, and Olive Tapenade Wraps
It’s all of the elements of a delicious cheese board wrapped up for an easy beach snack. Rather than haul a mess by carrying serviettes or serving ware to the beach with you, whip up a big batch of these handy wraps and wrap them in foil to be tucked into your tote or cooler of choice. The tapenade will tenderize the mozz for you, making it a great one-handed bite a few hours into your beach sesh.
Get the Salami, Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade Wraps recipe.
Have a bit of room in your cooler? The base of this ultra-creamy dip is made with Greek yogurt as opposed to full-fat mayonnaise or sour cream; alongside lemon juice and fresh dill, it’s a citrusy twist on a refreshing dip. A box of your favorite crackers or a small baggie of in-season crudité makes this quick mix feel like gourmet heaven among the beach dunes.
Get the Dill Dip recipe.
Probiotic Dried Apricots
Another 2021 GH Healthy Snack Awards winner, Nature’s Garden’s take on dried fruit comes with a major upgrade — an additional 10 billion live cultures, all of which help to boost digestive efforts through an added probiotic edge. While you certainly won’t taste the effects of the added probiotics, these fleshy apricot bites bring the flavor alongside a solid source of vitamins A and E, as well as essential potassium.
Sliced Sugared Grapefruit
Instead of reaching for sliced apples or banana slices, why not try squaring off some grapefruit? Even if you must dust them in sugar, in-season Californian grapefruits provide a more potent dose of fiber and are one of the most luscious water-packed fruits. Grapefruits, just one of many bitter foods that can aid your health, are also high in vitamin C and are associated with supercharged collagen production, all factors for skin health and a pure summer glow.
4-Ingredient Raspberry Jam
Everyone loves a sweet treat using fresh summer fruit, and this ultra-quick approach to a creamy jam is excellent swiped across biscuits or toast, or even folded into bagged granola. We’d even say it’s delicious alone when eaten with a spoon! If you happen to cart ice cream to the beach, this is the topping you’ve been missing out on.
Get the Raspberry Chia Jam recipe.
Taste tests conducted in the Good Housekeeping Institute pegged Clif’s smallest snack bar products as perfectly crunchy and satisfying without being overly crumbly. Two bars clock in at 100 calories but the flavorings don’t feel limited whatsoever, and their small size makes them a perfect fit for any overstuffed beach tote.
Armed with a reusable storage bag and a single fork, a cool slaw is a great way to enjoy a really satisfying bite of zesty, crunchy veg on a hot summer’s day. Water-packed cabbage and cucumbers make for a very fulfilling base that plays host to shredded carrots and a delicious ranch dressing. Because it’s pre-dressed, simply slip a portion or two into your cooler alongside drinks — and enjoy a cold, refreshing bite at the afternoon’s peak.
Get the Easy Ranch Slaw recipe »
Cinnamon & Sugar Popcorn Mini Cakes
Best suited for those who have a sweet tooth, these bite-sized treats taste like a dear cousin to fried Churros without copious amounts of added sugar. A snack-sized bag containing 20 pieces only approaches 3g of total sugar without exceeding 120 calories in total. They’re a perfect snack to nibble on while on your beach towel!
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
As Health Editor, Zee Krstic works hand in hand with nutrition authorities in the Good Housekeeping Institute to evaluate consumer products in the diet and nutrition industry and marketing claims in the same space. He fostered a strong background in holistic nutrition early in his career by previously working under a team of registered dietitians at Cooking Light.
In crafting this hybrid market guide to healthy snacks, Zee consulted Stefani Sassos, MS, RD, CDN, CSO, deputy director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab. Stefani has extensive knowledge of food labeling and nutrition requirements on food products, rigorously evaluating hundreds of claims for products that apply for the Good Housekeeping Seal. Growing up with a family in the restaurant business, Stefani was able to combine her nutrition expertise with culinary skills taught to her by her mother and grandmother. She is an avid home cook and a meal prep expert, and she is passionate about incorporating unique flavors from different cuisines into her dishes.
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