Beach food

July 15, 1997


Staff Writer

How would you feel about spending your summer on the beach?

Would it be a dream come true? What would you eat all day?

For some who do spend long days at the shore - lifeguards, for example - the dream is reality. And the reality is they need to eat, and eat properly to get through the day with the energy and attention required to do their jobs.

Lifeguards on Ocean City, Md., beaches work from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with a morning workout break and a 30-minute lunch break, according to Lt. Wes Smith of Ocean City Beach Patrol.


Sitting long hours in the hot sun, guards need to make sure they hydrate - drink water or plenty of liquids, Smith says. It's best to avoid beverages containing caffeine, because they have a diuretic effect, he adds.

In order to keep their glucose levels even and to keep from "crashing," lifeguards are advised to graze - to eat small amounts of food, such as apples, grapes and bananas, throughout the day, Smith says. Lifeguards need to be alert. Eating one big meal tends to make a person tired and groggy.

"You're not going to see a guard eating a pizza or a big sub," Smith said.

Waiting to swim

Is there any truth to the warning that to prevent cramping, you should wait an hour to swim after eating? Cramping really has nothing to do with eating, but could result from being dehydrated, Smith says. After eating, the body uses energy to digest the food, so you may feel a little tired, but it's not considered dangerous to take a dip after lunch, according to Smith.

Those who are not working but relaxing at the beach don't have to worry about dozing over a summer romance novel or not playing their personal best in a game of volleyball. But nutrition, safety and convenience should be considered whenever and wherever you're packing a picnic.

It probably goes without saying that the food should be kept cool. But Lynn F. Little, a family and consumer sciences extension educator for Cooperative Extension Service, University of Maryland, says it anyway. It also should be clean - wash fruits and vegetables before you pack them. Wrap food well. It will stay fresh and be safe longer and taste better, Little says.

She also recommends eating small meals throughout the day rather than all at one time. There is less worry about spoilage if small amounts of food are taken out of the cooler as they are eaten.

Frozen juice boxes can double as ice packs, and the juice can be drunk as it melts. Thoroughly wash plastic milk jugs, fill them three-quarters full with water and freeze. As the ice melts, you can drink the cold water, the most thirst-quenching of beverages, according to Little. She encourages the consumption of water versus high-sodium fruit drinks and soda.

Foods that don't require refrigeration - peanut butter and jelly as opposed to egg or tuna salad sandwiches - are good choices. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Swiss, cubed and wrapped, also work well at the beach.

Little discourages snack foods like chips because of their fat and salt content. Crunchy rice cakes are a good alternative. Dried fruit is healthful, tasty and portable.

Cookies in disposable packaging can satisfy a seaside sweet tooth, and help make cleanup easy.

While packing food, try to think of taking things you don't have to haul back home. After a long, hot day at the beach, you'll probably appreciate a lighter cooler.

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