On the Table

To eat well on beach vacation, cast your net beyond fried fish

August 6, 2013 

Some changes are for the better. That’s the conclusion I came to at the beach last week after getting over the surprise of finding hummus on the menu at Drunken Jacks.

More than 25 years had passed since I’d eaten at the Murrells Inlet landmark. Back then, my staple was a baked potato, salad bar and those honey-butter-dipped hush puppies. I wasn’t a seafood eater, and it was just as well, because I wouldn’t have had room for an entree after loading up on three-bean salad and slaw.

And I won’t deny it – plenty of hush puppies, too.

But in all this time, the culinary changes taking place in the U.S. – more locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables, more foods from cultures outside our own – have found their way to the beach, too. That’s good news for all of us who want to have fun on vacation but maintain some semblance of a healthy diet.

So here’s my dietary survival strategy for a week or more at the beach. A key assumption: You need access to a kitchen. Here we go:

• Come prepared. We arrived with some of our Costco standards: jars of pickled beets, pasta sauce, family-sized tubs of hummus, deli salads and pita chips, as well as a big bowl of homemade broccoli salad. If your route takes you through McBee, S.C., as ours did, stop at McLeod’s farm store to load up on watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, potatoes and cantaloupe.

• Round it out at the supermarket. It’s all here. We bought breakfast cereals, almond milk, nonfat Greek-style yogurt, lettuce, whole-grain bread and a fresh Caribbean bean salad from the deli case.

• Make your base a junk-free zone. For us, that meant light on the chips and soft drinks and heavy on the fresh fruit snacks instead of cookies, cakes and ice cream.

Eat in as often as possible. You’ll save money and have more control. Make do with breakfast and supper and a light snack in between.

When you do eat out, order a salad and split an entree. Or share a couple of appetizers and supplement with a salad. Enjoy being out, but eat less.

Go with a new vision of beach cuisine. These days, it’s more than fried fish and hush puppies.

Suzanne Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management and nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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