Our summer is spent at a local pond. Yes, we do a few other things in the summer, but Monday through Friday we are at the local pond for daily swim lessons and fun in the sun. Our local pond has a snack shack with items like hot dogs, pretzels, and HFCS confections. I'm not a complete food snob. The once in a while nutritionally deficient treat is a summer tradition. However, the snack shack foods simply do not fill my active kids' bellies. Here's what we do instead to keep everyone well-fed and hydrated so that we can have fun in the sun.
Every day I pack a medium cooler full of:
berries, grapes, and whatever other fruit we have
cucumbers, tomatoes, other crunchy "wet" veggies
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
the occasional special request such as Trader Joe's Cheddar Corn Puffs (think Pirate booty or popcorn without the kernels or cheesy poofs as Cartman calls them)
I also pack a Diet Dr. Pepper for me (my major vice). I've packed leftover pasta in the past since I know the kids will eat it, though I prefer to have them eat fruits and veggies while we're out.
The kids still ask for ring pops and other sticky candy. Having our own food helps me direct them to those healthier choices and helps them figure out whether they are hungry or just jealous of somebody's unfilling candy.
I read a great blog called "It's Not About Nutrition," and I have to agree with the title. It isn't JUST about nutrition. For me, it's about setting habits and guiding growing palates. Giving my kids lollipops and pretzels every day teaches them to expect those items every day and it doesn't teach them which foods truly will satisfy them and give them the energy they need. Yes, packing snacks takes time, but it can be done the night before or even in the hour before leaving for the beach. Most important, it's worth it.