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The Health-and-Safety Guide to Packing Food for the Beach

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If you're hitting the beach this summer, you're naturally gonna want to bring some snacks and drinks along with you. Sure, you've probably read countless articles about what to eat, but you may not know *how* you should pack up those healthy eats. Foodborne illnesses related to food that has been left out too long can be a major buzzkill, so it's super-important to practice basic food safety techniques when bringing your own eats to an outdoor event, especially if the temps are soaring. Here, what to pack and how to pack it. (Related: Healthy Snacks to Fuel Your Road Trip)

Keep it cool.

Forty degrees or less is considered a safe temperature for cold perishables. If you're planning to pack anything that needs to be kept cool, use an insulated lunch bag or cooler and place ice packs in there. The bigger the bag or cooler, the longer you need to keep your food in there, and the more ice packs you'll need. When in doubt, use too many. And if you *really* want to be sure, place a thermometer inside, too.

Abide by the 2-hour rule.

Food should be consumed within two hours after it's removed from the fridge, so if it's going to be longer than that from fridge to mouth, keep it over ice. As a rule of thumb, if it's been out in the hot open area or sun without an ice pack for longer than two hours, toss it. And if it's hotter than 90 degrees out, cap it at one hour. (Related: How to Protect Yourself Against Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke.)

Choose wisely.

When it comes to what food to bring, go for uncomplicated, meaning something that's easy to make, simple to store, and doesn't pose a serious risk to getting sick. Here are a few delicious ideas:

  • Sandwiches or a wrap are a great way to get in a balanced meal—and they're easy to eat. Opt for lettuce or collards instead of bread for a low-carb option.
  • Hydrating fruits and veggies, such as watermelon, cucumber, and Romaine lettuce, are a no-brainer. (Keep in mind that fruit with a peel may transport easier.)
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut-based bars are a great source of protein, healthy fat, and fiber. Just be careful with anything chocolate that might melt and get sticky.
  • Freeze-dried veggies and portable options like kale chips are a handy way to get your greens in for the day.
  • Skewers or kabobs of meat, tofu, and veggies are going to be more convenient to eat than something that requires a knife and fork.
  • Avoid ice cream, yogurt, and similar foods that are a higher risk for a foodborne illness.

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