Food & Nutrition

12 Foods to Never Buy at a Beach Concession Stand


double cheeseburger with tomato and onionOlga Miltsova/ShutterstockThat cheeseburger will be topped with processed cheese that’s more filler and preservatives than it is actual cheese. Order a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger and you can save around 100 calories and 450 milligrams of sodium while still getting plenty of protein from the ground beef. For toppings, ask for extra veggies like lettuce and tomatoes and skip mayo-based condiments that tack on fat and sodium and have little nutritional value. Here are the best summer foods to eat if you’re trying to slim down.

Personal pizza

Classic pepperoni pizza close upPlaya del Carmen/Shutterstock“Personal” pizzas often add up to far more than one serving: A six-inch personal pizza can set you back around 600 calories with a full day’s worth of sodium and 11 grams of saturated fat. A single slice of cheese pizza, on the other hand, has less than half the calories, sodium, and fat. Opt for portion-controlled single slices of cheese or veggie pizza.


Close-up of yellow tortilla chips covered in nacho cheeseLifetimeStock/ShutterstockConcession stand nachos are dripping with processed nacho cheese sauce that’s packed with sodium and saturated fat while providing little in the way of filling protein or fiber. You’ll down nearly 500 calories, more than 100 grams of carbs, and nearly 600 milligrams of sodium. See if they have a single-serving bag of whole grain chips (like cheddar-flavored Sun Chips); you’ll satisfy that salty-cheesy-crunchy craving for about 200 calories. Here are some more delicious snack foods you don’t have to feel guilty about eating.

Potato chips

background corrugated golden chips with textureSerdyukPhotography/ShutterstockGreasy potato chips are dense in calories and pack in plenty of sodium and fat. By switching to popcorn, you’ll get to eat more, you’ll get more fiber, and you’ll feel more satisfied—all for roughly the same number of calories (about 160). Ask for popcorn without butter to keep your snack on the light side, or grab a bag of white cheddar popcorn.

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Chicken tenders

Fried chicken at street foodThanthima Lim/ShutterstockFried chicken tenders are a concession-stand staple, but they’re also full of fat and processed carbs thanks to the breading and deep-frying. Order a grilled chicken sandwich instead to get filling protein with less grease and calories. See if you can get the sandwich on a fiber-rich whole wheat bun or lettuce wrap.

Chili cheese dog

Baked chili hot dogs with ketchup on wooden board, photographed overhead with natural lightIldi Papp/ShutterstockDripping with processed chili and cheese, not to mention potentially cancer-causing preservatives found in most processed meats, this is a nutritional disaster. Ordering a plain hot dog won’t cut the amount of the preservatives, but it will shave off nearly 150 calories and six grams of fat. These are the unhealthiest foods you can buy at the supermarket.

Ice cream sandwich

Sweet Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich DessertBrent Hofacker/ShutterstockA cold treat always sounds refreshing at the beach, but grabbing that chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich will give you a meal’s worth of calories (400), six grams of saturated fat, and 34 grams of sugar. How about that fruit popsicle, instead? It’s about 100 calories and only 14 grams of sugar.

Slushy or snow cone

machine for making ice slushy drinks studio2013/ShutterstockSummer’s really the only time that frozen sugar water sounds appealing—but see if you can resist. With 110 calories and 27 grams of added sugar, these things will trigger a sugar rush that will soon be followed by a crash—and the desire for even more empty calories. Ask for the fruit popsicle instead, or just one pump of syrup in your snow cone. Learn the summer foods that are even healthier than you thought.

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Refreshing Bubbly Soda Pop with Ice CubesBrent Hofacker/ShutterstockThis is a year-round poor choice: Research shows that drinking soda consistently (even diet soda!) is linked with higher rates of type 2 diabetes. A 12-ounce can of soda packs a whopping 39 grams of sugar. While diet sodas are calorie-free, their artificial sugars might pose serious health risks, so you’re better off ordering a refreshing beverage like unsweetened iced tea with lemon.

Chocolate chip cookie

Chocolate chip cookies background5 second Studio/ShutterstockThis comfort food is available at nearly every concession stand, but it’s also a sugar bomb that can be as big around as your head. Choose the small bag of trail mix to get a chocolate hit along with some filling nuts and dried fruit.

Soft pretzel

Homemade Soft Pretzels with Salt Ready to EatBrent Hofacker/ShutterstockThat pretzel may seem harmless—it’s not soaked in grease or covered in neon fake cheese. But it packs a wallop in the calorie department: A large one has nearly 500 calories, 100 grams of carbs, and just two grams of fiber, which makes it similar to eating an unsweetened cinnamon roll: You’re getting a bunch of quickly-digested starchy carbs that will jack up your blood sugar. (And don’t forget, those soft pretzels can pack two days’ worth of sodium.) You’re better off grabbing a pack of peanut butter-filled crackers, which have just under 200 calories; their fat and protein will help slow down the absorption of carbs. Here are the 8 healthiest nutritionist-approved foods at the fair this summer.

French fries

french friesNishihama/ShutterstockFrench fries are the default side order at most concession stands, but it’s no secret that they’re not a great option. A three-ounce side of french fries delivers more than 250 calories and nearly 14 grams of fat. Instead of snacking on french fries, opt for a small bag of hard pretzels. You get a salty snack to enjoy alongside your sandwich, but you’ll control the portion and cut out nearly all of the fat you get from fries. If you prefer packing your own beach eats, check out these helpful tips to have the best seaside picnic.

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Healthy Eating – Reader's Digest